Let’s read novels

René Girard determined that human truth lay with novelists rather than scientists.

Great novelists reveal the imitative nature of desire in their work. Seeking and wanting the acceptance of others in the hope of ultimately accepting themselves is the overarching theme.

Are our memories our own or a conflation of the opinion of others? Are our memories our own or formed by those we want to be like? Or be liked by? 

Marcel Proust’s masterpiece “À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time)” is all about this phenomenon. Our memory of objects and experiences is powerfully and retroactively shaped by the opinions of people who we aspire to imitate.

In the book, Proust’s unnamed character is on a literal and metaphorical search to rediscover his initial impressions of experiences as he actually perceived them, before those memories became coloured by the mediating influence of others. 

Before those memories became distorted by how he wanted to see himself.

And how he wanted to be seen.

Older note Newer note