One evening, however, an incident occurred of such a nature that it seemed as though my love must revive. No sooner had our gondola stopped at the hotel steps than the porter handed me a telegram which the messenger had already brought three times to the hotel, for owing to the inaccurate rendering of the addressee's name (which I recognised nevertheless, through the corruptions introduced by the Italian clerks, as my own) the post office required a signed receipt certifying that the telegram was indeed for me. I opened it as soon as I was in my room, and, glancing through the message which was filled with inaccurately transmitted words, managed nevertheless to make out: "My dear friend, you think me dead, forgive me, I am quite alive, I long to see you, talk about marriage, when do you return? Affectionately, Albertine." Then there occurred in me in reverse order a process parallel to that which had occurred in the case of my grandmother. When I had learned the fact of my grandmother's death, I had not at first felt any grief. And I had been really grieved by her death only when certain involuntary memories had brought her alive again for me. Now that Albertine no longer lived for me in my thoughts, the news that she was alive did not cause me the joy that I might have expected. Albertine had been no more to me than a bundle of thoughts, and she had survived her physical death so long as those thoughts were alive in me; on the other hand, now that those thoughts were dead, Albertine did not rise again for me with the resurrection of her body. And when I realised that I felt no joy at the thought of her being alive, that I no longer loved her, I ought to have been more shattered than a man who, looking at his reflection in a mirror, after months of travel or sickness, discovers that he has white hair and a different face, that of a middle-aged or an old man. This is shattering because its message is: "the man that I was, the fair-haired young man, no longer exists, I am another person." And yet, was not the impression that I now felt the proof of as profound a change, as total a death of my former self and of the no less complete substitution of a new self for that former self, as the sight of a wrinkled face topped with a white wig instead of the face of long ago? But one is no more distressed at having become another person, after a lapse of years and in the natural sequence one after another, the incompatible persons, malicious, sensitive, refined, caddish, disinterested, ambitious which one can be, in turn, every day of one's life. And the reason why one is not distressed is the same, namely that the self which has been eclipsed - momentarily in this latter case and when it is a question of character, permanently in the former case and when the passions are involved - is not there to deplore the other, the other which is for the moment, or from then onwards, one's whole self; the caddish self laugh at his caddishness because one is the cad, and the forgetful self does not grieve about his forgetfulness precisely because one has forgotten.
I should have been incapable of resuscitating Albertine because I was incapable of resuscitating myself, of resuscitating the self of those days.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, pp. 656-657
"My dear friend, you think me dead, forgive me, I am quite alive, I long to see you, talk about marriage, when do you return? Affectionately, Albertine."
Now, by all rights, this telegram from Albertine (more on this soon) should be the showstopper in this passage. Marcel returns to his hotel in Venice and receives a telegram from Albertine telling him that she is alive and can't wait to see him and discuss marriage. WTF? Now, truthfully, when I first read this as I was not overjoyed at Albertine's apparent return, but rather a bit disappointed that Proust had decided to bring her back to life - and also a bit miffed that I didn't know that she wasn't actually dead (essentially, how did I know that Albertine was bisexual and had a tortured relationship with Marcel and that she died, but didn't know that she wasn't actually dead? [again, more on all this later]). Growing up I was always deeply suspicious of happy endings (April is the cruelest month after all), although, as I grow closer to my own ending, I'm less opposed to the concept. Consequently, after all the sturm und drang between Marcel and Albertine I didn't want her to magically show back up and they then lived happily ever after. I'm not completely opposed to authors bringing back characters. Whenever I reread Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories I always skip over the story where the detective is killed off at the falls, and read the next story (written years later) when he returns to life, before going back and reading the short story initially supposed to be his demise. It's not that I don't know that he's not actually going to die, but, still, you never know what words in a book are going to get up to when you're not watching them.
So, again, it wasn't Albertine's alleged return that jumped out at me in this passage. Rather, it was Marcel's indifference. Proust writes: "Now that Albertine no longer lived for me in my thoughts, the news that she was alive did not cause me the joy that I might have expected. Albertine had been no more to me than a bundle of thoughts, and she had survived her physical death so long as those thoughts were alive in me; on the other hand, now that those thoughts were dead, Albertine did not rise again for me with the resurrection of her body." Maybe this should not have been surprising because the reader always had this notion that maybe Marcel didn't love her that much anyway, and, instead, that his main fascination was possessing Albertine and controlling her than a mad love for her. As he tells us, Albertine was simply a "bundle of thoughts."