Poland's Daughter


Finding Time Again (Time Regained; The Past Recaptured)

The two-minute 'Finding'

Finding Time Again Marcel learns more about Gilberte's childhood affection for him, and of her husband's adult yearning for men. Between times he reads a fictionalized section from the Goncourt Journals, dealing with the wonders of the Verdurin salon (wonders that have escaped Young Marcel, as indeed they have escaped us).

Flash forward to the war. Combray (and Tansonville, with Gilberte in it) is a battlefield; in Paris, the Baron de Charlus loses the regard of society even as Mme. Verdurin gains it. Marcel meanwhile spends long periods in the sanitorium, whether for his asthma or his mental health, returning only for visits. In the final one of these, he attends a soiree at the Prince de Guermantes. En route, he meets a decrepit Baron de Charlus, in the care of Jupien the former tailor, then is barraged by moments from his past.

At the Prince's party, Marcel is bombarded with examples of "involuntary memory," which cause him to reflect upon life, art, and society. He is also astonished to discover that everyone has grown old (and so, presumably, has he). Gilberte looks like her mother, and her daughter is all but grown. I thought she was very beautiful: still full of hopes, laughing, formed out of the very years I had lost, she looked like my youth (p.342). Indeed, there's a hint that Marcel will add the never-named young woman to his menagerie of young girls in flower—and that with her mother's approval!

At the end of all, Marcel resolves to write the novel that has been bugging him for most of the last thousand pages: And I understood that all these raw materials for a literary work were actually my past life; I understood that they had come to me, in frivolous pleasures, in idleness, in tenderness, in sorrow, that they had been stored up by me without my divining their ultimate purpose, ... any more than a seed does as it lays up a reserve of all the nutrients which will feed the plant. Like the seed, I would be able to die when the plant had developed, and I began to see that I had lived for its sake without knowing it....

The Penguin Proust

Finding Time Again It's extraordinary how Swann's Way (published in 1913) prefigures the rest of Proust's sprawling novel. As Gilberte writes of their childhood haunts (p.64): "They now share the same immortal fame as Austerliz or Valmy. The battle of Méséglise lasted for more than eight months, in the course of which the Germans lost six hundred thousand men and destroyed Méséglise, but they did not take it.... The French blew up the little bridge over the Vivonne ... the Germans put up some new ones, and for the last year and a half they have held one half of Combray and the French have held the other." Of course Proust revised Swann's Way for its postwar republication, among other things, moving Combray into the path of danger. But still -- it's as if he had foreseen the war as a necessary bookend to his novel. (The cover shown here is that of the Penguin paperback.)

The evening at the Prince de Guermantes's is the last, longest, and least gripping of Proust's soirée scenes. He takes more than 50 pages from the dooryard to the ballroom, and more than 200 pages in the room itself.

The 14-Minute Marcel Proust

More than in the six volumes that precede it, we are made aware that Proust is a philosopher as much as he is a novelist. I have to strain to follow his aesthetics, but his study of memory (which undergirds the entire novel, from the cake dipped in herbal tea in Swann's Way to the multiple flashes of "involuntary memory" in Finding Time Again) is more accessible. The only true paradise is a paradise we have lost, he writes (p.179). And we can re-enter that paradise not by attempting to recall it, but for the duration of a flash of lightning by encountering a physical sensation (the clink of a fork that recalls a workman's hammer, the uneven paving stones in front of the Prince de Guermantes's house that duplicates those in front of St. Mark's in Venice, the starched napkin evoking those at the Grand Hotel in Balbec) that enables us to live simultaneously in the past and in the present: a little bit of time in its pure state (p.180). Thus the intensity of the pleasure Marcel experienced when he tasted the moistened tea-cake. For a moment, he actually exists both in the past and the present:

Even if the simple taste of a madeleine does not seem logically to contain reasons for this joy, we can understand how the word 'death' has no meaning for him; situated outside of time, what should he fear from the future? (p.180).

The page references are to the Allen Lane hardcover.


Like the other posthumously published books, Finding Time Again is marred by occasional solecisms that Proust doubtless would have corrected if he had lived a year or two longer. Some of this is deliberate: Some music-lovers find that, orchestrated by X————, the music of Z———— becomes absolutely different. Proust just never got around to filling in these literal blanks. Others are more awkward: on page 304, we are suddenly treated to a scene at the home of the aged actress La Berma—a scene that Marcel couldn't possibly have witnessed, and that serves as a four-page interruption to the Prince's party. In the course of it, he carelessly swaps the genders of La Berma's daughter and son-in-law, so that for a moment they are her son and daughter-in-law.

Buy it at Amazon

Again, no American edition of this volume! But the Penguin paperback of
Finding Time Again, with its rather silly cover, is available at the US Amazon store. With the Kindle software or dedicated e-book reader, you can get the Ian Patterson translation as a digital download here. And of course the paperback is also available at Amazon.co.uk. Finally, there are some Allen Lane hardcovers listed at the ABE booksellers website.

The Modern Library edition

Finding Time Again No book of Proust's has been so knocked about as the English translation of Le Temps retrouvé. In addition to the confused publication in French of the three posthumous books, we were cheated of C K Scott Moncrieff's concluding book by his death from oral cancer in February 1930 at the tragically young age of forty. The work was taken up by the British novelist Sydney Schiff, a friend of Proust who wrote under the pen name of Stephen Hudson. His translation of Time Regained was published in the UK but (like the posthumous Penguin Proust volumes) ran into copyright problems in the US, where Random House commisioned a new version by Frederick Blossom under the title of The Past Recaptured. It was Prof. Blossom's version that I read and reread many years ago, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. Sydney Schiff's translation apparently wasn't highly regarded, either, for an entirely new translation by Andreas Mayor was commissioned and published in 1970. It is basically Mayor's prose that appears in the Modern Library edition today, lightly edited by Kilmartin and Enright.

There are wildly varying opinions of Mayor's Time Regained, whether he restored Proust from Schiff's depredations, or whether his work was a depredation in its own right. Personally, I think Ian Patterson for the Penguin Proust is the way to go, but if you are a traditionalist you can get a handsome paperback of the modified Mayor translation at Amazon and also as part of the six-volume boxed set.

Warning: don't rely on Amazon links or reader reviews, because the store doesn't distinguish between the Modern Library, Penguin, Yale, and 1920 public domain translations!

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Now Comes Theodora

1. Swann's Way | 2. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower | 3. The Guermantes Way | 4. Sodom and Gomorrah | 5. The Prisoner | 6. The Fugitive | 7. Finding Time Again

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