Lost time

I have read the last word of In search of lost time. What did I love of it?

I loved the first Goodnight kiss. Marcel, a child, needs to be kissed by his mother to give him the calmness he needs to sleep. It has to be just right, or he will be distracted; and this evening he is so upset when he cannot kiss her that he needs her to sleep in his room all night. He could be six, or eighteen- his reading the novels of Bergotte at the time indicates older rather than younger- and even as an adult he needs the kiss of Albertine in order to sleep.

Strange that I should love that, when after his musings alone about Albertine, I felt embarrassment: he will be found out, everyone will see him as a fool. He cannot love. He needs to control Albertine, for if she escapes his sight for an hour he imagines her doing things he does not like, and when he remembers her dancing with Andrée he is convinced they were aroused by their breasts touching. When did he decide that Albertine was lesbian? Just before he decided he had to marry her. Some time after that dance, where Cottard put it in his mind, as a Scientific Certainty- women are aroused chiefly through the breasts.

I even came to tolerate the parties. In the first volume there is a woman who wants to talk to a much grander woman, yet is snubbed, and humiliated further by the narrator who says what a fool she is, as well as what a fool she appears. There are a lot of parties, and what each person says is analysed, and how they look, and how they relate. That analysis makes a fool of the child Marcel- imagine! He cannot sleep unless his mother kisses him! He cannot sleep unless Albertine kisses him! Having looked at him with a microscope, studying every angle, my complete knowledge of him produces Love.

The Baron de Charlus, similarly: chasing and bickering with his lover the violinist Morel, son of a lackey, or humiliated by Mme Verdurin after behaving as if her concert at her salon at her house was his, or recruiting lower class men for his homosexual sadomasochist brothel- the men are never as cruel as he wishes them to be, not really understanding the game- or taking on Marcel as his protĂ©gĂ©, then raging apoplectically at him for seeing and talking to people without Charlus’ direction- I despise and love him.

Marcel and, separately, Swann, call upon the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes just before the couple leave for a dinner party. Swann is dying: his doctors tell him he has only a few months to live. Basin is concerned that his cousin will die before he leaves for the evening, because then he will have to stay in, for propriety’s sake. If the man clings to life another hour, Basin can go out, and adopt mourning tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Lost time

  1. I loved this post, even though to this day Proust brings back memories of the meanest professor known to professorhood who chastised me in tutorial because I dared criticize “the master,” as he called our Proust. To clarify, I was offered a critique … I was not criticizing. However, one does not win arguments with professors (or rarely).


    • Oh dear, the “read his book so you can repeat it in the exam” syndrome. Do you think they might be showing you what “Robust debate” looks like, and challenging you to participate? Or are they only able to see one view- “There are lots of views about everything- until you find the right one, then there’s just one”.

      I am reading a Companion to Proust which promises at the end an account of his concision as a writer.


  2. you say you just read the last word of ISOLT. do you mean you read the 7 volumes? what did you think about the last volumes? I’m in the #4 right now. I personally hah a hard time with the looooooooong parties in vol 3!


    • Welcome, Words and Peace. Thank you for commenting. Yes.

      You have a hard time with the parties? The second half of the last volume is yet another party. The homosexual sadomasochist brothel is quite fun, and the bits about writing a novel; and the death of La Berma is affecting. I had a hard time with the parties too, but suddenly there will be a joke or something particularly observant, and it is worthwhile.

      I must read it again. I would know more of Cottard, or Bloch, or the Verdurins. I would still find longueurs, but he is worth all the irritations.


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