Sorry about the evocative title, I promise it isn’t as misleading as you might think.
So, I’ve been making my way through In Search of Lost Time (I’m not going to pretend I’m past volume one, but if you want to presume I’ve read all seven and ignore this admittance, I’d have no problem with that) and, although I sometimes struggle to keep my concentration, I am always held hostage by Proust’s ability to strike through time and space and describe an intimate thought or follow, with perfection, the train of thought my own meager brain might take. But what always takes me most is his ability to make me feel like I’m not alone.
That’s not meant to be as poetic as it sounded, it has a point I’ll get back to in a bit. But first, David Tennant:
Now, I adore David Tennnat; not only was he the best Doctor (and fuck you, I watched the old Doctor Who episodes and Tennant still rules as the Tenth (Also, that doesn’t mean that, because I love Tennant, I automatically dislike Matt Smith, on the contrary, I think Smith is doing a bang up job against the standards and expectations that proceeded him)) but he is a fine stage actor (I like to think his Hamlet will be remembered and looked back upon as one of the most entertaining portrayals there was, one that has brought the play that much closer to mainstream appeal) and a funny and lovely person (his insistence during the last British elections that no artist would find solace in a Tory government was a shamefully unheeded truth) and I wouldn’t normally find anything to disagree with him about (save his latest film role choices… It’s like he has started picking up all Martin Freeman’s sloppy seconds now that ‘Tim from The Office’ has hit it big, I mean, the St. Trinian’s sequel? And now Nativity 2? C’mon David, I know you’ve got a family now but get friendly with some up-and-coming British talent, I bet Joe Cornish could fit you in somewhere!) but I’ve been making my way through the Desert Island Discs podcast backlog (it’s a bit of a British institution, Desert Island Discs is a BBC radio programme that interviews (in)famous authors, writers, actors, sports personalities, the premise being that the interviewed picks a collection of songs they’d pick if stranded on a desert island. Tennant’s interview can be found here) and at the end of the show, along with The Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (which the actor admits to, even though he has performed most of then, not quite having read all of yet), had to pick a book he’d want on the hypothetical island and Mister Tennant chose (and this is where the post’s title has relevance) In Search of Lost Time.
His reasons were as funny and interesting as the actor himself during the interview; not a great re-reader he could not think of any title he thought he’d take great solace in whilst alone on a desert island and, with such a hectic life (the man was just beginning his family at the time), he did not think he’d ever find the time for the famous novels of Marcel Proust, but would love the opportunity to say he had read them.
Obviously, maybe Tennant was wrong for his reasons for wanting to read the great works of Proust, but I’m not such pompous young thing to write a post about that, but I will take issue with the situation in which the handsome Whovian god would read In Search of Lost Time. The reason Proust is able to make me feel like I am not alone obviously has a lot to do with the things I mentioned above: his ability to feel intimate and to get into our heads, but more the implications of these things. Proust is able to bridge a gap, between time and the page, and make me feel like I’m part of a group. No matter how low and depressed I feel, when I read Proust, he enables me to take comfort in the fact that no matter where we’re from, what language we speak or how we look, we are all so similar; we all fear the same things, love the same things and wish for the same things; we are all touched by a writer’s ability to tell us what we thought was our own unique experience or, perhaps more effectively, our own unique dread or concern, and remind us that we are all together in this life. Maybe to read Proust on a desert island might give us a security in his writing, but for me, reading Proust, is when I feel truly connected and to feel truly glad to be able to share these thoughts and these feelings with another, although long dead, person, but if that connection was obliterated and I was put on Tennant’s desert island, Proust would only make me realise how far lost I was and how shallow my existence on that island was. I could not set my first sights on someone and imagine the love I might one day have for them or find small joy in the oddities of an old relative or remember the warmth and chills of my childhood just from the taste of little bit of a thought forgotten world.
I’m not saying reading Proust would have put Tennant over the edge, but it may, with sheer brilliance, only remind me how much I had lost.
That’s why I think David Tennant was wrong about Marcel Proust.