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The body of letters in Proust's Albertine Disparue Springer, Frances Evelyn 1993-8-21

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THE BODY OF LETTERSinPROUST'S ALBERTINE DISPARUEbyFRANCES EVELYN SPRINGERB.H.E., The University of British Columbia, 1955B.A., The University of Toronto, Trinity College, 1958A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of FrenchWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAOCTOBER 1993© Frances Evelyn Springer, 1993(Signature)In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department ofThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate^ae-2,-iej, zg,^,'7..DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTIn this second to last volume of A la recherche du tempsperdu, Proust's hero turns from a busy world of receptions andgrandes soirees to a more introspective, contemplative world ofwriting letters, which, in its way, is just as instructive tothe aspiring writer as are the lessons he learned from steppingout into high society.The large body of letters in Albertine disparue offersMarcel the opportunity to experience at first hand how writtenlanguage functions. In effect, language and how it generatesmeaning in Proustian terms is one of the central issues in theAlbertine sequence. I study how this unique experience with avaried and substantial correspondence allows the hero topenetrate the mysteries of the written word. I proceed with adetailed examination of the various letters and telegrams,dividing them into different categories and determining howthese letters fit into the storyline, i.e., how they relate tothe structure of the narrative text. Subsequently, I examinehow the interpretation of these letters informs the hero'sunderstanding of language.Albertine disparue raises questions about therelationship of words and their meaning, and about writing andits ability to represent reality. Ultimately, Marcel respondsto these questions as he learns how language signifies for himthrough his extensive personal experience with the written wordin the large corpus of letters in Albertine disparue.- iv -TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract^ iiTable of Contents^ ivList of Tables vList of Figures^ viAcknowledgement viiINTRODUCTION^ 1Chapter One^Mapping the Letters^ 11The Correspondents 12Personal & General Correspondence^18Cartography of Letters^27Roman par lettres 31Chapter TwoChapter ThreeBibliographyNarrative Presence^ 37Order^ 39Interval 44Repeats 71Narrative of Absence^ 89Encoding the Letter 92Decoding the Letter 101Letters & Language 122132- v -LIST OF TABLESTable 1^The Correspondents: Senders and Receivers^13of the Letters and TelegramsTable 2^Full Text Letters and Telegrams^15Table 3^Partial Text Letters^ 16Table 4^Personal and General Correspondence^19Table 5^External Anachronistic Letters: 41Old CorrespondenceTable 6^Internal Anachronistic Letters:^41Table 7^Narrative Sequences and Corresponding ^46Letter GroupsTable 8^Internal Chronology of Albertine disparue^64Table 9^Pace of the Narrative: la vitesse^65- vi -LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1 Order:^The Chronological Order ofthe Letters 40Figure 2 Interval:^Temporal Distortions in the 45Narrative in Albertine disparueFigure 3 Vitesse:^The Pace of the Narrative 66Measured in Pages and LettersFigure 4 Repeats:^Recurring Narrative References 72to Specific LettersACKNOWLEDGEMENTThe work for my Master's thesis was prepared under thesupervision of Dr. Ralph Sarkonak. My debt of gratitude forhis unfailing encouragement, inspiration, and guidance isincalculable. I wish to thank the members of the SupervisoryCommittee, Dr. Sima Godfrey and Dr. Richard Hodgson, for theirinvaluable advice. I am indebted to my typist, JacquelineLanglois, for her tireless support. Finally, I wish to expressmy appreciation to my son, Marcus Springer, for his professionalassistance with the graphics.INTRODUCTION"J'entrepris mon ouvrage a laveille de mourir sans rien savoirde mon métier."Le Temps retrouvê, 346Albertine disparue is about reading and writingletters—about written communication as a prelude to a career ofwriting for the hero of the novel. This volume of la Recherchecould almost be called a roman par lettres, considering the factthat it contains sixty-eight letters and telegrams varying inlength from a few words to a three-page letter and, in addition,approximately ninety references to these letters in the form ofquotations and rereadings, forming a loose network ofcorrespondence throughout the text. This body of letters is anunusual feature in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu;however, it is an essential part of Albertine disparue. WithAlbertine's departure and Marcel's trip to Venice, separation isa principal theme of this last section of the Albertinesequence, and correspondence the necessary means ofcommunication. With her disappearance from the first page toher subsequent death in the first chapter, Albertine becomes akind of absent referent. The narrator's relationship with- 2 -Albertine, even in death, could be called a literary connection:Marcel finds himself "en presence d'une pensee," communicatingthrough a web of thoughts, "hypotheses," images, poems, words,and letters.Before beginning his literary career, the young,aspiring writer undertakes the arduous task of looking for asubject about which to write. Marcel's quest in A la recherchedu temps perdu sends him on a long apprenticeship before hemakes the great discovery at the end of the novel about what thesubject of his book will be: "la matiare de mon experiencelaquelle serait la matiere de mon livre" (TR, 221). However,the hero's quest takes a detour in Albertine disparue through asubstantial body of correspondence that will allow Marcel theopportunity to learn some important lessons concerning theprocess of writing itself. With the letters and telegrams inthis penultimate volume of la Recherche, Marcel faces thereality of writing and interpreting words, and gains valuableexperience with the more practical aspects of his chosen"métier": how language functions, i.e., how meaning is encodedthrough inscription and decoded through interpretation.In his philosophical analysis of Proust's novel, VincentDescombes comments: "En un sens, toute la Recherche estconsacree a ce problême...du langage."' Clearly, the way inwhich language signifies affords the basis of a personal and'Vincent Descombes, Proust, Philosophie du roman. Minuit:Paris, 1987, 280.- 3 -often painful experience for the hero in the Albertine sequence.To "know" Albertine is Marcel's burning passion and to embraceAlbertine is like holding a closed letter whose meaning liessealed within:Je pouvais bien prendre Albertine sur mes genoux,tenir sa tete dans mes mains, je pouvais lacaresser, passer longuement mes mains sur elle,mais, comme si j'eusse manie une pierre qui enfermela salure des oceans immemoriaux ou le rayon d'uneetoile, je sentais que je touchais seulementl'enveloppe close d'un etre qui par l'interieuraccedait a l'infini. Combien je souffrais de cetteposition ou nous a reduits l'oubli de la naturequi, en instituant la division des corps, n'a passonge a rendre possible l'interpenetration destimes! (La Prisonniere, 372) [My italics]Opening this envelope is Marcel's ultimate dream. The real bodyof Albertine, like a tangible sign, is "aussi difficiledechiffrer, aussi mysterieux" (72) as is the body of letters inthe Albertine sequence. I propose to study how the uniqueexperience with this large body of correspondence in Albertinedisparue will allow Marcel to penetrate the mysteries of one ofthe essential elements of language: the sign.Proust began writing Albertine disparue in 1914 and itwas one of the last volumes he worked on: "le personnaged'Albertine" was not introduced until after the death of AlfredAgostinelli in May, 1914. 2 Albertine disparue or La Fugitiveas Proust wished to call it was complete enough in 1921 for himto consider offering it for publication in a literary review as2Jean-Yves Tadie, Proust, Pierre Belfond: Paris, 1983, 21.- 4 -he often did with other selections from la Recherche. InOctober of 1921, one year before he died, Proust wrote to hispublisher, Gaston Gallimard, about sending the last part of whathe called Sodome III, i.e., La Fugitive, as a prepublicationrelease to the journal Oeuvres Libres:Avant de commencer a mettre au point Sodome III [LaPrisonniere] je lui donnerai la fin de Sodome III[La Fugitive] oa it n'y a rien a changer et qui estce que j'ai ecrit de mieux (La mort d'Albertine,l'oubli). 3Eventually, Proust chose a section of Sodome II to be publishedby Oeuvres Libres as he explained to Gallimard, "car faireparaitre en revue la fin de Sodome III avant qu'ait paru envolume Sodome II, c'est bien embrouiller le lecteur."4Even though he was satisfied with La Fugitive at thattime, Proust wrote to Gallimard nine months later, in July of1922, that there was still some work to be done to both LaPrisonniere and La Fugitive—then referred to as Sodome etGomorrhe part I and part II respectively:Aucune des deux parties n'est "prate", ce quis'appelle "prate"... Je ne veux pas vous livrer dutravail bacle, mais le meilleur possible dans la3Marcel Proust a Gaston Gallimard, 19th or 20th October, 1921.In Marcel Proust, Gaston Gallimard, Correspondance 1912-1922,ed. P. Fouche. Gallimard: Paris, 1989, 416.4lbid, 146. In November, 1921 Oeuvres Libres published anextensive article based on sections of Sodome II under the titleJalousie, "roman inedit complet," in their issue No. 5(November) 1921, pp 7-156 [SG: II 633-738, 789-803]. Cf. MarcelProust, Textes Retrouves, Ed. Philip Kolb et Larkin B. Price,University of Illinois Press: Chicago, 1968, 264.- 5 -mesure de mes faibles facultes. He bien sur lesdeux parties it y a encore a faire.'Proust was never able to finalize the manuscript of LaFugitive because he was working on the last corrections to LaPrisonniere right up until a week or so before he died. Infact, Albertine disparue remained unedited at the time ofProust's death and has the most complicated history ofpublication. La Fugitive or Albertine disparue, as it came tobe called, was not published until 1925, three years afterProust's death. Various publications of this volume have provedproblematic because of adjustments and corrections to theoriginal manuscript. The first NRF edition in 1925 waspublished by Gallimard based on the original manuscript that hadbeen corrected and edited posthumously by Dr Robert Proust andJacques Riviere. The title Albertine disparue was used becauseanother work was published by the NRF at that time with thetitle La Fugitive. Subsequently, the Bibliothêque de la Pleiadeproduced two editions of A la recherche du temps perdu: thefirst one now referred to as the "Old Pleiade" edition waspublished in 1954, edited by Pierre Clarac and Andre Ferre, whodid not have access to the original manuscript. The secondedition referred to as the "New Pleiade" edition, was publishedfrom 1987 to 1989, under the direction of Jean-Yves Tadie, whodid have access to the original manuscript which was acquired bysIbid, 551.- 6 -the Bibliotheque Nationale in 1962. The volume of Albertinedisparue in this edition was annotated and established with theaddition of critical text by Anne Chevalier; it was reprinted asa single volume in the new paperback edition of the FolioCollection in 1990.To confuse the issue even further, a copy of theoriginal manuscript of Albertine disparue was discovered in thepapers of the Mauriac family in 1986. It formed the basis ofanother and much shorter edition of this volume called the"Mauriac edition," which was published by Nathalie Mauriac andEtienne Wolff in 1987.According to Anne Chevalier, "aucune des editions n'est.entierement fidele a un seul document" (Preface, xiv). However,for the purposes of my study, the significant factor in thediscrepancies between these different editions of Albertinedisparue is the omissions that affect the length of the varioustexts: the Mauriac edition is only one hundred pageslong—eliminating the last half of Chapter I, all of Chapter II,and Chapter IV as they appear in the Gallimard editions; the"Old Pleiade" 1954 edition is two hundred and sixty-six pages,cutting off the text six pages short of the 1989 "New Pleiade"and the 1990 Folio editions, which both have two hundred andseventy-two pages. Clearly, variation in the length of thesedifferent editions could seriously affect the count of theletters in Albertine disparue. With the Mauriac edition, forexample, the number of letters would be cut in half and theriddle of the telegram from the dead Albertine—one of the mostimportant documents in the volume—would not be resolved. Thethree Gallimard editions-1954, 1989 and 1990—all have the samenumber of letters with the single exception of one less letterin the shorter 1954 "Old Pleiade" edition. Therefore, I havechosen to base my study on the version of Albertine disparuepublished in the new Folio Collection edition of 1990. 6To date no one appears to have done a detailed study ofthe large body of letters in Albertine disparue. A shortanalysis of the Proustian letters has been written by AlainBuisine. His book, Proust et ses lettres, is a brief monographcomparing Proust's real life and fictional correspondence.Proust himself criticized this kind of approach in his essayContre Sainte-Beuve where he decries Sainte-Beuve's notion thata critic should not separate l'homme et l'oeuvre, i.e., a writerfrom his opus. Proust was against the idea of interpreting anovel by reading biographical details of the author into hiswork. In fact, Buisine recognizes that his approach is contrecourant:6The passages quoted from this volume and from all the othervolumes of A la recherche du temps perdu will be taken from thisFolio edition. The novel itself is referred to throughout thetext as la Recherche. The following abbreviations are used toidentify different volumes in various tables and referencesthroughout the text: Swann for Du cote de chez Swann; JFF for Al'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs; SG for Sodome et Gomorrhe;LaP for La Prisonni&re; and TR for le Temps retrouve.- 8 -n'y aurait donc rien de moins proustien que monprojet d'interroger l'oeuvre a partir du courrierde son auteur.'Buisine's analysis does not, however, concentrate on thecorrespondence in Albertine disparue. Of the many examples hequotes from Proust's personal letters, as well as from all ofthe volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu, Buisine onlyrefers to eight letters from Albertine disparue in particular.He does establish, however, the general character of theProustian correspondence:...le propre de la lettre proustienne n'est-il pasjustement l'erreur: de la faussete comme fondementde la verite epistolaire. 8But Buisine does not focus on the implications that theseletters have for language and the interpretation of the sign forthe literary apprenticeship of the hero of the novel.My study proposes a detailed examination of theseletters in order to establish their classification, order,context, the intervals between them, the frequency of referencesto them throughout the text, and, finally, a brief analysis oftheir content. The results of my research will be groupedtogether in the following chapters: Categories, NarrativePresence, and The Narrative of Absence.Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, Lille: PressesUniversitaires de Lille, 1983, 94.8lbid, 94.- 9 -In Chapter I, a classification of all the correspondencein Albertine disparue will be presented on a table graph underthe headings: sender/receiver; letters/telegrams; real/imaginedletters; new/old letters. The categories of this table graphwill be reorganized onto a second table graph illustrating afurther classification of the correspondence as: PersonalCorrespondence (direct, i.e., to/from Albertine and indirect,i.e, about Albertine) and General Correspondence (unconnected toAlbertine).In Chapter II, the main body of research willconcentrate on the presence of the letters and telegrams in thenarrative text or nrecit" 9 as the term is used in Genette'sFigures III. Using this model, three major graphs will bedrawn: first, a linear graph of l'histoire—a reconstruction ofthe occurrences of the letters according to their dates inchronological sequence compared to their appearance in le recit,plotting the occurrence of each letter in the sequence in whichit appears according to the pagination. Second, a graph of laduree will represent the vitesse of the narrative movementmeasured by the distortions created by the relationship of thetemporal span of the histoire or story plotted on one line ascompared to the length of the recit or narrative text devoted tothe various episodes of the story. Subsequently, a graph of lafrequence will be drawn where the narrative sequence of the9Gerard Genette, Figures III, Seuil: Paris, 1972, 74.