Guermantes is a place, a family name, and a leitmotif that pervades Marcel Proust’s magnificent novel In Search of Lost Time; faced with chosing a name for my blog, a tribute to my favourite novel seemed as good as any.

The third volume in the series is entitled Le Côté de Guermantes, a reference back to the first volume (contrastingly titled The Way by Swann’s), and both derive from the two routes that the narrator explored in his childhood. His astonishment that two such different routes could lead to the same place, but offer such different experiences is typical of one of the joys of the novel - how Proust uses extended narrative themes to delve deeply into personal experiences and make them universally applicable.

The Guermantes family are the local aristocrats that the narrator first encounters in the guise of their estate near the childhood home of Combray. By the third volume, this architectural icon has taken human form in the person of Oriane, Duchesse de Guermantes. An obsession of the narrator, and reflecting his desire to achieve the stamp of approval of the lofty inhabitants of Faubourg St. Germain, the way her unawareness of the narrator turns from annoyance to indifference and finally casual acceptance portrays a sympathetic story of self-discovery that avoids self-indulgence.

Most posts on here won’t be on this theme, but I may well dot the more scientific/mathematical posts with more meandering thoughts on some of my favourite cultural references. And the ‘.xyz’ part of the site name represents three of my favourite mathematical symbols.