“Aubergine’s Way: After Reading Too Much Proust (Naturally in Translation)” (E29)

  • Originally printed: The Bookman, December 1931
  • First reprinted in: No Poems; Or Around the World Backwards and Sideways
  • Original Byline: Robert Benchley


Intentionally tedious parody of Marcel Proust’s vertiginously digressive style, punctuated by some real comedic highlights (such as the ‘favourite moment’ transcribed below). The speaker here leads us on a merry chase through his mental meanderings at a dinner party that he attends in hopes of gaining some intelligence of the movements and behaviour of his absent friend, Aubergine. He hears no news at all about Aubergine, but this leaves him free to dally just long enough among the already established details of their relationship to realize that Aubergine wants nothing to do with him and is probably actively avoiding him. Her way, in effect, appears to be any way but this guy’s way.

Our narrator takes consolation in the feeling of solidarity that can develop between fellow hay fever sufferers. Meanwhile, our metatextual parodist takes pleasure in the knowledge that he can end this farce at any time…

Favourite Moment:
“Neurasthenia, complicated by an interest in fans, sometimes develops into an arthritis, just as an arthritis, which is only a toxic form of neurasthenia, develops sometimes into an interest in fans.”

Reprint Notes:

  • The main text appears verbatim in No Poems (without any accompanying artwork), but the final teaser from the end of The Bookman article has been omitted:

“In the next volume, ‘Aubergine Disparue’, we shall discover why Aubergine thought it hardly worth her while to stick. And can we blame her?”

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