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ClassicsOnline Home » PROUST, M.: Remembrance of Things Past, Vol. 5: Captive (The): Part I (Abridged)
Volume IX of the Naxos AudioBooks recording of Remembrance of Things Past. In The Captive, Part I, Marcel’s obsessive love for Albertine makes her virtually a captive in his Paris apartment.
The Good Book Guide
The Captive, Part I
The Captive continues the story of the Narrator’s obsession
Having re-established his friendship with her during his
second visit to Balbec, Marcel is tortured by fears regarding her sexual orientation.
These fears have their origin in two incidents. The first was when Marcel,
accompanied by Dr. Cottard, watched Albertine and her friend Andrée dancing
together in the Casino and the doctor remarked on the intimate way the two
girls were holding each other with their breasts touching, thereby alerting
Marcel to the possibility that Albertine might be attracted to members of her
own sex. However, he was ready to believe that the idea was due to his
overheated imagination until Albertine innocently mentioned that her greatest
friends were two older women, the daughter of the composer Vinteuil and her
lesbian friend, whose private love-making Marcel had accidentally witnessed
some years earlier at Combray.
From this moment he is determined to keep Albertine from
satisfying her desire for women by whatever means necessary, even if it entails
marrying her. On the spur of the moment he decides to take her back to Paris
with him where, in the absence of his parents, he installs her in his family’s
apartment and lavishes on her expensive gifts of jewelry and dresses. Albertine
revels in such unaccustomed luxury, and in return tries to please him by
granting him certain sexual favors. But Marcel’s jealous suspicions gradually
turn her into a prisoner. He allows her to go nowhere without his permission,
and gives the chauffeur he has engaged to drive her around Paris orders to keep
constant watch on her. Although Albertine does not complain, Marcel is aware
that by curtailing her freedom in this way he is making her more and more
Marcel’s is a love, which can never be satisfied; as long as
he feels secure in his possession of Albertine he is bored; it is only when he
fears she is escaping that he feels an overwhelming yearning for her. The
moment he suspects her of deceiving him, his passion instantly revives.
Although her docile obedience has the effect of calming his fears, Albertine is
given to lying to him, and each time he catches her out, his anguish returns.
He realizes that even stronger than his wish to enjoy her himself is his
determination to prevent her from being enjoyed by another.
Proust’s analysis of the pain caused by erotic love is
unique. Not only does he display the observation of a scientist and the
language of a poet, but also his insight is that of a psychologist. In linking
the Narrator’s desire for Albertine’s nightly caresses with his need for the
benediction of his mother’s goodnight kiss, Proust’s understanding of the
psychological phenomenon of a continuing Oedipal struggle is clearly
demonstrated. Marcel’s wish-fantasy of gaining complete possession of his
mother’s love by interposing himself between her and his father is replayed
again and again as he attempts to secure the undivided affection of Albertine
in separating her from possible rivals.
In Remembrance of Things Past the line between fact and
fiction is fine indeed. Although publicly Proust denied that he and the
Narrator were the same person, in The Captive, for the first time anywhere in
the work, he teasingly lets slip the Narrator’s name, which we are hardly
surprised to learn is ‘Marcel’. Nowhere in the narrative is it more evident
that the author is speaking from the depths of his own experience when he
observes in the words of the Narrator; “Jealousy, which wears a bandage over
its eyes, is not merely powerless to discover anything in the darkness which
enshrouds it, it is also one of those torments where the task must be
incessantly repeated, like that of the Danaïdes or Ixion.”
Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871. His father, a
distinguished professor of medicine, was from a Catholic family, while his
mother was Jewish.
Although intent on becoming a writer from an early age,
Proust was riddled with self-doubt. During his twenties he co-founded a
short-lived review, Le Banquet, contributed to La Revue Blanche and had his
first book published, a collection of articles and essays entitled Les Plaisirs
et les Jours.
He became an enthusiastic admirer of the work of Ruskin and
translated his Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies into French. A novel, Jean
Santeuil, which was the precursor of Remembrance of Things Past, was eventually
abandoned and only published long after his death, in 1954.
For much of his youth he led the life of a man of fashion,
frequenting fashionable Paris drawing rooms and literary salons, and these
formed the background for a number of his stories and sketches, and
subsequently of Remembrance of Things Past.
The death of his adored mother in 1905 resulted in a nervous
collapse and aggravated his chronic asthma and insomnia. But despite his grief
and the sense of loss from which he never recovered, his mother’s death freed
him with regard to his homosexual emotional life and allowed him to address
homosexuality in his writing, albeit in a manner which treated such experiences
as happenings to others rather than to himself.
In 1907 he moved into an apartment in the Boulevard
Haussmann where, in the bedroom which he had lined with cork to keep out noise,
he embarked upon his great work A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of
This long cycle of autobiographical novels was published in
eight sections: Du Côté de Chez Swann
(Swann’s Way) in 1913; A L’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur (Within A
Budding Grove) in 1918; Le Côté de Guermantes I (The Guermantes Way I) in 1920;
Le Côté de Guermantes II and Sodome et Gomorrhe (Cities of the Plain I) in
1921; Sodome et Gomorrhe II in 1922; La Prisonnière (The Captive) in 1923;
Albertine Disparue (The Sweet Cheat Gone) in 1925; Le Temps Retrouvé (Time
Regained) in 1927.
Proust was obliged to publish Swann’s Way at his own
expense, and even after
it had appeared, he had trouble finding a publisher for the
next volume, A L’ Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur. However, when it appeared
in 1918 it received considerable acclaim, and was awarded the Prix Goncourt the
By the time Proust died on November 18, 1922, the first four
parts of the
cycle had been published, leaving the others to appear
posthumously. The English translations by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, from which this
abridged audiobook version has been prepared, were published between 1922 and
In Remembrance of Things Past, the minuteness of Proust’s observation,
the depth of his psychological understanding and the vividness of his
descriptive powers have combined to create one of the most poetic and magical
works in all literature.
Notes by Neville Jason
Neville Jason trained at RADA where he was awarded the
Diction Prize by Sir John Gielgud. He has worked with the English Stage Co.,
the Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as in films and
musicals. Jason has appeared in popular television serials such as Maigret,
Emergency Ward 10 and Dr. Who, as well as playing classical roles such as
Orestes and Horatio. Formally a member of the BBC Radio Drama Co.,
he can be frequently heard on radio. Jason’s passion for
Remembrance of Things Past comes alive in his adaptation and reading of the
series, for which he has received worldwide praise.
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