Neeta and I were happily shopping for books in Left Bank Books this afternoon, and she ended up with Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and I left with Days of Reading by Proust.
As for the inner book of unknown symbols… if I tried to read them no one could help me with any rules, for to read them was an act of creation in which no one can do our work for us or even collaborate with us. How many for this reason turn aside from writing! What tasks do men not take upon themselves in order to evade this task! Every public event, be it the Dreyfus case, be it the war, furnishes the writer with a fresh excuse for not attempting to decipher this book: he wants to insure the triumph of justice, he wants to restore the moral unity of the nation, he has no time to think of literature. But these are mere excuses, the truth being that he has not or no longer has genius, that is to say instinct. For instinct dictates our duty and the intellect supplies us with pretexts for evading it. But excuses have no place in art and intentions count for nothing: at every moment the artist has to listen to his instinct, and it is this that makes art the most real of all things, the most austere school of life, the true last judgment.
–from Marcel Proust, Time Regained (Modern Library translation)
I don’t know why this just got sent to my inbox as a new post when it appears to have been published in 2009, but I am grateful!