Reading the second volume of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, I’ve just read the delightful account of the dinner with the marquis de Norpois at the home of the narrator. Norpois relates a dinner he attended with Swann, and young Marcel asked if Bergotte was at the dinner. Marcel is smitten with the writings of the novelist Bergotte, especially because his crush Gilberte likes him and is one of his familiars. But Norpois launches a tirade about how lame Bergotte is, both in his writings and in his person, and then explains how a brief prose poem that Marcel had given Norpois to read bears the puerile influence of Bergotte. The narrator says:
“Atterré par ce que M. de Norpois venait de me dire du fragment que je lui avais soumis, songeant d’autre part aux difficultés que j’éprouvais quand je voulais écrire un essai ou seulement me livrer à des réflexions sérieuses, je sentis une fois de plus ma nullité intellectuelle et que je n’étais pas né pour la littérature.”
“…I once again realized my intellectual worthlessness and that I wasn’t cut out for literature.”
It’s a good thing that Marcel didn’t take this seriously. Of course, the entire cycle of La recherche is about his desire to be a writer, and finally, at the end, realizing that he could write a novel.
As Beckett would say as the ultimate insult, in Waiting for Godot: “Crritic!”