Our last analysis of M. Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” (Vol. I to VII)
« …. elle me dit de la porte: ”Adieu petit, adieu petit.»
M. Proust: Albertine disparue, Ed. Gallimard, folio classique, 1989 page 14
After the long build-up over the Seven Volumes, we owe to you, our Esteemed Reader, to wind our long voyage through the unfathomable Seas of Proustian literature down with sending you a debriefing from the end of Le Temps retrouvé. (Ed. Gallimard, folio classique, 1989).
Before doing so, however, Noah denkt™ would like to express its gratitude to Mr. Proust for having provided us with a gripping, 1000+ page-tale which,together with Kenneth Clarke’s bittersweet election tweets, has successfully helped us to not get bogged down by the sad, self-destructive spectacle which the American Republic is currently playing out before our very eyes. What a blessing it has been to be able to take refuge in a world of honest soul-searching, subtle observation and cultured learning when real-life politics, perhaps due its solid shield of nuclear protection, keeps bombarding us with relentless shows of mediocrity and cowardliness!!!
Nevertheless, it is all over now, ….- the Proust -voyage that is.
So, let’s figure out what this reading expedition has taught us. The most central question with respect to “La Recherche” that is probably still in contention is, whether the narrator’s protracted and existential suffering throughout these seven volumes is in essence the result of :
- him being born with a difficult physiological, neurological condition, i.e. “un état nerveux” that would have the likes of Françoise think:”C’est-il pas malheureux pour des parents d’avoir un enfant pareil!” (‘Swann‘, p. 73 + 81)
- a Freudian-, i.e. oedipal-, type of (fulfilled or) unfulfilled incestuous desire in early childhood with respect to the person he calls his mother. (see the narrator’s “volupté” – and « hostie » – reference in ‘Swann‘, p.55 + 56)
- an imminent danger of emotional abandonment by his “mother”, perhaps due to a bawdy side in her character. (“Je l’ai trouvée [Swann] bien quelconque, dit ma mère; je crois la prochaine fois il faudra essayer d’un autre parfum. » (see ‘Swann‘, p. 77)
- an imminent threat hanging over him of being sent away by his parents “pour des fautes” that probably aren’t all that “honteuses” like insisting on getting a good-night kiss.(see ‘Swann‘, p. 77)
- a very real abandonment by his biological mother during childhood but which is not being openly addressed any more neither by him nor by the people he calls his parents for fear of antagonizing and consequently losing the benevolence of his adopted caregivers. (see: the François Le Champi – and madeleines – lead + his weird « origine »- statement in ‘Swann‘, p. 77 : “…on ne prononçait pas ce mot, on ne déclarait pas cette origine qui aurait pu me faire croire que j’étais excusable…. ” )
- a simple lack of congenial wave-length between a brilliant poetic, i.e. highly sensitive mind and a more run-of-the-mill type of intelligence on the part of his caregivers and/or social network, – i.e. a considerable mentality bridge that is also evidenced by Bergotte’s loneliness, Swann’s high society disillusion, Charlus’ social ostracizing, while Odette’s sleaziness, the conceitedness of the Verdurin and Morel’s recklessness sort of sail through intact and with relative ease
- a deep-seated fear of rejection caused by the realization of the comprehensive social and cultural repression of his homosexual desires
- a mysterious curse hanging over him stemming from a previous incarnation of his soul, – something that is believed to be a distinct possibility not just in Buddhist philosophy but also in ancient Celtic Beliefs? (see ‘Swann’ p.89)
- Or, is it that Mr. Proust’s literary effort is principally trying to put an enigmatic human psyche under the perspective of a poet’s magnifying glass in order to expose the fundamental logical error of a positivist natural science philosophy and to defend a Dilthey- and/or Bergson-inspired metaphysical theory of human existence in Time and Eternity, instead ?
Now, it is quite obvious that the latter hypothesis (9) can be discarded right away. Of course, there is an intention palpable throughout “La Recherche” to defend a “Contre Sainte-Beuve”-, anti-positivist humanities’ approach in Art, Philosophy and Social Science. But, if this were indeed the main thrust of Mr. Proust’s intention, he could probably have achieved the same much more efficiently by opting in favor of a H.P. Lovecraft-/E.A. Poe – type of short story. The fact, however, that he subjects himself to a narration that spans several thousand pages of closely knitted prose, at a time, when contemporaneous writers of his had already concluded that modern-day readers will probably never again have the (near-death?) emotional tranquility to read long books, suggests that there is a much more powerful, personal need driving “La Recherche” than the simple ambition to underscore a metaphysical point.
Is he saying it without saying it?
In the humble opinion of Noah denkt™, the strong personal drive that animates the narrator’s narration can probably best be summarized as a very personal need to work towards the bottom of a suffocating, life-threatening fear of rejection which is most likely caused by a traumatic, “François le Champi”- like abandonment experience in early childhood.
Of, course, Noah denkt™ has to admit that at no point in “La Recherche” a “smoking-gun”– statement is being made that would unequivocally prove the existence of that earlier desertion of the narrator by his biological parents. In fact, the narrator, himself, keeps suggesting throughout the seven volumes that the only mother he ever had, is the one that is being presented to us as just that. So, from the narrator’s point of view the only shock desertion that could- justifiably so – be talked about in “La Recherche” would be the frustration of his “voluptuous”, oedipal desires vis-à-vis the person he calls “maman“.
Noah denkt™, however, is not convinced that the narrator’s point of view is adequate and all-encompassing here. After all, isn’t it, he, the narrator himself, who keeps inferring on and on that “names” are quite misleading? Could it, therefore not be that certain shock experiences in the narrator’s life are simply blocked out from his memory? Is it not possible that painful separation horrors, he may have experienced as a little helpless child are stacked away so deep in his psyche that his consciousness can’t even access the memory of them? And is it not just as likely that he was almost forced to pursue the Albertine hook-up to be able to activate this subconscious memory of earlier breakaway horrors? As matter of fact, the narrator, himself, is pretty much even saying it just like this. And since the people who could probably help him with this ‘origin’ question (Swann p. 77) are not willing to chip in, he clearly has to do all the uncovering work by himself.