- 10 -recit will be exploded into three separate lines representing:actual and imagined letters, real and imagined telegrams, withone final line for all the repeated references, citations orrereadings of the above correspondence.In Chapter III, after an analysis of the contents of aselected number of individual letters, conclusions andimplications will be drawn from a comparison of the graphs inorder to demonstrate how the different categories of the letters(Chapter I), their appearance, distribution and context(Chapter II), form a structure that embodies one of the centralthemes of la Recherche, "le travail de l'oubli," a process oftransformation, like a rite of passage that the narrator mustpass through in order to become a writer. An analysis of thissequential structure of the letters will reveal a transformationfrom a preoccupation with the actual departure (Albertineletters), through obsession (Aime letters), to indifference andfinal oubli (the last telegram from "Albertine"). Albertineliterally disappears from the body of letters and, consequently,from Marcel's thoughts. She moves from absent referent toneutral signifier—"le cygne inerte", as Marcel calls her, or lesigne inerte—nothing more than a noun, a word, absent ofmeaning, an element of fiction, a potential literary presence inthe narrator's livre a venir.CHAPTER IMapping the LettersAlthough Albertine disparue seems to renew the traditionof the roman par lettres because of the sixty-eight letters andtelegrams that create a network of correspondence throughoutthis volume of A la recherche du temps perdu, relatively few ofthese letters occur in actual letter form. Before opening theenvelope, so to speak, to find out what is being communicated bythis profusion of correspondence, we need to establish someparameters: what form the letters take and how they arepresented in the narrative; who is the focus of thecorrespondence and if it can be considered the correspondence ofone person or if the focus shifts to other correspondents duringthe course of the narrative. We need to ask why so many lettersare written in this particular volume of la Recherche and whatspecifically distinguishes the correspondence of Albertinedisparue from other correspondence contained in the novel.In order to better comprehend the outline of this largebody of letters, I will arrange the correspondence into- 12 -different categories to see what patterns or groupings ofletters evolve, which will shed some light on the uniquecharacter of the Proustian correspondence in Albertine disparue.I will divide the letters into two different categories,grouping them first according to author—identifying the senderand the receiver—and second according to whether the letters areof a personal or general nature. Distinctions will be madebetween real or imagined letters; between new and old letters;and between letters for which full, partial, or no text is"quoted."The Correspondents: senders and receivers First, a list will be established of all the letters andtelegrams as they appear in the text in order to determine whowrites the letters and to whom, thereby identifying the firstcategory: sender and receiver. Some additional information hasbeen included in this list in order to facilitate futurereferences: the page number on which a letter appears, whetherthe correspondence is a letter or telegram, and whether eitherof these is real or imagined. The correspondence is tabled inthe order that it appears in the narrative or recit, each letterand telegram numbered under that heading on Table 1.- 13 -Table 1Letters and TelegramsRÈCITLETTERTELE. PAGE SENDER RECEIVER REAL IMAGINED OLD1 L 5 Albertine Marcel x2 L 10 une Americaine ma maltresse x3 L 10 unknown ma maltresse x4 L 19 Marcel Gilberte x x5 T 30 Marcel Albertine x6 T 32 Saint-Loup Marcel x7 L 33 niece de Mme de Guermantes Marcel x8 L 33 Albertine Marcel x9 T 33 Marcel Albertine x10 T 34 Saint-Loup Marcel x11 T 36 Marcel Saint-Loup x12 T 36 Albertine Marcel x13 L 37 Marcel Albertine x14 L 37 Marcel's mother Marcel x15 L 38 Marcel Elstir x16 T 40 Marcel Albertine x17 L 50 Albertine Marcel x18 L 51 Albertine l'intermediaire x19 L 51 Marcel Andree x20 L 51 Marcel Albertine x21 L 57 Marcel Albertine x22 T 58 Marcel Albertine x23 T 58 Mme de Bontemps Marcel x24 L 59 Albertine Marcel x25 L 60 Albertine Marcel x26 L 69 Albertine Marcel x x27 L 76 Mme Verdurin Marcel x28 L 93 Gilberte Marcel x x29 L 94 Albertine Marcel x30 L 96 Aime Marcel x31 L 105 Aime Marcel x32 L 105 Aime Marcel x33 L 105 Marcel Aime x34 T 105 Aime Marcel x35 L 105 Aime Marcel x36 L 130 Gisele Andree x37 L 138 Albertine Marcel x x38 T 145 Marcel Saint-Loup x- 14 -REMLETTERTELE. PAGE SENDER RECEIVER REAL IMAGINED OLD39 T 146 Saint-Loup Marcel x40 L 159 Gilberte Mme de Guermantes x41 L 166 Gilberte general letters x42 L 169 Marcel general letters x43 L 169 Mme Goupil Marcel x44 L 169 Sautton Marcel x45 L 170 Bloch Marcel x46 L 171 Bergotte Marcel x47 L 193 Marcel Andrde x48 L 198 Mme Verdurin Albertine x x49 T 199 Albertine Albertine x x50 T 216 M. Barrbre son bureau x51 T 216 M. Barrbre son bureau x52 L 218 mon coulissier Marcel x53 T 220 "Albertine" Marcel x54 L 222 Marcel Gilberte x x55 L 230 Gilberte Marcel x56 L 230 une amie de la mere la mere de Marcel x57 L 230 Gilberte la mere de Marcel x58 L 240 M. de Charlus Marcel x59 L 240 Saint-Loup Marcel x60 L 241 certaines personnes Marcel x61 L 250 le baron de Charlus, etc. Marcel x62 L 252 Ldonor Marcel x63 L 253 grand-mere de Marcel general letters x64 L 255 le papetier wedding guests xGilberte/Saint-Loup65 L 255 amie de la mere M. Sazerat x66 L 257 Bobette Saint-Loup x67 L 260 Saint-Loup general letters x x68 L 264 general letters Charlie xThis long list identifies the sender and receiver ofeach of the sixty-eight letters that occur in Albertinedisparue: specifically fifty-two letters of which forty arereal and twelve imagined, and sixteen telegrams of whichthirteen are real and three imagined. Of these, only eight- 15 -letters and nine telegrams appear in actual letter form, withfull text, or as actual telegrams, varying in length from animagined one word cable, "Revenez" (16 T 40), to the longestletter in Albertine disparue, Marcel's lettre d'adieu(13 L 37), which is ninety lines long. The following is a listof these letters and telegrams:Table 2Chapter I1 L 5^Albertine -0 Marcel^(lettre de rupture) 17 lines6 T 32^Saint-Loup -• Marcel (ces dames sont parties) 1 line9 T 33^Marcel -0 Albertine (Venez vite) 2 words12 T 36^Albertine -0 Marcel (heureuse de revenir) 5 lines13 L 37^Marcel -0 Albertine (lettre d'adieu) 90 lines16 T 40^Marcel -0 Albertine (Revenez) 1 word17 L 50^Albertine -0 Marcel (deux fois crepusculaire) 11 lines20 L 51^Marcel -0, Albertine (Andree/femme) 20 lines23 T 58^Mme Bontemps -0 Marcel (Albertine morte) 6 lines24 L 59^Albertine -> Marcel (posthumous) 9 lines25 L 60^Albertine -0 Marcel (posthumous) 6 lines30 L 96^Aime -0 Marcel (la doucheuse) 57 lines34 T 105 Aimê -• Marcel (lettre suit) 2 lines35 L 105 Aime -0 Marcel (la blanchisseuse) 29 linesCh. II, III & IV39 T 146 Saint-Loup -0 Marcel (Mlle de L'Orgeville) 4 lines51 T 216 M. Barre-re -0 bureau (Visconti/Venosta) 2 lines53 T 220 "Albertine" -0 Marcel (tres vivante) 4 linesThese seventeen letters and telegrams representapproximately two hundred and sixty-five lines of text whichwould, theoretically, cover a total of about six pages ofAlbertine disparue if they were all massed together. It isimportant to note that all of the major, full-text lettersappear in Chapter 1—specifically fourteen letters and telegrams.Of the thirty-six letters in Chapter I (3-138) just under halfare written in letter format for a total of two hundred and- 16 -fifty-five lines, while in the rest of Albertine disparue(Chapters II, III, and IV, [138-272]), only three shorttelegrams are written with full text for a total of ten lines.An additional four letters are referred to in thenarrative by partial text that quotes only a single line orphrase from the following letters:Table 32 L 10 Une Am6ricaine -0 ma maitresse32 L 105 Aime -0 Marcel48 L 198 Mme Verdurin -0 Albertine52 L 218 Mon coulissier^MarcelNo text is given for the remaining forty-seven lettersand telegrams; however, these are represented in a variety ofways. Some are simply recognized by a short reference to theirpurpose: "J'ecrivis a Andree de revenir" (47 L 193); "J'envoyaisa Aime l'argent qui payait son voyage" (33 L 105). Although thesingular reference to the purpose of these letters is precise,the actual content of the letter remains undisclosed.Other correspondence is mentioned in a slightly moreinformative way when the narrator offers cursory references tothe content of various letters: "Gilberte m'annoncait sonmariage avec Robert de Saint-Loup. Elle me disait qu'ellen'avait pas eu de reponse" (55 L 230); "Je me demandais de moncote pourquoi M. de Charlus d'une part, Saint-Loup de l'autre,lesquels avaient eu l'occasion de m'ecrire peu auparavant,m'avaient parle de projets si amicaux de voyages et dont larealisation eat du exclure la possibilite de ces ceremonies [demariage]" (58, 59 L 240).- 17 -For a small group of letters, although no text is givenas such, the letters are described in some detail by a résumé oftheir contents by the narrator like the following letter fromMarcel to Andree:Je fis immediatement porter a Andree une lettreoa je lui disait qu'Albertine etait chez satante, que je me sentais bien seul, qu'elle meferait un immense plaisir en venant s'installerchez moi pour quelques jours et que comme je nevoulais faire aucune cachotterie, je la priaisd'en avertir Albertine. (19 L 51)A final group of letters presented without text issimply referred to by the narrator as the correspondence of someindividuals without giving any indication of what it is about.For example, Marcel mentions the general correspondence ofGilberte Swann, now Mlle de Forcheville, describing only hersignature, G.S. Forcheville, used in "ses lettres" (41 L 166).Enigmatic allusions are made to the correspondence that Marcelreceived from Albertine during a sojourn in Balbec: "lafrequence et le style de ses lettres qu'elle avait adresseespendant une absence" (26 L 69). The letter to Marcel from theyoung marquis de Cambremer (62 L 252) is a similar case wherethe signature of the letter ("signee Leonor") and its formalsalutation: "Croyez a ma sympathie vraie" (reminding Marcel ofthe style of the "formule finale" used by Mme de Cambremer)reveal the author of the letter but nothing of its contents.- 18 -In this first category of the correspondence, whichidentifies the senders and the receivers, the majority ofletters are simply described by the narrator in various wayswithin the narrative text itself. Actually, seventy-fivepercent of the letters are presented in a fragmented way: by asingle line or phrase quoted from the text of the letter; by asimple reference to the author; by a few words referring to thepurpose, content, or style of the letter; or by a résumé of thecontents which are edited by the narrator, thus producing a bodyof correspondence that is often partial, enigmatic, elliptical,or incomplete. At times the writing is even discontinued; apartfrom the obvious reasons of Albertine's death, there are caseswhere the correspondence is broken off. For example, Marcel isfinally unable to respond to letters: "certaines personnes queje ne vis pas m'ecrivirent et me demand6rent ce que jepensais » de ces deux mariages... Je n'eus pas le courage derepondre a ces lettres" (60 L 241).Personal and General Correspondence The second category, which is simply a rearrangement ofthe letters and telegrams on Table 1, groups these lettersaccording to the way in which they relate to the eventssurrounding the life of the absent heroine. The classificationof letters that appears in Tabilable44 distinguishes between— 19 —Classification of Correspondence^Personal correspondence:^Direct-to/from AlbertineIndirect-about AlbertineGeneral correspondence:^Unconnected to AlbertinePERSONALDIRECTGENERAL1 L 5 Albertine - Marcel 2 L 10 L'Ambricaine - ma maftresse5 T 30 Marcel- Albertine 3 L 10 unknown - ma maftresse8 L 33 Albertine - Marcel 4 L 19 Marcel - Gilberte9 T 33 Marcel- Albertine 7 L 33 niece - Marcel12 T 36 Albertine - Marcel 27 L 76 Mme Verdurin - Marcel13 L 37 Marcel- Albertine 28 L 93 Gilberte - Marcel16 T 40 Marcel- Albertine 36 L 130 Gisele - Andree17 L 50 Albertine - Marcel 38 T 145 Marcel - Saint-Loup20 L 51 Marcel - Albertine 39 T 146 Saint-Loup - Marcel21 L 57 Marcel- Albertine 40 L 159 Gilberte - Mme de Guermantes22 T 58 Marcel- Albertine 41 L 166 Gilberte - general24 L 59 Albertine - Marcel 43 L 169 Mme Goupil - Marcel25 L 60 Albertine - Marcel 44 L 169 Sautton - Marcel26 L 69 Albertine - Marcel 45 L 170 Bloch - Marcel29 L 94 Albertine - Marcel 46 L 171 Bergotte - Marcel37 L 138 Albertine - Marcel 50 T 216 M. Barrere - bureau53 T 220 "Albertine" - Marcel 51 T 216 M. Barrere - bureau52 L 218 Coulissier - MarcelINDIRECT 54 L 222 Marcel - Gilberte55 L 230 Gilberte - Marcel6 T 32 Saint-Loup - Marcel 56 L 230 amie - mere10 T 34 Saint-Loup - Marcel 57 L 230 Gilberte - mere11 T 36 Marcel - Saint-Loup 58 L 240 Charlus - Marcel14 L 37 mere - Marcel 59 L 240 Saint-Loup - Marcel15 L 38 Marcel - Elstir 60 L 241 certaines personnes - Marcel18 L 51 Albertine - l'intermediaire 61 L 250 faire-part - Marcel19 L 51 Marcel - Andree 62 L 252 Leonor Cambremer - Marcel23 T 58 Mme B. - Marcel 63 L 253 Grand mere - general30 L 96 Aime - Marcel 64 L 255 papetier - wedding guests31 L 105 Aime - Marcel 65 L 255 amie - M. Sazerin32 L 105 Aime - Marcel 66 L 257 Bobette - Saint-Loup33 L 105 Marcel - Aime 67 L 260 Saint-Loup - general34 T 105 Aime - Marcel 68 L 264 general letters - Charlie35 L 105 Aimb - Marcel42 L 169 Marcel - general47 L 193 Marcel - Andree48 L 198 Mme Verdurin - Albertine49 T 199 Albertine - Albertine- 20 -Marcel's personal correspondence that concerns Albertine and thegeneral correspondence, written by Marcel and others, on mattersthat do not concern Albertine.The two major divisions in this category correspond tothe storyline: the "Personal Correspondence" focuses onAlbertine's departure and death, and the "GeneralCorrespondence" deals with Marcel's gradual return to "normallife" and its varied concerns. Classifying the correspondencealong these lines not only conforms to the plot and forms majorgroups of letters around specific individuals, it also revealsthe unique character of the letters in Albertine disparue.The first collection of personal letters that appears.in Table 4 is grouped under the headings: direct (all lettersbetween Marcel and Albertine); and indirect (all lettersconcerning Albertine, written to/from Marcel and others such asSaint-Loup, Aime, Mme Bontemps, etc.). The direct lettersinclude all the letters and telegrams, real and imagined,written between Marcel and Albertine from the moment of herdeparture: her first farewell letter to Marcel (1 L 5); hertelegram offering to return (12 T 36); Marcel's long lettred'adieu (13 L 37); his desperate telegram begging her return(22 T 58); her last two letters received posthumously by Marcel,the first accepting Andree as Marcel's next mistress (24 L 59)and the second and final letter from Albertine asking himironically: "Serait-il trop tard pour que je revienne chezvous? Si vous n'avez pas encore ecrit a Andree consentiriez-- 21 -vous a me reprendre?" (25 L 60). The last four letters fromAlbertine, which appear on the list after the time of her deathare, in fact, not posthumous letters. Two of these (26 L 69,37 L 138) refer to old letters from Albertine received by Marcelduring their holidays in Balbec, which the narrator rereads inhis period of mourning. The last two are the imagined letter inwhich Marcel, longing for her return, fantasizes a new and lesspainful ending to the tragic story of Albertine's accidentaldeath (29 L 94), and the final telegram from the dead Albertine(53 T 220). Although technically this last telegram is not fromAlbertine, Marcel's error in thinking it was from her completesthe cycle of l'oubli, i.e., the hero's final indifference to hisabsent mistress, and so it is included as the last of theseventeen letters and telegrams written between Marcel andAlbertine, forming the major group which will be referred to asthe Albertine letters.The second column of personal letters in Table 4,grouped under the heading "indirect," consists of all thecorrespondence concerning Albertine exchanged between Marcel andothers about the events surrounding the life and death of theabsent heroine. Responding to the departure of Albertine fromParis, Marcel immediately begins a kind of rescue operation bydispatching Saint-Loup to La Touraine in order to secure herreturn. The three telegrams (6 T 32, 10 T 34, 11 T 36) sentbetween Marcel and Saint-Loup fail: "leur attente...inutile,leur resultat nul" (86). The telegram from Mme Bontemps- 22 -announcing Albertine's death (23 T 58) starts Marcel out on anobsessive investigation into Albertine's past and, particularly,into her lesbian affiliations, which might shed some light onwhy she left him.Aime is sent to Balbec and La Touraine on two separatemissions to provide Marcel with "l'eclaircissement de certainssoupcons" (95). The six letters written between Marcel andAime, which will be referred to as the Aime letters, include thetwo major letters from Aime concerning la doucheuse from Balbec(30 L 96) and la blanchisseuse from La Touraine (35 L 105),which confirm that Albertine had lesbian contacts during thetime she lived with Marcel. This information convinces Marcelthat she probably left him in order to live this kind of life onher own and contributes to the development of an attitude ofindifference toward Albertine which, along with a renewedacquaintance with Gilberte Swan, allows him to write:C'est a partir de ce moment-l& que je commencai aecrire a tout le monde que je venais d'avoir ungrand chagrin et a cesser de le ressentir.(42 L 169)This is not, of course, entirely true. Determined to find outthe truth about her relationships, Marcel still suffers naggingdoubts about Albertine's past and has three sessions with Andreegoing over and over the subject of la gomorrheenne for a periodof about six months. He writes to Andree (47 L 193) asking herto return for the third and final visit, still driven by the- 23 -desire to know, for certain, why Albertine left him. Andree'sexplanation of the last two letters in this classification—themysterious telegram Albertine had sent to herself (49 T 199) inBalbec giving herself an excuse to leave Marcel and return toParis, and a more recent invitation from Mme Verdurin invitingAlbertine to her matinee (48 L 198)—confirm Marcel'smisunderstanding of the situation and of Albertine herself.According to Andree, Albertine left Marcel to marry MmeVerdurin's nephew, whom she planned to meet at the matinee andnot, as Marcel deduced from Aime's letters or from hismisinterpretation of Mme Verdurin's invitation, to pursue alesbian lifestyle: in other words, she simply left him foranother man. If Andree is to be believed, Marcel deserves heradmonition concerning Mme Verdurin's invitation: "Mais vous avezmal compris ce billet" (198).The final classification, "General Correspondence," inTable 4, refers to all the letters and telegrams unrelated toAlbertine as Marcel attempts to resume his life after the deathof his mistress. The majority of these letters, which appear inChapters II, III, and IV of the novel, concern his renewedacquaintance with Gilberte Swann, the publication of his firstarticle in Le Figaro, his trip to Venice, and the impendingmarriages of friends and acquaintances, as well as othermatters. The majority of the correspondence in this category isgrouped around the marriage and potential breakup of twoindividuals: Gilberte Swann and Robert de Saint-Loup.