In Search of Lost Time
The Fugitive, Book VI
The Anguish of Separation
Returning to Proust after a summer hiatus we pick up where Albertine left off, literally, for as The Fugitive opens we read the lines: "'Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!' How much further does anguish penetrate in psychology than psychology itself?"(p 563). Just as the old saying goes we do not appreciate what we have until we get what we wish for, Marcel is faced with the 'anguish' of having his wish fulfilled with the departure of Albertine. What ensues in the first section of this part of the novel is what can only be described as anguish for this reader as Marcel grieves over his loss. Pascal's famous saying, the heart has reasons that reason cannot know, is reformulated by Marcel when he meditates:
"I believed that I no longer loved Albertine, that I knew the state of my own heart. Our intelligence can't perceive the elements that compose the heart and they remain unsuspected so long as - from the volatile state in which they usually exist - a phenomenon capable of isolating them hasn't subjected them to the first stages of solidification." (p 564)
His separation, the "unforeseen calamity" is a blow to his sensibility that he describes as "somehow contemporaneous with all the epochs in our life in which we have suffered." (p 571). The result is his continuing meditation on the varieties of memories, particularly of Albertine and the suffering that her presence and absence represented, that are brought to the foreground of his mind as a result of this experience.
"But what we call experience is merely the revelation to our own eyes of a trait in our character which naturally reappears because we've already brought it to light. The spontaneous impulse which guided us on the first occasion finds itself reinforced by all the suggestions of memory." (p 586)
It is the permutations of this memory that will be the narrator's guiding focus more than ever over the next section of The Captive, although it has been omnipresent in the books we have already completed.