Sunday, January 16, 2011

Books: In Search of Lost Time Volume Five: The Captive, by Marcel Proust

Proust’s “captive” is Albertine, whom he has somehow coerced into moving into his parents' flat with him (while his parents are away; the only person privy to this secret resident is the nosy Francoise, who doesn’t hide her distaste of the guest.) That is indeed what he would have his readers think, but the real captive is Marcel himself. No longer captivated by Albertine’s reckless voluptuousness, he is instead held captive by his fears that she is secretly carrying on any number of lesbianic affairs behind his back. Though he finds her rather dull while she’s near, as soon as she steps out of the house—even makes a plan to go out—he is plunged into despair, certain that she is planning to meet some actress or loose-moraled girlfriend for hanky-panky. Thus, he never leaves the house, certain that if he were to go out, she, unsupervised, would betray him.

Meanwhile, so long as Albertine appears to be “behaving,” languishing mournfully in her room, dressed in the expensive silk gowns and kid shoes Marcel has bought for her, he longs for every other woman he sees out his window. He writes, “O girls, O successive rays in the swirling vortex wherein we throb with emotion on seeing you reappear while barely recognizing you, in the dizzy velocity of light. We might perhaps remain unaware of that velocity, and everything would seem to us motionless, did not a sexual attraction set us in pursuit of you, O drops of gold, always dissimilar and always surpassing our expectation!” He is not writing about Albertine. That is to say, had this passage been taken from Volume II, in which Marcel first sees Albertine, leader of the little band of mischievous girls on the beach, it would have described her and her companions well. Now that she has become a part of his daily life, however, a fixture rather than a fantasy, his desire fizzles.

Still, I’m waiting patiently for Marcel to make some disclosure of his homosexuality, to begin to realize that perhaps the reason Albertine has ceased to please him is that he fancies rather his friend Robert Saint-Loup, or someone similarly of the masculine persuasion. But he does not. Which leads me to The Fugitive.

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