Read Remembrance of Things Past: Volume III - The Captive, The Fugitive, & Time Regained by Marcel Proust Free Online
Book Title: Remembrance of Things Past: Volume III - The Captive, The Fugitive, & Time Regained|
The author of the book: Marcel Proust
ISBN 13: 9780394711843
Date of issue: August 12th 1982
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 29.49 MB
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Originally published on my blog here between June and October 1999.
With the seventh volume of Remembrance of Things Past (both The Guermantes Way and Sodome et Gomorrhe being originally published as two separate volumes), a distinct change is apparent. This is the first part that was edited and published by other hands after Proust's death, and to me the missing final polishing seems to make itself clear in several ways.
The immediate sign that The Captive is unfinished is that is contains inconsistencies not apparent in earlier volumes: the deaths of two characters are described or mentioned only for them to pop up alive later on. (There is also a completely missing piece of narrative near the end.) But I think that the comparatively melodramatic subplot is also a legacy from the lack of final revision; my suspicion is that this would have been smoothed out and made more discursive, for why should things suddenly start to happen after well over two thousand pages? The length of The Captive is comparable to that of earlier volumes, so it is nearly complete - unless a really major revision was planned. (The two volumes which follow The Captive are considerably shorter.)
There is another possible explanation for the melodramatic nature of The Captive. Like earlier volumes of Remembrance of Things Past, it is an exhaustive examination of a theme. In this case, the theme is jealousy, which might be considered essentially melodramatic. However, earlier strongly emotive themes, such as young love in Within A Budding Grove and sexuality in Sodome et Gomorrhe, do not lead to a melodramatic novel.
The theme of jealousy is explored through two obsessive relationships which mirror one another. One is between the narrator and Albertine, the other between the elderly homosexual M. Charlus and his protegé, the young violinist Morel. One is a heterosexual relationship, in which the dominant partner is jealous of the homosexual leanings of the beloved; the other is a homosexual relationship, in which the dominant partner is jealous of the heterosexual leanings of the beloved. Both become increasingly demanding, claustrophobic and unfulfilling until the break between Charlus and Morel, when Charlus is humiliated at a society soirée.
There are two candidates for the role of the captive of the title: Albertine and the narrator. Such are his fears of her duplicity - he lays little verbal traps for her to measure the extent of her lies - that his mistress is barely allowed to leave the house with him let alone by herself. Her friends are barred to her, she is cut off from her former life.
But, given the self-obsessed nature of Remembrance of Things Past, it is the narrator himself who is the more likely candidate. (We are finally told to call him Marcel, after the writer, though we are assured at the same time that this is not in fact his name.) He is not just imprisoned because he doesn't dare let Albertine out of his sight. His realisation of her deceitfulness leads to mental obsession with her even when they are not together. Like the author, Marcel is beginning to succumb to invalidism; the disease that has haunted him since childhood is taking hold more frequently, more permanently, more debilitatingly. In Proust's own case, this was an asthmatic condition, and by 1905 he had (famously) taken up a hermetic existence inside a cork-lined room in Paris. Marcel is not affected to such an extent, but his life is ruled more and more by the disease.
The Fugitive, as a title, neatly matches that of the previous novel in Remembrance of Things Past (The Captive), yet it is clearly not a translation of the French title. Since it is the second of the three volumes put together by others following Proust's death, it is impossible to know what title he would have used for the eventual published work, if he had lived to make the final revisions.
The penultimate novel in Proust's cycle is entirely concerned with the narrator's obsessive relationship with his lover Albertine. We begin the novel where The Captive left off, with Albertine having fled back to her aunt in the country. The narrator makes a huge effort to bring about her return to Paris, but this never happens: Albertine is killed in an accident. Just after hearing the news, the narrator is shattered to receive a letter sent off just before Albertine's death, in which she says that she will return to him.
