Friday, January 02, 2015

Marcel Proust, The Captive (1923)

Oh good lord Marcel.  I must admit, I felt sort of uncertain at condeming him so unequivocally in the last entry, because maybe it’s just me lacking perspective—it’s hard to really feel these sorts of passions from the outside; maybe we all act like this when we’re in their thrall.  But secreting the object of said passion in his family’s apartment, hiding her existence from his friends, controlling her movements as much as possible and having her followed whenever she does go out and oh just for kicks let’s not forget lying next to her sleeping body and masturbating, though admittedly that last one may be gilding the lilly a little, DOUBLE ENTENDRE INTENDED?  NOT normal or sane, I think it’s fair to say.  This may be related to a remark I made regarding Swann’s Way, that it’s only “realistic” in a kind of heightened way.  But whatever it is—gah.

Which is not to say that Proust isn’t really perspicacious on the subject of jealousy.  It’s quickly quite apparent—what a twist!—that Albertine isn’t the only prisoner here; Marcel himself (who is actually referred to by that name a few times, once in a convoluted “if we assume that the narrator’s Christian name is the same as the author’s name” way, and once just like it weren’t no thang) has done a pretty good job of trapping himself.  What he “loves” (boy is there a lot of love in Proust, and boy is it ever the most joyless love you can imagine) is more the jealousy itself than Albertine, and when he’s not feeling it, he’s not attracted to her.  So basically, without the anguish the relationship wouldn’t function at all.  Granted, a certain amount of jealousy here would be justified—there’s no question that Albertine is faithful—but here it just goes to idiotic extremes.

What else?  Oh, there’s another long block of text about the Verdurins (this is not a disciplined or well-organized narrative, though that might have been self-evident from the length alone), and particularly about M de Charlus and his gay stuff, which, even if Proust was speaking from experience, get a bit risible.  A number of characters reappear after being killed off, though in fairness, that’s probably mainly because Proust didn’t live long enough to fully edit the last three volumes.  Also, one of the deaths, that of his writer character Bergotte, is one of the more striking things in the book.

Anyway, the ending is, of course, a foregone conclusion, with Marcel finally driving Albertine away, lucky her.  I shudder to think about how he’s going to deal with this in the next volume.  At any rate, only seven hundred fifty pages to go in the whole shebang, so the end is in sight.


Post a Comment

<< Home