- 24 -This final category marks the beginning of the threestages of l'oubli. Marcel explores the possibilities of changeand forgetting the dead Albertine; his meeting with Gilbertestarts this process. A series of eight letters which will bereferred to as the Gilberte letters (all letters to or fromGilberte) describe a metamorphosis in Gilberte as she herselfgoes through a series of changes, emerging ultimately as amasked figure. Her name changes six different times in thisseries of letters (some deliberately, some in error): she isreferred to as Gilberte Swann, Mlle d'Eporcheville, Mlle deL'Orgeville, Mlle de Forcheville, Albertine, and finally, lamarquise de Saint-Loup. Three old, childhood letters (animagined love letter from Gilberte [28 L 93], and two lettersfrom Marcel feigning indifference at the end of their affair[4 L 19, 54 L 222]) refer to the youthful Gilberte Swann.Marcel does not recognize Gilberte when he sees her again forthe first time in ten years, and thinks she is someone he metwith Saint-Loup in a maison de passe. He misunderstands hername as Mlle d'Eporcheville, not realizing his error until hereceives a telegram from Saint-Loup (39 T 146) telling him thatthe person he thought she was, Mlle de L'Orgeville, is not inParis. The imagined letter to Mme de Guermantes from Gilberte,now Mlle de Forcheville—Gilberte was adopted by de Forchevillewhen he married Odette after Swann's death—is a reaction to theinsolent attitude of la duchesse de Guermantes toward thearriviste: "Elle avait voulu ecrire a la duchesse pour lui- 25 -demander ce qu'elle avait contre une jeune fille qui ne luiavait rien fait" (40 L 159). Marcel's Venetian telegram from"Albertine" (53 T 220) temporarily confuses Gilberte with thedead Albertine. With the two announcements of Gilberte'smarriage to Saint-Loup (55 L 230, 57 L 230), Gilberte finallybecomes la marquise de Saint-Loup.Gilberte, as revealed through her correspondence,embodies change in Albertine disparue. In changing her name,she changes her social status—marrying into the aristocraticfamily of the Guermantes. Furthermore, she changes her style ofwriting and her signature in order to hide herorigins—especially the Jewish background of her father thatwould be frowned upon in the aristocratic circles of the day:...elle dissimulait le plus souvent sesorigines...Il est vrai que pour les ecrits dontelle avait lui-meme la responsabilite, seslettres [41 L 166], elle menagea quelque temps latransition en signant G.S. Forcheville. Laveritable hypocrisie dans cette signature etaitmanifestee par la supression bien moins desautres lettres du nom de Swann que de celle dunom de Gilberte. En effet en reduisant le prenominnocent a un simple G, Mlle de Forchevillesemblait insinuer a ses amis que la memeamputation appliquee au nom Swann n'etait dueaussi qu'A des motifs d'abbreviation. (167)Gilberte utilizes language to facilitate her intentionto become part of the Guermantes clan; she uses her signatureand her handwriting to mask the change: "l'originalite assezfactice de l'ecriture de Gilberte" (234). For her, writingserves as a cover up and the letter as a mask.- 26 -The Gilberte letters are informative for the readernot because of what they say necessarily, but by what isimplied—what they reveal about character and plot. In a similarway the ineffective and disingenuous correspondence of Saint-Loup confirms his failure as a husband: his friendship with theelevator operator, whom he used to deliver his letters tovarious friends (67 L 260), as a pretext for making homosexualcontacts during the holidays in Balbec; the correspondanceamoureuse with Morel (Bobette) 1 (66 L 257), discovered byGilberte; and the suggestion that he is keeping Morel(Charlie)—the poor artist who never answersletters (68 L 264)—all make it obvious that "une separationavait failli se produire entre Robert et sa femme" (257).The rest of the correspondence in this category is ofa general nature: letters discussing the pros and cons ofsomeone of Gilberte's class marrying into the Guermantes family,including the imagined opinions of Marcel's dead grandmotherabout the wedding (63 L 253), and the outraged opinions of oldfriends of Marcel's mother (64 L 255, 65 L 255); announcementsof the wedding of le jeune marquis de Cambremer and Mlled'Oloron (56 L 230) and lettres de faire -part to her subsequentfuneral (61 L 250); the letters of congratulations from theuninteresting or unknown admirers for Marcel's article in'It is explained in notes (343), that the name Bobette is adiminutive for Bobby Santois, the name Proust used for thevioloniste -chroniqueur until around 1919-1920 when he changedthe name of this character to Charlie Morel.- 27 -Le Figaro (Mme Goupil [43 L 169] and Sautton [44 L 169]), andthe wished for letters of congratulations that never arrive fromadmired friends (Bloch [45 L 170] and Bergotte [46 L 171));business telegrams of a political nature of associates ofM. Norpois (50 T 216, 51 T 216); and an invitation to dinnerfrom Mme Verdurin (27 L 76), which Marcel declines.Cartography of the LettersWhat conclusion can be drawn from a study of thesecategories that identifies the personal or generalcorrespondence of various individuals? What does the outline ofthe body of letters look like and where do the internal bordersfall?The overall contour of the correspondence in Albertinedisparue is amorphous; generally, we are given only an editedversion of various letters that are often partial, fragmentary,and sometimes discontinuous. Nonetheless, pools of letters formaround specific individuals: Albertine (twenty letters), Aime(six letters), and Gilberte (eight letters). Of course, Marcelis connected to the majority of the correspondence with fiftyletters—he sends sixteen and receives thirty-four. This ratiounderscores the fact that reading letters is as important aswriting them in Albertine disparue.- 28 -While only twenty-five percent of the totalcorrespondence in Albertine disparue is to or from Albertine,nearly three quarters, or to be more precise seventy-fourpercent, is written or received by Marcel. Albertine writesexclusively to Makcel (excluding the one letter she writes toherself [49 T 199)), whereas Marcel writes to variousindividuals, although fifty percent of the letters Marcel sendsare in fact written to Albertine. So, we can say that thecorrespondence consistently focuses on these two people.Continuing with percentages, we see that the body ofletters divides more or less in half following along the linesof the divisions in Table 4: approximately fifty percent of theletters are the personal correspondence of Marcel (thirty-fiveletters concerning Albertine) and the remaining fifty percent isgeneral correspondence (thirty-three letters concerning othermatters). The "Personal Correspondence," in turn, divides intwo: half of this category consists of the correspondencebetween Marcel and Albertine (seventeen direct letters), and thesecond half is the correspondence between Marcel, Aimê, Saint-Loup, and others (eighteen indirect letters) about Albertine.Although we cannot say that the letters of Albertinedisparue are, in general, the correspondence of one person—evenif Marcel comes close with seventy-four percent of the total—wecan say that Chapter I is the personal correspondence of asingle individual as virtually one hundred percent of theletters are written or received by Marcel. The five letters- 29 -that do not refer to Marcel directly consist of the following:a proposed letter Albertine never wrote to the "l'intermediaire"concerning the purchase of a Rolls Royce (18 L 51), two oldletters received by Albertine and remembered by Marcel—aninvitation from Mme Verdurin (48 L 198) and a telegram Albertinewrote to herself (49 T 199), and two letters intercepted by thenarrator and remembered in a prolepse concerning a mistress whomthe hero lives with long after Albertine's death. As none ofthese letters is current, we can conclude that all of theletters converge on Marcel in Chapter I. The focus of hispersonal correspondence is, of course, Albertine: her futurereturn to Paris (direct letters) or, after her death, Marcel'sobsessive investigation into her past (indirect letters).This focus shifts in the second half of Albertinedisparue (Chapters II, III, and IV) where only fifty-eightpercent of the correspondence involves Marcel. It is importantto note that although Marcel receives fifteen letters in thisgeneral category, he only sends one short message, a telegram toSaint-Loup (38 T 145). Curiously enough, Albertine makes ashadowy return in a telegram that Marcel receives while inVenice (53 T 220). It is a message to "parler mariage,"purportedly from the dead Albertine. Through a series of errorsthe real identity of the sender—Gilberte—is not discovered untilthe end of Marcel's trip with the announcements of her weddingto Saint-Loup (55 L 230).- 30 -With this single exception, from Chapter II until theend of the volume Albertine disappears from the correspondenceboth as a reference and as a subject. Marcel, himself, stopswriting letters in Chapter II; his last letter is a shortmessage written to Andree (47 L 193). In fact, Marcel onlywrites three letters in Chapter II: a telegram to Saint-Loupconcerning Mlle de L'Orgeville (38 T 145); generalcorrespondence announcing that he is completely over Albertine'sdeath (42 L 169); and the final letter to Andree (47 L 193).The letters to Gilberte are early childhood letters rememberedby Marcel (4 L 9, 54 L 22). Although Marcel receives fifteenletters from Chapter II on, he does not respond to any of them.In fact, he consciously stops writing when "certaines personnes"write to him about the marriages since he Marcel remainsindifferent: "Je n'eus pas le courage de repondre a ces lettres"(241).If we wanted to consider the body of letters ofAlbertine disparue like a map it would present two distinctterritories—on the one hand the intense personal correspondenceof Marcel which focuses on Albertine as its object and, on theother, the general correspondence where Marcel is no longer theauthor of the letters and Albertine is no longer the focus ofattention. The borderline for this division falls between thefirst half of Albertine disparue (Chapter I, 138 pp) whichcontains all of the current personal correspondence of Marcel(with three exceptions) and the second half of the volume- 31 -(Chapter II, III, and IV, 134 pp) which contains onlycorrespondence of a general nature that does not concernAlbertine (four exceptions, three of which are old letters).This creates a well defined image of a divided surface with eachsegment having a distinct character: half of the body of letterswith a singular, focused correspondence, as opposed to thesecond half with its varied, multifaceted mosaic.Roman par lettresThis division in the body of letters of Albertinedisparue offers the clue to what makes the correspondence ofthis volume stand out from the rest of the novel. The lettersand telegrams under the heading "General Correspondence"in Table 4 are similar to the kind of letters found throughout Ala recherche du temps perdu-invitations to dinners, letters fromfriends, family, and lovers. One can find comparable letterselsewhere in the novel. As Buisine describes la Recherche:...elle-meme saturee de lettres, billets,telegrammes, petits bleus, se presente sous laforme d'un dispositif-ou d'uneconspiration-postal oil l'epistolaire joue un rolefondamenta1. 22Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, 32.- 32 -What makes Albertine disparue distinct is the particular kind ofcorrespondence listed in Table 4 under the heading "PersonalCorrespondence." As Buisine states, although letters play afundamental role in the novel: "Certains volumes de la Recherchesemblent renouer avec la tradition du «roman par lettres» tantl'epistolaire y conditionne (le plus souvent nêgativement) lesrapports humains." 3 Certainly, Albertine disparue qualifiesfor this distinction and, particularly, because of the part thispersonal correspondence concerning Albertine and Marcel plays inthe development of the narrative in Chapter I, with thirty-sixletters and telegrams in one narrative sequence all dealing withthe same subject: the departure and death of Albertine.There is, of course, a unique situation in this firstchapter of Albertine disparue that provides the rationale forthis extraordinary exchange of letters—the fact that Marcel sitsin his bedroom, isolated from everyone relating to the outsideworld through letters. Marcel found himself in similarcircumstances one other time in la Recherche: sequestered inhis bedroom as a small boy, he writes his first letter to hismother while she is dining downstairs with Swann. This is thehero's first attempt to control the actions of others at adistance, by letter:J'ecrivis a ma mere en la suppliant de monterpour une chose grave que je ne pouvais lui diredans ma lettre. (Swann, 28)3lbid, 32.- 33 -The young child is trying to entice his mother back to his room,to restore her absent presence, in whatever way he can. Hechooses what he calls "une ruse de condamne" (28), a deceptiveletter, in this case one given to Frangoise. The young boy alsoexperiences his first epistolary disappointment since the letteris not delivered!Just as the young Marcel thinks that his intriguingletter will prompt his mother's actions, "Et puis, ce n'etaitpas tout: maman allait sans doute venir!" (Swann, 30), yearslater the older Marcel thinks writing to the fugitive Albertinewill provoke the same kind of action: "en l'ecrivant pour avoirl'air de ne pas tenir a elle...le resultat de cette lettre meparaissait etre au contraire de faire revenir Albertine au plusvite"(41). For Marcel, this devious kind of letter forms thebasis of his strategy to secure Albertine's return—"agir sur lemonde exterieur"(35). Under the circumstances, it is his onlyway of interacting with and controlling a world that is at adistance.In this narrative sequence, in Albertine disparue,Marcel uses letters less as a means of communication than as away of manipulating others: acting on them or reacting to them.After Albertine's departure, Marcel sends his long lettred'adieu (13 L 37) to his mistress in an attempt to secure herreturn to Paris. However, Albertine's neutral response is adisappointment for him: "mais en somme la lettre d'Albertine- 34 -(17 L 50) n'avancait en rien les choses. Elle ne me parlait qued'ecrire a l'intermediaire" (18 L 51). Marcel's reaction tothis unexpected response from Albertine is to precipitatematters by sending another letter off to Andr6e asking her tocome and move in with him, hoping this action will makeAlbertine jealous enough to return to Paris:fallait sortir de cette situation, brusquerles choses, et j'eus l'idee suivante. Je fisimmediatement porter a Andree une lettre[19 L 51] ou je lui disais qu'Albertine etaitchez sa tante, que je me sentais bien seul,qu'elle me ferait un immense plaisir en venants'installer chez moi pour quelques jours et quecomme je ne voulais aucune cachotterie, je lapriais d'en avertir Albertine. Et en meme tempsj'ecrivis a Albertine [20 L 51] comme si jen'avais pas encore recu sa lettre. [17 L 50]This devious correspondence uses the letter as acatalyst—like a third party—sent to control the action ofothers. When Marcel wants to get out of an unpleasantsituation, "brusquer les choses," he sends a letter. In thissection of Albertine disparue, action is synonymous with writinga letter. Letters are fully integrated into the narrative"action" because they presumably connect the players. Ineffect, the reader is able to follow the storyline and theinteraction between the participants by following the exchangeof letters and telegrams, like, for example, the one betweenMarcel and Saint-Loup:Mais quand j'eus recu enfin un telegramme deRobert ou it me disait qu'il avait vuMme Bontemps, mais, malgre toutes ses- 35 -precautions, avait ete vu par Albertine, que celaavait fait tout manquer, j'eclatai de fureur etde desespoir, car c'etait la ce que j'avais vouluavant tout &Titer. (10 T 34)Thwarted, Marcel responds: "Furieux, je telegraphiaiSaint-Loup de revenir au plus vite a Paris pour eviter au moinsl'apparence de mettre une insistance aggravante dans unedemarche que j'aurais tant voulu cacher..." (11 T 36). Thiskind of "dialogue" at a distance allows the reader to see thedevelopment of the action through the correspondence of thesetwo players.This correspondence assumes a unique and privilegedposition in the first chapter of Albertine disparue compared toany other volume of A la recherche du temps perdu. The letternot only plays a major role in the development of the plot, andas Buisine says "y conditionne (le plus souvent negativement)les rapports humains," but also keeps the reader informed ofwhat is happening and where the story is going. Clearly,letters drive the action of this narrative sequence. In fact,the narrative action is entirely dependent on these letters: Ifthere were no letters or references to them in the narrativesequence of Albertine's departure and death, there would be nostoryline. In essence, they sustain the narrative withconnecting threads that make up the fabric of the action at adistance—a unique situation in the novel.Although the implications that can be drawn from theseletters will be studied in Chapter III, the form of the body of- 3 6 -letters is clear. The majority of the thirty-six letters andtelegrams of Chapter I, written in the first thirty days of thestory, forms a homogeneous, focused, personal correspondence ofone individual centered around one subject—Marcel'spreoccupation and obsession with the departure and death ofAlbertine. It is sustained by a manipulative correspondencetypical of the roman par lettres that distinguishes this sectionof Albertine disparue from the rest of A la recherche du tempsperdu. With the remaining thirty-two letters and telegrams,which are written over a period of two years, the focus shiftsto a correspondence that is more general and varied in nature,resuming a pattern of correspondence typical of the rest of thenovel.CHAPTER IINarrative PresenceThe correspondence of Albertine disparue is not asimple exchange of letters. As an integral part of a narrativestoryline, it is essential to understand exactly how thecorrespondence fits into the context of the plot. Beforeattempting to analyse the significance of the individualletters, I shall examine how they function within the rhythmicpatterns of the chronology of the narrative. According toGareth Steel, "a reader of literature must be able to detect awork's internal context in order to say what it signifies."'Given the nature of the Proustian narrative, it is useful tofirst establish what Steel calls a "contextual basis" for aninterpretation of this correspondence.As Steel himself advocates for the rest of Proust'sRecherche, the body of letters in Albertine disparue can bestudied from the point of view of the narratological terms usedby Gerard Genette in Figures III, namely "recit" and "histoire."As the word recit is a general term, it is important to know'Gareth Steel, Chronology and Time in "A la recherche du tempsperdu," Droz: Geneve, 1979, 203.