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The Fugitive: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 6 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

The Fugitive: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 6 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)


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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on January 12, 2021


The long-awaited penultimate volume—"the very summit of Proust's art" (Slate)—in the acclaimed Penguin translation of Marcel Proust's greatest work, in time for the 150th anniversary of his birth

"The greatest literary work of the twentieth century." —The New York Times

A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition

Peter Collier's acclaimed translation of The Fugitive introduces a new generation of American readers to the literary riches of Marcel Proust. The sixth and penultimate volume in Penguin Classics' superb new edition of In Search of Lost Time—the first completely new translation of Proust's masterpiece since the 1920s—brings us a more comic and lucid prose than readers of English have previously been able to enjoy.

"Miss Albertine has left!" So begins The Fugitive, the second part of what is often referred to as "the Albertine cycle," or books five and six of In Search of Lost Time. As Marcel struggles to endure and vanquish his loss, he ends up in an anguished search for the essential truth of the enigmatic Albertine (the titular "fugitive"), whose love affairs with other women provoke in him jealousy and a new understanding of sexuality. Finally, he lets go of her and begins to find himself, discovering his own long-lost inner sources of creativity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143133704
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/12/2021
Series: In Search of Lost Time Series , #6
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 481,538
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was born in Auteuil, France. In his early twenties, he was a conspicuous society figure, frequenting the most fashionable Paris salons of the day. After 1899, however, his chronic asthma, the death of his parents, and his growing disillusionment with humanity caused him to lead an increasingly retired life. From 1907 on, he rarely emerged from his apartment, where he devoted himself to the completion of In Search of Lost Time.

Peter Collier (translator) is a fellow of Sidney Sussex College and a former senior lecturer in French at the University of Cambridge. He has previously translated Pierre Bourdieu's Homo Academicus and Émile Zola's Germinal, and is the author of Proust and Venice.

Christopher Prendergast (general editor) is a professor emeritus of French literature at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of King's College.

Date of Birth:

July 10, 1871

Date of Death:

November 18, 1922

Place of Birth:

Auteuil, near Paris, France

Place of Death:

Paris, France

Read an Excerpt



Grieving and Forgetting


"miss albertine has left!" how much more sharply suffering probes the psyche than does psychology! A moment earlier, as I analyzed my feelings, I had thought that leaving her, without ever seeing her again, was exactly what I wanted, and comparing the mediocrity of the pleasure which Albertine gave me with the richness of the desires which she prevented me from achieving, I had concluded my subtle heart-searching by finding that I no longer wanted to see her, that I no longer loved her. But these words: "Mademoiselle Albertine has left" had just caused such pain in my heart that I felt that I could no longer hold out. Thus something which I had thought meant nothing to me, was quite simply my whole life. How little we know ourselves. I must immediately put an end to my suffering; feeling as gentle with myself as my mother had been with my grandmother on her deathbed, I told myself, with all the good will that we lavish on those we love in order to spare them from suffering, "Be patient just one moment, we'll find a remedy, don't worry, we won't let you suffer like this." It was in this realm of ideas that my instinct for self-preservation sought the first balm available in order to apply it to the open wound: "None of this is of any importance, because I shall get her to return straight away. I'll have to think of a way, but in any case she will be here by this evening. Therefore there is no need to worry." "None of this is of any importance," I was not content merely to persuade myself of this, but I tried to give Franoise the same impression, by not revealing my torment in her presence, because, even at the moment when I suffered so violently, my love would not let me forget the importance of making it appear to be a mutually happy love affair, above all in the eyes of Francoise, who did not like Albertine and doubted her sincerity. It is true that a moment earlier, before Franoise had appeared, I had thought that I no longer loved Albertine, believing that I had taken everything into account, that I was completely lucid and that I had plumbed the depths of my heart. But however great our intelligence, it cannot conceive all the elements that constitute it and which remain undetected as long as no event capable of isolating them makes them start to solidify out of the volatile state in which they exist for most of the time. I was mistaken when I thought that I saw clearly into my heart. But this knowledge, which the finest insights of my intellect had not given me, had just been brought home to me, as hard, dazzling and strange as crystals of salt, through the sudden stimulus of pain. I had become so accustomed to having Albertine beside me, and now I suddenly saw Habit in a completely new perspective. Until now I had considered it above all as a negative force suppressing the originality and even our awareness of our perceptions; now I saw it as a fearsome goddess, so attached to us, with her inscrutable face so grafted on to our hearts that if she detaches herself and turns away from us, this deity, whose presence we were barely able to discern, inflicts upon us the most terrible suffering, and then she is as cruel as death.


