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|Sydney and Violet in Proust's later years
"I write primarily to pay homage to a beloved friend, but also in the hope that some future chronicler of the history of art and letters in our time may give to Sydney and Violet Schiff the place which is their due."
—T. S. Eliot, in a letter appended to Violet Schiff's obituary, Times of London, July 9, 1962
"Sidney and Violet is a delightful way of discovering the rivalries and excesses, the nastiness and the brilliance of the early-twentieth-century English literary world. For forty years, Sydney and Violet Schiff befriended and encouraged the best artists of their time, and Stephen Klaidman’s very entertaining book takes us through their life together with wonderful anecdotes. On one evening in Paris, the Schiffs gathered Proust, Joyce, Stravinsky and Picasso around the same table at the Majestic, all of whom rebuffed any attempt at civil conversation. It is a tribute to the genius of the Schiffs that they survived the ordeal and remained friends with such a raucous group of intellectual luminaries."
—Anka Muhlstein, author of Monsieur Proust’s Library
Sydney and Violet
作者： Klaidman, Stephen
原文出版社：Random House Inc
An anecdotal dual portrait of the influential early 20th-century literary couple explores their friendships with forefront Modernist writers and acceptance into elitist literary circles, discussing their intimate relationships with such personalities as Picasso, Mansfield and Aldous Huxley while revealing the critical acclaim of Sydney Schiff's own writing.
Sydney Schiff 和 Violet Schiff，可以說是研究普魯斯特晚年必然遭遇到的一對夫妻檔。
而關於這對夫妻檔的成長背景、往來的文人雅士、Sydney Schiff 個人的小說創作、文學雜誌 Arts and Letters 的運作…也就誕生完成 Stephen Klaidman 的這本書。
在初讀這本書的時候，總讓人感到作者特別尊敬普魯斯特，不惜貶抑 Sydney Schiff，原以為這是客觀公正的評論手法，但原來內情並不單純。事實上，T.S. Eliot 和 Joyce 等作家的地位在書中也都相對於普魯斯特低了一階：
Tom and Vivienne Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and to a lesser extent Katherine Mansfield and James Joyce can be described as Sydney and Violet’s everyday friends When they met, at least as far as the Schiffs were concerned, it was as equals. This was never the case with Proust. The Schiffs’ friendship with Proust could not have been based on equality because they worshipped him. And it was not an everyday friendship because the total amount of time they spent in his physical presence over the three and a half years they knew each other added up to twenty-four hours or less. Their relationship consisted almost entirely of exchanging letters, which would not satisfy anyone’s criteria for a normal friendship. (p.104)
我回想起的海恩斯的《巴黎，1922》，我是從這本書結識 Schiff 這對夫婦，同樣地，作者 Klaidman 的創作靈感也基於此，在書中的〈後記〉，他特別提到：
The idea for this book began germinating four years ago. Jenny McCracken, a dear friend who shares my passion for Proust, lent me one book and gave me another. I read the one she lent me first. It was a biography of the poet and painter Isaac Rosenberg and it briefly mentioned Sydney and Violet, The book she gave me was A Night at the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines. It took its title from the 1922 dinner that the Schiffs hosted and which Proust, Joyce, Picasso, Stravinsky, and Diaghilev attended. Moreover) it had a chapter on the Schiffs. Although I knew vaguely who they were from biographies of Proust, it would not have occurred to me to write this book had Jenny not brought the Rosenberg biography and Davenport-Hines’s work to my attention. I cannot thank her enough. (p.273)
這本書關於普魯斯特的部分初估佔有四分之一強，同前述所說的「默契」，這樣的比例確實讓人感到相當滿意，畢竟依作者所言，目前保存的通信資料有限，況且 Mansfield、Wyndham Lewis、T. S. Eliot 的書迷或讀者應該也應該會對本書有興趣而必須有所兼顧吧！
Klaidman 用 ”ANNUS MIRABILIS”(重大之年) 來定位 “1922 年” 在文學史上的重要性，除了因為普魯斯特在這一年完成他的《追憶似水年華》並溘然而逝之外，T. S. Eliot 及 James Joyce 也分別發表了他們的重要作品：
The year 1922 would have been notable in the history of literature if only for Proust’s death and the completion of his novel. But 1922 was much more than notable, it was the annus mirabilis of modernism, the year of the century in letters. And three of Sydney and Violet’s friends－Eliot, Proust, and Joyce－were the writers who made it so. Each published or completed a work many critics still consider one of the three greatest literary achievements of the twentieth century. Eliot’s The Waste Land appeared in the first issue of the Criterion, which turned out to be the most important and longest-lasting of all the modernist literary magazines, in February 1922. Sylvia Beach published one thousand copies of Joyce’s Ulysses the same month. And Proust finished correcting the last pages of In Search of Lost Time three days before he died in November. All this is of interest here mainly because, Zelig-like, Sydney and Violet kept popping up. (p. 89~90)
1922 年 5月 18 日 Schiff 夫婦安排的一場晚宴，他們邀請了小說家喬伊斯、畫家畢卡索、音樂家史特拉汶斯基和舞蹈家狄亞格列夫以及普魯斯特，更是這一年的重頭戲，書中摘要了幾種謠傳的版本，如果可以的話，建議對照著海恩斯的《巴黎，1922》一同閱讀，肯定會覺得更有趣味！
這本書紀錄著 Schiff 夫婦宛若古代孟嘗君識才惜才的好客之道，然而，我更欣賞的是 Klaidman 在書中的這一句讓人心有戚戚焉的見解：
Eventually Proust’s work and their friendship with him transformed their understanding of literature and, to a degree, their lives. (p.55)
或許可以說 “How Proust’s work transformed my understanding of literature and my life ? ” 正是我一路走來最佳的寫照吧！
|( 知識學習｜隨堂筆記 )|