Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The most disturbing passage in Proust?

I think so, and Elaine has reminded me that I had the same thought when I was reading the novel for the first time last year. The narrator's desire to possess Albertine Simonet can find its fulfillment only in the erasure of all that is individual — all that is human — in her. Barely animate, silent, blind ("There are some faces which take on an unaccustomed beauty and majesty the moment they no longer have a gaze"), Albertine asleep becomes a thing to be looked at:

By closing her eyes, by losing consciousness, Albertine had put off, one by one, the various marks of humanity which had so disappointed me in her, from the day that we first met. She was animated only by the unconscious life of plants, of trees, a life more different from my own, stranger, and yet which I possessed more securely. Her individuality did not break through at every moment, as it did when we talked, through unconfessed thoughts and unguarded looks. She had drawn back into her self all the parts of her that were normally on the outside, she had taken refuge, enclosed and summed up in her body. Watching her, holding her in my hands, I felt that I possessed her completely, in a way I never did when she was awake.

Marcel Proust, The Prisoner, translated by Carol Clark (London: Penguin, 2003), 60

Related post
Proust and Cole Porter (On "possession")

All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

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