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Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? : Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay





asparagus-1880




My greatest pleasure was asparagus, bathed in ultramarine and pink and whose spears, delicately brushed in mauve and azure, fade imperceptibly to the base of the stalk.


Pinter interests me mostly because of his screenplays. Wiki: Harold Pinter lists them.

In 2007, I was checking out Proust and rediscovering and enjoying re-listening to my cassettes of the 1995 BBC Radio 3 version of The Proust Screenplay, which was never made into a film. Coming across Vermeer’s View of Delft recently has brought me back to my tapes and reawakened my fascination with how Pinter tackled Proust.

In 1972 Joseph Losey asked Pinter to do a screenplay. Pinter had written the screenplay for Losey’s, The Servant (1963), Accident (1967 and The Go-Between (1970 ). Writer, director, translator and BBC person, and Proustian, Barbara Bray was involved in the Proust project.

They say The Go-Between was his best, but my favourite Pinter adaptation, till learning of his Proust, was his adaptation of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), directed by the late Karel Reisz. Wiki: French Lieutenant’s Woman (film) explains the history of the script development. Not many people who loved the book thought the dual story idea effective. But Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep as the actors does sort of take the role of the author’s interjections by forcing us to leave the story in a similar way.

Looking at Pinter’s later interpretation of Fowles might shed light on how he tackled Proust. These litnotes on the book may help if you are re-watching TFLW. I haven’t yet found a screenplay of TFTW. And so far, I’ve not come across anything substantial online about Pinter and Fowles. All in due course.

As transcribed from the audio tape the first few lines of The Proust Screenplay, adapted for radio by Michael Blakemore, aired on BBC Radio 3, 24 December 1995, illustrates a sparkling nodule of Pinter’s genius as a screenwriter:

{ [..] is actual sounds not narration. }

YELLOW SCREEN

[sound of bell]

OPEN COUNTRYSIDE. A LINE OF TREES SEEN FROM A RAILWAY CARRIAGE. THE TRAIN IS STILL.

NO SOUND.

MOMENTARY YELLOW SCREEN.

THE SEA SEEN FROM A HIGH WINDOW. A TOWEL HANGING ON A TOWEL RACK IN FOREGROUND.

NO SOUND.

VENICE. WINDOW ON A PALAZZO SEEN FROM A GONDOLA.

NO SOUND.

MOMENTARY YELLOW SCREEN.

THE DINING ROOM AT BALBEC. NO SOUND. EMPTY

EXTERIOR OF THE HOUSE AT THE PLACE DE GEURMANTE, PARIS 1921. AFTERNOON. A MIDDLE-AGED MAN, MARCEL, WALKS TOWARDS THE HOUSE.

In the middle of writing this post, I have acquired the book, which has the beginning:

1. Yellow screen. Sound of a garden gate bell.
2. Open countryside, a line of trees, seen from a railway carriage. The train is still. Quick fade out.
3. Momentary yellow screen.
4. The sea, seen from a high window, a towel hanging on a towel rack in foreground. No sound. Quick fade out.
5. Momentary yellow screen.
6. Venice. A window in a Palazzo, seen from a gondola. No sound. Quick fade out.
7. Momentary yellow screen.
8. The dining room at Balbec. No sound. Empty.

#

If I had been set the task of writing the screenplay and was re-reading the book and around the subject, coming across The Death of Bergotte {The Captive}, one of Proust’s alter egos, and that his second to last dying words were,

“Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall.”

I doubt I would have come up with that yellow screen. Possibly a scene with Bergotte uttering the words as he sank down on the settee, but not a screen full of yellow!

When you learn {1}, what Proust thought of the painting and see the words Bergotte is made to utter it is not hard to see why Pinter found it irresistible.

And it was important to find such a key because  A la Researche is much concerned with art and the Arts as well as being the journey a writer travels in time and memory to get to the point where he at last decides to begin writing. It’s a literary conceit for such a man as Bergotte to think of an artifact, a human creation – something at one remove from life yet as real to him – rather than a person or event or even some equivalent of Denis Potter’s “blossomiest blossoms“. But it works for me. Or, maybe if we look up famous last words, thinking of a painting might not be uncommon. Perhaps we should all have one ready in case we get mown down by that big red bus: “The Girl in the P….”

Pinter’s screenplay (not the working script – we don’t really know what would have gone into final cut of the Losey film, let alone what anyone else who might have tried it after Losey would have made of it) eschews the detailed art and art aesthetic which saturates the book, except in so much as the film itself would have compactly demonstrated, visually, much of what Proust believed about art.

