Mother, Memory, Cake: Inside the Cancerian Mind

Thursday July 16th 2020

Marcel Proust

“… one day in winter, as I came home, seeing that I was cold, my mother offered me some tea, a thing that I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then for no particular reason changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petite madeleine, which look as if they have been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a no more than a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid and the crumbs with it touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, 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, but was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours , could not be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it? I drank a second mouthful, in which I found nothing more than the first; a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop: the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the object of my quest, the truth, lies not in my cup, but in myself. — Chapter 2, Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust translated by Scott Moncrieff

This beautiful passage from Swann’s Way, book one of Remembrance of Things Past, comes at the end of chapter two, and it is the moment the narrator’s memories of his childhood coming flooding back — or the memory of a feeling.

There is no more Cancerian beginning to a book. The first two chapters are devoted to the memory of a child trying to kiss his mother good night, and all the memories that flow from there.

All the Cancer concerns are here: mother, memory, food, emotion, nostalgia, melancholy, childhood.

Proust had Sun, Mercury, Uranus and Jupiter in Cancer in the fourth house. He spent the latter part of his life, writing his enormous novel of memory from a cork-lined bedroom…

I have just updated this post on Cancer self-portraits to include more pictures.

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  1. Sabrina says:

    So beautiful, so true. I don’t have planets in cancer, but the moon in the first house…and this hits a cord so deep, that still heals and grounds: the memory of waking up as a child in my grandparents home, listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen, nonna serving a cup milk with a dash of coffee and sugar, and a slice of bread with butter and home made marmalade, the light filling the place…quiet joy

    • Christina says:

      Aww that’s a nice memory Sabrina. I am listening to this on audiobook and it’s full of descriptions of food!

      • Severne says:

        The connection with food can be so soul nurturing!

        Right after I read this post and commented, out of the blue, my mom sent me few pictures of Nonna when she was a young mom standing with her family (that she’d leave behind soon after to move to the new continent).