Meanwhile, I read her letter again, and was after all disappointed to be reminded of how little there is of a person in a letter. Doubtless the characters traced on the paper express our thoughts, as do also our features; it is still a thought of some kind that we are confronted with. But even so, in the person, the thought is not apparent to use until it has been diffused through the corolla of the face opened up like a water-lily. This modifies it considerably, after all. And it is perhaps one of the causes of our perpetual disappointments in love, this perpetual displacement whereby, in response to our expectation of the ideal person whom we love, each meeting provides us with a person in flesh and blood who yet contains so little trace of our dream. And then, when we demand something of this person, we receive from her a letter in which even of the person very little remains, as in the letters of an algebraical formula there there no longer remains the precise value of the arithmetical figures, which themselves do not contain the qualities of the fruit or flowers that they enumerate. And yet "love," the "beloved," her letters, are perhaps nevertheless translations (unsatisfying though it may be to pass from one to the other) of the same reality, since the letter seems to us inadequate only while we are reading it, but we sweat blood until its arrival, and it is sufficient to calm our anguish, if not to appease, with its tiny black symbols, our desire which knows that it contains after all only the equivalent of a word, a smile, a kiss, not those things themselves.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, p. 462
Marcel and Albertine start exchanging letters and eventually a telegram, but Marcel can never quite, until it is too late (spoiler alert), bring himself to beg her to come back. I was going to transcribe their letters, but hers are short and non-committal while his are long, pedantic, analytical in regards to the wrong subjects and, well, Proustian. Marcel complains that letters are disappointing because of "how little there is of a person in a letter." He then realizes that the same might be said of an actual person, since they contain so little of the imagined self. As Proust tells us, "And it is perhaps one of the causes of our perpetual disappointments in love, this perpetual displacement whereby, in response to our expectation of the ideal person whom we love, each meeting provides us with a person in flesh and blood who yet contains so little trace of our dream." Several times we've talked about the disconnect between Proust's desire for the imagined Albertine and the real Albertine (or, fill in the blank, Proust's desire for the imagined ________ and the real _________). However, are we any different? I know I'm not. I think Marcel wants Albertine to represent innocence - the innocence he remembers from childhood - and so he both romanticizes her and also imagines the absolute worst crimes he can about her.