Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 603

   I forsook all pride with regard to Albertine, and sent her a despairing telegram begging her to return on any terms, telling her that she could do whatever she liked, that I asked only to be allowed to take her in my arms for a minute three times a week, before she went to bed.  And if she had said once a week only, I would have accepted the restriction.
   She never came back.  My telegram had just gone off to her when I myself received one.  It was from Mme Bontempts.  The world is not created once and for all for each of us individually.  There are added to it in the course of our lives things of which we have never had any suspicion.  Alas! it was not a suppression of suffering that the first two lines of the telegram produced in me: "My poor friend, our little Albertine is no more.  Forgive me for breaking this terrible news to you who were so fond of her.  She was thrown by her horse against a tree while she was out riding.  All our efforts to restore her to life were unavailing.  If only I had died in her stead!" No, not the suppression of suffering, but a suffering until then unimagined, that of realising that she would not come back.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, p. 485

Albertine is dead.  We've been waiting for this moment, and Proust has offered us enough foreshadowings of the event.  Somehow, as we've discussed before, through the miracle of cultural diffusion I guess, I knew that Albertine died tragically in the novel, just as I knew that she was bisexual and that she and Marcel had a tortured relationship long before I ever picked up the novel.  It is, of course, appropriate that this terrible moment occurred only after Marcel had finally given in and sent her a telegram asking her to come back.  As submission telegrams/letters/emails/notes go it's an odd one in that it pleads with her to return, with the stipulation that she agree to having sex with him three times a week, which hardly seems to qualify as total, hopeless, love-wrecked surrender.  He then adds, "And if she had said once a week only, I would have accepted the restriction" (he was obviously having visions of married life).  I think we are culturally hard-wired to think that once the stubborn character has curtailed his ego then he gets to live happily ever after with his true love, but clearly that is not Marcel's fate.  However, in Marcel's case maybe it's more important that before he acquires the freedom he's been dreaming of he has to admit defeat.  Only a few moments earlier, and detailed in yesterday's posting, he had finally decried Swann's admonition that the death of a recalcitrant lover would give him back his "freedom to live."  Maybe the answer is not as clean or simple as we want it to be.  We'll have lots of time to sort this out, however, because, as you might imagine, this horrible event presages months and months, and pages and pages, of suffering, analysis and self-recrimination.

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