An occult arithmetic: the 'Proustian equation' according to Beckett's Proust

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Abstract:

This article examines the way Beckett transcribes Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu mathematically in Proust (1931), his early essay on the French writer. It argues that the mathematico-scientific register Beckett chooses for his essay, evident from the very beginning in the 'equation' with which it opens, is evidence not of the fundamental misreading of À la recherche du temps perdu that Proust has often been claimed to be, but rather a way of bringing Proust's stylistic and aesthetic concerns, notably in relation to metaphor, to the attention of the reader. In particular, it suggests that Proust's narrator's adoption of the language of mathematics as the privileged language of the intellect in fact foregrounds his anti- intellectualism. Far from a violent distortion of the earlier writer's singularity, Proust thus constitutes an essential point of entry into À la recherche du temps perdu.

Keywords: BECKETT; EQUATION; LITERATURE; MATHEMATICS; OCCULT ARITHMETIC; PROUST

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/jrs.2007.070304

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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