by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Fiction
In Search of Lost Time: The Prisoner and The Fugitive
By all accounts Marcel Proust was a neurotically possessive friend. In his The Prisoner and The Fugitive, Proust’s full powers are directed toward portrayal of a passion he understood intimately— obsessive jealousy and its ruinous impacts. Often published separately, volumes five and six of In Search of Lost Time: The Prisoner and The Fugitive were published from his drafts after Proust died. The two linked narratives are bridges to the penultimate volume seven Time Regained, wherein the design of his great work is revealed.
Possessive jealously is an affliction well covered in the four previous volumes of In Search of Lost Time. The Narrator and his mother, Swann and Odette, Robert St Loup and Rachel, the Baron and Morel, all of their destructive obsessions have been observed and reported in excruciating detail by the Narrator. Yet, knowing all the pain these jealous relationships created for himself and others, the Narrator turns all his thoughts toward the possession of the heart and will of Albertine, one of the young girls in flower. She lives with him in Paris. He’s fearful for her to even leave their apartment. She might be seeing someone, possibly another young woman. Like his aunt in Swann’s Way, the Narrator uses his poor health to manipulate his lover and keep her at hand. They have both become prisoners of obsessive love, and even after their escape, jealousy dominates the Narrator’s life.
The Narrator’s passionate affair seems to exist outside of the flow of time, yet as he re-emerges into society he is welcomed by the aristocrats as an old friend from a lost golden era when the bourgeoisie were excluded from the highest levels of society. The aristocratic society of Paris, which he believed to be enduring, had changed during the years he’d wasted on an unrequited love.
The changes wrought by time do not wait for our foolish obsessions.
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