An important part of remembrance - the central theme, of course, of the whole series of novels - is the way in which we think of those we no longer see, particularly those at one time close to us who are now dead. It is inevitable that Proust would spend some time analysing the progress of this aspect of our memories. In more abstract terms, Sartre discusses the same issue in his Psychology of Imagination, and the ideas of the two writers on the subject are closely related. (Sartre in fact refers to Proust for illustration of his philosophical ideas on the subject.)
Their views are based on the idea that our imaginary pictures of people are of necessity only pale reflections of the living person, requiring frequent refreshment by renewed acquaintance with them. As the length of separation increases, our imagined version of the person becomes more divorced from the richer reality, and more and more sketchy. This is partly because the most real part of the imagined version is centred on our interaction with them.
I do not wholly agree with this analysis, which seems a little self-centred. However, Proust's narrator is an extremely self-centred person, and his mourning for Albertine follows this course. As is the case throughout the series, his analysis and record of his internal life is convincing, giving the distinct impression that he would not be an agreeable person to meet. He is self-dramatising and obsessed with the romance of his inner life. His internal viewpoint is here perhaps more melodramatic than in some of the earlier novels, and this can presumably be attributed to either a missing final revision or the strong emotional effects of bereavement.
On a fairly superficial level, the title chosen by the translators may seem misleading: it is only for the first few dozen pages that we think that Albertine has run away. But then both the French title and The Fugitive have a deeper meaning, as the narrator's memories of his lover begin to disappear from his imagination, becoming fugitive thoughts.
The final volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past has as its themes ageing, illness and death; an appropriate (if gloomy) way to bring to an end his narrator's exploration of his life. Like other volumes published after Proust's death, Time Regained shows signs of a missing final revision, chiefly in minor inconsistencies; but it is an amazing achievement for all that, containing some immensely powerful writing.
The events of Time Regained - and events is perhaps rather too strong a word - take place some time following those of Albertine Disparu. After the First World War, the narrator's health, delicate since he was a child, fails, and he spends years a recluse in a sanatorium. (The precise nature of his illness is not specified.) Following a recovery, he returns to Paris, and attends a fashionable society party. This party - after a lengthy piece of introspective philosophy - is described in one of the most powerful pieces of prose in the entire series of novels. It at first seems to the narrator that he has stumbled in a bizarre fancy dress event in which everyone is to come as an old man or woman; but gradually he realises that their appearance is due to their real ageing, compared with his memory of them from twenty years previously.
In fact, the untrustworthiness and impermanence of memory is one of the ways in which the themes of this last novel are linked to Proust's central concerns of perception and memory. As well as containing people he once knew well but now hardly recognised by the narrator, their relationships have changed and new people have arrived on the scene. Important but now dead people are hardly remembered; on the assumption that things have always been as they are now, the past is adapted to fit the present.
All this means that Remembrance of Things Past ends on a sombre note; but it has chronicled the whole life of the narrator, and life ends with death.
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Read information about the authorFrench novelist, best known for his 3000 page masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time), a pseudo-autobiographical novel told mostly in a stream-of-consciousness style. Born in the first year of the Third Republic, the young Marcel, like his narrator, was a delicate child from a bourgeois family. He was active in Parisian high society during the 80s and 90s, welcomed in the most fashionable and exclusive salons of his day. However, his position there was also one of an outsider, due to his Jewishness and homosexuality. Towards the end of 1890s Proust began to withdraw more and more from society, and although he was never entirely reclusive, as is sometimes made out, he lapsed more completely into his lifelong tendency to sleep during the day and work at night. He was also plagued with severe asthma, which had troubled him intermittently since childhood, and a terror of his own death, especially in case it should come before his novel had been completed. The first volume, after some difficulty finding a publisher, came out in 1913, and Proust continued to work with an almost inhuman dedication on his masterpiece right up until his death in 1922, at the age of 51.
Today he is widely recognised as one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century, and À la recherche du temps perdu as one of the most dazzling and significant works of literature to be written in modern times.