Monday, 26 August 2019

The Undramatisable

Well, I can't pretend to have listened to all of Radio 4's A La Recherche (any more than I can pretend to have read it all – I've always retired defeated), but my general impression of the radio version is of a heroic, intermittently successful, attempt to do the impossible. Dramatising Proust is, I think, almost certainly doomed to fail, for the simple reason that the entire (written) work essentially takes place within the narrator's sensibility – it is action, interior action, as against plot – whereas drama happens in an exterior world; it is plot, it is out there, seen from outside. And, in the case of Proust, this external action can easily be seen as not amounting to very much at all: a lot of wealthy, well connected people with overdeveloped sensitivities and not enough to do, fussing endlessly about nothing very much and making a huge deal of everything. This uncharitable view cannot gain much purchase in the novels because we live through it all inside the narrator's extraordinary, supple, hyperacute sensibility; once it is out there, exposed to the light of day in the form of drama, it become something else, something much less interesting. And, it has to be said, the unconvincing heterosexual veneer wears even thinner. However, with all this acknowledged, there was enough of straight narration in this dramatisation to maintain something of the particular allure of the original, it was a quality production with an excellent cast and good use of music, and some scenes were effective as drama. It was probably about as good as a dramatisation of the undramatisable could be.

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