Original title: Le Temps Retrouvé
Original language: French
Translation to English by: C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (revised by D.J. Enright)
Page count: 361
The back says: Nothing, but this final volume deals with World War I, a party at the Prince de Guermantes’ and the narrator philosophises on time and memory.
I say: This volume brought out an abundance of emotions that I wasn’t sure how to deal with. It’s been a rather long journey for me, this epic, and Time Regained feels like such an apt title because it made all the struggles worth it.
Well, maybe not the whole Albertine debacle.
We learn in this final instalment that the narrator has spent some time in an asylum and as he is walking the streets of Paris he reminisces about the events that have led up to this point. World War I is mostly described from the viewpoint of those still in Paris juxtaposed with news from the front relayed by newspapers and old friends who have been drafted. I found this in equal parts interesting and tiring because I wanted to get on with the story; to get to a conclusion.
On his way to a party at the Prince the narrator stumbles on a paving stone outside which releases a memory from Venice, similar to the memory the madeleine released at the beginning of this story. While inside he has two more memories and as he starts discussing time and memory I am once again reminded of why I fell in love with Proust; the language used to describe the indecipherable essence of time and memory is beyond beautiful and vibrating. He is trying to grasp and make sense of something that essentially is beyond understanding - because does anyone truly know how time and memory function? - and it is his resilience that I so genuinely admire.
Having been away from society for quite some time, the narrator is surprised at the change in his former acquaintances, as well as the change they perceive in him. He realises, almost by surprise, that he is no longer a young man, which I thought pointed to his lack of self-awareness that has always bothered me. However, this realisation brings about some more philosophical thoughts about his time changes us both physically and internally. Most of his old friends are now different people, as is he, and the contrast between the way he knew them then to how they appeared to him now was fascinating.
The novel ends with the narrator outlining the novel he is going to write and how it may be received; how are these people going to react to the way he will portray them? I found this to be a very nice touch, especially the reasoning behind how a novel is to be read.
When I started reading the first volume I kept notes of all the brilliant and beautiful quotes, but since I cannot find my book of quotations and I hate markings in books, I don’t have any readily at hand. Somehow this doesn’t very much bother me at the moment because I am convinced that I will re-read these books again (apart from the ones with Albertine). It will be quite a few years before I return to them, but return I most definitely will.