Moments from Proust VI. “O sole mio”

Albumleaf 190: May 18, 2022 (Bologna)

For I felt myself to be alone; things had become alien to me; I no longer had calm enough to break out of my throbbing heart and introduce into them a measure of stability. The town before me had ceased to be Venice . . . I could no longer tell it anything about myself. I could leave nothing of myself imprinted upon it; it contracted me into myself until I was no longer more than a beating heart and an attention strained to follow the development of O sole mio. . . . rising like a dirge for the Venice I had known. . . . My mind, no doubt in order not to have to consider the decision I had to make, was entirely occupied in following the course of the successive phrases of O sole mio, singing them to myself with the singer . . . No doubt this trivial song, which I had heard a hundred times did not interest me in the least. . . . None of the already familiar phrases of this sentimental ditty was capable of furnishing me with the resolution I needed; . . . I said to myself: “After all, I’m only listening to one more phrase,” I knew that the words meant: “I shall remain by myself in Venice.” . . .

My mother must by now have reached the station. In a little while she would be gone . . . I looked on at the slow realization of my distress, built up artistically . . . note by note, by the singer as he stood beneath the astonished gaze of the sun . . . Thus I remained motionless, my will dissolved, no decision in sight.

But suddenly, from caverns darker than those from which flashes the comet which we can predict . . . my will to action arose at last; I set off in hot haste . . .

Marcel Proust
The Fugitive, pp. 749-752
Translation: C.K. Scott Moncrief and Terence Kilmartin