Proust: Of madeleines and tea

Of course, the previous post on Bergson and coloured or involuntary memories can be summed up in its entirety simply by a trite reference to Proust and his famous madeleine and tea episode.


No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

—Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu / Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time

But this linking of Proust and Bergson is not as trite as it may seem. Bergson, after all, married Proust’s cousin, and Proust even served as best man at the wedding. And it is said that the younger Proust had been influenced by the older Bergson who was already an accomplished thinker and writer, and especially by the latter’s writings on time and memory.

All these talk on madeleines and french pastries are making me have the munchies… Not a good combination at this hour.


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