Proust and Thinking about Thinking
Did anyone ever think more about thinking than Marcel Proust? (internal link)
Or is that the wrong question?
We hold more conversations with ourselves than with anyone else. But do we record them and write them down? Proust detailed his character’s inner monologue to an astounding degree.
He also well described day to day events but we have other authors as good or better at doing that.
From The Sweet Cheat Gone.
“Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” How much farther does anguish penetrate in psychology than psychology itself! A moment ago, as I lay analysing my feelings, I had supposed that this separation without a final meeting was precisely what I wished, and, as I compared the mediocrity of the pleasures that Albertine afforded me with the richness of the desires which she prevented me from realising, had felt that I was being subtle, had concluded that I did not wish to see her again, that I no longer loved her. But now these words: “Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” had expressed themselves in my heart in the form of an anguish so keen that I would not be able to endure it for any length of time. And so what I had supposed to mean nothing to me was the only thing in my whole life. How ignorant we are of ourselves.
— translator unknown
From The Guermantes Way:
It has been said that silence is strength; in a quite different sense it is a terrible strength in the hands of those who are loved. It increases the anxiety of the one who waits. Nothing so tempts us to approach another person as what is keeping us apart; and what barrier is so insurmountable as silence? It has been said also that silence is torture, capable of goading to madness the man who is condemned to it in a prison cell. But what an even greater torture than that of having to keep silence it is to have to endure the silence of the person one loves!
Robert said to himself: ‘What can she be doing, to keep so silent as this? Obviously she’s being unfaithful to me with others.’ He also said to himself: ‘What have I done that she should be so silent? Perhaps she hates me, and will go on hating me for ever.’ And he reproached himself.
Thus silence indeed drove him mad with jealousy and remorse. Besides, more cruel than the intangible enclosure, true, but an impenetrable one, this interposed slice of empty atmosphere through which nevertheless the visual rays of the abandoned lover cannot pass. Is there a more terrible form of illumination than that of silence, which shows us not one absent love but a thousand, and shows us each of them in the act of indulging in some new betrayal?
Sometimes, in a sudden slackening of tension, Robert would imagine that this silence was about to cease, that the letter was on its way. He saw it, it had arrived, he started at every sound, his thirst was already quenched, he murmured: ‘The letter! The letter!’ After this glimpse of a phantom oasis of tenderness, he found himself once more toiling across the real desert of a silence without end.
— translator unknown