- 38 -specifically what Genette means by it. When he says that heuses "le recit au sens le plus courant," 2 he means the faithfultranscription of events told in a story in either oral orwritten discourse. What Genette calls "le recit" in literaturebecomes, of course, "le discours narratif"—the written narrativetext or simply, the narrative. Genette's analysis of thenarrative discourse, then, involves a study of the relationshipsbetween the text and the events that it relates, i.e., thecontents of the narrative which Genette calls "histoire" or"diegese"; I shall call the latter the diagesis.Following Genette's analytic model, this chapter willstudy the relationship between the narrative and the diagesis tosee in what way the body of letters in Albertine disparueaffects this relationship. Specifically, I will compare theorder of the correspondence in the narrative with the sequenceof these same letters in the diagesis to see whether therelationship is chronological or achronological. Subsequently,I will examine the variation in rhythmic patterns of thenarrative caused by distortions in what Genette calls "ladur6e," or length of the narrative sequences, and by "lafrequence," or repeated references to the correspondencerelative to these various narrative sequences.2Genette, Figures III, 74.- 39 -OrderAs the narrator tells the story of his past life, he refersto the letters and telegrams that would have been received in aconsecutive order, i.e., other than the one they are referred toin the narrative. Although none of the letters is dated, thereare indications in the text (contents of letter;sender/receiver) along with various temporal markers ("lorsquej'avais 6crit autrefois a Gilberte," "lesquels avaient eul'occasion de m'ecrire peu auparavant"), which allow one toestablish the original order of the letters. However, theprecise date and location of the anachronistic letters oftenremain elusive because of the vagueness of the temporal markers.In the graph "Order" (Fig. 1) all the letters andtelegrams are plotted so that one can compare the sequence ofletters as they appear in the narrative with the rearrangementof the letters in chronological order in the diagesis.Considering the order of the letters alone, one can see that thegraph shows that the majority of the correspondence is insequence: of the sixty-eight letters and telegrams, onlyeighteen are out of order, or anachronistic; of these, fourteenare analeptic and four proleptic.Genette makes a distinction among the different typesof analepse: first, the "analepse externe" referring to letterssituated outside of the main narrative, i.e., before thec_ C-T 71^▪ -nIQ COC...)cn0Figure 1: Order0D)CD^g1^40 0. CDCD^CD^CDa.CDcocoaCD10)0coCD4Df&r.Death of Albertine(58) 0a.Narrative(3)Chi.,1191.NI...illiim■Ia.IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII mi.„-^,-,-,..._ li^a.—..4 15 16 17 25 26 27 36 37 40^41 47 48 4 54 6I 67 43 1 18 24 30 39 66514 19 22 29 46 53 57 58 .511 20 23 28 538 45 525859 6410 21 34334443 505155 63628 32 42 6131Ch(138)Ch III(202) ( _ _2)Ch IV^ fin7 years^2 years 6 months67 49^37^48- 41 -beginning of Albertine disparue. This would describe thesituation for the following "old" letters with their approximateage:Table 510 years 28 L 93 Gilberte -> Marcel Swann, 40110 years 4 L 19 Marcel -0 Gilberte JFF, 18310 years 54 L 222 Marcel -0 Gilberte JFF, 2027 years 67 L 260 Saint-Loup letters JFF, 2307 years 49 T 199 Albertine -0 Albertine JFF, 5101 year 26 L 69 Albertine -0 Marcel SG,^185Unknown 37 L 138 Old letter from Albertine no previousreference8 months 48 L 198 Mme Verdurin^Albertine La P,^82Second, Genette's category "analepse interne" applies when theoriginal "quoting" of the letter projects back into thestoryline but still lies within the borders of Albertinedisparue. The following, then, are internal analeptic letterswhich were received just prior to the time when they arementioned by Marcel in the narrative:Table 614 L 3715 L 3836 L 13058 L 24059 L 24066 L 257Marcel's mother -0 MarcelMarcel -0 ElstirGisêle Andr6eCharlus -0 MarcelSaint-Loup -0 MarcelBobette -0 Saint-Loupone dayfew dayseight daysfew weeksfew weeksseveral weeksTwo short letters at the end of Albertine disparue areexamples of prolepses, "qui viennent combler par avance une- 42 -lacune ulterieure" 3 : the faire-part letter (61 L 250) to thefuneral of Mlle d'Oloron, and the letter from her young husband,"le marquis de Cambremer," received "quelque temps apres la mortde sa femme" (62 L 252). Both letters are mentioned by thenarrator during the sequence on the train when Marcel and hismother are coming back from Venice as part of the discussionthey have about the wedding announcements of Mlle d'Oloron. Twoother letters (2 L 10 and 3 L 10) concerning a fragment ofnarrative that describes a planned departure of one of Marcel'smistresses are treated here as a prolepse, assuming that "une demes mattresses" refers to one of Marcel's mistresses who movedinto his apartment in Paris after Albertine's death (256).The study of the chronological order of the body ofletters produces a symmetrical pattern with few anachronisms,providing a balanced, if floating, background for the moredisturbing rhythms of the "duree" or interval, and "frequence"or repeats. Genette describes the analysis of these two finalaspects of rhythm as a relationship between time and space,between a temporal measurement (hours, days, years) and aspatial measurement (chapters and page numbers). According toGenette the pace of a novel, orla vitesse du recit se definira par le rapportentre une duree, celle de l'histoire, mesuree ensecondes, minutes, heures, jours, mois et annees,3 Genette, Figures III, 109.- 43 -et une longueur: celle du texte, mesuree enlignes et en pages. 4An analysis of the interval and the repeats producessimilar results to the study of tempo in music: the rhythmiceffects of the interval are characterized by a change of tempoin the narrative discourse—accelerations, retractions, ellipsis,and discontinuities. The repetition of words, phrases, orevents produces an elongation or expansion of the narrative thatdisturbs the rhythmic flow. The variations in these patterns inthe narrative are played against the constant measure of thediagesis which is assumed to be the ordered day-to-dayprogression of time. Discussing the subject of chronology inRepertoire II, Butor describes the dramatic confrontation ofthese two temporal suites, "comme deux voix en musique,"producing the effect of a "dialogue entre deux temps."' Inthis dialogue, the pseudo-time of the narrative is playedagainst the real time of the diagesis, creating all sorts oftemporal distortions. An analysis of these distortions betweenthe narrative and the reconstructed diagesis will reveal therhythm of the narrative movement of Albertine disparue.4Genette, Figures III, 123.5Michel Butor, Repertoire II, Les editions de Minuit: Paris,1964, 92.- 44 -Interval In order to produce a graph of these temporaldistortions using the body of correspondence in Albertinedisparue, we need first to reconstruct the story behind thenarrative discourse. In Genette's terms:Il faut tout d'abord determiner ce que l'onconsid6re comme grandes articulations narrativeset ensuite disposer, pour la mesure de leur tempsd'histoire, d'une chronologie interne approxima-tivement claire et coherente. 6However, he warns that although the first is easy to do, i.e.,to divide the narrative sequences by major changes in time orplace, the second, a chronological reconstruction, is not.Indeed, the text of Albertine disparue divides easilyinto five narrative sequences which correspond to the fourchapters, with two exceptions: Chapter I is divided in two byone of the most important events in the novel and certainly amajor event in the life of Marcel—the death of Albertine—afterwhich he says: "Alors ma vie fut entierement changee" (60). Thesecond exception involves the trip home on the train fromVenice, which begins on the last few pages of Chapter III andcontinues through to the middle of Chapter IV. This is atransition period treated as part of the holiday in Venice. Thehero and his mother are in transit from Venice to Paris and6Genette, Figures III, 124.Figure 2: Interval 45 -"printemps venitien""matins tot leves du printemps"SpringMay^June^July"debut de l'hiver""soirs demesures d'ête""la saison chaude"SummerSpringSummer Winter&irides,November 1, 1903Diagesis November Dec^Jan^Feb ^May^June^July   Dec^Jan^Feb^March^April^May^June^JulyNarrativeAlbertine letters Gilberte lettersAime letters General correspondence"Departure and Death"Saint-Loupletters"Tansonville"WeddingannouncementsTrain"L'oubli" "Trip to Venice"(3)Ch 1(202)(138)"Investigation"(58) Death of Albertine13 months(255)^(272)fin^ E- 13 months(235)Ch IVCh Ch III- 46 -although the discussion on the train centers around threeletters that they received while in Venice, the events arisingfrom these letters will take place after they arrive back inParis: the marriages of Gilberte and Saint-Loup, and themarquis de Cambremer and Mlle d'Oloron. Letters concerning thesubsequent death and funeral of Mlle d'Oloron are also mentionedin a prolepse by Marcel.The following five narrative sequences, then, can beestablished by chapters and natural changes in time or place,forming around four major groups of letters:Table 71. Departure and Death - Ch. I: 3-60, The future of AlbertineAlbertine letters2. Investigation - Ch.^I:^60-126 Aim6 lettersAfter the death of Albertine there is a shift in thetemporal point of view of the hero, from the future tothe past:^an investigation into the past of Albertinewhich is lived in the present—the "double harnais" ofpast/present.3. L'oubli - Ch.^II:^126-202 Gilberte lettersA shift in the temporal point of view to a moredistant past—"temps plus ancien" with the process ofworking through the stages of l'oubli.4. Trip to Venice - Ch.^III: 202-235 WeddingA change in place from Paris to Venice. announcementsA transition period - Ch. IV: 234-255 The trip home onthe train5. Trip to Tansonville - Ch. IV: 255-272 NoChange of place:^from Paris to Tansonville. correspondenceThe problem of the chronology in la Recherche has givenrise, according to Genette, to "un debat déjà ancien et- 47 -apparemment insoluble"' among various critics. A comparison ofstudies done by Genette, Georges Daniel, and Gareth Steel comesup with dates for the diagesis of Albertine disparue that rangefrom 1902-1903 for Genette, 8 an undetermined period of timebetween 1900 and 1911 for Daniel, 9 and two two-year periodsbetween 1902-1904 or 1904-1906 for Steel.' In Chronology andTime in "A la recherche du temps perdu," Steel even offers analternative chronology for the diagesis of Albertine disparuebased on historical data (the Dreyfus affair, the Moroccancrises of 1905 and 1911, the Balkan crisis of 1912) with theresult that the diagesis covers a period from 1912-1914. n Itis fair to say that Genette makes only passing references to thechronology of Albertine disparue, and he does so in discouragingterms due to the contradictory historical references of thisproblematic volume of la Recherche that cannot be accommodatedin his overall "hypothêse chronologique. 12 His narratologicalanalysis of Proust concentrates on establishing the chronologyof the entire novel which itself can only be approximated,according to Genette, "qu'a la condition d'eliminer ces deux"Genette, Figures III, 125.8lbid, 126.9Georges Daniel, Temps et mystification dans "A la recherche dutemps perdu," A.G. Nizet: Paris, 1963, 121 and 127.'Steel, 74 and 93.nIbid, 94.12Genette, 126.- 48 -series [des episodes Balbec II et Albertine]."' Genettesimply gives up on analyzing the historical inconsistencies ofla Recherche and Albertine disparue in particular:Je trancherai dans ces incertitudes pour etablirune chronologie purement indicative, puisque notrepropos est seulement de nous faire une ideed'ensemble des grands rythmes du recit proustien."For all intents and purposes Georges Daniel also givesup on establishing a specific chronology for Albertine disparue.In his opinion, all temporal logic breaks down in La Fugitive,as he calls it. According to Daniel, the irreconcilablehistorical references and the vague temporal indications of thisvolume make it impossible for a reader to even pretend tomeasure the passage of time: "sa fonction logique est a peu presnulle."'After what can only be called an exhaustive study of thetemporal references of A la recherche du temps perdu, Steelconcludes that for Proust's work, "no single integrated timescheme can be established."' If the chronology of laRecherche is complex and elusive, it is the consensus of opinionof these critics that Albertine disparue is the most enigmaticvolume in la Recherche. According to Steel, it is the "most'Ibid, 126."Ibid, 126.'Daniel, 129.'Steel, 190.- 49 -hermetic for dating the narration, as for dating thediagesis."" And, of course, Genette concludes that only byeliminating the historical references, in the Albertine episodesin particular, can one attempt to establish a "chronologieapproximativement coherente."18Apart from some minor anachronistic references tohistorical facts—the Rolls Royce first appeared in 1904 and theHouse of Fortuny was founded in 1907—the historical referencesof any consequence in Albertine disparue appear in one smallscene in Venice describing a dinner party with the agingdiplomat, M. Norpois, and Mme de Villeparisis who supposedlydied in La Prisonniare (281), as part of an old love storyresurrected. As the Norpois—Villeparisis love story andNorpois's involvement with the election of the prime minister ofItaly lie outside Marcel's story, I shall take my cue fromGenette and eliminate these historical references in my effortto establish the chronology of Albertine disparue.-So, for the purpose of this study I will attempt torecover the diagesis using only the internal chronology of thenarrative as a reference, foregoing an analysis of historicaldata, to see what within the boundaries of the narrative ofAlbertine disparue itself allows the reader to reconstruct aplausible chronological storyline. Using Steel's method for17Ibid, 178.'Genette, Figures III, 126.- 50 -establishing the chronology of a text,' I will concentrate onthe temporal indications that refer exclusively to fictionalevents in Albertine disparue, corroborating this informationwith what Steel calls derived or indirect internal chronologicalmarkers that describe "natural phenomena... associated withpassing time. „20 In using this method to establish the overallchronology of the novel, Steel does not do an extensive analysisof the internal temporal references in Albertine disparue. InChapter 2 of his Chronology and Time in "A la recherche du tempsperdu," Steel devotes approximately one page to this volume ofla Recherche, using temporal references from only a handful ofletters (eight letters and telegrams from Chapter I of Albertinedisparue, and the wedding announcements from Chapter III) andquoting the contents of only two letters: Saint-Loup's telegramto Marcel (6 T 32) and Aime's letter to Marcel from La Touraine(35 L 105). 21 In Chapter 2 of his book concerning "derivedinternal chronology," Steel devotes only a dozen lines to theseasonal references in Albertine disparue. In fact, he callshis analysis of the seasonal indicators of the entire novel "abrief survey. u22 Steel's analysis is anything but brief forSteel, Chronology and Time in "A la recherche du tempsperdu", Ch 2: Immediate Internal Chronology and Ch 3: DerivedInternal Chronology.nIbid, 61.'Steel, 56.22Ibid, 66.- 51 -his study of what he calls "External Chronology" or historicalmarkers which I have excluded from my thesis.Following Steel's methodology then, I will use only theinternal chronological markers that consist of: specifictemporal references such as "trois mois plus tard" (10), "cesdames sont parties pour trois jours" (32), "a peu pres six mois"(175); seasonal references such as "le printemps venitien"(230), "ses soirs demesures d'ete" (63), "au debut d'hiver"(139),; and, finally, the ubiquitous adverbial phrases"quelques temps apres la mort d'Albertine" (73, 126), "quelquessemaines a Venise" (202), "un peu plus tard quelques joursTansonville" (255), "quelques jours a Balbec" (258). Usingthese various temporal signals, I will attempt to reconstruct,step by step, the chronology of Albertine disparue in order todetermine to what time of year each of the five narrativesequences refers. Subsequently, it will be possible toestablish an approximation of the amount of time attributed toeach sequence in the narrative, i.e., whether the narrative isaccelerated, covering long periods of the storyline in a fewpages or, conversely, protracted, taking many pages to coverjust a few days. Finally, we will see in what way the body ofcorrespondence fits into the chronology of the narrativesequence: the number of letters written and how often they weresent; whether there are intense periods of correspondence withletters criss-crossing or long periods with little or no- 52 -correspondence. This will allow us to determine how the lettersimpact on the rhythmic pattern of Albertine disparue.The first narrative sequence, called "Departure andDeath," begins with Albertine's flight to La Touraine whichtakes place the day after Marcel and Albertine took an eveningwalk which Albertine remembers in her letter (17 L 50) as:"cette promenade deux fois crepusculaire." Marcel wakes up thenext morning of that fateful day to find Albertine gone:Le beau temps, cette nuit-lA fit un bond en avantcomme un thermometre monte a la chaleur. Quand jem'eveillai de mon lit par ces matins tot leves duprintemps. (La Prisonniare, 395)The first narrative sequence (1-60) of Albertinedisparue opens then on a warm spring morning with thedisappearance of Albertine. Marcel, left only with a farewellletter (1L 5), lives through the first four days of Albertine'sdisappearance: "j'avais supporte les quatre jours qu'il y avaitdepuis qu'elle etait partie" waiting anxiously for a telegramfrom Saint-Loup who has been dispatched to La Touraine to secureAlbertine's return. Marcel finally learns from Saint-Loup'stelegram that he has been detained "pour trois jours" (6 T 32).Later, Marcel sends what turns out to be his final letter toAlbertine (20 L 51), who has now been gone for a total of eightdays:Albertine,...pouvait