Tea and a Madeleine


On a whim, I purchased some Madeleine cookies at Costco, just to see how they compared to the ones I had in France. To my surprise, they were great! The perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, which reminded me of reading A La Recherche du temps perdu in college:

“She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called ‘Petites Madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me.”

~Marcel Proust (translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin)

Here’s the original French:

“Elle envoya chercher un de ces gâteaux courts et dodus appelés Petites Madeleines qui semblaient avoir été moulés dans la valve rainurée d’une coquille de Saint-Jacques . Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d’un triste lendemain, je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j’avais laissé s’amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m’avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. Il m’avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu’opère l’amour, en me remplissant d’une essence précieuse: ou plutôt cette essence n’était pas en moi, elle était moi.”

Hope your week’s going well so far . . . .


About pearlsandprose

Photography. With a little life thrown in.
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11 Responses to Tea and a Madeleine

  1. I hadn’t read the English translation before. I’m reading the first book at the moment and, as with subtitles in a film, the original is so much better which your post cleverly illustrates. Lovely shot.

    • Thank you.
      Some things just don’t translate. I could never put my name to a translation of Proust–it’s kind of a travesty. But if someone is drawn to read his work after reading the translation, that’s probably a good thing. I heard this passage on an audio CD and it was gorgeous. In French, of course.

  2. Caroline says:

    Such a lovely, lovely picture. Those pastel colours.
    I want to read Proust again and this time persevere until the last tome. I only manged three so far.

    • Thanks, Caroline. I haven’t done a pastel in a while, so it was a nice change from the intense colors of New Mexico.

      After picking up my copy of Du côté de chez Swann, I think I might set that goal as well. I only made it through two volumes. Did you know that Le Temps retrouvé was made into a film with Catherine Deneuve? It’s on Youtube.

  3. Nothing like a cup of hot tea and a madeleine to lift your spirits. Although, depending on my mood, I might substitute a macaron! 🙂

  4. Beautiful prose in words and colors.

  5. TBM says:

    I haven’t read any Proust yet, but keep meaning to. Maybe 14 is the year. Lovely shot and glad they were good. I miss Costco. It’s funny the things you miss.

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