What I Remember Most, Apart from that Sea
In January, a hundred & six years ago now, Rilke is in Naples with Clara touring cells of what were once depths of a penal colony. He observes the crucial difference of the place reemerging into daylight: the interminable minutes inside. It’s a pleasure to find him in the notebooks without the need to elevate language into poetry or artistic prose, that prerequisite outlined in his essay on the poet’s materials, where he stipulates no word can be the same as that word used in ordinary communication. As I read the report of the couple in the museum marveling at the painting of a swimmer in the water, while two women wait upon the rocky shore, I recalled how anxious I was to get to Capri, get out of Naples, held up there by the horse-drawn funeral carriage right out of Rilke’s famed era. A month later Rilke’s in Capri observing three different seas: the distant one black & heavy; the middle one constantly rising & churning, dark-bottle green; the near one smooth: one layer of chalk-white foam pushing across the rest. It is not a poem, granted, a notebook entry. Not long before he hears the wind in olive leaves extends the tonal scale… I recall that sea & those trees, when I spent time there sixty years later. Dove into that sea every day to get clean. Watched all of Monte Solaro burn one night in the distance. During ten days there, never slept in a bed, never sat at a café table. Despite the gaggle of young girls dressed all in white leaving the glove factory on their lunch break turning my way, giggling; despite the woman from Boston & girl from Santa Cruz; what I remember most, apart from that sea, is the brutal combination of being alone mixed with a sense of freedom, & an overriding minute-by-minute desire to write something equal to it all, remains with me today.
Sea & Albertine
Why wouldn’t Beckett in his miniature, laser-fine study of In Search of Lost Time concentrate on the character of Albertine? Examining the lightning-struck love Marcel exhibits for her, finds it sprung from his own young sadness. Revisits her first appearance in the novel within an orgiac band of cycling Bacchanti. Marcel wonders if she is not mistress of a racing cyclist or champion boxer. Beckett, astounded at her transformation, wherein the beauty mark, first noted on her chin by the narrator, moves on second observation to her upper lip. So in love is Marcel, that even the name Albertine is inadequate to her image, if not the immensity of her Feminine affect to the extent that a name like Homer would be insufficient to encompass epic making, & the word sea do such vastness no justice. Beckett sees Albertine as crucial symbol of Proust’s oeuvre. She is none other than Goddess of Time, into whose faith & worship all mankind is born. She will demand sacrifice, & as with any sacred figure of her realm cannot be possessed.