maintenant, depuis deja huitjours, detruisant les precautions de chaque heure- 53 -que j'avais prises pendant plus de six moisParis, se livrer a ses vices, et faire ce queminute par minute j'avais empeche. (52)Marcel sends one last desperate telegram (22 T 58) imploringAlbertine to return but it arrives too late; just as he sendsthis telegram he receives a telegram from Mme Bontemps (23 T 58)informing him of Albertine's death. Although she never receivedhis last telegram, Albertine had time, before her death, toreceive Marcel's last letter concerning Andree (20 L 51), andhad time to respond (24 L 59). This was one of the last twoletters received posthumously from Albertine, just after herdeath, although we are told the second one (25 L 60) is datedone day later:En realite elle avait du les ecrire a peud'instants l'une de l'autre...et antidater lapremiere. (59)This first narrative sequence, "Departure and Death," takesplace then in the spring of the year and given the last flurryof letters and telegrams, probably an additional four to sixdays could be added to the eight days we are told specificallythat Albertine was away before her death. It is a short,intense period of time of approximately twelve to fourteen daysduring which Marcel sends or receives the twenty-five lettersthat appear in the Albertine narrative sequence (nine telegramsand sixteen letters). Marcel's preoccupation with Albertine'sdeparture creates an intense, emotional period with eight- 54 -imagined letters, three old letters, and some of the fourteenremaining real letters criss-crossing in Marcel's franticefforts to secure Albertine's return as soon as possible.Although the first narrative sequence, "Departure andDeath," has a specific time frame of twelve to fourteen days,the second narrative sequence, "Investigation" (60-138), doesnot. After the death of Albertine, Marcel seems to loose trackof chronological time. It is a period of intense introspection,grieving, and looking back to the past:cette armee finale...oil s'etait terminee ladestináe d'Albertine m'apparaissait remplie,diverse, vaste comme un siecle. (66)Time is felt rather than counted in this period of mourningwhere time seems to expand, not only because of the seasonallylong days of summer, but because of the suffering caused by thedeath of Albertine. We sense Marcel's pain as he feels thattime literally slows down—waiting, in vain, for the deadAlbertine to return:...que le temps me semblait si long jusqu'a soncoup de sonnette que je pourrais maintenantattendre eternellement en vain. (65)Although Marcel clearly places this period of mourning at thebeginning of summer, "L'ête venait, les jours etaient longs...ilfaisait chaud" (60), "que le jour est lent a mourir par cessoirs demesures d'ete" (63), he is just as definite when tellingus further along in this narrative sequence after Aime's trip to- 55 -Balbec that "on etait au mois de mai" (103). Aime's letters donot clear up this anachronistic chronology. When he writes fromBalbec that the weather could not be more agreeable and that "lasaison s'annonce bien pour cette armee" (30 L 96), we understandfrom this reference that he was in Balbec at or near thebeginning of "la belle saison," which is defined in thedictionary as: "fin de printemps, et6 et debut de l'automne"(Robert). However, even with this definition, the seasonalindications of this letter remain vague: Aime's trip to Balbeccould have been either at the end of May or at the beginning ofsummer, and still be considered near the beginning of thetourist season, "qui s'annonce bien."Other temporal references within the narrative tell usthat Aime was sent off on his missions to Balbec and La Touraine"quelque temps apres la mort d'Albertine" (73). We have no wayof knowing whether "quelque temps" means one week or one monthafter Albertine's death. However, we can deduce from his lastletter from La Touraine—using Steel's reference in which hequotes from this letter—that it was not too long afterAlbertine's death because Aime "claimed to have «vu encore latrace» of Albertine's bites on the arm of a «petiteblanchisseuse»"" (35 L 105). There is therefore a smallellipsis of indeterminate length between the death of Albertine'Steel, 55.- 56 -and the beginning of Aime's trip, which took place at the end ofMay or the beginning of summer.It is difficult to be any more precise about the lengthof time of Aime's two trips that it is about when they occurred.It is true that his letters do give us some temporalindications: we read that he was detained in Balbec because theperson who knew about Albertine and "la doucheuse" was "absenteepour deux jours" (30 L 96). From his Touraine letters (30 L 105- 35 L 105), we know he had time enough to write four letters toMarcel and to receive one in response. So taking into accountthe number of letters written, the detainment of two days, plusAime's travel time, one might suppose a total of at least tendays or two weeks for the two trips.The elliptical character of the chronology in thisnarrative sequence is compounded by Andree's visit to Marcel'sapartment in Paris. It begins with exactly the same temporalreferences as Aime's trips: "quelque temps apres la mortd'Albertine Andree vint chez-moi" (126). In this case we haveno other temporal markers to assist us in discovering againwhether "quelque temps" means exactly one week or one month.Although Andree's visit comes after Aime's trip in thenarrative, it could easily have been concurrent with these tripsin the chronology of the diagesis as they both begin with theadverbial modifier "quelque temps aprês la mort d'Albertine"(71, 126). Our only indirect clue is that Marcel found Andree- 57 -beautiful: "Pour la premiere fois elle me sembla belle" (126).Clearly, he is over the worst of his grieving to the point wherehe can consider a new love interest in Andree with whom he has"demi-relations charnelles" at their meeting six months later(176). In this case, "quelque temps" could refer to a period ofas much as one or two months.The imprecise temporal phrase, "quelque temps apres lamort d'Albertine," which precedes both Aime's trip to Balbec(71) and Andree's visit in Paris (126), creates an indecisivestoryline that leads to the natural temptation on the part ofthe reader to invent a hypothetical storyline in order to fillthe void left in the diagesis. After Andree's visit, thediagesis simply trails off into an ellipsis and we are unable todetermine the interval of the second narrative sequence untilthe beginning of the third sequence when the diagesis picks upagain after the ellipsis.The third narrative sequence, "L'oubli," whichcorresponds to Chapter II of Albertine disparue and marks thestart of Marcel's detachment from the memory of Albertine, "lesquatre etapes de l'oubli" (139), begins with the only internalcalendar date given in Albertine disparue:La premiere de ces etapes commenca au debut del'hiver, un beau dimanche de Toussaint...(139)All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first of November.Reference to a perpetual calendar shows that November 1 falls on- 58 -a Sunday in the years 1896, 1903, 1906, and 1914. None of thecritics has indicated using a perpetual calendar to establish afixed date for this reference to La Toussaint. Given the factthat the year 1903 falls within the hypothetical time frames forAlbertine disparue suggested by Genette, Steel, and Daniel, thedate of November 1st, 1903 would seem appropriate for thisreference point as a temporal peg on which to hang the diagesisof Albertine disparue, if one is to attach the narrative to oneparticular calendar year. Given that for the analysis thatfollows it will be useful to have a specific time frame, I shalluse this date, i.e., 1903, as the temporal reference for thisvolume of la Recherche. Only at this point can we determine theinterval of the second narrative sequence, "Investigation,"which covers a period of roughly six months from the death ofAlbertine sometime in May to the beginning of the thirdnarrative sequence on November 1st, 1903.The diagesis of the third narrative sequence, "L'oubli,"concerning Gilberte Swann as Mile d'Eporcheville, Mlle deL'Orgeville, and finally Mlle de Forcheville, has a narrow butconsistent, interior chronology. It begins with the firstsighting of Mlle d'Eporcheville on November 1st (138), andcontinues on with the second sighting, "quelques jours plustard" (142). The telegram concerning Mlle de L'Orgevillearrives from Saint-Loup "le lendemain" (39 T 146), in time forthe visit chez la duchesse de Guermantes after lunch, "lesurlendemain" (145). This mini-diagesis culminates in the- 59 -discovery that the girl was actually Gilberte Swann now calledMlle de Forcheville. Even though this small fragment of thediagesis has a tight, logical storyline, the imprecise temporalmarker, "quelques jours plus tard," in the middle of the story,requires the reader, once again, to approximate the interval ofthe passage.A more complex elliptical pattern emerges with Andree'stwo visits to Marcel's flat in Paris, which make up the residueof this third narrative sequence. Actually, Andree's visits—onein the second narrative sequence (126) and these two in thethird narrative sequence (175, 195)—make up a story line oftheir own with a consistent internal chronology and approximatetime frame: The second visit is "a peu prês six mois aprês"(175) the first visit, while the third takes place "une semaineplus tard" (193), one week after the second visit. The Andreeseries or fragment has a mini-diagesis of its own that iscomposed of three visits each one day long, the first two sixmonths apart and the last, one week later. Although theystraddle the narrative sequences, none of the visits is attachedto the main diagesis in a specific way. We are given only thevague indication that they began sometime after the death ofAlbertine. This little story floats freely within the largerstory thereby creating a moving and indeterminate ellipticalpattern that makes it impossible to determine, at this stage,the interval of the third narrative sequence, which again simplyfades away into an ellipsis (see Fig. 2, "Interval").- 60 -The fourth narrative sequence, "Trip to Venice,"Chapter III, begins with the hero in the third stage ofindifference towards the memory of Albertine: "Un jour assezlongtemps aprês la derniere visite d'Andree, a Venise."'The indefinite temporal reference of "assez longtempsaprês," which attempts to connect up chronologically with thefragmented, elliptical story of Andree's visits that were notmeasured against any previous event, makes the interval of thediagesis at this point almost unmanageable—a sort of large,unsteady structure with an undetermined, discontinuouschronology in which ellipsis predominates. The movement isstopped by a seasonal reference just at the end of the Venicetrip which stabilizes the chronology in the spring of that year,when Marcel refers to "le printemps venitien" (230). It is onlywith this reference that we are able to establish the outerlimits of the interval of the third narrative sequence,"L'oubli": from November 1st, 1903, according to the datesalready established, to some time the following spring("printemps venitien"), before the hero leaves for Venice—a24 In Proust's original manuscript the first paragraph ofChapter III began with a sentence that was scratched out.Although it appears in the 1954 Pleiade edition, it is omittedfrom the 1987 Pleiade edition and from the 1990 "CollectionFolio" of Albertine disparue: "Quand a la troisieme fois oa jeme souviens d'avoir eu conscience que j'approchais del'indifference absolue a l'egard d'Albertine (et cette derni6refois jusqu'a sentir que j'y etais tout a fait arrive), ce fut unjour, assez longtemps apres la derniere visite d'Andree,Venise." (Albertine disparue, 325n.)- 61 -period of approximately six months. Once again the interval ofthe fourth narrative sequence, "Trip to Venice," although it isin the spring of the year, is imprecise:Ma mere m'avait emmene passer quelques semainesVenise. (202)The ever present, vague adverbial phrase, in this case"quelques semaines," leaves the passage of time fluid andelusive; however, the stay in Venice and the trip home on thetrain represent the only section of the text where the interval,albeit imprecise, is non elliptic. The descriptive passages ofthis narrative sequence fill the space of the diagesis: "lapremiere sortie du matin" (203), "le diner avec Norpois et Mmede Villeparisis" (210), "des jours...des musees et des eglisesde Venise...et de Padoue" (226), "les sorties seul le soir"(229), etc. The series of letters surrounding the marriages ofSaint-Loup and Gilberte and of Mlle d'Oloron and le jeunemarquis de Cambremer occupy the entire transition period of thetrip home on the train.The Venetian trip provides a platform from which thenarrative projects into the most fragmented and ellipticalsequence of the novel. It begins with un blanc followed by theenigmatic: "J'allai passer un peu plus tard quelques joursTansonville" (255). This fifth narrative sequence consists ofintermittent ellipsis of undetermined periods of time of up toseveral months; a series of fragmented pieces of the diagesis- 62 -that leave the reader unable to establish any reliablechronology. There are no precise temporal markers and only oneseasonal marker at the end of the sequence when Marcel visitsGilberte, now Mme de Saint-Loup, at her home in Tansonville,outside of Combray:On dinait maintenant a Tansonville a une heure oujadis on dormait depuis longtemps a Combray. Et acause de la saison chaude...on n'allait se promenerqu'environ deux heures avant le diner. (266)With this vague, single reference to the season we can assumethe time of the visit to Tansonville was anywhere from earlysummer to as late as August.However, this could not refer to the immediate summerfollowing the trip home from Venice presumably in 1904, whichwould only allow two or three months for the whole list ofevents that are alluded to in this sequence to take place:Gilberte marries Saint-Loup (Marcel receives a letter fromGilberte announcing her wedding [55 L 230], just as Marcel andhis mother leaves Venice, but we do not know when the weddingactually took place); Gilberte spends a few days in Balbec withan attentive husband, when she is pregnant and "déja grosse"(250); then she is back home in Tansonville unhappy and ready toleave Saint-Loup after discovering his affair with Bobette(257); Marcel spends a few days in Tansonville (266), comfortinga disillusioned Gilberte, but before leaving for Combray,- 63 -"quelques mois avant mon depart pour Tansonville" (256), he hastime to make a discovery that Bobette is non other than Morel:...parlant a Jupien...d'une correspondanceamoureuse addressee a Saint-Loup et signee Bobette[66 L 257] que Mme de Saint-Loup avaitsurprise...la personne qui signait Bobette n'etaitautre que le violoniste-chroniqueur...qui avaitjoue un assez grand role dans la vie de M. deCharlus! (257)There are many more of these incomplete vignettesalluded to in this segment: Saint-Loup and other mistresses(263), Marcel's most recent mistress ensconced in his apartment(256), a reappearance of Odette never more elegant or effective"dans la 'Del-lode de la chastete finale" (263), among others.Given the number of these various events offered in a fragmentedway, the interval of the last narrative sequence must, ofnecessity, extend over a period at least of one year: from thereturn home from Venice in the spring of 1904 until "la saisonchaude" of the summer of 1905.The interval between these narrative time frames isimpossible to evaluate; the diagesis becomes progressively moreelliptical to the point where it almost disappears (see Fig. 2).We are left with only small disconnected bits of stories thattell something of the order of the diagesis and nothing of theinterval, the narrative covers a day or so in Paris (256); a fewdays in Balbec (258); "une soirée" with Saint-Loup in Paris(263); and a few days in Tansonville (266). As Steel says, the- 64 -relationship between these last events of Albertine disparue isso vague that "the reader is at liberty to imagine the eventsspread out as far as the internal chronology will allow—right upto 1914."' Conceivably, the lone seasonal marker of this lastnarrative sequence could refer to "la saison chaude" of 1913!I have attempted to reconstruct the diagesis ofAlbertine disparue using only the internal chronology of thenarrative as reference. The combination of indefinite seasonalmarkers with imprecise adverbial modifiers leads to a drifting,elliptical narrative. It is possible to establish only anapproximation of the overall interval which technically remainsopen ended—potentially extending up to a ten year period.Our hypothetical chronology, then, can be establishedcovering an interval of approximately two years, from the springof 1903 to the summer of 1905, based on the internal temporalreferences found within the boundaries of the narrative itselfas follows:Table 81. Departure and Death, Ch I2. Investigation, Ch I3. L'oubli, Ch II4. Trip to Venice, Ch IIITransition on train home, Ch IV5. Trip to Tansonville, Ch IVSpring 1903(Spring) Summer 1903Winter 1903/1904Spring 1904Summer 1905 25 Steel, 56- 65 -Following this chronology for the diagesis, along withother indications from the temporal markers including the numberof letters in each segment, the overall pace of the narrativecan be established as follows:Table 91. Departure and Death: 60 pages for 2 weeks 25 letters2. Investigation: 78 pages for 5% months 11 letters3.Diagesis:^2 weeksEllipsis:^5 months,L'oubli:undetermined placement64 pages for 6 months 13 letters4.Diagesis:^2 weeksEllipsis:^534 months,Trip to Venice:undetermined placement33 pages for 1 month 8 lettersTransition: train home 20 pages for one day 8 letters5. Trip to Tansonville: 17 pages for 13 months 3 lettersDiagesis:^a few weeksEllipsis:^12 months, indeterminateThe graph given below (Fig. 3) is a schematic renderingof the information contained in Table 9. It shows two hundredand seventy-two pages of text covering twenty-six months ofdiagesis that includes a body of sixty-eight letters andtelegrams. This translates into a ratio of ninety-four percentof the narrative devoted to approximately one year with only sixpercent of the narrative devoted to the other year. Such aratio represents an enormous distortion in the pace or"vitesse," as Genette calls it, of the narrative text inrelation to the period of time covered in the diagesis:Specifically, the first thirteen months of the diagesis, fromMay 1903 to May 1904, including Chapters I, II, III, and twentypages of Chapter IV, cover two hundred and fifty-five pages;- 66 -the second thirteen months, from June 1904 to June 1905, arecovered in the last seventeen pages of Chapter IV. In fact,this excessive variation in the distortion of the interval inAlbertine disparue is captured in Chapter IV itself, where oneday on the train covers the first twenty pages while one year ofthe diagesis is covered in the last seventeen pages.Figure 3Sunday[1903]^Nov 1 [1903]^[1904]^ [1905]Spring^FallDiagesisSpring^ Summerexpansion ^  retractionNarrative1/2 book ^6 mos / 138 pp /36 ltrs^ 1/2 book ^1^ 120 mos / 134 pp / 32 ltrsI*13 months / 255 pp / 65 ltrs *13 mos / 17 pp / 3 ltrsCh I^ Ch II^Ch III ^Ch IV Fin(3) (138) (202)^(235)^(272)Recalling Genette's words this graph depicts the "vitesse" ofthe narrative movement—the rhythmic distortions of the narrativerepresented in the relationship between "une duree celle del'histoire," in this case a diagesis measured in changing- 67 -seasons of the year and "une longueur celle du texte," ornarrative measured in number of pages and letters.' However,the true magnitude of this distortion can be appreciated byexamining the elliptical character of the narrative content:approximately three months of narrative content are projectedonto a massive ellipsis of approximately twenty-three months(see Fig. 2, "Interval"). Half of the novel is written around aperiod of approximately thirty days surrounding the death ofAlbertine (two weeks before the death, including a smallundetermined period of time before Aime's trips, and two weeksafter, covering a hundred and thirty-eight pages of Chapter I);the rest of Chapter I fades out into a five month ellipsis.This stretching out, or expansion of, the text is typical ofintrospective literature, where the narrative expands or slowsdown as it examines or analyzes a small interval of time. Thelarge number of letters and telegrams written in this firstmonth literally allows the narrative to expand in textual terms:over half of the body of letters and telegrams, real andimagined—thirty-six in all—are written in this short period oftime. Conversely, the final section of the text appears to showan acute acceleration of the narrative where just the lastseventeen pages of Chapter IV cover a whole year. However, thenarrative content of this period is very sketchy since only afew weeks of fragmented narrative material are projected in an26Genette, Figures III, 123.