That day and the next we went out together, since Albertine refused to go out again with Andree. I did not even mention the yacht to her. These outings had completely restored my peace of mind. But in the evening she had continued to embrace me in the same new way, which left me furious. I could interpret it now in no other way than as a means of showing me that she was sulking, which seemed to me perfectly absurd after the kindnesses I continued to heap upon her. And so, no longer receiving from her even those carnal satisfactions on which I depended, finding her positively ugly in her ilol humour, I felt all the more keenly my deprivation of all the women and of the travels for which these first warm days reawakened my desire. Thanks no doubt to scattered memories of forgotten assignations that I had had, while still a schoolboy, with women, beneath trees already in full leaf, this spring-time region in which the journey of our dwelling-place through the seasons had halted three days since beneath a clement sky, and in which all the roads sped away towards picnics in the country, boating parties, pleasure trips, seemed to me to be the land of women just as much as it was the land of trees, and the land in which the pleasure that was everywhere on offer became permissible to my convalescent strength. Resigning myself to idleness, resigning myself to chastity, to tasting pleasure only with a women whom I did not love, resigning myself to remaining shut up in my room, to not travelling, all this was possible in the old world in which we had been only yesterday, in the empty world of winter, but was no longer possible in this new universe bursting with green leaves, in which I had awoken like a young Adam faced for the first time with the problem of existence, of happiness, and not bowed down beneath the accumulation of previous negative solutions.
Marcel Proust, The Captive, p. 411
As I read along in Remembrance of Things Past, I make notes to myself in the margins of the book (as I always tell my students, if you don't write in your books then you don't love them), sometimes a couple weeks before I write on the blog, or sometimes a couple months. On this particular page I found I had written two observations:
"Marcel getting pretty ugly. Wonder how he will be redeemed after her death?" [SPOILER ALERT]
"An uglier picture than the popular perception of Proust - probably because no one reads this far."
I wonder what percentage of folks who start Remembrance of Things Past actually finish the novel? Many people quote Proust, and even more seem to have a perception about the work, but how many that are using these quotes or making these observations actually completed all seven volumes? As with all novels, and I would argue especially with Proust's work, your perception is often dramatically different at the end. If you had only finished Swann's Way, in itself not an insignificant accomplishment, your perception of Marcel would be profoundly different than someone who slogged their way through to the last lines of Time Regained. I suppose I shouldn't say slogged through, because I'm already thinking about when I'm going to reread the novel.
Proust notes: "Resigning myself to idleness, resigning myself to chastity, to tasting pleasure only with a women whom I did not love, resigning myself to remaining shut up in my room, to not travelling, all this was possible in the old world in which we had been only yesterday, in the empty world of winter, but was no longer possible in this new universe bursting with green leaves, in which I had awoken like a young Adam faced for the first time with the problem of existence, of happiness, and not bowed down beneath the accumulation of previous negative solutions." As T.S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
I think Proust and Eliot are saying the same thing, and almost at the same time. Love and loss may seem worse in the winter, but it's actually in the spring that you feel the greatest and most violent juxtaposition between the barren misery of your life and the stunning dream of a better life and rapturous new love that nature is, cruelly, teasing you with.