My Disclaimer for any shoddiness in this post in terms of grammar, spelling or capitalization: sent from my iPhone. I will also add that I know I should have posted this on an actual Sunday, but I didn’t get home until 10 last night and if I wait another week I’ll be backtracking in the novel. So this is my best attempt.
On page 94 of my edition, Marcel* elaborates on the immense pleasure of reading on Sunday afternoons. During the last few months of school, while my friends and I were trying to stave off depression about our looming graduations, we repeatedly told each other “at least Sundays will be good again.”
We anticipated it as such: “it will be so awesome not to have homework!!” Proust describes it like this:
Sweet Sunday afternoons beneath the chestnut tree in the garden at Combray, carefully purged by me of every commonplace incident of my personal existence, which I had replaced with a life of strange adventures and aspirations in a land watered with living streams, you still recall that life to me when I think of you, and you embody it in effect by virtue of having gradually encircled and enclosed it–while I went on with my reading and the heat of the day declined–in the crystalline succession, slowly changing and dappled with foliage, of your silent, sonorous, fragrant, limpid hours.
Sunday’s in the summer are a universally acknowledged pleasure. They summon to my mind the blissful lethargy of sitting on my porch drinking lemonade or, more likely, tamarind soda, while watching my father grill, or my mother trim the blueberry bushes which dissolve into the woods, serving as the frontier of our seasonal haven. In more than a decade of spending the summers in this place, none of our routines have significantly altered. My friend will inevitably be sporting successfully browned skin, the result of two days spent in the pool and the sun. I will be slightly red, with a sunglasses tan marking the area that shaded my eyes while I sat in a lounge chair, more intent on reading than swimming. Like for the narrator of Swann’s Way, my childhood proclivities persist into my early years of adulthood; I spend every summer reading.
Last Sunday in eastern market, I wandered purposefully, attempting to construct my own incarnation of the combray hammock or countryhouse porch. Finding a delicious cup of iced coffee and a patch of sun, I was marginally successful. Still, I was aware of being plagued by a Proustian anxiety that I would not be able to fully optimize my precious Sunday.
This Sunday I was somewhat deprived of that unique Pleasure, spending the day instead on a bus coming back to dc from a weekend spent at home. Following Proust back through combray offered consolation to this bus ride, as the novels he enjoys served as modes of transportation for his mind so too did his novel liberate me from the I95 south.
But the thing about Sundays is that they are perpetually platonic, they are always somewhat idealized– maybe because of their position within the week, the final placeholder for reflection. What we love so much about them is not only what they are but what they represent: escape, a last chance to exist in a fantasy before reality sets in. It is therefore appropriate that Proust Focuses on his reading on Sunday’s–the day is about that opportunity to escape. We love Sunday’s not because they are our lives, but because they are not.
Notice I didn’t even mention Sunday brunch? That subgroup deserves its own category on this blog.
*peter, our comp lot professor/guru pointed out to us that we cannot know the narrators name yet and more importantly that we will never know it bc he stays deliberately nameless. For this reason everyone refers to him as marcel. We will continue to do so, but will remain conscientious of the narrators actual anonymity.