In Search of Lost Time
The Fugitive, Book VI
Dreaming and Imagination
Often it was simply during my sleep that these "reprises," these "da capos" of one's dreams, which turn back several pages of one's memory, several leaves of the calendar at once, brought me back, made me regress to a painful but remote impression which had long since given place to others but which now became present once more. (p 725)
There are books that I love and those, much fewer in number, that I do not and the majority that fall between these extremes. My current rereading of Proust's In Search of Lost Time perplexes me because I cannot find a place in the geography of my reading in which it belongs. After my first reading of Proust, while I recognized the importance of the work and the beauty of the writing I was not able to like, much less love the book primarily due to what I found to be the lack of the heroic, the failure to connect, whether the author's fault or mine, and with this lack of connection a conclusion that this was not my kind of book. However, even then I had misgivings about that conclusion because I knew that this should have been 'my kind of book' (what this means is the topic for another time).
The perplexity engendered currently, as I am in the novel's penultimate section entitled The Fugitive, is one which finds me discovering the deeper meaningfulness of Proust which raises his work in my estimation at the same time that I continue to disagree with many of the observations and notions of the narrator. It is the continuing confusion created by the juxtaposition of reality and the "illusion of reality" that is one focal point of my perplexity. The continuing obsession of the narrator with Albertine,not only after she has left him but after she has died, is contrasted with his indifference or the approaching indifference which he sees as the alternative to this obsession. One example of this obsession leads him to this image, "I saw myself astray in life as on an endless beach where I was alone and where, in whatever direction I might turn, I would never meet her." (p 701) One is reminded of the dark forest from another famous work but the importance of the places are not commensurate no matter how strong the feelings of our narrator.
The extremes of his emotions make for interesting reading, but despite the permutations of feelings described over the course of many pages his situation does not seem to make anymore sense. One approach I may consider is to think of his life and his dreams to be different aspects of the same thing and in doing so accept that the irrationality of dreams may have more influence over his life than I previously imagined. That one needs to expand his imagination to enjoy the experience of reading Proust is a truth that when recognized makes the beauty of the novel more real, and it raises the value book in my estimation.