Proust Among the Nations: From Dreyfus to the Middle East

Michael Wood writes:

‘Profonde Albertine’, the narrator writes close to the end of Proust’s novel. By ‘deep’ – profonde – he means ‘unreachable’. She was mostly that when she was alive, and has assumed this quality as a permanent attribute now that she is dead. But he can still be tortured by his memories of all he didn’t know, for a while at least: ‘For, after death, Time leaves the body, and the memories … are effaced from her who no longer exists and soon will be from him whom at present they still torture.’ Does that ‘soon’ express a wish or a regret? Does the narrator know? We are not going to hear much more from him, since he is only a page away from his last words. All he can really say about Albertine is ancient and obvious and rather beautiful: that he used to watch her sleep and that she is dead. ‘Profonde Albertine, que je voyais dormir et qui était morte.’

(LRB 20 December 2012)

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