- 68 -intermittent fashion onto a twelve month ellipsis. Rather thansaying the narrative accelerates, one might say that thenarrative disintegrates or fractures, revealing a discontinuous,fragmented diagesis.In striking opposition to the first thirty days of thenarrative that contained half of the letters written in thenovel, there is virtually no correspondence at all in the finalyear of the story, for Marcel has stopped writing. As for theBobette package of love letters (66 L 257) and the Saint-Loupletters (67 L 260), they represent old correspondence, and thefinal general letters of Charlie or Morel (68 L 264) refer tothe fact that he, "comme tous les artistes," does not writeletters:(Charlie s'intitulait ainsi sans conviction et sansorgueil pour s'excuser de ne pas repondre auxlettres, ...d'une foule de defauts qu'il croyaitfaire partie de la psychologie incontestee desartistes). (264)In an allusive way, the "Charlie" letters reflect the ellipticalcharacter of the last chapter of Albertine disparue's nonresponsive, empty diagesis.Thus, the two opposing blocks of narrative of Chapter Iand Chapter IV embody the magnitude of the variation of thedistortion in the treatment of the interval in Albertinedisparue. The interval or "duree" of these two chapters has aninverted character: half of the narrative text of the volumerepresenting only thirty days of the diagesis on the one hand,- 69 -and half of the diagesis of the volume represented by a twelvemonth ellipsis with only a few scattered days of disconnectednarrative content on the other—like a literary yin-yang.The central section of the text, "Sejour a Venise,"Chapter III, provides the only stability to the strong rhythmicswings of these two opposing chapters. Being the only sectionof Albertine disparue which is not elliptic, Chapter III anchorsthe diagesis in the center, thereby providing a state ofequilibrium in which Marcel reaches the final stages of"l'oubli":J'avais definitivement cesse d'aimer Albertine. Desorte que cet amour apres s'etre tellement Acarte dece que j'avais prevu; apres m'avoir fait faire undetour si long et si douloureux, finissait lui aussipar rentrer...dans la loi generale de l'oubli. (223)The internal chronology of Albertine disparue reveals astrong asymmetrical narrative movement characterized by thespecial use of the ellipsis. The evolving pattern is one of anever diminishing narrative content and an ever increasing blackhole. The ellipsis intrudes on the narrative in such apervasive way that it finally predominates to a point where itthreatens the very existence of the narrative text. Genette'sdescription of the distortion of the interval in la Recherche ingeneral can be applied to Albertine disparue in particular:...on observe d'une part un ralentissement progressifdu recit, par l'importance croissante de scenes treslongues couvrant une tres petite duree d'histoire; etd'autre part, compensant d'une certaine maniere ce- 70 -ralentissement, une presence de plus en plus massivedes ellipses: deux aspects que l'on peut aisementsynthetiser ainsi: discontinuite croissante durecit. Le recit proustien tend a devenir de plus enplus discontinu, syncope, fait de scenes enormessepal-6es par d'immenses lacunes, et donc a s'ecarterde plus en plus de la "norme" hypothetique del'isochronie narrative.'The correspondence plays an essential role in thereconstruction of the diagesis of Albertine disparue: thenumber of letters written, their order and frequency along withthe temporal and seasonal references in them have allowed us toestablish the interval of the narrative and reveal the characterof the rhythmic movement of this narrative—a sustained expansionfollowed by acute retraction. An examination of what Genettecalls "la frequence" or recurring narrative will show that it isnot just the letters themselves that cause the narrative toexpand but repeated references to them. It is these repeatsthat literally fill the pages of the first half of the novel.'Genette, Figures III, 127.- 71 -Repeats Genette makes a distinction between different types ofrecurring narrative in his study of "la frequence" or repeats,showing how often and in what different ways the content of thediagesis is repeated in the narrative text: the repetitivenarrative when a single event in the diagesis is repeatedseveral times in the narrative, which has the effect ofexpanding the narrative text; the iterative narrative when anevent that occurs habitually or several times in the diagesis isrelated only once in the narrative, which has the effect ofreducing the narrative text, for example: "Longtemps, je me suiscouche de bonne heure", "tous les fours", etc. According toGenette, the dominant form of recurring narrative in Proust isthe iterative: la Recherche exuberates "une sorte d'ivresse del'iteration."'For the purpose of this study, however, I will bedealing with the repetitive form of recurring narrative ratherthan the iterative. The repeat, as it is used with the body ofletters in Albertine disparue, takes the form of ordinaryrepetition where certain letters that appear only once in thediagesis are subject to repeated quotations, rereadings, andreferences in the narrative, which has the effect of expandingthe text.'Genette, Figures III, 153.Ch 1(3) (202)Ch II(138)Ch IIIDeath of Albertine(58) Death of "Albertine"(220)13^17 20^25CDCD30 35(CZcDU)55567191^---..44"1411144111111111111111111.219236242 245^25286 1 2 145343632^57434442^5531 41 5424039^50518990199987101102 41.61. 71 8111092232222352 0^23495Ch IV(235)fin(272)Figure 4: Repeats^ — 72 —LettersTelegramsRepeats:^references,citationre-readings- 73 -Not all of the correspondence in Albertine disparue issubjected to repeated narrative references. A total of tenletters and six telegrams are recalled by approximately ninetyrecurrent references. The majority of these repeats occur inChapter I where seven letters and four telegrams are referredto, or quoted from, a total of seventy-one times—some letterssuch as Marcel's lettre d'adieu (13 L 37) are referred to asoften as six times on a single page (41). There are virtuallyno repeats for the majority of the thirty-two letters andtelegrams in Chapter II, III, and IV. Of the nineteen repeatsin this second half of Albertine disparue, three refer toletters concerning Albertine that appear in Chapter I, and fourrefer to the final Venetian telegram presumably from the dead"Albertine." Apart from two references to a telegram fromSaint-Loup about Mlle de L'Orgeville (39 T 146), the remainingten of the repeated references concern the wedding announcementsof Gilberte and Saint-Loup (55 L 230, 57 L 230), and of Mlled'Oloron and the young marquis de Cambremer (56 L 230) (on pages234 and 235 there are three references on each page).Although all of the references, quotations, andrereadings have been plotted on the graph "Repeats" (Fig. 4), Iwill look specifically at two of these letters, and the effectthat the use of recurrent references to these letters has on thenarrative text: Marcel's lettre d'adieu to Albertine (13.L 37)and Aime's letter from La Touraine (35 L 105). These twoletters differ in their prospects: Marcel's lettre d'adieu is- 74 -part of the Albertine letters (direct letters of the "PersonalCorrespondence" in Table 4) that focus on the future, i.e.,negotiating Albertine's return to Paris. The second letter ispart of the Aime letters (indirect letters of the "PersonalCorrespondence" in Table 4) that are prompted by Marcel'sobsessive investigations into Albertine's past.Generally, the repeated references to the letters andtelegrams in the first narrative sequence slow down the speed ofthe narration with Marcel's agonizing analysis of these letters:He worries over the appropriateness, timing, and responses tothe letters that he sends, and struggles with the credibility ofthe intentions and contents of the letters that he receives.Marcel's lettre d'adieu, (13 L 37) contributessubstantially to the protraction of the narration in the firstsequence. The repeated references sweep across thirty pages ofthe narrative (19-51), through various stages of planning,writing, mailing, anticipated responses, and imagined reactionsto these different responses. There are eighteen repeatedreferences to the letter in the narrative—often several on onepage (see Fig. 4). First, Marcel refers to his devious plans towrite a deceptive letter of farewell to Albertine, "je meproposais d'ecrire une lettre d'adieu" (19). The long letteritself covers three pages (36-39). There are three differentreferences to the letter on the following page (40), includingquotes from the text of the letter, a description of the- 75 -techniques of writing a lettre feinte, and its possibleresponses:Sans s'arreter en effet aux intentions que j'enoncaisdans cette lettre...je lui disais: "Adieu pourtoujours" c'est parce que je voulais la revoir...Helas, cette lettre feinte, en l'ecrivant pour avoirl'air de ne pas tenir a elle...j'aurais du d'abordprevoir qu'il etait possible qu'elle eat pour effetune reponse negative. (40)Marcel even worries about his own reaction which could besuicidal if Albertine's response is negative: "Et j'aurais datoujours avant d'envoyer ma lettre me demander si, au casAlbertine repondrait sur le meme ton et ne voudrait pas revenir,je serais assez maitre de ma douleur" (40). However, Marcelreassures himself that the response will be positive with sixreferences to that subject on one page (41):Mais, je ne previs rien de tout cela. Le resultat decette lettre me paraissait au contraire de fairerevenir Albertine au plus vite. Aussi, en pensantce resultat, avais-je eu une grande douceur a ecrirela lettre...le resultat de cette lettre me paraissaitcertain, je regrettai de l'avoir envoyee. (41)The mailing of the letter itself takes four pages(41-44): because of Marcel's indecision about the timing of theletter: "j'avais fait une folie d'ecrire; j'aurais da reprendrema lettre helas partie" (41); Francoise comes back with theletter, uncertain of the postage, so that Marcel is able toretrieve it, "Francoise me la rapporta" (41). Again, heagonizes over the effect the letter will have on Albertine: "je- 76 -voulus rendre la lettre a Francoise" (41); "venant a. rendre aFrancoise ma lettre" (42); finally giving the letter toFrancoise: "Ces reflexions n'avaient d'ailleurs rien change a madetermination, je tendis ma lettre a Francoise pour qu'elle lamit enfin a la poste" (43). In the end, Marcel is indifferentto his own reaction: "celle qui me faisait tenir a ce que malettre partit, et, quand je la croyais partie, a le regretter"(43). His final instructions are given to Francoise with a noteof optimism:J'avais donnee la lettre a Francoise en lui disantd'aller vite la mettre a la poste. Des que ma lettrefut partie, je concus de nouveau le retourd'Albertine comme imminent. (44)The last two references to Marcel's lettre d'adieu further alongin the text refer again to Francoise mailing the letter (50),and to a final analysis of Marcel's intention disguised in aquoted text of his lettre feinte:...en somme, quand je lui avais dit que je ne voulaispas la voir par peur de l'aimer. J'avais dit celaparce qu'au contraire je savais que dans lafrequentation constante mon amour s'amortissait etque la separation s'exaltait; mais en realite lafrequentation constante avait fait naitre un besoind'elle infiniment plus fort que l'amour des premierstemps de Balbec. (51) [My italics]Marcel's emotional turmoil over his inability to control thefuture of Albertine produces a profusion of repeats in Chapter Iand provides the mechanism for expanding the narrative in thischapter. Marcel's indecisive preoccupation with controlling the- 77 -events in the future by using a deceptive letter and Albertine'sindifferent response to what Marcel thinks is his decisivelettre d'adieu prove he failed: "mais en somme la lettred'Albertine n'avancait en rien les choses" (51). Marcel learnsan important lesson in his apprenticeship as a writer, i.e.,that he can have neither the possibility nor the illusion ofbeing in control of future events.The use of the repeat in the second narrative sequence,"Investigation", has a more complex effect on the narrativetext. The letter written by Aime from La Touraine concerningAlbertine and la "blanchisseuse" (35 L 105) has eighteenreferences and quotations fanning out over eighty-six pages(105-191) which, like the repeated references of Marcel's lettred'adieu, contribute to the expansion of the narrative text.After Albertine's death, Marcel turns his focus from thefuture to the past and particularly to his doubts aboutAlbertine's past:Jadis, je songeais sans cesse a l'avenirincertain...Et maintenant...ce n'etait plus l'avenird'Albertine, c'etait son passé. (72)Marcel dispatches Aime to Balbec and La Touraine to find outwhat he can about Albertine's past and her lesbian connections.Aime's letter (35 L 105) implicates Albertine as a "gomorrheen-ne." The painful analysis of the content of this letter createsan obsessive rereading of one particular phrase: "tu me metsaux anges" which is quoted five times (106, 107, twice on 109,- 78 -110) as Marcel struggles with the thoughts of Albertine'spleasure with "la blanchisseuse":Ces goats nies par elle et qu'elle avait, ces goutsdont la decouverte etait venue a moi, non dans unfroid raisonnement, mais dans la bralante souffranceressentie a la lecture de ces mots: "tu me mets auxanges". (107)The discovery from Aline's letter that Albertine "en est uneaussi" (107) is like finding out she was another person whom hedid not know "comme une sombre fleur inconnue" (127). Marcelrealizes he must correct his memories of Albertine and replacethem with a new version of the past that includes the painfulfact that all the time he was living with Albertine, she was anactive lesbian. Marcel, realizing his perception of Albertineis probably based on lies and misunderstandings, struggles tocreate a re-ordered sequence of events given this newinformation about Albertine's movements, friendships, andlesbian activities surrounding "la blanchisseuse": "Telle avaitete la souffrance causee—la «complication» amenee—par leslettres d'Airre relativement a l'etablissement de douches et auxblanchisseuses" (114).^Marcel uses the information gatheredfrom Aime's letters referring in particular to "l'histoire de lablanchisseuse" thirteen times (three times on 108, 109, 110,111, 114, 120, twice on 124, 125, 132, and 191) to try to findwhat Steel calls a "protodiagesis"'—the true diagesis behind29Steel, 200.- 79 -the illusion of innocence of the earlier Albertine as Marcelremembered her.Finally, we see the whole foundation of even theprotodiagesis crumble since Marcel has no real basis of factsthat he can trust on which to consolidate his reconstructedpast:Comme j'aurais fait si Albertine avait ete vivante,je lui demandai tendrement si l'histoire de lablanchisseuse etait vraie. Elle me jurerait que non,qu'Aime n'etait pas três veridique et que voulantparaitre avoir bien gagne l'argent que je lui avaisdonne, it n'avait pas voulu revenir bredouille etavait fait dire ce qu'il avait voulu a lablanchisseuse. (111)Aime's motives become suspect in Marcel's mind "si l'histoire dela blanchisseuse est vraie" (111); "Les revelations d'Aime, memesi je les acceptais..."(125). In the end, Marcel cannot rely onhis own memory (he was obviously a dupe of Albertine in the pastand his memories of her are based on falsehoods and errors) buthe is not sure whether Aime can be trusted, and so he finds itdifficult to accept this new information about Albertine. AsMarcel struggles to create this re-ordered sequence of events ofhis past life, the reader realizes that he is doing just that:creating a new diagesis based on Aime's letters that arethemselves possibly based on misinformation or lies. In fact,the reader is led to conclude that Marcel has no access to hispast.