There is some dialogue or voiced thought about art. A Botticelli is mentioned to compare a woman to. There is brief dialogue such as

CHARLES HAVE YOU MET THIS YOUNG MAN?

I HAD NOT SEEN SWANN FOR A LONG TIME. AND ASKED MYSELF WHETHER IN THE OLD DAYS HE USED TO CLIP HIS MUSTACHE. FOR I FOUND IN HIM SOMETHING ALTERED. IT WAS INDEED THAT HE HAD GREATLY ALTERED BECAUSE HE WAS VERY ILL.

HOW DO YOU DO.

I’M AMAZED THAT YOU REMEMBER ME SIR.

OF COURSE I DO. OF COURSE I DO.

ARE YOUR PEOPLE WELL?

THEY ARE THANK YOU.

[Guermantes]

CHARLES, YOU’RE AN EXPERT, I WANT YOU OPINION OF THIS PAINTING. WHAT DO THINK OF IT? I’VE JUST SWOPPED IT FOR A COUPLE OF MONET’S. I THINK IT MIGHT BE A VERMEER. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

DIFFICULT TO SAY…

OH, COME ON, WE ALL KNOW YOU’RE AN EXPERT. YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK ABOUT VERMEER, AREN’T YOU?

HARDLY A BOOK. JUST AN ARTICLE ABOUT ONE PAINTING.

VIEW OF DELFT?

YES.

MARCEL: THAT PATCH OF YELLOW WALL..

YES.

PATCH? WHAT PATCH MARCEL?

MARCEL! [me: Swann recognises Marcel] OF COURSE!

MARCEL: I THINK IT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PAINTING IN THE WORLD.

[G:] I’VE PROBABLY SEEN IT. BUT ANYWAY, CHARLES, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THIS PAINTING WAS.

[S:] A BAD JOKE.

OH, WOULD YOU.

Pinter includes his version of the Red Shoes scene after this dialogue.

I haven’t yet found in the Pinter script a full-blown Proustian rumination on life and art, but the way Marcel responds to his environment, for example in the repeated shots of the steeples (and three trees) and how from the train they change their positions relative to each other, is the mind of the artist (whether writer or painter, who knows exactly?) at work, as much as it is a man comparing what he sees with what he remembers seeing.

Stanley Kauffmann in an article, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu: The Proust Screenplay, re-published in 2005 when Pinter received the Nobel prize (and originally published in 1977),  asserts it is “incomparably the best screen adaptation ever made of a great work”, and explains this has been achieved by “deliberate omission and imaginative recomposition.”

The play of the film of the novel explains how Pinter’s script eventually ended up in a stage version. I’d like to see the working script of that.

It bears repeating: there is probably not a screenwriter in the world who, handed Proust with a brief for a standard length film, would not start at the beginning, or soon after, with some lesser image, perhaps of the pesky dunk your madeleine episode, in the belief that it crystallised the essence of Proust. Pinter saw it differently. He didn’t fall for it. In the book the tea cake doesn’t start Swann’s Way, but it is near the beginning [ p.50]. Pinter resists, with the merest tinkling of a spoon by a waiter at the house at the Place de Guermante hinting at, but not telegraphing, an activation Marcel’s involuntary memory.

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A page with the View of Delft with the virtual magnifying glass is re-linked here.  There is a post in didyktile, a little patch of yellow, which has both a brief explanation of Proust/Bergotte and the Vermeer, and two versions View of Delft, one which expands to full size, the other which shows the right section where the yellow wall might be. There is also a link to the Web galley of Art, which includes Vermeer. It’s an obsession with one sunlit yellow wall (or two, or three) but it might be instructive to look at the others and wonder if Proust might have taken as much interest in light in Vermeer as a whole.

There is a newer “petite pan de mure jaune” at the exceedingly good essential Vermeer.com

For more Vermeer light there is a slide-show of 38 Vermeer paintings at Slideshare.

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Many who have not read Proust might be surprised by how much art is in the book. The blogroll in Moleskine Modality has a section on Proust, including links to the individual Gutenberg e-books. If you don’t fancy reading the whole lot but want to get an idea of the art in Proust, check out the e-texts using FIND in your browser.

But what to search on? ‘Artistic’ does a pretty good job of getting close to the sections of the text where Proust waxes about art or the Arts. But take this review, Pictures worth a thousand words, of Eric Karpeles’, Paintings in Proust, published in 2008, and make a list of some of the paintings mentioned in A la Researche, et voila vous êtes dans l’action. Note the drawing by Paul Helleu of Proust on his deathbed. On the NYT review page there is slide show of four of the paintings in Proust, with quote from The Book. Look at the first one and you’re in Balbec on the beach, courtesy of Whistler!

