The Stranger manuscript

   Because Girolamo was very rich, witty and charming, every evening gentlemen of the highest nobility and artists of people of the finest intellect artists whom he invited so as not to be alone came to his suppers

   Girolamo was sitting in his room waiting for his guests. Every evening gentlemen of the highest nobility and artists of the greatest intellect came to take supper with him and as he was well born, rich, witty and charming he was never alone. The candles had not yet been lit and the daylight was dying mournfully in his room. All of a sudden Girolamo heard a voice speaking to him, a distant yet intimate voice speaking to him and calling him by his name, Girolamo - and just hearing this voice speaking from such a distance - speaking from such a distance yet so close -  Girolamo felt himself frozen with fear. He had never heard the voice before but recognized it so well, in his remorse he clearly recognized the voice of a poor victim, a poor and noble murder victim. He racked his brains for any crime he could have committed but could remember none, and yet that tone of voice was definitely reproaching him for a crime, a crime he had no doubt committed without knowing about it, but for which he was still responsible, the voice betraying its feelings of sorrow and anxiety. He lifted his eyes and saw a stranger with a vague and striking demeanour, standing before him, grave and familiar. There was no crown inscribed on the setting of his ring and his words did not bristle with the sharp elegance of people of wit. Yet Giolamo felt troubled by his melancholy and haughty calmness. He repeated: "Girolamo", and added, "Am I the only one who you have not invited to supper? You have  wrongs to atone for before me and I warn you to turn away these others, who when you are old will no longer come."
   "I invite you now to supper," Girolamo replied with a tender gravity that was unfamiliar to him.
   "Thank you", replied the stranger. There was no crown inscribed on the setting of his ring and his words did not bristle with the sharp and proud elegance of people of wit but the gratitude in his fraternal and gentle gaze intoxicated Girolamo with an unexpected feeling of well-being - "but to keep me here you must turn away your other guests for this evening." Girolamo could hear his other guests who were beginning to arrive. The candles had not been lit, it was getting quite dark. The stranger alone shone brighter and brighter in the darkness. "I cannot send them away", Girolamo said, "I cannot be alone."
   "You will in fact be alone by being with me", the stranger spoke sadly, "as you well understand. Yet you must take care. You have committed ancient wrongs against me that you must atone for. I love you more than any of them and I warn you to rid yourself of them, who when you are old will no longer come."
   "I cannot", said Girolamo, thinking that he was sacrificing a noble goodness to the imperious authority of a vulgar habit that no longer even brought him any pleasure.
   "Choose quickly," replied the stranger, beseeching and haughty. Girolamo went to open the door to his guests and at the same time without daring to turn his head he asked the stranger: "Who are you then?" And the stranger, the stranger who was already disappearing replied to him: "The habits for which you are sacrificing me will be even stronger tomorrow for having been obeyed, nourished by blood from the wounds you inflict upon me for its sake. It will turn you from me more and more! Every day you will increase my suffering and soon you will have killed me. You will never see me again. And yet you owed more to me than to others who will no longer come when you are old. I am inside you and yet I am far away from you and already I am no more, I am your soul, I am your own self."
The guests had arrived and Girolamo with the memory of a dream too exhausting to recall, drank and chatted gaily but without joy, flattered however by the brilliant company.

Manuscript version of L'Étranger from Regrets, rêveries, couleurs du temps, Les Plaisirs et les jours. Lot 149, Marcel Proust collection Patricia Mante-Proust, Sotheby's, 31 May 2016. The transcription in the catalogue is incomplete. Also Livres et Manuscrits du XVe siècle à nos jours, Sotheby's, 22 Febriary 2023, Lot 127.


Return to Front Page

Created 10.05.16
Updated 20.02.23