Everything Proust Ever Said About Love…

…that I wrote down this year.


Proust said a lot of things about a lot of things, possibly while wearing a monocle. One of those things was love. During my year-long journey across the ridges, slopes, and fertile fields of Proust terrain, I collected this series of quotes and excerpts on love and desire.

Some are definitions, some are confessions, some are reflections on the forms and stages of love and heartbreak. Some are hopeful, and others less so. Some even contradict each other.

But every one is true for somebody, or so I would imagine.

I share them here in the order they appear throughout the six volumes of In Search of Lost Time. Happy reading!

But at the time when I knew Gilberte, I believed that Love existed really outside ourselves; that, allowing us at most to set aside obstacles, it offered its joys within an order in which one was free to change nothing; it seemed to me that if I had, on my own initiative, replaced the sweetness of avowal by the pretence of indifference, I would not simply have lost the joys I most dreamed of, but that I would have fabricated arbitrarily an artificial and worthless love, unconnected to the true love, the mysterious and pre-existed paths of which I would have given up following.

Life is strewn with these miracles for which people who love can always hope.

There can be no peace of mind in love, since what one has obtained is never anything but a new starting-point for further desires.

When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves.

There is nothing like desire for preventing the things one says from bearing any resemblance to what one has in one’s mind.

Like everybody who is not in love, he imagined that one chooses the person one loves after endless deliberation and on the strength of diverse qualities and advantages.

Love is no more perhaps than the diffusion of those eddies which, in the wake of an emotion, stir the soul.

Love is an incurable malady.

In love, it is easier to relinquish a feeling than to give up a habit.

Love is space and time made perceptible to the heart.

We fall in love for a smile, a look, a shoulder. That is enough; then, in the long hours of hope or sorrow, we fabricate a person, we compose a character.

No doubt it is because memories are not always true that love is not eternal.

We think that we are in love with a girl, whereas we love in her, alas! only that dawn the glow of which is momentarily reflected on her face.

For even if one love has passed into oblivion, it may determine the form of the love that is to follow it.

We read the newspapers as we love, blindfold.

And then, as we have seen, the memories which two people preserve of each other, even in love, are not the same.

If in those early days, as we have seen, the idea of death had cast a shadow over my loves, for a long time now the remembrance of love had helped me not to fear death.

The Ideal Marriage, According to Novels (The New Yorker)


This article is long-ish, but also fascinating-ish. Adelle Waldman looks at romance and marriage in classic literature old and new and argues that male and female authors approach them differently—in a way that just might offer some insight into gendered perspectives on love IRL. In her own words:

The ideal mate, for Jane Austen’s heroines, for Charlotte Brontë’s, for George Eliot’s, is someone intelligent enough to appreciate fully and respond deeply to their own intelligence, a partner for whom they feel not only desire but a sense of kinship, of intellectual and moral equality.

Female protagonists, when authored by women, evaluate their suitors based on intellect, taste, and the potential for conversation. Male authors and characters, however, tend to characterize love as a “profound, mysterious attraction” with an emphasis on the physical.

Waldman points out that “men have been, in a sense, the real romantics,” but offers her own theory to explain why:

For centuries, men have had far more opportunities to find intellectual outlets outside the romantic sphere—they’ve been able to travel more, to meet a broader range of people, to have professions, to win the respect of peers. Women, on the other hand, were forced to lean more heavily on love and marriage, for intellectual recognition and companionship as for everything else.

Compelling stuff. Here’s hoping it comes up on your Valentine’s dinner date. And that you follow it up with 10 p.m. tickets to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.