The most urgent thing was to read Albertine's letter, since I needed to consider how to bring her back. I imagined that this was within my grasp, because, since the future exists only in our minds, we think that we are still able to control it by a last-minute act of will-power. But at the same time I remembered that I had seen the future inflected by powers other than mine, against which, even with more time available, I could have done nothing. What does it avail us that the hour has not yet struck, if we can do nothing to prevent what it will bring? As long as Albertine was still living with me, I was determined to maintain the impetus of our separation. But now she had left. I opened Albertine's letter. This is what it said:


"My dear friend, do forgive me for not having dared to say to your face the few words that follow, but I am a coward, I have always been so afraid of facing you that, despite my efforts, I was unable to pluck up the courage to do so. This is what I would have liked to tell you: 'Life together has become impossible, besides, you must have realized from your tirade the other evening that something in our relationship had changed. What could have been remedied that evening was to become irreparable over the next few days. It seems better therefore, since we have been fortunate enough to settle our differences, to leave each other on friendly terms'; that is why, my dearest, I am sending you this note, and I beg that you will be kind enough to forgive me for causing you a little grief, when you think of the far greater pain that I shall suffer. My dear old friend, I do not want to become your enemy, I shall already find it difficult enough to see you gradually, but all too swiftly, becoming indifferent toward me; and so since my decision is irrevocable, before asking Franoise to hand you this letter I will already have asked her to bring me my trunk. Farewell, I leave you with the best of me. Albertine."