- 80 -The use of the recurring narrative with the Aline lettersmarks the beginning of the disconnection between the plot andthe story—a lack of communication between the narrative and thediagesis. Finally, the reader understands through the processof the repeats that Marcel's narrative is based on a creativeprocess of inventing a hypothetical diagesis or past from whichhe composes his fictional storyline. If Marcel, in fact, has noaccess to his past because of his misconceived personal memoriesof Albertine and the uncertainty of the confessions ofunbelievable witnesses to that past, the reader, in turn, has noaccess to a protodiagesis, i.e., the "truth" behind the fiction.In fact, the narrator himself acts like a reader searching for adiagesis. "What the reader at first takes to be a diagesis, aprimitive sequence of events serving as a source for thefiction, turns out to be itself a fictional story, a re-orderingof a more remote and more dispersed diagesis."' In essence,the hero and the reader are only left with a fictional narrativein the absence of an elucidated diagesis. Marcel's search forthe truth about Albertine remains truly fugitive. In fact, inSteel's analysis, "The reader of R.T.P. [la Recherche] neverdiscovers the extent to which Albertine's character was afigment of the hero's imagination."' Even Marcel is aware ofthe fictional nature of Albertine:'Steel, 195'Steel, 195- 81 -...les etres que nous aimons sont ceux dont laphysionomie intellectuelle et morale est pour nous lemoins objectivement definie, nous le retouchons sanscesse au grê de nos desirs et de nos craintes, nousne les separons pas de nous, ils ne sont qu'un lieuimmense et vague ou exterioriser nos tendresses. (77)The assumption inherent in the study of the repeats isthat if one insists on a rigid chronological diagesis based onthe truth, one is forced to invent it, just as we see the herodoing throughout the "histoire de la blanchisseuse." Faced withthe unknown—the reality of Albertine's past—Marcel is forced toinvent it as he did with the uncertainty of Albertine'sdeparture: "Je construisais si bien la verite..."(10). Thedesire for the truth, for a consistent and coherent "story," isbased on a belief that reality can be represented, i.e., thatthe chronology can be reconstructed, that past time isrecoverable. Marcel's attempts to read into the future,"l'avenir incertain qui etait deploye devant nous, j'essayaisd'y lire" (72), and fails with his deceptive correspondence. Hetries to recover the past with the same unfortunate results:Et maintenant ce qui etait devant moi comme un doublede l'avenir—aussi preoccupant qu'un avenir, puisqu'iletait aussi incertain, aussi difficile a dechiffrer,aussi mysterieux, plus cruel encore parce que jen'avais pas comme pour l'avenir la possibilitê, oul'illusion, d'agir sur lui...c'etait son passé. (72)Marcel's search for the truth follows a discernablepattern in Albertine disparue: his original perception ofAlbertine based on errors of misinterpretation and- 82 -misunderstanding; his efforts to correct this misconceivedviewpoint of Albertine (to create a second "true" diagesis) madeon the basis of possible lies and misinformation supplied byunreliable witnesses who cannot be believed. Finally, the herois enlightened by these experiences with the understanding thathe cannot find the truth about Albertine's past: "Je savais bienqu'elle m'etait inconnue" (126). The truth is that he cannotknow the "truth" about another person.In fact, the use of recurring narrative not only marksthe disconnection between the plot and the story, it also marksthe beginning of the separation of language from a fixedmeaning. With the Aime letters Marcel's beloved Albertinefractures into a myriad of "nombreuses Albertines" (110) makingher virtually unknowable. With the stories of la blanchisseuseand la doucheuse, the sign literally splits apart into a singlename or noun generating a plethora of potential and contra-dictory meanings—Albertine "innocente," Albertine "coupable,"Albertine "douce," Albertine "vicieuse," Albertine "traitre,"...Ce fut surtout ce fractionnement d'Albertine en denombreuses parts, en de nombreuses Albertines, quietait son seul mode d'existence en moi. (110)Carried along by the proliferation of signs generated bythe Aime letters, Marcel experiences a new way of looking at hisworld—a new perception of reality and the relativity of meaning:Et ce fractionnement n'etait-il pas au fond justequ'il me calmest? Car s'il n'etait pas en lui-meme- 83 -quelque chose de reel... ne representait-il pas a samani6re une verite bien objective celle-la, a savoirque chacun de nous n'est pas un, mais contient denombreuses personnes qui n'ont pas toutes la memevaleur morale... (110)The fluidity and imprecision of the sign is confirmed by dint ofthis "lived" experience. Through the personal pain of adeceived lover, Marcel arrives at the troubling consciousness oflanguage as a proliferation of free-floating signifiers.The recurring narrative in Albertine disparue has themost profound implications for Marcel's understanding oflanguage. However, the repetitive narrative also has a definiteeffect on the narrative text itself. The repeats, or"frequence" play a strategic role in the "vitesse" of thenarrative text as they actually supply the material to expandthe interval or "duree" in the first chapter of Albertinedisparue. Referring to Fig. 4 "Repeats," one can see how theextensive use of repetition contributes to the protractednarrative in the first half of Albertine disparue with regard tothe two selected letters (Marcel's lettre d'adieu and Aime'sletter about la blanchisseuse) as well as to other major lettersin Chapter I: farewell letter from Albertine (1 L 5)—sixrepeats, "deux foix crepusculaire" letter from Albertine(17 L 50)—five repeats, Aime's letter concerning la doucheuse(30 L 96)—eleven repeats, to name but a few. The duration ofChapter I is measurably extended by the fact that eighty percentof the repeats occur in this chapter. One might conclude that- 84 -there is an exuberant use of repetitive narrative with referenceto the letters in this section of the novel in the same way thatthere is an "ivresse d'iteration" to which Genette refers forthe whole of Proust's Recherche. Conversely, the minimal amountof repeated references to the correspondence in the remainingthree chapters along with the absence of correspondence in thelast half of Chapter IV contribute to the contraction of thenarrative.The repeated fragments of letters form the central dramaof this first half of Albertine disparue as they reveal theprocess of disintegration or deconstruction of the diagesis. Aswe see the "story" of Albertine changing, time stands still asthe narrative slows down and expands in order to re-examine, re-adjust, and re-create a new, supposedly true diagesis inMarcel's mind. A process that Ricardou describes as the"reprises textuelles":Un phenomene comparable a celui qu'impose ladescription se produit alors. Une rupture tend aseparer les deux axes: tandis que la narration seprolonge, la fiction au contraire, en quelque facon,s'immobilise...elle en serait le drame. 32'Jean Ricardou, Problemes du nouveau roman, Seuil: Paris, 1967,169. Ricardou uses different terminology while studying thesame subject as Genette: Ricardou uses "narration" forGenette's "recit" and "fiction" for Genette's "histoire"(diagesis). In other words, Ricardou opposes "narration" to"fiction" whereas Genette opposes "recit" to "histoire."- 85 -The narratological study of this volume of la Recherchehas revealed a dramatic separation between these two temporalsuites where the narrative becomes separated from thediagesis—Genette's "recit" separated from the "histoire." Inchronological terms the present has no access to the past. Instudying the rhythmic patterns of Albertine disparue, we see thehero move into the fictional world. Like the reader, Marcelonly has access to a hypothetical diagesis on which to base anarrative that is both elliptical and repetitive as it searchesin vain for evidence of the truth. The ellipses of the "duree"and the repeats of the "frequence" become part of the creativeprocess. As Marcel deconstructs his perceptions of the past(breaks down the old), he recreates new "corrected" versions ofthe past that are, in turn, based on possible lies andmisinformation, thereby keeping the creative wheel spinning.Readers, in turn, are caught up in this creativeprocess. The distortions of the rhythmic patterns of thenarrative cause them to get involved: the indeterminate,floating ellipsis of the duree (twenty-three months) invitesthem to make assumptions in the absence of a consistentstoryline—to fill in the gaps caused by the fragmented, oftendiscontinuous narrative and the elliptical, inaccessiblediagesis. The imprecise temporal references that leave thepassage of time fluid and elusive make it necessary for readersto approximate the time that is left vague by the ubiquitousadverbial phrases. With the extensive references and- 86 -quotations, like those of the Aime letters for example, readershave the illusion of being connected to a storyline from thepast, but the excessive repetition of these references reveals apattern of lies and misinformation, overloading the narrativewith information that is unreliable. Finally, readers, likeMarcel, are set free to imagine their own storyline, to make uptheir own version of the fiction: "lire déjà, dans une versiondifferente, toutes ses trahisons et ses fautes" (190). In thissense, Albertine disparue is as much about the development ofthe reader as it is about the development of Marcel's career asa writer.The overwhelming impression that one has of Albertinedisparue is separation and alienation at the most crucial levelof the narrative. In effect, the hero is separated from hisstory. The repeated references to the Aime letters destroy thecredibility of the hero/narrator since Marcel does not know thereal "story." For Marcel, Aime's letters represent a descentinto hell:...c'etait le fragment d'un autre monde, d'uneplanate inconnue et maudite, une vue d'enfer.L'enfer c'etait tout ce Balbec, tous ces paysavoisinants^d'apres la lettre d'Aime ellefaisait venir souvent les filles plus jeunes qu'elleamenait a la douche. (99)Steel has suggested that one must "detect a work'sinternal context in order to say what it signifies." Thenarratological analysis of this chapter has revealed that the- 87 -notion of separation is inherent in the rhythmic distortions ofthis volume of la Recherche. As the plot becomes separated fromthe story it is, ultimately, inaccessible to both the hero andthe reader. We are left simply with a narrative presentcreating itself while the diagetical past is destroying itself.The result of repeated analysis of "l'histoire de lablanchisseuse" in the content of Aime's letters alone threatensthe integrity of the narrative itself and its ability to accessa true diagesis. It is a problem shared by la Recherche as awhole, according to Steel:The true diagesis, the protodiagesis, is effectivelyinaccessible to the reader..."As I have mentioned at the beginning of this chapter,Michel Butor, while discussing the subject of chronology ingeneral in Repertoire II, describes the relationship between thetwo temporal worlds of the narrative and the diagesis "commedeux voix en musique"' reverberating echos of reality.However, the image that emerges from the contextual study ofAlbertine disparue is more like a song of separation rather thana "dialogue entre deux temps" as Butor describes theconfrontation of these two temporal spheres. The two isolatedvoices of our study have produced disintegrating echoes that,"Steel, 201'Butor, Repertoire II, 92.- 88 -finally, do not respond or correspond. In essence, the Aimeletters initiate a process of deconstruction at a very basicliterary level: as the narrative text no longer corresponds tothe events that it purports to relate, the fiction itselfdisconnects from the notion of a stable reality which it nolonger reflects. By implication, language itself does notgenerate fixed meaning—the sign no longer represents a stable,permanent, knowable reality—the signifier is released from asingle signified. The fictional world of language, meaning, andreality becomes unhinged in this penultimate volume of laRecherche, and the "desagregation" (172) of this literarytriangle throws into jeopardy any notion of communication.- 89 -CHAPTER IIINarrative of AbsenceA study of the form (Chapter I) and the context(Chapter II) of the correspondence in Albertine disparue raisedprofound questions about writing and its capacity to representreality. And, by implication, serious doubts are raisedconcerning language and its ability to generate stable meaning.The narratological analysis of Albertine disparue revealed anarrative that, finally, does not accurately relate the eventsfrom the past with any consistency that might allow the readerto constitute a coherent story about Marcel's fugitive mistress.I shall turn now to some individual letters that are written orreceived by Marcel to see in what way the content of theseletters reflects the elusive reality of Marcel's belovedAlbertine.Correspondence assumes absence and separation—onewrites letters to absent friends and lovers, keeping in touch,communicating from a distance. For the young hero of A larecherche du temps perdu, the letter represents nun fildelicieux" (Swann, 30) reuniting him with his absent mother.Past his bedtime, the young boy attempts to draw his adoredmother away from the dining table and guests, back up to his- 90 -room for one last goodnight kiss, by way of a note sent withFrangoise: "je sentis qu'en ecrivant ce mot a maman enm'approchant au risque de la facher, si pres d'elle que j'avaiscru toucher le moment de la revoir" (32). The letter, whichbreaks down the barriers of separation, is, in his mind, asubstitute for her presence. In his personal correspondenceProust describes this absent "presence" while responding to aletter that he received from Mme de Noailles:Et j'ai eu cette chose plus emouvante que toute,votre ecriture sur du papier d'ici, une presencequi se retire, l'envie de courir aprês vous.'These letters, both fictional and non-fictional, go beyond thenotion of simply communicating at a distance. It is as if theactual writing on the page has the power to restore the absentperson in the mind of the writer. In his analysis of "le romanpar lettres," Jean Rousset describes the emotional power ofletters:...elles s'efforcent de restituer la presence: "il mesemble que je vous parle, quand je vous ecris, et quevous m'etes un peu plus present". Avec une absencecreer une presence, tel est bien le pouvoir paradoxalet de la passion et de la lettre."2'Marcel Proust a Madame de Noailles, June 20, 1905. In PhilipKolb, editor, Correspondance de Marcel Proust, Paris: Plon,1979, Tome V, 241.2Jean Rousset, Forme et Signification, Paris: Jose Corti, 1962,78.- 91 -A closer look at the kinds of letters written inAlbertine disparue raises the question what is the actual natureof the relationship of the correspondents and what, exactly, isbeing communicated by the wide variety of letters that appear inthis novel. Although twenty-five percent of the correspondenceis between Marcel and Albertine, there are letters from peoplewhom Marcel does not know; letters that arrive from the wrongperson and letters not addressed to the right person. Albertinewrites letters to herself, and Marcel writes deceptive lettersto Albertine and others. There are imaginary letters that arenever sent and telegrams that arrive from the dead. One lettereven "arrives" in a dream.Given Marcel's fifty letters, of which thirty-four arereceived by him and only sixteen sent, reading and interpretingletters are equally if not more important than writing them. Inother words, the process of decoding is at least as crucial asencoding letters in the production of meaning or in theinterpretation of what is being communicated by thecorrespondents. Accordingly, first I will review some letterswritten by Marcel and others that reveal the process of encodingand, second, I will study several letters received by Marcel toexamine his process of decoding. A close study of how theseletters are conceived, received, and interpreted will revealmore about the senders and the receivers and their ability tocommunicate through this exchange of letters. And, taking it- 92 -further, I will explore how language functions as a sign—themessage plus the meaning—throughout this body of letters.Encoding the LetterWriting letters often causes a kind of dysfunction inAlbertine disparue, and this malaise is generally the by-productof a "lettre feinte" (40). Deceptive letters are foundthroughout la Recherche from the first letter that Marcel everwrites (to his mother) and the first early childhood loveletters to Gilberte through to the end of the novel. Buisinerefers to a concise paradigm of the deceptive letter found in LeTemps retrouve, where Saint-Loup sends an excuse to Gilberte forone of his frequent absences with a telegram:...une de ces depeches dont M. de Guermantes avaitspirituellement fixe le modele: "Impossible venir,mensonge suite." (Le Temps retrouve, 9) 3Actually, Buisine considers this short message "un résumé concisde n'importe quelle correspondance dans la Recherche, cascade demensonges, succession de tromperies et de duperies." 4 In fact,this accurately describes the lettres feintes in Albertinedisparue; however, it perhaps overstates the case for all of the3Quoted by Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, 102.4lbid, 102.- 93 -general correspondence in this volume. In discussing deceptivecorrespondence in la Recherche in general, Buisine refers tocertain letters that he classifies as "mefaits epistolaires,"typical of the kind of correspondence that exudes "de lafaussete et de l'insincerite."' Of the sixteen examples ofletters chosen from the entire novel to illustrate this kind ofcorrespondence, only three are from Albertine disparue. Buisinesimply identifies the first two letters as deceptive withoutoffering any detailed analysis of them: a brief reference toMarcel's lettre d'adieu (13 L 37); an imagined telegram fromMarcel to Albertine (5 T 30). The third letter to which Buisinerefers is the telegram Albertine arranges to have sent toherself in Balbec so she can have an excuse to leave the seasideand Marcel in order to return to Paris:Un beau jour elle s'est fait envoyer une depeche quila rappelait a Paris, c'est a peine si on a eu letemps de faire ses malles. Or elle n'avait aucuneraison de partir. Tous les pretextes qu'elle adonnes etaient faux... Elle disait elle-meme qu'ellene savait pas pourquoi elle etait partie...