The epic Remembrance of Things Past ends with Marcel Proust outlining what he intended to do as a writer and sharing the moment when he has the blinding flash moment that inspires him to start writing the book.
Marcel has suffered bouts of absence because of illness and as a result only coincides with some of the other characters on an occasional basis. This volume takes place against the backdrop of the First World War with different attitudes of characters to the conflict. Bloch and Morel try to run away from the fighting but Saint-Loup dives into it and is killed. Then after another break Marcel visits a party at the Guermantes and realises how old everyone has become, including himself. The crucial thing is that on the way to the party three things happen which evoke memories of his childhood and then he spends time waiting for the music to finish in the library and realises that he can write a book, it is I him, and the challenge is to do it before time runs out.
Is it well written?
It is up to the same standards as all the other volumes with a perceptible increase in the pace because time is running out. Some characters die, wither in war or of illness, and there is a palpable sense that Marcel’s generation are running into the sand and if he is going to do something in the world of literature he has to do it now. Describing the effect that a sound, a smell or a person has to evoke memories of childhood is not an easy thing to do but Proust manages to convey those moments of understanding easily.
Should it be read?
I think what saves it from becoming another navel gazing social scene report is the moment when he realises and comments on the art of writing based on memory. Up until that point the usual themes of vice, deception and disappointment are in evidence with Charlus and Saint-Loup. Near the end of the volume the passages where he writes about writing speak across the decades and are a challenge and a guide for budding authors today.
Version read – Chatto & Windus hardback 1982
“How much more worth living did it appear to me now, now that I seemed to see that this life that we live in half-darkness can be illuminated, this life that at every moment we distort can be restored to its true pristine shape, that a life, in short, can be realised within the confines of a book! How happy would he be, I thought, the man who had the power to write such a book!”pg 1086
What a journey. Sometimes it has been hard going and there have been moments of laughter, tragedy and pain but the mammoth Remembrance of Things Past comes to an end.
Bullet points between pages 970 – 1107
* Everyone seems to have changed with age with some of the old characters almost unrecognisable including Bloch and Morel and the Guermantes world has changed because the Princess has died and the prince has married Madame de Verdurin
* Some of the old guard are dying out and those who are alive can’t seem to remember what happened in the past so play it safe with some forgetting their exact relationships with Marcel
* He meets Gilberte and they talk about Robert and she asks him why he has come to such a large party and he thinks to himself that in the future he will devote himself to a life of solitude and writing his book
* The fortunes of the actresses Berma and Rachel have been swapped and in the end the great actresses daughter even goes after Rachel and once Berma is told of that social disgrace she slips into her grave
* Marcel concludes that time is what influences the social position with your star rising across a limited generation and depending on your entry into public life it determines who you know and mix with
“…life is perpetually weaving fresh threads which link one individual and one event to another, and that these threads are crossed and recrossed, double and redoubled to thicken the web, so that between any slightest point of our past and all the others a rich network of memories gives us an almost infinite variety of communicating paths to choose from.”pg 1088
* Meeting Gilberte and Saint-Loup’s sixteen year-old daughter has a massive impact on him and makes him think about his own mortality and the challenge he has set himself to write a book – will his health last and will he live long enough to finish it become the obsessions filling his mind as he tries to shut out the voices around him at the Guermantes party
Of course he managed it – sadly he never really lived long enough to enjoy the achievement – and a full review of Time Regained will be posted in the next few days and then I will post thoughts about the whole epic Remembrance of Things Past later in the week.
War inevitably brings death, excess and a chance for some to make money – all ingredients of the days reading
Bullet points between pages 850 – 920
* Having seen M. de Charlus being held in chains and abused and beaten Marcel has satisfied his curiosity and really doesn’t need to stay in the hotel, which is acting as a gay brothel, so he goes downstairs and asks to settle the bill
* As he is waiting with the men hired to satisfy the customers Jupien appears and is in sick that Marcel is there and takes him into a secret room and from there Marcel can see Charlus leaving and paying theÂ men for their services
* Jupien then comes into see him and says that he has no remorse about making money in this way because he also shares the same tastes and says to Marcel that if he ever wanted to share them he would be welcome
* You almost miss it but a medal is found outside the hotel and then as he gets home Marcel is greeted by Francoise who tells him that Saint-Loup has been there asking if he dropped his medal earlier on
* Marcel is then struck by grief after being informed that Saint-Loup has been killed in action coveringthee retreat of his men and stays in his room for days – a grief that is also shared by Gilberte
* Marcel then seems to go away because of illness again and the story returns to Paris after the war and Charlus is a white haired invalid being looked after by Jupien
Then around page 900, or 200 pages in for those reading a standalone volume, Proust has his Road to Damascus moment and suddenly understands what he could write about
* On his way to a social evening at the Guermantes home he has a series of movements and sounds that remind him of places he has been to in the past and he realises that he could write about the past rather than waiting to find some sort of inspiration from the present
* You can see his mind working and he shares his raison d’etre with the reader making it also interesting for those readers with aspirations of their own in the literary sphere