Friday, April 28, 2017

in re Proust's "The Captive"

My dear girl, why on earth did you wait so long to call for all your luggage?

I've read a few reviews/articles where the reader complains that there is no layer of irony over the selfish monstrousness of Marcel to distance Proust from the sins of the narrator. How, I ask them, can the man who wrote Swann in Love and the Morel/Charlus story arc not see how the Marcel character is reenacting those relationships? Proust is clearly aware of Marcel's paranoia and even has him admit here and there that he may in fact be mistaken about all of Albertine's motivations and interior world. Not to mention the reflection back to the first volume's incident of Marcel annoying his mother with his demands that she abandon whatever guests she might be entertaining in order to run upstairs and reassure him with a goodnight kiss. Marcel is not, after all, getting much more from Albertine than goodnight kisses. Not that any author is obliged to show that she is capable of making moral judgments about her narrator, of course. No author should be expected to accommodate any reader's opinions or ethics.

The Captive turns out to be quite lively, taking a swerve in the middle from meditation to action the way all four previous volumes have done. I wonder how I'll feel in mid-June or so when I've finished In Search of Lost Time. Whenever I have read a long novel I experience a sense of loss at the parting. Anyway: run, Albertine, run! Thank God he didn't buy that yacht! Imagine being trapped on a boat with Marcel.

6 comments:

  1. I remember feeling a bit let down when I finished it, and wondering what I'd do next. Well, that was probably a dozen years ago, and I do find that I keep occupied.

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    1. There turns out to be a great lot of stuff to read, doesn't there? Just this Saturday (to celebrate "Independent Bookstore Day") we picked up twenty-four books at nine shops. Spurring the local economy, etc. Investing in my future, etc.

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  2. "getting much more from Albertine than goodnight kisses" - no, I do not believe this is true, and I can prove my case with the passage where - well, there's that other part where - no, but that one bit - anyway, Icannot prove my case, and I owe Proust a debt for helping me read late Henry James. It is not that I mean to pry, but would it kill you guys to just say what is supposed to be going on here?

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    1. Maybe it's because I've already read a chunk of late Henry James that Proust struck me as pretty explicit in his passages about sex. The scene in the Champs Elysees with Gilberte, and quite a lot of the talk about Marcel and Albertine in bed, all seemed to leave little enough to the imagination. Plus there's the exchange between Marcel and Albertine: "After all, I'm not really your lover, am I?" "No, you really aren't." Half the time that Marcel is getting his satisfaction from Albertine, she's asleep.

      I find all of this to be highly comic. The Marcel character displays himself over time to be the same sort of buffoon as Swann and Charlus (it stuck me this weekend that the whole thing could be taken as a satire on smart arty types who can't see that they are nowhere as irresistible as they'd like to think; that would play into the ongoing theme of disappointment in attractive exteriors and so on, Charlus not seeing that Morel is let down by him over time, Albertine's own hopes in Marcel being erased by the reality/immobility of Marcel's trivial little life). Why didn't Proust just call this novel Love Stinks?

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    2. It just now struck me that the parallels between In Search of Lost Time and Lolita are pretty strong.

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    3. Oh, the park scene is almost pornographic. But I think you will find some passages - perhaps more in The Fugitive? - that will make this whole business look a little different. Or not.

      Lolita, and even more so in Ada. Lots of Proust in Nabokov.

      I've wandered back to your post - yes, the "no distance" people are nuts. Not only does Proust see what he's doing, but Marcel does - not the Marcel in the scene - but the Marcel of the future who is narrating.

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