Turn me over, brothers, I am done enough on this side

Quote of the Day: On Cocteau and Proust

If Proust visited his rituals on Cocteau, friendship with Proust could not be otherwise than ritualistic.  It involved verbal spoofs, labyrinthine excuses, nocturnal happenings, dinners at the Ritz, and whipped chocolate at Larue, recitations from Swann in the cork-lined bedroom, cab rides observing the fixed, hermetic itinerary of a drunk.  Proust’s rare outings by day usually had some specific object: a building, a painting, a faintly remembered meadow.  Cocteau once accompanied him on a visit to Mme. Ayen, who owned a large collection of Moreau’s paintings; afterward the two stopped by the Louvre to see Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian.  But his cab rides by night had no such object; they were madly intransitive, “like a telephone ring in a empty house,” having all the symptoms of a fit.  When he received at home, Proust proved cordially schizoid.  Anxious yet afraid to test his manuscript on friends, he would read it aloud but, suddenly hearing himself read, would accuse himself of being a bore. “When we had coaxed him into continuing,” wrote Cocteau, “he’d extend his arm, snap up any lead from his jumbled papers, and unexpectedly plop us among the Guermantes or the Verdurins. . . .  He’d moan, guffaw, excuse himself for reading so badly.”  During one such hiatus he visited the bathroom without troubling to close the door; Cocteau could see him “in shirt sleeves, a purple waistcoat over his mechanical toy torso,” wolfing down a plate of cold noodles.

Frederick Brown.  The Impersonation of Angels: A Biography of Jean Cocteau.
London and Harlow: Longmans Green and Co Ltd., 1969.  (pp. 74-5)

Andrea Mantegna, St. Sebastian (Louvre)

Andrea Mantegna. St. Sebastian (1480). Musée du Louvre, Paris [Source: the Yorck Project, Wikimedia]


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Categorised in: books / authors, diversion of the day

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