All of which means nothing, I told myself, it is even better than I had thought, for since she does not believe a word of all this, she has obviously written it only in order to make a scene, to frighten me, so that I will stop behaving unreasonably toward her. The most urgent thing to do is to make sure that Albertine returns home this evening. How sad to think that the Bontemps are corrupt people, using their niece to extract money from me. But no matter. Were I to offer half of my kingdom to Mme Bontemps in order to have Albertine back here this evening, enough would remain for Albertine and me to live in comfort. And at the same time I was calculating whether I would have time that morning to go out and buy the yacht and the Rolls-Royce that she desired, and, abandoning all hesitation, did not consider for a moment that I had thought it rather unwise to make her this gift. Even if Mme Bontemps's agreement is not sufficient, and Albertine refuses to obey her aunt and stipulates as the condition of her return that she shall henceforth enjoy complete independence, well then, however much sorrow it should cause me, let it be; she may go out unaccompanied, as often as she likes; we have to accept the need to make sacrifices, however painful, in the interest of what we hold most dear, which for me, despite what I believed this morning in the light of my precise and absurd calculations, is that Albertine should live here with me. Should I, however, add that granting her this freedom would have caused me great distress? I would be lying. I had often previously felt that the suffering caused by leaving her free to do wrong far away from me might well be less than the kind of sadness which I sometimes experienced when I sensed her boredom beside me at home. Of course if at any particular moment, when she asked me if she could pay some visit, I would have found the idea of letting her go appalling, imagining a whole program of orgies. But I had often been tempted to say, "Take our boat, take the train, go away for a month to some country that I don't know, where I've never been, where I won't know a thing about whatever you do," because I thought that, once distant from me, she would prefer to be back with me instead, and would be happier when she had returned. Besides, this is surely what she wants: she does not actually demand such freedom, which, I might add, I would easily manage to restrict from day to day by offering her new pleasures every day. No, what Albertine wanted was for me to stop behaving intolerably toward her, and above all-like Odette with Swann in former times-for me to decide to marry her. Once married, she would not worry about her independence; we would be so happy living here together! Of course that would mean giving up any idea of Venice. But how those much-desired cities like Venice-not to mention hostesses like the Duchesse de Guermantes or entertainments like the theater-tend to pale, fade and die, when we are chained to another heart by a bond so painful that it prevents us from parting! Besides, Albertine is absolutely right on the question of marriage. Even Mama finds all the delay ridiculous. Marrying her was what I should have done ages ago, it's what I must do now, that's what has made her write this letter, not one word of which she believes; it was in order to achieve this that she renounced for a few hours something that she must want as much as I want her to do it: to return home. Yes, that is what she wants, that is her main intention, my reason said compassionately; but I felt, as I argued, that my reason tended to pursue the hypothesis that it had adopted at the outset, while I felt quite clearly that it was the other hypothesis which had constantly been corroborated. Of course, this alternative version would never have made so bold as to overtly formulate the theory that Albertine might have had a relationship with Mlle Vinteuil and her female friend. And yet, when I was overwhelmed with this terrible news just as we were drawing into the station at Incarville, it was the second hypothesis that had been confirmed. This theory had never yet suggested that Albertine might leave me of her own accord, in such a way, without warning and without giving me time to stop her. But even if, after the enormous mental leap that I had been obliged to take, the new reality which I had to face was as surprising as any revealed by a physicist's latest discovery, a prosecutor's fresh inquiry into a crime, or a historian's new insight into some revolution, this new reality went far beyond the half-hearted premonitions of my alternative hypothesis, and yet helped to prove them right. This alternative hypothesis was not one formulated by the intellect, and the panic which I had experienced on the evening when Albertine had not kissed me, or the night when I had heard her window opening, was not a rational fear. But-as many episodes may already have indicated and what follows will show all the more-the fact that the intellect is not the most subtle, powerful and appropriate instrument for grasping the truth is only one more reason in favor of starting with the intellect rather than with the intuitions of the unconscious or with unquestioning faith in our premonitions. It is life which little by little, case by case, allows us to realize that what is most important for our hearts or our minds is taught us not by reason but by other powers. And then it is the intellect itself, which, recognizing their superiority, uses its reasoning in order to abdicate in their favor and accepts the role of collaborator and servant. It has "experimental faith." The unexpected unhappiness which confronted me already felt familiar (as did Albertine's friendship with two lesbians) from having been indicated by so many signs in which (despite my rational arguments using Albertine's own pronouncements in order to prove the opposite) I had detected the tedium and repugnance that she felt at living in this slavish manner, in signs written as it were backward and in invisible ink, in Albertine's sad and submissive eyes, on those cheeks suddenly inflamed by an unexplained blush, or in the sound of a suddenly opened window! Of course I had never dared analyze them fully enough to formulate the precise image of her sudden departure. My spirits lulled by Albertine's presence, I had envisaged only a departure arranged by me at an indeterminate date, that is, situated in a timeless zone; and consequently had only imagined that I thought of her departure, in the way that many people who think about death when they are in good health imagine that they do not fear it, and in fact do no more than introduce one purely negative notion into the heart of their good health, which would be precisely what the approach of death would alter. Moreover the idea of a parting planned by Albertine herself could have struck my mind a thousand times over, as clearly and unambiguously as you like, without my having any truer realization of what this departure would mean to me, that is, what it would mean in reality-something original, devastating, unknown, an entirely novel evil. Even if I had foreseen this departure, I might have thought of it ceaselessly year after year, without all such thoughts, even if joined together, having the slightest connection either in intensity or in quality with the unimaginable hell that Franoise had allowed me to glimpse when she said, "Miss Albertine has left." In order to represent an unknown situation, the imagination borrows elements already known, and for this reason fails to represent it. But our sensibility, even at its most physical, remains scored long afterward by the original and long-indelible mark of the new event, as the furrow scored by a flash of lightning. And I hardly dared admit to myself that, if I had foreseen this departure, I would perhaps have been incapable of representing it to myself in its true horror, and even if Albertine had announced it to me, and I had threatened and implored her, might have been incapable of preventing her. How far my desire for Venice had now abated! Just as the desire to meet Mme de Guermantes in Combray in days gone by had abated, at those moments when I held but one thing dear, to have Mama in my bedroom. And it was in fact all the worries that I had felt since I was a child that had been solicited by this new source of anxiety and had rushed to reinforce it, amalgamating themselves with it into one homogeneous mass which suffocated me.