Another review of the Karpele in New Statesman, The eye of the beholder, by Paul Taylor, is also a source of painters names (and about Proust and art).

An interview with Lorenzo Renzi, author of  Proust and Vermeer: An Apologia of Imprecision, gives more fascinating suggestions including the observation that he tends to go for nature and landscapes and that View of Delft was Vermeer’s only exterior.

In Consciousness, art and the brain: Lessons from Marcel Proust [a .pdf file] Russell Epstein looks at Proust as the first neuroscientist. Proust’s approach to art is explained clearly and concisely.

#

Time Regained mentions a translation of Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies seen on the bookshelves of Baron Charlus. Proust translated the book into French with the help of his mother who was better at English than he was.

Marcel Proust – Ephemera site
has English translations of Proust on Ruskin, an obituary of Ruskin, and much more.

#

Pinter is the voice of the screenplay in the BBC Radio version, which was adapted for radio by Michael Bakewell.  That deep-voiced narrator of the script really does make it special. After all he wrote it. Let’s hope the BBC re-air it as part of the inevitable retrospective of his plays and the films he scripted. And that someone gets the it out on DVD, pronto.

#

So if Marcel (and Proust mentioned the smell of asparagus in his own chamber pot as perfume) gets excited about asparagus, why not start with a flash of a close up of a painting (which turns out to be a Manet) of an asparagus instead of yellow representing the Vermeer?

Karpele gives a nice example of how Proust could twist his own encounters with art to the ends he needed for his novel. His friend Ephrussi once admired Manet’s small painting A Bunch of Asparagus (1880). In his eagerness to purchase the work, Ephrussi sent the artist 200 francs more than the asking price of 800. Manet responded by dashing off and dispatching to him a picture of a single stalk of asparagus to even things up.

Paintings in Proust reproduces both images with a passage from Le Côté de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way). This third volume of the novel was Proust’s attack on the shallowness of French upper-class society, embodied by the aristocratic Guermantes family. Here, the Duc de Guermantes is incensed at the suggestion that he should buy a painting of a bunch of asparagus. The price, he declares, is extortionate. “Three hundred francs for a bundle of asparagus! A louis, that’s as much as they are worth, even early in the season.” With the same paintings as touchstones, Ephrussi’s gesture of generosity has been transformed into a parable about the tight-fisted philistinism of the aristocracy.



[Source: The Eye of the beholder, by Paul Taylor, New Statesman, 16, October 2008]


For additional information about asparagus, Proust and artistic inspiration read what there is of the GoogleBook of:

By Ulrich Finke

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Pinter decided on a well-lit patch of yellow on a famous painting to represent Proust’s aesthetic concerns (and of course, memory). What a pity we cannot see it expressed in a completed film of Pinter’s screenplay, which will surely have gone beyond the screenplay in the process of trying to make yellow filling the frame of the camera, and the screen, and the few flashed of yellow thereafter, and what flowed from it in the script, realisable cinematographically. It has to be shown to relate to Bergotte in some way, and yet on my listening (the book of the script in on the way to check) the patch of yellow could be connected to Marcel the narrator and Marcel the character. Well, yes you say, it is, because Marcel the narrator considers Bergotte the novelist. Yes, but whose memory is the yellow patch? Bergotte’s. So either Pinter didn’t get that bit – not likely – or he knew he had to show (in a few flashes) the connection between Bergotte’s dying words and Marcel/Marcel’s examination of Vermeer.

Tom Lubbock in examining Vermeer’s View of Delft, does it from the Proust angle, says:

The passage suggests that the little patch all by itself, the sheer precious substance of its painting, so dense and luminous, is what transfixes Bergotte. But the picture suggests otherwise. It’s only within the whole view that this patch – suddenly brighter and purer than you’d expect, and with its yellow animated by the adjacent reds and blues (Vermeer always a great one for the primaries) – blazes out. It’s not a self-sufficient and extractable gem. It’s an integrated effect, a climactic note.

In other words, Bergotte dies under an illusion. His illusion is normal enough. With any climactic note, we tend to feel that it can be isolated and extracted – that its power and preciousness lie somehow within itself, rather than depending on that to which it is a climax.

