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Installation 29: Fresh Plump Purses


A first galley proof of À la recherche du temps perdu: Du côté de chez Swann with Proust's handwritten corrections


Marcel Proust (MP) has inspired much scholarly dialogue and armchair scholarly references around memory and scent and the nature of art. It’s worth reviewing other direct mentions of scent in his enormous volume “À la recherche du temps perdu”.

Some facts about the novel worth reviewing:


  • Some of the sentences have over 150 English words in one sentence (I’m assuming this word count is even longer in other languages especially French);

  • The nature of art is explored in the novel, Proust sets forth the idea that all can make art though maturity and intention are definitely the ;

  • It’s the longest novel according to the Guinness book of wold records,

  • The book was rejected by a number of publishers;

  • It’s the 100 year anniversary of its publishing next year; and

  • fragheads continue to hang onto the Madeleine moment in the very beginning of the Swann’s way volume as a testament to the power of scent’s inspiration and endurance in our minds.

Thank you to my friend, artist Richard Zeiss for sending along some excerpts to me from the first volume where Proust waxes poetic about the hawthorne bush’s scent, which I wrote about in an earlier post*. I’ve adopted the words to fit a more direct-scent related definition, and included its original context in Proust’s work. Enjoy:



Festal - A scent of, like, or relating to a celebration or festival.

“And indeed I had felt at once, as I had felt with the white blossom, but with even greater wonderment, that it was in no artificial manner, by no device of human fabrication, that the festal intention of these flowers was revealed, but that it was Nature herself who had spontaneously expressed it…..” MP, 1922


Fresh Plump Purse - A small bag stuffed with essential smells.

“The hedge afforded a glimpse, inside the park, of an alley bordered with jasmine, pansies, and verbenas, among which the stocks held open their fresh fresh plump purses, of a pink as fragrant and as faded as old Spanish leather, while a long green hose, coiling across the gravel.”


Unctuous - When describing scent, food or drink as unctuous, you mean that it is creamy or oily. Synonyms: oily, creamy, greasy, oleaginous.

“…and their scent swept over me, as unctuous, as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been staring before the lady altar, and the flowers themselves adorned also, held out each its little bunch of glittering stamens with an absent minded air, delicate radiating veins in the flamboyant style like those which, in the church, framed the stairway to the rood-loft or the mullions of the windows and blossomed out into the fleshy whiteness of strawberry-flowers.“ - MP, 1922

*Hawthorne - A flowering hedge whose scent is described as "sweet, floral, nutty, powdery." Charles Nelson, of Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens finds that hawthorn blossom "exudes that heavy musky fragrance with sexual undertones”.


Sentence: "The triethlyamine responsible for the stale element in hawthorn's complicated smell is one of the first chemicals produced when living tissue starts to decay" and reminds nurses who have worked in Africa of the smell of gangrene. Yet triethylamine's fishy scent is also the smell of sex - something rarely acknowledged in folklore, but implicit in much of the popular culture of the hawthorn." - Richard Mabey, Flora BritannicaHawthorne - A flowering hedge whose scent is described as "sweet, floral, nutty, powdery." Charles Nelson, of Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens finds that hawthorn blossom "exudes that heavy musky fragrance with sexual undertones”.

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