Tag: Lived space

The Nowaks’

Collected Items 01.08.13

I pushed open the door and, in doing so, jarred the handle of the frying pan on the stove which stood just behind it. In the tiny kitchen there was barely room for the two of us together. A stifling smell of potatoes fried in cheap margarine filled the flat.

The living room had a sloping ceiling stained with old patches of damp. It contained a big table, six chairs, a sideboard and two large double-beds. The place was so full of furniture that you had to squeeze your way into it sideways.

I descended slowly the five flights of stairs to the courtyard. The bottom of the court was clammy and dark, although the sun was shining on a cloud in the sky overhead. Broken buckets, wheels off prams and bits of bicycle tyre lay scattered about like things which have fallen down a well.

Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye To Berlin (Penguin: Harmondsworth, [1939] 1958) pp. 102-106.

Collected Items 14.01.13

[S]ometimes, on the other hand, the small bedroom with the very high ceiling, hollowed out in the form of a pyramid two storeys high and partly panelled in mahogany, where from the first second I had been mentally poisoned by the unfamiliar odour of the vetiver, convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and the insolent indifference of the clock chattering loudly as though I were not there; where a strange and pitiless quadrangular cheval-glass, barring obliquely one of the corners of the room, carved from deep inside the soft fullness of my usual field of vision a sight for itself which I had not expected; where my mind, struggling for hours to dislodge itself, to stretch upwards so as to take the exact shape of the room and succeed in filling its gigantic funnel to the very top, had suffered many hard nights, while I lay at full length in my bed, my eyes lifted, my ear anxious, my nostril restive, my heart pounding, until habit had changed the colour of the curtains, silenced the clock, taught pity to the cruel oblique mirror, concealed, if not driven out completely, the smell of the vetiver and appreciably diminished the apparent height of the ceiling.

Marcel Proust, The Way by Swann’s trans. Lydia Davis (London: Penguin, 2003) p. 12

Proust

Collected Items 28.10.12

A snippet from the one and only Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust. Who to eviscerate a lived-in space better than he?

But I had seen sometimes one, sometimes another, of the bedrooms I had inhabited in my life, and in the end I would recall them all in the reveries that followed my waking: winter bedrooms in which, as soon as you are in bed, you bury your head in a nest that you weave of the most disparate things: a corner of the pillow, the top of the covers, a bit of shawl, the side of the bed and an issue of ‘Debats roses’, that you end up cementing together using the birds’ technique of pressing down on it indefinitely; where in icy whether the pleasure you enjoy is the feeling that you are separated from the outdoors (like the sea swallow which makes its nest deep in an underground passage in the warmth of the earth) and where, since the fire is kept burning all night in the fireplace, you sleep in a great cloak of warm, smoky air, pierced by the glimmers from the logs breaking into flame again, a sort of immaterial alcove, a warm cave hollowed in the heart of the room itself, a zone of heat with moving thermal contours, aerated by draughts that cool your face and come from the corners, from the parts close to the window or far from the hearth, and that have grown cold again;  -tbc

Marcel Proust, The Way by Swann’s trans. Lydia Davis (London: Penguin, 2003) p. 11