But this is why it’s such a good image of the man’s fading consciousness and will to live. Bergotte wants to see this detail as a separately precious thing, something he can isolate and grasp in his hand. Yet he can’t – any more than can hold on to this last precious moment of his life.

#

A lesser man than Pinter might have ended up with :

CLOSE UP OF MANET’S “SINGLE ASPARAGUS”

BRUSH STROKES CLEARLY VISIBLE.

[SOUND OF BELL]

etc.

#

Georges Bataille: “The solitary asparagus of Manet is not a still life like others: although still, it is, at the same time, lively.”

#

(Buy all your favourite art images from Allposters) – that’s where the single asparagus painting came from.)

#

There are wonderful things to play with online for writers trying out ideas. Here, for example, at Research Project- Painting Techniques of Impressionism and Post-impressionism, it is possible to closely examine the string tying Manet’s Still Life with Asparagus. I wonder what Pinter might have made of that! Check out the full report in the ‘pdf. There are sets of amazing close-ups of the textures of the painting.

#

It will be apparent, if you have got this far, that the impetus for my Notes on Pinter’s Proust gathers around the question of questions : [1] Can Proust be adapted to film or radio? (The Book is the Book, and that is that, etc.), [2] In what way has Proust been adapted, [3] What is the best medium for an adaptation? [4] Can one judge the quality of Pinter’s or anyone else’s adaptation of Proust without understanding Proust? (Well of course not, but there are things to grasp in a film of Proust without a complete understanding, which I do not claim to possess.)

The All-England Summarise Proust Competition.

A worthwhile Proustian digression in the search for lost answers to these questions, particularly Q.4, is the In Our Time BBC Radio 4 programme on Proust.

One of the the experts on the programme, Jacqueline Rose, Professor of English at Queen Mary College, London, in talking about her novel Albertine, touches on some of the problems of adapting Proust through changing him. I picked up on one phrase which I think is useful both in looking at the novel, its interpretation, and in adapting the story: “……the expectations of a Proust-literate readership.”

#

And, now, for something completely outstanding, the more traditional (non-Pinter) BBC radio adaptation. This is not a Pinteresque interpretation, and yet, and yet, can the adapters not have spent some time enjoying the Pinter radio version? It follows the story faithfully and in detail. Get a few minutes in to it, and one should be saying to oneself this is the medium to do it in. Why bother attempting film?

The Pinter screenplay as radio was effective. But why hasn’t someone had a go at making the film or as TV (yes….)? And then we could compare the results. Even if brilliantly done, it would be of limited interest: mostly to those who had already read the book, or at least attempted it, or, even less at least, who had read about it and knew the main characters, author’s intent and how it was achieved. [….pretentious but lazy readers.]

Perhaps film is useless in getting over the story Proust wrote. Any attempt at brevity simply sending the viewer of the film who didn’t know the basics into a spiral of increasing incomprehension.

There is the Jeremy Iron’s Swann’s Way. But that’s a cop-out because Swann’s Way is regarded as the easy option.

There is Raoul Ruiz’s Time Regained, starring Catherine Deneuve, based on the final book, Le Temp Retrouve. The article which lists other film attempts and scripts, including one for Visconti, reckons the Ruiz did a reasonable job.

“In filmmaking, like in painting you have the story and you have the picture. In the story, one thing comes after another. In a picture everything happens all at the same time. I thought what was worthwhile from the filmmaking point of view in
Proust was the fact that these two functions are reversed. We expect Proust to basically tell a story and he produces a picture. He tells us about very intense moments in a minimalist way. And when expect him to produce a picture he tells it to you. He sees someone standing still and then tells you all about the story behind that person. That’s what the film depicts. I would have liked to have done even better but that aspect is indeed a priority in the film. We have this strange Proustian emotion which fascinates many people including me. One is moved, you don’t know why. You feel like crying. And you don’t know why. Nothing serious has actually happened.”

Raoul Ruiz

Reading Kevin Hagopian in Film Notes: Time Regained, discussing the Ruiz, it is clear one better assesses what the Pinter could have been through other attempts to bring the book to life in film. Simply: one needs to study the films made so far to re-assess the Pinter script.

Then there is Chantal Akerman’s La Captive.

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The Pinter radio adaptation doesn’t represent what it would be as film. The narrative voice provided by Pinter himself gives much more orally delivered information that the film would do. For example, would dates and Marcel’s age be included on screen? When you hear Pinter say, “Marcel aged 21”, you forget that this might not be in the film.

