With no prescience but great coincidence, I started rereading Prout’s Swann’s Way on Thursday night, the night before the second major attack in Paris. I was present for the first attack in January, but this one has hit me with greater disbelief and sadness. Perhaps this is because I am not there and simply not in a state of shock. Perhaps this is because I have witnessed more indirectly but more explicitly through the eye of the social media storm that has descended beginning with the no-famous Vine clip of the Germany vs France football match with the explosion charging the atmosphere with a dark menace. Nevertheless, this time my insides are a-broil. I am angry. I want justice.
But this is precisely why reading Proust is so very timely. I do not need to act with immediacy, even if I feel it burning inside. I may feel like planting myself within France borders and standing in solidarity with the French people who I have been raised to admire—and I do feel this immensely—or I may feel like seeking extremist blood in the name of blood spilled and terror cast across the city of my dreams last night. I do not, we do not, need to do anything right away. The governments of the “free world” will be doing more now than they were before the attack. They are culpable, too, and they will feel their feet held to the fire. We need to act upon reflection on the events. We need to look back on things with a gaze of wonder, curiosity, intelligence and speculation. We need, I need, to reflect and perhaps read Proust for a while and then come back to think about all that I have read and seen broadcast across the screens of world and then will the tricky business of figuring out what’s “right” here will begin. And it will continue.
Ultimately, it’s not inaction I am suggesting as a course of action. Just a wiser one. I can only hope that the governments of the Western world will follow suit.