Proust Speaks: Part 2

Proust rises from the grave to attend his 100th Anniversary Wake

In the second part of the speech, to have been delivered at the Marcel Proust Support Group’s 100th Anniversary Wake, re-animated Proust goes on to talk about the suffering of the writer’s life, and the wide range of possibilities in the afterlife, his own experiences on the other side, and his observations of what’s going on with The Marcel Proust Support Group;

Proust:

If you have never tried writing yourself, you can’t imagine how much suffering it can cause. Most good writers probably agonize over every sentence in the book you enjoy. I agonized for half my life, writing In Search of Lost Time, all 3000-plus pages of it. No one paid me to do it. And then, when the first book of the total work was finished, no publisher would touch it. I had to self-publish, at my own expense, until I won the Goncourt literary prize. And then the publishers apologized.

I didn’t even live long enough to see the whole work in print. I literally wrote “The End” to the last book of the series, and died the same day, November 18, 1922.

But I’m sure you’re more interested what I have to say about the afterlife, since you rarely—if ever—get to hear much about it from a dead person. I, of course, didn’t lead a blameless life, so I don’t have to listen to an eternity of angelic choirs. It seems that there are a lot of options in the afterlife. If you are a decent human with nothing tying you to the earthly life, you may be free to roam the galaxies. If you aren’t Christian, you may have an endless stream of young virgins to play with, or whatever your belief system gives you for behaving yourself in the earthly life.

If you are somehow tied to the planet, as so many writers are, you may live the afterlife within the stratosphere, where you can keep tabs on your book sales. I am a regular at the Galactic  Café, where my friend Oscar Wilde and I hang out on the terrace and watch what’s going on below. A lot of deceased writers spend most of their time here, and when someone’s work gets attention, we all raise an immaterial toast to our colleague.

For the last many years, we’ve been amused by the Marcel Proust Support Group of San Francisco and the annual Proust Wakes, which have been a lot more fun than the one thrown for me by my stuffy family in 1922. And for the 100th Anniversary Wake, I made the extra effort to show up myself, and deal with the annoyances of earthly life for an evening. As I wrote in one of the manuscripts, “A dead writer can at least be illustrious without any strain on himself.” If the conversation gets dull, as at the Parisian society functions of my youth, I can just dematerialize and meet Oscar at the Galactic. But since you’re Miss P’s friends, you are—no doubt—immensely interesting.

Me again:

It’s true, I know a lot of extraordinary people. That’s half of why I have a reputation for entertaining, as you can read here: https://journal.burningman.org/2022/02/burning-man-arts/global-art/helping-artist-communities/. The other half is stuff like this. If you want to hear the closing third of Proust’ speech, you can go on to The Speech, Part 3, but be fair warned: it’s shameless promotion for what I’m doing now.

By P Segal

P Segal, nee Roberta Pizzimenti, was born and raised in San Francisco's North Beach. where the remaining Beat poets, regrettably, inspired her to pursue the literary life. A Cacophony Society event, the Marcel Proust Support Group, led to the obsession recorded in these pages.

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