Proust in the novel is perfect: in film almost impossible: through radio very acceptable. Proust filtered through another fiction {=meta-meta-fiction} – novel or film – is likely to be even more successful than radio renderings which attempt faithful renderings. That is purely and simply because there is no obligation to present “the case for Proust” in full through another novel. Characters can quote Proust, discuss Proust, claim Proust effects (or effected) their lives, without the novelist – who may be a kind of Proust the narrator/Marcel the narrator if he wishes – claiming to be adapting or ‘doing’ Proust. Is this not what the attempts at film have tried to do? Well, not quite. Pinter’s screenplay and the BBC 6 -parter tried the whole, in different ways, others have tried parts.

I argue the imagined Pinter film would be almost exclusively for a restricted niche audience defined by those already mentioned categories of people (readers of the book and those who know what it was about but who either hadn’t finished it or had given up), rather than by people who didn’t have any pre-knowledge of the story. This is not to say that un-Proustian ignoramuses would get nothing out of the film of Pinter’s script (or from the more recent Proust films), but it would almost certainly be too little about Proust’s book. Certainly the non-Pinter BBC radio series worked well, in part because it was an almost oral-aural ‘transcription’ made possible by its length.

I love radio, and I think Proust would see the point of an aural meta-filter through which we the listeners have to re-construct his characters and absorb the ideas. In my view, the complexity – both of structure and ideas – comes over better in the listening than in reading. This may be about how the brain retains and organises. All we need is a 36 hour word-for-word radio version to prove the point.

But there will be an argument there – because Proust is also examining what is possible in the novel, in his novel, as well as the other things he is attempting – that this aural/text choice is mere preference. A test is to try a very long, difficult passage from the book and its equivalent in the BBC 6-parter (if there is one…). The audio might be somewhat filleted, but it might still be a reasonable comparison. Try to find a section of the serial that is pretty intact. I’ll have a try.

#

Can radio or film can do the better job?

Despite the fact that Pinter’s Proust was written filmically, unless a film is the length of Bela Tarr’s Satantango, it won’t truly reflect the book. The BBC radio adaptation is roughly 6 hours long and in some ways comes near to the book because long stretches of complex combinations of action and thought are woven into it. As an example, the part in Time Regained where Marcel overhears soldiers talking was very well done in the radio version, with all sorts of overlaps, both in conversations and in memory and thought.

Another candidate in the audio category (a strong contender for ultimate Proust medium after text), is Neville Jason’s Naxos production. Here he writes about his Proust: Life and Work of Marcel Proust. Putting his and the BBC radio 6-parter in a head-to-head might be instructive. I haven’t listened to the Jason, but an extract in a radio interview he did a few years ago, shows he did all the parts himself. If you don’t like his voice, it will not save his version no matter however well filleted and done. The BBC radio serial with a great cast, is really beautifully done. Corin Redgrave as Charlus.

A personal note: I used to see Neville with his thick sheaves of paper when he came to his holiday home in Norfolk. I had no idea he was working on an audio abridgement. Nor that he took 6 years on the project. I knew he was an actor and I once said I was writing something. He volunteered to read my stuff. Maybe I should have overcome my fears and let him have a look. If he managed to abridge Proust satisfactorily he could have planned and organised the Normany landings in 1944 all by himself.

#

Emily Zants, a retired professor, has put online what she calls an adaptation of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, titled The Social Aquarium.

Those of you who know your Proust (again: by direct immersion or secondhand) will immediately lock into the Balbec restaurant scene in the Zants. Why, you might be asking, didn’t Pinter use that? Yellow screen? What’s the point of that? Aquarium. Now, that’s more like it: fish, different types, each analogs of people in the restaurant and, by implication, each exemplar radiating out, reflecting other characters and character types in the novel. What was Pinter thinking? How can he possibly have missed it? Well, he didn’t: there is section in which Marcel complains about the people in the restaurant, but we do not know how the film of Pinter might have presented this visually.

An answer to the problem of what to emphasis in a compacted, re-imagined Proust is succinctly explained by Claude Reich, a reviewer in the Amazon site of the new book on Proust’s art by Eric Karpeles’, Paintings in Proust (Thames & Hudson, £25), is:

[This book is all the more important to the understanding of Proust as] he himself acknowledged that “La Recherche” was a work whose theme was the birth of an artistic vocation in the narrator’s soul, the novel itself being the result of this birth. He {Proust} also wrote that ” my book is a painting”

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Pinter read the book, read about the book, read the experts, debated with Proustians like Barbara Bray [pdf], {2} and then decided this was a book about art as much – no, more than – the ethology of French aristocratic society (and Dreyfus) at the turn of the 20th. century. And yet, his screenplay in dialogue concentrates mostly on Marcel, family and the elite! No way round it. So we are left only with the art being represented visually: both art and Marcel’s observation of things that he, in effect, tells us are indistinguishable from art, things that arise from within himself as a word expression of art itself.