Certainly, the physical heartache which such a separation deals and which, through the body's terrible ability to keep records, renders any pain contemporary with all the periods in our lives when we have suffered,-certainly this heartache, perhaps somewhat calculated-so little do we care for the pain of others-by a woman desiring to make us miss her as acutely as possible, whether the woman only pretending to make her departure wishes merely to obtain more favorable conditions, or whether leaving for ever-for ever!-she wants to strike a blow, perhaps from vengeance, perhaps to continue to be loved, or perhaps to preserve the quality of the memory that she will leave, and violently break out of this network of tedium and indifference which she had felt being woven around her,-certainly we had promised each other that we would avoid such heartache, we had said that we would part on good terms. But it is in fact very rare to part on good terms, for if all were well we would not separate. And then again, the woman toward whom we affect the utmost indifference does none the less feel obscurely that, just as we have come to tire of her because of the force of habit, so we have become all the more attached to her, and she guesses that one of the essential requirements for parting on good terms is to warn her partner that she is going to leave. Yet she fears that warning him may prevent her. Every woman feels that, the greater is her power over a man, the more her only way of leaving him is just to take flight. She becomes a fugitive precisely because she was a queen, this is inevitable. Certainly, there is a yawning gap between the tedium which she inspired a moment ago and the furious need, once she has left, to have her back. But there are reasons for this, above and beyond those given in the course of this work and others which will be revealed later. First and foremost, the departure often occurs at a moment when our indifference-real or imagined-is at its greatest, at the farthest extent of the pendulum swing. The woman thinks: "No, things cannot go on like this," precisely because the man speaks only, or thinks only, of leaving her. So the pendulum, as it returns to its other extreme, opens the largest gap at this moment. A moment later it will return to its starting-point: once more, despite all the reasons proffered, everything seems so natural! Our heart starts to pound; and besides, the woman who has left is no longer the same as the woman who used to be there. Her life with us, which was too predictable, finds itself suddenly enriched by all those other lives with which she will inevitably become involved, and in order to become involved with which she may have left us. As a result, this new complexity in the life of the woman who has run away has a retrospective impact on the woman who previously lived at our side, and was perhaps premeditating her departure. To the set of psychological facts which we identify as part of our life together, and part of our jealousy too (which imply that men who have been left by several women have nearly all been left each time in the same manner because of their identical and entirely predictable characters and reactions: each has his own manner of being betrayed, as he does of catching cold), although we do not find this set of facts too mysterious, there doubtless corresponds a set of facts that we failed to notice. She must have been corresponding with or contacting some man, or woman, through a messenger, waiting for the signal which we may have given ourselves without realizing it, by saying, "Monsieur X came to see me yesterday," if she had agreed with Monsieur X that he would come to see me on the eve of the day when she was due to meet him. How many hypotheses were possible! But only possible. I constructed the truth so well, but only in terms of possibilities, that one day, having opened a letter addressed to one of my mistresses, a letter written in a coded format, "Awaiting signal to visit Marquis de Saint-Loup, alert tomorrow by telephone," I reconstituted some kind of planned escape; the name of the Marquis de Saint-Loup was there only to signify something else, for my mistress did not know Saint-Loup but had heard me speak of him, and moreover the signature was a kind of nickname, lacking any recognizable linguistic form. Yet the letter was not addressed to my mistress, but to another person in the building whose name was different but had been mistaken for hers. The letter was written not in a coded format but in poor French, because it had been written by an American lady, who was indeed one of Saint-Loup's friends, as he informed me himself. And the strange way in which this American lady formed some of her letters had given the appearance of a nickname to a perfectly authentic but foreign surname. I had therefore been entirely wrong in my suspicions that day. But the intellectual framework that had linked these facts together in my mind did provide a perfectly correct and unanswerable model for the truth when my mistress (who at the time had been thinking of spending her whole life with me) did leave me three months later, for it happened in a fashion absolutely identical to the way I had imagined on the previous occasion. A letter arrived, with the same characteristics which I had wrongly identified in the earlier letter, but this time having indeed the sense of a signal, and Albertine had thus premeditated her escape for some time. This was the greatest misfortune of my life. And in spite of everything, the suffering which it caused me was perhaps even exceeded by my curiosity to know the causes of this disaster: whom Albertine had desired, for whom she had left me. But the sources of these great events are like those of rivers, we may well travel the whole surface of the globe without being able to find them. Because at the time it seemed simply attention-seeking and bad temper, what in Franoise's case we called "having the sulks," I did not note that, from the day when she had stopped kissing me, she took on a funereal air, looking stiff and unbending, adopting a sad voice for even the most simple things, moving slowly and never smiling. I cannot say that no evidence proved that she had no contact with the outside world. Franoise did in fact tell me that when she entered her room two days before her departure, she had found nobody there and the curtains drawn, but she had sensed from the atmosphere and the sounds in the room that the window was open. And in fact she had found Albertine on the balcony. But I cannot see with whom she could have communicated from there, and, besides, the open window behind drawn curtains was easy to explain by the fact that she knew how afraid I was of drafts, and that even if the curtains were not much protection for me, they would have prevented Franoise from seeing from the corridor that her shutters were open so early. No, I can think of only one small detail, which proves merely that she had decided the day before that she was going to leave. The day before she had in fact taken from my room without my noticing a considerable quantity of tissue paper and packing material, which I kept there, and which she used throughout the night to wrap her countless peignoirs and negligees in order to leave in the morning. That was the only detail, that was all. I cannot attribute any importance to the fact that during the evening she almost thrust upon me a thousand francs which she owed me, there was nothing special in that, for she was extremely scrupulous in matters of money.

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