For example, today is Marcel Proust's birthday--July 10, 1871. And I know that because I read my Writer's Almanac. Two Proustian amusements I enjoy--one is the recurring reference to him in that charming independent movie of a few years back--Little Miss Sunshine. Steve Carell plays a very depressed scholar who fancies himself the number # 1 Proust scholar...until he learns of someone ELSE who is even more the # 1 Proust scholar.
The other is the title of Proust's most famous work--Remembrance of Things Past. At least that's how the title is rendered in English. Apparently, that title, though so well-known by most literature students, should have been rendered as In Search of Lost Time. I like Remembrance of Things Past better--maybe because that's what I feel I frequently do when I set out to write a blog.
For the purists, Proust's title in French is À la recherche du temps perdu. which I confess really does translate better into In Search of Lost Time. OK, whatever.
The other day, on the anniversary of the poet Shelley's birthdate (of which the Writer's Almanac reminded me), I went searching for a suitable Shelley poem to use on Facebook. I found the poem "When the Lamp is Shattered."
Interesting how the themes in this poem seem to echo that search of lost time, or even remembrance of things past theme.
Herewith the opening stanza--the rest you can read by clicking on the link above:
When the lamp is shattered
The light in the dust lies dead—
When the cloud is scattered
The rainbow's glory is shed.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet tones are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.
I heard a successful movie script writer being interviewed by Terry Gross the other day. He made the point that, in his opinion, most movie scripts are really the same story told over and over again. He gave some examples to illustrate his point. I see what he means--and that repetition of theme certainly occurs in literature. Only there--we call them archetypes.
There is that recurring theme of the intransigence of existence--the mutability of all things. Contemplate how an entire play--Hamlet--seems to hang up on that theme. And Hamlet's awareness incapacitates him. He wanders around musing "to be or not to be."
About now, dear reader, you may be wondering--what's gotten into her. Oh, maybe I am just musing. Tempus fugit. Memento mori.
Let's hope that the next Writer's Almanac puts me on the path of a cheerier theme.