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Film: Proust: time-waster? tells us a little of the process Pinter went through which I have up till now guessed at.

“Working on A la Recherche was the best working year of my life,” Pinter later claimed. He had steeped himself in Proust, visiting the author’s old haunts and taking copious notes while reading the book. “For three months I read A la recherche every day … but was left at the end quite baffled as to how to approach a task of such magnitude.”

Nevertheless, the critics admired his adaptation. “It’s a beautiful working model in which Proust’s million-and-a-half words have been brought lucidly down to 455 shots,” enthused the New Statesman, but no financiers were found to bring that tidy model to life.

The article by Goeffrey Macnab, deals with Pinter in the context of films that have been made.

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Though Farms, trees, and bell-towers: The “hidden meaning” of triads in Proust’s “recherche”, is just an extract, there is enough to see again Pinter’s script, to re-enter Pinter’s preoccupations with Proust. I will add here the script sections reiteration of the three trees, three spires, seen at different times, or remembered, when the book of the script arrives, which should be any day now.

93.

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Proust’s novel is about other things apart from memory, time and art such as photography (in the sense of mechanical capture and reproducibility), speed (he had a chauffeur driven car in which he whizzed hither and thither) and possibly film (though many say not, that he was not a great watcher of films, the book certainly reads like film). This summary of The Aesthetics of the Windshield: Proust and the Modernist Rhetoric of Speed, gives a hint of where that goes.

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Returning, finally, to Pinter’s Proust – an encomium – it may seem the little patch of yellow was the thing on which he hung his whole adaptation. Not true. There are more little bells than yellow screens in the script. To see what he is doing, listening to the audio version is a clearer way of showing the whole process. In a clever Pavlovian trick, he links the yellow to the sound of the bell, then leaves the yellow behind, till, right at the end he brings it back.

The bells are the sound of the garden gate at Combray. This sound is in turn linked to

…Was not nature herself from this point of view, on the track of art, was she not the beginning of art, she who often only permitted me to realise the beauty of an object long afterwards in another, mid-day at Combray only through the sound of its bells, …

and Marcel’s (and Proust’s) bed-side bell.

Marcel at the end of Time Regained:

…I had jumped out of bed and had stood in my nightshirt
by the window through which the moonlight shone, until I heard M.
Swann go away. My parents had accompanied him, I had heard the door open, the sound of bell and closing door. At that very moment, in the Prince de Guermantes’ mansion, I heard the sound of my parents’ footsteps and the metallic, shrill, fresh echo of the little bell which announced M. Swann’s departure and the coming of my mother up the stairs; I heard it now, its very self, though its peal rang out in the far distant past. ‘Then thinking of all the events which intervened between the instant when I had heard it and the Guermantes’ reception I was terrified to think that it was indeed that bell which rang within me still, without my being able to abate its shrill sound, since, no longer remembering how the clanging used to stop, in order to learn, I had to listen to it and I was compelled to close my ears to the conversations of the masks around me. To get to hear it close I had again to plunge into myself. So that ringing must always be there and with it, between it and the present, all that indefinable past unrolled itself which I did not know I had within me. When it rang I already existed and since, in order that I should hear it still, there could be no discontinuity, I could have had no instant of repose or of non-existence, of nonthinking, of non-consciousness, since that former instant clung to me, for I could recover it, return to it, merely by plunging more deeply into myself. It was that notion of the embodiment of Time, the inseparableness from us of the past that I now had the intention of bringing strongly into relief in my work.

And let us not forget Pinter’s waiter’s spoon. And so marvel at his yellow screen. And bells.

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Maybe Proust before the culture machine by Michael Naas [Culture Machine, Vol 1 (1999) ] will find itself a better niche in these notes later. For the meantime, let them rest here.


asparagus-in-autumn


Asparagus leaves in autumn



February 7, 2009 - Posted by | art, Literature, screenplay | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] been performed. My introduction to the Pinter was the BBC radio adaptation which I wrote about. Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? : Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay Little patch of yellow wall or a single asparagus? Harold Pinter’s The Proust Screenplay {2} […]

    Pingback by SCREENPLAY Pinter’s Proust « cutting on the action | February 6, 2014 | Reply


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