I just finished reading the first volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, aka In Search of Lost Time. I've meant to read it for ages--I bought it back when I still lived in Chicago, and it's moved from place to place, always sitting on my to-be-read shelf. This year, when I packed up my apartment, I cast a harsh eye on that shelf, and forced myself to pick out the books that I was determined to read during the upcoming year, and to donate the remainder. I decided that Proust (I seem only to own the first two volume) was finally going to be cracked, so it came with me to Chicago, and now the first volume, at least, to Moscow.
I'm undecided about it. In some ways it annoyed me enormously. I lack the patience for five page long paragraphs extolling a view, I fear. But individual passages of description were perfect. Take this passage:
I'm similarly both annoyed and attracted by the behaviors of the characters in the book. They're utterly annoying--but then I recognize their behaviors in myself and am disconcerted.
And the very idea of the power of sense memory is of course brilliant. The famous moment comes when the narrator has not simply a cup of tisane, and not simply a madeleine, but the two in combination--and that combination of flavors and textures sends him back to a childhood memory that he'd lost.
I was thinking about this tonight because one of my perpetual challenges when I come to Russia is to recapture a taste memory from my very first trip in 1992. That was a tough year, though I was lucky to be a vegetable lover living in a small city in southern Russia--we had a good market and so I ate pretty well through much of the fall. By December things were a little dire, but up to that point I was OK.
Better than OK, in some ways. In the big main market there was a tiny stall--barely more than a hole in a wall--that sold only one thing: lavash. Not the thin lavash that seems to have made its way to the US: big rounds of maybe inch-thick wood oven baked bread. If I was lucky, the lavash was so fresh from the oven it was almost too hot to carry home. I ate it with everything: peanut butter until what I'd brought from home ran out, cheese, jam, adjik, which is a spicy condiment I'd buy at the market, too, or just plain. I adored the stuff.
And I've never quite found its equal. I keep buying other varieties of lavash, but nothing's ever measured up to that. Tonight I bought the lavash I've been buying (I realize, according to its packaging, that this is apparently Georgian lavash, as opposed to Caucasian or central Asian), and I heated it for a while in a pan, but though it comes close, it doesn't quite manage it.
I wonder if that stall's still there in the market in Krasnodar, or if now, 17 years later, that memory will never be exactly replicated?
And just because I can't post a post without a picture, I'll probably also never find another image as surreal as the yellow Mercedes with an angry cat painted on its side. But that doesn't mean I won't try to capture the other semi-insane varieties of painte cars I still see here. For example, this one was parked up at the top of Vorobevy gory last weekend.