THE SHOE ISSUE ACCORDING TO PROUST: RED DRESS/RED SHOES OR JUST CURL UP AN DIE!

In the great novel “A la recherche de temps perdu” by Marcel Proust, the hero Swann has just found out that he is dying. Swiftly, as swiftly as Proust can move, he goes to see friends and tell them the news but, actually, shoes are much more important than death. Shoes ARE, in fact, life and death. And red and black are just not happening:

 

(I'm Dying)                                                 (Ok, Let me Just change shoes)

“The Duke exclaimed…“Come Oriane, don’t stop there chattering like that and exchanging your jeremiads with Swann… Forgive me Charles,” he went on, turning to Swann, “but it’s ten minutes to eight already…’

Mme de Guermantes advanced resolutely towards the carriage and uttered a last farewell to Swann. “You know, we’ll talk about that another time; I don’t believe a word you’ve been saying, but we must discuss it quietly. I expect they’ve frightened you quite unnecessarily. Come to luncheon, any day you like” (with Mme de Guermantes things always resolved themselves into luncheons), “just let me know the day and the time,” and, lifting her red skirt, she set her foot on the step. She was just getting into the carriage when, seeing this foot exposed, the Duke cried out in a terrifying voice: “Oriane, what have you been thinking of, you wretch? You’ve kept on your black shoes! With a red dress! Go upstairs quick and put on red shoes, or rather” he said to the footman, “tell Mme la Duchesse’s lady’s-maid at once to bring down a pair of red shoes...”

I know this passage not because I am hauling the book through customs but I recall seeing Fanny Ardant in the film adaptation “Swann’s Way” and she was wearing red shoes with bows that looked like Maude Frisson and only then could she hop into her carriage and get to dinner. If only she had been carrying some Sophie Cox scarlet ballet flats in her pochette!