Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Return to Proust

In Search of Lost Time, Volume V

Part One: The Captive

At the opening of The Captive, part one of Volume V of In Search of Lost Time, it is daybreak and the narrator shares the weather with the reader. It is a frosty morning and as on most mornings the narrator would prefer to stay in bed, or at least in his bedroom, for that is from where he "took in the life of the outer world during this period"(V, p1). It does not take long for him to transition into his memories of another time and, instead of his beloved Albertine, his mama and her good night kiss.

Life, when it delivers us from sufferings that seemed inescapable, does so in different - at times diametrically opposed - conditions, so that it seems almost sacrilegious to note the identical nature of the consolations vouchsafed!(V p2)

It is worth noting the use of "sacrilegious" - grossly irreverent toward what is held to be sacred - and the suggestions of the narrator's deep confliction over his feelings toward Albertine. His feelings toward her appear complicated beyond my poor ability to decipher, analyze or even comment, but they seem to be a mixture of both love and pain (or lack of), for he goes on to say:

It was not of course, as I was well aware, that I was the least bit in love with Albertine. Love is no more perhaps the diffusion of those eddies which, in the wake of an emotion, stir the soul. Certain such eddies had indeed stirred my soul through and through when Albertine spoke to me at Balbec about Mlle Vinteuil, but these were now stilled. I no longer loved Albertine, for I no longer felt anything of the pain I had felt in the train at Balbec on learning how Albertine had spent her adolescence, with visits perhaps to Montjouvain. I had thought about all this for long enough, and it was now healed.(V, pp 16-17)

Is it healed? Is he healed? His actions at the opening of this section suggest conflicts of the heart and soul that make answers to these questions difficult. Perhaps this will become clearer as we traverse the rest of The Captive.

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