The Young Girl in the Champs-Élysées

      I remember the name of the little girl with whom, at the age of six years old, I had decided to spend my whole life, I remember the street where every day I would accompany her to her home. On days when it was raining and she had not come to the Champs-Élysées I would make my nursery maid come right up to her door house. I never went in because our parents did not know each other, but I wept looking up at her window, I kissed the chestnut tree that was in front of her door and I came back feeling more serene for having spent a few moments surrounded by the things that saw her all the time. I no longer recall how it was that I stopped seeing her and then never thought about her. I no longer ever go down the street which at that time was the unalterable cause of all my dreams for the future, either radiant or melancholy, until my death. And when I thought just now about the person who was going to be my young wife, to live with me for ever and never leave me, even beyond those hours spent in the Champs-Élysées, it was maybe two years since this had happened to me. I tried to find the house again, I couldn't. Not a single house reminded me of anything. Perhaps new ones had been built in place of the old, but it is chiefly in my mind that new abodes have come to take the place of the old, because they are not as long lasting, because at my age we build less solidly still than do children. Today I cannot bear the idea that in a few years the lover who I would never want to leave will be just as forgotten as my little fiancée of twenty years ago, but why worry about it, I will separate myself from her painlessly, without feeling it, saved from any shock by the flimsy network, by the radiant confinement of new desires that I shall then weave, like the spider which smoothly, without ceasing to run along the threads that it endlessly extends, is already far away from the abandoned canvas, and that it no longer notices any more than I knew my girlfriend's house, when it comes to tearing up her canvas. Night falls gradually on our ancient dreams, on our old affections and our old habits, and then that whole part of our being sleeps, and we wake up to a new day in which hunger, life and desire will keep our eyes fixed on the moments to come. We move to a different part of the country but our needs and our desire to live transform little by little our new situation, our new dwelling, the new people among whom we are to live, so as to be able to find there a manageable situation, a habitable abode, neighbours or colleagues with whom we can have human relations, exchanges, in unsympathetic or cordial mimicry. Everything too, circumstances, dwelling, new friends, change us to their convenience, fashion us to their own image, mould us through their love, their dislike, their indifference, their personality. And so we do not simply change our place like the spider, but like species which according to their latitude change their appearance and to a certain extent their nature. But all our old habits, our old loves, our old manners, in order to be no longer alive in us, to be reduced to dust, are none the less the soil out of which new ones have grown and which will quickly grow strong out of their ruin. And hidden like the juices of earth that circulate like an invisible sap through a plant, are all our old ways of being, of loving, which form the foundation covered over by the new ones.  If the heart no longer recognizes them, any more than I was able to rediscover the house of my girlfriend, and that I could feel again today the thrill of seeing you, my dear, with you who I believe I will live with until I die, they are sometimes evoked in my reveries, at the sunset hour when I lead you into the forest and the rays of sunlight often sing as they play in your hair and under your lashes, illuminating in my dreaming eyes the phantom  of a dead or forgotten person from whom I have withdrawn the love that I had vowed to them, only to renew it in you before seeing it inscribed for ever in others.

Quelques manuscrits "Lefebvre" conservés à l'université de l'Illinois, Chris Taylor, Bulletin d'informations proustiennes, 53, 2023


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Created 17.10.23