Monday, October 20, 2008

Copy Book: A sentence most difficult to understand

From Proust again, naturally:

"Philosophy distinguishes often between free and necessary acts. Perhaps there is none to the necessity of which we are more completely subjected than that which, by virtue of a climbing power held in check by the act itself, brings back (once our mind is at rest) a memory until then levelled down with all the rest by the oppressive force of bemusement and makes it spring to the surface because unknown to us it contained more than any of the others a charm of which we do not become aware until the following day. And perhaps, too, there is no act so free, for it is still unprompted by habit, by that sort of mental obsession which, in matters of love, encourages the invariable reappearance of the image of one particular person."

It's three sentences, but you need the first to make sense of the second (good luck with that) and you need the second to make sense of the third. Though the third has its own super-abundance of self-interruptions, it's the second that really stopped my gob: I read it four times before I realized what an unparsable wonder it was and decided to preserve it forever in my copy book.

I count two places where it interrupts itself, but at 'and makes' I can no longer tell what is interruption and what is the main stream of sense, and I give up hope. A bit more punctuation might make it easier on the brain, but our current system of dots must be impotent of containing or guiding the maelstrom of meanings Proust packs into his lines, so what might properly belong behind fences of paired commas, or maybe curly braces, instead spring up like fully-endowed members of the sentence proper and blot out with their coagulated semantics any chance for the hapless reader to ever learn what the fuck Proust is trying to say.

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