The Novel and Time
A novel that seeks to imitate life in some depth must encompass a long space of time because as we see it is precisely through the passage of time that is made manifest what is most profound in life.
However much one depicts a man as completely as one can over only a few days, in reality one is only depicting his thoughts, his feelings, as though outside of life. It is only a few years later that the ideas that seemed to him the most absolute, have had their point of view displaced, when the feelings that he thought were everlasting have withered away and given way to others, when the weaknesses of his character that were thought to be incurable have been reformed or or that his resolution that was thought to be invincible has been crushed through vice, when everything around him has been displaced, that one perceives the greatest laws made manifest and that one can only comprehend through time that are the laws of life.
It is this that novelists are fully conscious of when wanting to place all its profundity at the end of their work they allow ten years to elapse and show us their hero in old age, his grand ambitions cast aside, no longer thinking only of the passion that had taken up the whole book. And everything about him has changed. It is above all the closing pages that enrapture the reasonably intelligent reader, that is to say the one who perceives the gradual operation of the great laws of nature. Because then he has before his eyes the depiction not only of a being presented as an absolute, that is to say in the way that during different moments of their life their being appears to themselves, but as a body no longer represented only by its parts but in the duration of the relationships of this being with the reality that the infinitely slow revolutions little by little carry them along, modify during that time, carry along and modify other things at the same time as themselves. It takes only a second for the earth to turn around on itself, but the movement that carries it around a sun is infinitely slower.
Untitled, unpublished manuscript, probably written around the period of Jean Santeuil, 1896 - 1902.
From Bulletin de la société des amis de
Marcel Proust et des amis de Combray, no 27, 1977, p376 - 380, A
propos du cinquantenaire du Temps retrouvée. Un essai inédit de Marcel Proust,
Return to Front Page