We are getting ever closer to the end of Marcel Proust‘s epic and ths volume is the one that makes you appreciate, even more than he does himself, the isolated world that Marcel is falling into following Albertine’s death.
With Albertine gone and then killed in a horse riding accident there is a period of grief that Marcel goes through and then he seems to forget her after investigating her past. He goes through some sort of pain barrier with revelations of Albertine’s lesbianism and then visits Venice and despite getting a telegram that is so badly written it looks like Albertine is actually alive he feels nothing. It turns out to be from Gilberte, his old flame, who is marrying his friend Saint-Loup. It appears that the poison that Morel has been spreading not just with M. de Charlus but also with Albertine and many others has now infected Saint-Loup and the volume ends with Marcel holding back the tears after discovering his friend has become a homosexual entwined with the violinist.
Is it well written?
The problem with The Captive, the preceding volume, was that it was tightly constrained to almost a single location – Marcel’s apartment. This volume is easier to stick with because it changes the pace and the backdrop with a trip to Venice and the rapid developments socially with Gilberte’s marriage and the changes to Saint-Loup. The description that Proust is so well known for re-emerges as he describes Venice and apart from a brief section concerning the diplomat Norpois you would hardly know that Marcel is travelling across a continent destined shortly for war. It has more of a pace than some of the other volumes but you still continue to wait for the moment when Marcel either makes something of his life, spills the beans on some of his acquaintances or creates some other diversion away from the naval gazing he can fall prey to.
Is it worth reading?
As has been said with all the other volumes it’s hard not to read it of you plan to read the whole series but as a volume it is more enjoyable than The Captive. The slight note of caution surrounds the obsession Marcel has with his character’s sexuality and the claustrophobic feeling that his detailed passages on the social scene sometimes induce. But because this is the penultimate book in Remembrance of Things Past there is a feeling of nearing the summit that makes it easier to get through.
Inevitably the final volume Time Regained, which I am reading this week.
Version read – Chatto & Windus hardback 1982