David Lentz's Reviews > The Captive & The Fugitive

The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust
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Jun 20, 2011

it was amazing

Modern Library's Volume V deals with the relationship between Marcel and Albertine. It is a complex, psychological relationship to say the least. In the Captive, Albertine lives with Marcel in his apartment in Paris and in The Fugitive one wonders who is, in fact, more captive -- Albertine or Marcel. It would seem to be Albertine for whom Marcel possesses an obsessive love and concurrent fear of her sapphic penchant. But it is also Marcel who will sacrifice experience if he makes a commitment to her. Who is more free, the captive or the fugitive? Proust raises questions about how to serve best the artist's quest for beauty. In fact, how does one really ever "capture" the beauty of life in art or music or literature? Even in a masterpiece, is it not beauty the fugitive that usually dwells just beyond one's capture? Or like Vinteuil's septet or the music of Wagner or the painting of Rembrandt, is the best for which one can hope of fugitive beauty only a brief fleeting experience? Are the vast tracts of time spent to understand the beauty and meaning of life worth it? As a writer does he not habitually surrender life in order to capture it? Or is the pursuit of the capture of the beauty of life in fact where one realizes its most sublime value? One sees in Proust toward the end of The Fugitive a member of society who respects it but chooses by reasons of health not to position himself so visibly within it. Despite his family name and vast but dwindling fortune inherited from his beloved grandmother, he seems to become somewhat ultimately disenchanted with the intricacies of Faubourg-St. Germain society to which he devotes so much of his writing. He recognises society's shallow obsession with materialism and rampant snobbery but his own place in society is captured by its complex history and tacit rules and Marcel is inescapably a captive of his own culture. When Albertine is lost to him toward the end of the volume, as in the prior volumes, the story line's serial intrigue advances most. Characters from prior volumes reappear, reminiscent of Balzac, whom Proust adored, but like him they change,too, and usually for the worse over time. The great tapestry of the characters of Proust -- Albertine, Gilberte, Swann, Brichot, Bloch, Charlus, Morel, Saint-Loup -- ultimately surprise and usually disappoint him. As to nagging questions about Proust's own orientation, "Personally I found it absolutely immaterial from a moral standpoint whether one took one's pleasure with a man or a woman, and only too natural and human that one should take it where one could find it." I found myself wishing that Proust had written more about Bloch and Saint-Loup and Gilberte, and less about Albertine. But she was, like his work, the one obsession, the endeavor of which understanding he could never escape and never quite marry -- she was his beauty and his art. She was the breath of life itself from his pen and from his experience of life as seen through the eyes of a true genius.
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12/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Jonathan Excellent review, David.

I first encountered these volumes in abridged audio form. I found myself wishing for Albertine's disappearance from the story. I actually rejoiced when news came to Marcel of her death.

Years have passed since then. I am so pleased to have access to Proust in unabridged audiobooks. I was surprised at my different reaction to the death of Albertine. I was touched. This must be due to the fact that I have experienced death quite close to me since my first reading of The Fugitive. Now I notice how much Proust has to say about loss and grief. My admiration of his work swells.


David Lentz Thank you, Jonathan. I am intrigued by your immersive reading experience with Proust and I wondered if Albertine would be jettisoned, one way or the other. She was an obsession, of course, and there is often tragic introspection associated with such a loss.


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