Thursday, 13 December 2012

Painting childhoood memories – Proust’s madeleines

Do you remember how, as children, a teacher would ask us to draw a scene from our last holidays? But then, we grew-up and we stopped drawing our memories. Why?

Smell and taste are fairly untapped senses compared to sight, touch or hearing. Yet, creativity can feed on all senses.

Creative exercise

Find an object with a particular smell (perfume, bottle of ink, dish, fabric, etc.) and paint what the smell evokes for you.

Proust’s madeleines

The French writer Marcel Proust is well-known in France for its evocation of a particular childhood memory in his novel “Swann’s Way”:

“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. […]

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (Translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff) - New York Henry Holt and Company 1922 - Project Gutenberg EBook-No.7178

In my next post, I will give you the recipe to bake some madeleines… This way you will be able to enrich your own sensory memories

Related resources

The Proust Questionnaire 

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