Proust & The Madeleine

You know how a person or a scent or song or a taste can be a place? How the sight or the smell or the sound of these things can transcend time and space and logic? How you can close your eyes, bury your head in someone’s chest, take a deep breath, and be home? How your ear can catch a few notes on the Muzak and you find yourself crying while you hunt for cabinet hardware at Lowe’s? (Maybe that’s just me.)

ANYWAY, the other day I heard someone refer to something being like “Proust and The Madeleine.” I had no idea what that meant, but I nodded like I did, wished I had paid more attention in AP English and made a mental note to Google it later. I just wish I spoke French, because I’m sure the original is even more lovely than this:

“The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness.

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

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