Memory

This is from the last page in the last part of Swann’s Way; the first volume of Proust’s A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu. After reading 500 pages of gloriously beautiful (and incredibly intense) text, as if he hadn’t rewarded you enough already, Proust closes his masterpiece with the following text.

Posting the end of a book could generally be regarded as a “spoiler”, but given that the passage doesn’t really reveal anything of the plot, and that it’s not plot driven book to begin with, I feel that this can be considered an exception.

Here it is, the bold parts made me clasp at my heart:

Alas! in the acacia-avenue—the myrtle-alley—I did see some of them again, grown old, no more now than grim spectres of what once they had been, wandering to and fro, in desperate search of heaven knew what, through the Virgilian groves. They had long fled, and still I stood vainly questioning the deserted paths. The sun’s face was hidden. Nature began again to reign over the Bois, from which had vanished all trace of the idea that it was the Elysian Garden of Woman; above the gimcrack windmill the real sky was grey; the wind wrinkled the surface of the Grand Lac in little wavelets, like a real lake; large birds passed swiftly over the Bois, as over a real wood, and with shrill cries perched, one after another, on the great oaks which, beneath their Druidical crown, and with Dodonaic majesty, seemed to proclaim the unpeopled vacancy of this estranged forest, and helped me to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one’s memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from their not being apprehended by the senses. The reality that I had known no longer existed. It sufficed that Mme. Swann did not appear, in the same attire and at the same moment, for the whole avenue to be altered. The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.

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Beautiful. I can’t wait to read volume two.

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