25 January 2005

Joyce & Proust

Keeping in mind that the illustrious ARH is now wading into Ulysses, it was funny to come across some new information this morning (via the estimable Rake):

As those with a taste for literary trivia know, James Joyce and Marcel Proust once met, to less than spectacular results. (Samuel Beckett might have hastened Proust's death, via cigar, but that's another story.)

Apparently, I'd just discovered another gap in my education. Here's the scoop:

On Thursday, 18 May 1922 James Joyce was invited by Sydney Schiff to a supper party for Stravinsky and Diaghilev after a premier performance of one of their ballets. Joyce arrived late and had a few drinks to cover his embarrassment at not having evening clothes. Marcel Proust arrived at the affair wearing a fur coat, on a rare outing, and was seated next to Joyce.

William Carlos Williams is supposed to have noted the conversation between the two authors. Joyce said, "I've headaches every day. My eyes are terrible."

"My poor stomach," Proust said, "What am I going to do? It's killing me. In fact, I must leave at once."

Joyce replied, "I'm in the same situation. If I can find someone to take me by the arm. Goodbye."

"'Charmé,'" Proust said, adding, "Oh, my stomach!"

Joyce later told Arthur Power that Proust asked him if he liked truffles and Joyce had said he did. He also told Jacques Mercanton, "Proust would only talk of duchesses, while I was more concerned with their chambermaids."

(A perfectly perfect line.)

In addition, according to Joyce:

"Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘non.’ Proust asked me if I knew the work of so-and-so. I said ‘non.’ Our hostess asked Proust if he had read such and such a piece of Ulysses. Proust said ‘non.’ And so on."

So I guess it fell rather flat, huh?

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