(49 T 199)For Buisine, this telegram—someone sending a deceptive messageto herself—is the epitome of all of the correspondence inProust's novel:On ne saurait imaginer de missive plus typiquementproustienne puisqu'aussi bien tout y est faux, lesraisons donnees aux autres et a soi-meme, les'Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, 101.- 94 -pretextes fallacieusement invoques, le dispositifpostal lui-meme puisque dans ce cas destinateur etdestinataire sont une seule et meme personne. Uncomble quand meme que cette perversion du courrier dela part de la niece de M. Bontemps, Directeur duCabinet du ministre des Postes. 6Although Buisine only refers to three deceptive lettersfrom Albertine disparue, lettres feintes are found in abundancein the first chapter of Albertine disparue. All of the lettersthat make up the Personal Correspondence in Table 4 (thirty-fiveletters and telegrams), either claim to be "feintes" or aresuspected of being deceptive by Marcel. (Only Mme Bontemps'stelegram is exempt.) Virtually fifty percent of the letters inAlbertine disparue are written in the first thirty days of thenarrative, and almost one hundred percent of these are lettresfeintes: Marcel and Albertine knowingly exchange deceptiveletters, and Aime and Saint-Loup write letters of which Marceldoubts the sincerity. I will examine how these letters arecomposed to see what implications they have for the way languageis used by the people who write them and those who receive them.From the beginning of Albertine disparue, it isunderstood by Marcel that a letter is not something you take atface value. When he reads Albertine's farewell letter where shesays in part,Aussi ma decision etant irrevocable avant de vousfaire remettre cette lettre par Frangoise, je lui6lbid, 102.- 95 -aurai demande mes malles. Adieu, je vous la-isse lemeilleur de moi-meme. Albertine. (1 L 5),Marcel's immediate response is: "Tout cela ne signifie rien...elle ne pense rien de tout cela." The assumption is that theletter is a deceptive message: "elle ne l'a evidemment ecritque pour frapper un grand coup" (5). What is said is not whatis meant. For Marcel this letter is simply a trap to get him tomarry Albertine. He takes it for granted that writing deceptiveletters is part of the strategy, especially in the game of love,used to: "agir sur le monde exterieur...en faisant jouer laruse" (35). The fact that Albertine's next communication withMarcel is a telegram saying: "J'aurais ete trop heureuse derevenir!" (12 T 36) proves to Marcel his theory that she liedwhen she first wrote "ma decision etant irrevocable..." (1 L 5).Believing that Albertine "ne cherchait qu'un pretexte pourrevenir" (36), Marcel is encouraged to continue playing the gameand he openly declares that the deceptive letter, "cette lettrefeinte" is part of his arsenal: "Je me proposais d'ecrire aAlbertine une lettre d'adieu ou je considererais son departcomme definitif, tandis que j'enverrai Saint-Loup exercer surMme Bontemps et comme a mon insu, la pression la plus brutalepour qu'Albertine revienne au plus vite" (19).Of course, this kind of correspondence is not new to theroman par lettres. Jean Rousset, in his discussion of theletters in Les Liaisons dangereuses, describes the deceptiveletter in the following terms: "on doit surtout dire ce que l'on- 96 -ne pense pas. Plus encore qu'un moyen d'echange, la lettre estici un moyen d'action qui vise le destinaire comme une cible."'Marcel, himself, explains the cynical strategy of the deceptiveletter in the preparation of his lettre d'adieu (13 L 37), whichis an inversion of what he actually thinks and wants:...maintenant c'etait parce que je voulais absolumentqu'elle revint dans les huit jours que je lui disais:"Adieu pour toujours"; c'est parce que je voulais larevoir que je lui disais: "je trouverais dangereux devous voir"; c'est parce que vivre separe d'elle mesemblait pire que la mort que je lui ecrivais: Vousavez eu raison, nous serions malheureux ensemble.(39)^[Proust's italics]This method of communication implies a process ofencoding lies or misinformation—like baiting a trap. Marcelfeels Albertine knows the game and thus should be able todecipher the inverted message:...Car, Albertine eat-elle ete moins intelligentequ'elle n'etait, elle n'eat pas doute un instant quece que je disais etait faux. Sans arreter en effetaux intentions que j'enongais dans cette lettre[13 L 37] le seul fait que je l'ecrivisse, n'eat-ilmeme pas succede a la demarche de Saint-Loup,suffisait pour lui prouver que je desirais qu'ellerevint et pour lui conseiller de me laisserm'enferrer dans l'hamegon de plus en plus. (40)With the deceptive letter what is not said is moremeaningful than what is said since the intended purposes of theletter are concealed or withheld. The original message is"Rousset, Forme et signification, 95.- 97 -meaningless taken on face value. The deceptive correspondencebetween Marcel and Albertine is a manifestation of the deceptivesign between lovers as Gilles Deleuze describes "les signesamoureux" in Proust's Recherche: "ce sont des signes mensongersqui ne peuvent s'adresser a nous qu'en cachant ce qu'ilsexpriment, c'est-a-dire l'origine des mondes inconnus, desactions et des pensees inconnues qui leur donnent un sens...l'interprête des signes amoureux est necessairement l'interpretedes mensonges." 8 To comprehend the real significance of thelettre feinte requires an apprenticeship in decoding messages,interpreting lies, learning to read between the lines, so tospeak.Marcel is not the only one who sends deceptive letters,since they are written by others as well. Although the lettrefeinte is consciously composed of lies for the purpose ofmanipulating the targeted receiver in the Albertine letters,some of the correspondence is suspected of being deceptivesimply because it contains misinformation without maliciousintent. The Aime letters fall into this category.Aime is suspected by Marcel of either gratuitously orunwittingly encoding lies in his two major letters from Balbec(30 L 96) and La Touraine (35 L 105). The integrity of theinformation supplied by la doucheuse about Albertine's contactwith women in the bath house at Balbec is questioned by the8Gilles Deleuze, Marcel Proust et les signes, PressesUniversitaires de France: Paris, 1964, 7.- 98 -hero. Marcel wonders: "Quelle portee pouvait avoir ce qu'avaitdit la doucheuse. a Aime?...peut-titre pour se vanter, ladoucheuse exagerait-elle" (102). At one point Marcel isuncertain, "que les revelations de la doucheuse fussent fausses"(104). However, he is reassured by a remark made in the past byhis grandmother about la doucheuse: "c'est une femme qui doitavoir la maladie du mensonge" (101).In the letter from Aime concerning la blanchisseuse fromLa Touraine where he is sent by Marcel to find the truth aboutAlbertine's relationships, Marcel receives what he thinks isreassuring news in the one line that is quoted from that letter:Mais dans une seconde lettre Aime me disait avoirappris d'une petite blanchisseuse de la villequ'Albertine avait une maniare particuliêre de luiserrer le bras quand celle-ci lui rapportait lelinge. Mais, disait-elle, cette demoiselle ne luiavait jamais fait autre chose. (32 L 105) [Proust'sitalics]However, in a following letter (35 L 105) Aline tells adevastated Marcel that the blanchisseuse was in fact lying andthat Albertine was indeed guilty of his worst fears: "Elleetait partie goater jusqu'a pamoison, jusqu'a mordre cettepetite blanchisseuse qu'elle retrouvait au soleil levant, sur lebord de la Loire, et a qui elle disait: 'Tu me mets auxanges.'" (35 L 105). Marcel's initial high hopes were theresult of wishful thinking and misinformation. However, theoriginal lie casts doubt on the veracity of the secondconfession from /a blanchisseuse.- 99 -Even Aime becomes a suspect. In an imagined ."conversation" the dead Albertine swears to Marcel that thestory told by la blanchisseuse is a lie:...qu'Aime n'etait pas três veridique et que voulantparaitre avoir bien gagne l'argent que je lui avaisdonne, it n'avait pas voulu revenir bredouille etavait fait dire ce qu'il avait voulu a lablanchisseuse. (111)Considering Aime's past as the maitre d'hôtel at Balbec, it isnot inconceivable that he might invent a "truth" in order toplease a paying customer, so to speak. Thinking of his pleasantexcursion to Balbec at Marcel's expense, "du petit voyage queMonsieur m'avait ainsi procure et qui m'a ete tresagreable"(97), the real truth may not have been uppermost inAime's mind when he wrote to Marcel "Je ne voulais pas revenirles mains vides"(96).Although Albertine disparue seems to renew the traditionof the roman 6pistolaire with its unique use of the letter as a"moyen d'action" rather than as a "moyen d'echange"—to useRousset's terms again—the correspondence in Albertine disparuegoes one step further, i.e., beyond the game of power anddeception. What is uncanny about this misguided, deceptivecorrespondence is that it is a source of revealed knowledge: thetruth unfolds through this epistolary network of deception anderror.The lettre feinte is exposed to the same process ofmisinterpretation and error that all of the correspondence is- 100 -subject to and with the same unexpected results. As far as thecommunication between the correspondents is concerned thepattern is the same: the misleading or meaningless originalmessage on face value; the possible misinterpretation of thatmessage; and the ultimate real message of the truth that iseffectively communicated by this process at a later date.According to the narrator, not only is the truth revealed byerror in the process of decoding but it is also communicatedeventually to the author in the process of encoding throughdeception and lies:Le temps passe et peu a peu tout ce qu'on disait parmensonge devient vrai, je l'avais trop experimentsavec Gilberte; l'indifference que j'avais feintequand je cessai de sangloter avait fini par serealiser peu a peu la vie, comme je disais a Gilberteen une formule mensongere et qui retrospectivementetait devenue vraie, la vie nous avait separes. (44)From the beginning, Marcel knows the risk inherent in deceptiveletters: "Le danger des lettres d'une indifference qui, feinted'abord, finit par devenir vraie"(19). And in fact, theinsincere words that he writes to Albertine in his farewellletter come true, for Marcel and Albertine will be separatedpermanently by her death. The truth is hidden in his falsephrases: "vous avez eu raison, nous serions malheureuxensemble...Adieu pour toujours" (39). Albertine herself wasunaware of the prophetic truth inherent in her deceptive words:dans ses dernieres lettres enfin, quand elle avaitecrit probablement en se disant "je fais du chique":- 101 -Je vous laisse le meilleur de moi-méme (et nietait -cepas en effet maintenant a la fidelite, aux forces,fragiles helas aussi, de ma memoire, qu'etaientconfiees son intelligence, sa bonte, sa beaute?) (89)[Proust's italics]Marcel's suspicion of the sincerity of a letter "elle nepense rien de tout cela" (5) is a natural reaction based on hisown experience with writing letters in Albertine disparue. Inthis volume of la Recherche, all of Marcel's personal correspon-dence is false and insincere; he uses the letter exclusively asa vehicle of deception. In effect, over half of the correspon-dence in Albertine disparue reveals a perverse use of language.The "formule mensongere" of the lettre feinte involves aconscious separation of the message and the meaning—deliberatelyusing words that misrepresent true feelings. Writing personalletters in Albertine disparue amounts to a deliberate use oflanguage to misrepresent reality.Decoding the LetterThe act of sending a letter seems relativelyharmless—one expects the person to whom one writes will receivethe letter and read it. But nothing is that simple in Proust,and especially not in Albertine disparue. A wide variety ofproblems arise, in the reception of certain types of letterswhether they involve cases of mistaken identity, misread- 102 -addresses, unreadable or mysterious signatures; letters that areintercepted, ill-timed, or simply not delivered. Some letterssuffer from a combination of these difficulties, creating layersof misunderstanding and misinterpretation that ultimatelydetermine what is effectively communicated. I will examine somespecimens of these kinds of letters received by Marcel in orderto see what patterns evolve that will shed some light on thesubject of language and communication in the Proustian scheme ofthings: letters of mistaken identity, untimely letters, andmake-believe letters.Many errors are made in the decoding of letters inAlbertine disparue, especially with a type of correspondencewhere the sender or receiver is either unknown, or whoseidentity is mistaken by Marcel, only to be discovered at a laterdate. I will study three letters of mistaken identity, amongthem one of the most important pieces of correspondence inAlbertine disparue—the final telegram Marcel receives from thedead Albertine (53 T 220). These letters or telegrams willallow us to determine the role that error plays in the pursuitof truth throughout the correspondence.The first of these letters, which I shall call theletter from l'Americaine, is quoted in a prolepse just afterAlbertine's departure when the narrator, seeing a pattern ofdeception, compares her flight to the departure of one of hismistresses:^...ayant un jour ouvert par erreur une lettre pourune de mes mattresses, lettre ecrite en style convenu et qui- 103 -disait: Attends toujours signe pour aller chez le marquis deSaint-Loup, prevenez par coup de telephone, je reconstituai unesorte de fuite projetee" (2 L 10) [Proust's italics]. Althoughit is unclear when this event takes place, Marcel could bereferring to the mistress with whom he is living just before thetrip to Tansonville in Chapter IV: "ma maitresse actuelle que jecachais aux visiteurs et qui remplissait ma vie comme jadisAlbertine" (256). However, this is a supposition as there is noprimary reference for this letter in the narrative. Since thetiming of the letter within the chronology of the story isuncertain, the letter remains problematic.'Assuming the single line quoted from the text of theletter refers to a coded message for some planned escape by hismistress, Marcel suffers unnecessarily before realizing hiserror: "Or la lettre n'etait pas adressee a ma maitresse, maisa une personne de la maison qui portait un nom different maisqu'on avait mal lu" (10). With this discovery the meaning ofthe enigmatic message "en mauvais francais" becomes immaterialsince the letter is not meant for Marcel's mistress. In fact,the significance of the letter is effectively inaccessible toMarcel because he does not know either the sender or the person' A phrase included in the 1989 Pleiade edition of Albertinedisparue and left out of the 1990 Folio edition resolves theambiguity in the text of the Folio edition that confuses theidentity of "une de mes mattresses" with Albertine: "...maiscette fois-ci ayant bien le sens du signal et Albertine avait-elle ainsi premedite depuis longtemps sa fuite. Ce malheuretait le plus grand de toute ma vie"(11). [My italics]- 104 -to whom it was addressed. Marcel's misinterpretation of theletter also invalidates the analogy that he made betweenAlbertine's departure and that of his mistress because it isbased on the assumption that the intercepted letter contains acoded message of betrayal. This letter is one of the mostcomplex letters in Albertine disparue with a single unknownauthor and three "destinataires": Marcel who opens the letter byerror; his mistress to whom he thought the letter was addressed;and "une personne de la maison," the intended receiver who neverreceives the letter. There are also three messages: theoriginal intended message of unknown meaning; the unintendedmisinterpretation of this first message as a coded signal; andthe third and final message which is not "received" until later.No one connects on a meaningful level in this seeminglyfutile correspondence. There is no communication with theunintended correspondents: Marcel, the intercepting receiver,and the unknown sender whose signature is an undecipherableforeign name that Marcel misinterprets as a nickname for someonewhom he later discovers is une Americaine—a friend of Saint-Loup. And, of course, there is no communication between theintended correspondents: l'Americaine and "une personne de lamaison" who, presumably, never receives the letter.Ironically, Proust uses this apparently meaninglesspiece of correspondence as a way of portraying one of the majorissues in la Recherche—the pursuit of the truth. The letterfrom 1'Am6ricaine is a paradigm of how language signifies in- 105 -Albertine disparue. This letter, surrounded by errors ofmistaken identity, misread addresses, cryptic signatures,misinterpreted messages, and false analogies, harbors a kernelof prophetic truth. Although the narrator on that day was"donc, ce jour-la, trompe de tout au tout" (10), the suspectedassignation materialized at an unspecified later date in thevery way he imagined it, by error, in the first letter:...trois mois plus tard, ma maitresse... m'avaitquitte, ca avait ete d'une fagon absolument identiquea celle que j'avais imaginee la premiere fois. linelettre vint [3 L 10], ayant les memes particularitesque j'avais faussement attribuees a la premierelettre [2 L 10], mais cette fois-ci ayant bien lesens du signal. (10)With this turn of events, the letter from 1'Am6ricaine takes onnew significance. The original message becomes useful to Marcelnot because of its intended meaning, which is still obscure, butbecause it is the source of Marcel's misinterpretation of theletter as a coded message that now forms the basis of comparisonfor a valid analogy. In effect, the false analogy that Marceldraws between Albertine's disappearance and the suspecteddeparture of his mistress eventually becomes true when hismistress actually leaves him three months later.This short sequence of two letters identifies one of thecentral issues of la Recherche—the demythologization of theintellect, "l'armature intellectuelle," that formulates theseerrors and false analogies: "qui...avait relie ces faits tousfaux" (10). In these letters it proceeds from mistaken premises- 106 -and false assumptions through errors of mistaken identity andmisinterpretation to false analogies that, in the end, becometrue. When the truth does eventually surface through thisnetwork of errors, it is by chance more than anything else.The letter from l'Americaine has a delphic quality aboutit. The cryptic message "Attends toujours signe...", which ismeaningless to the hero, is used unwittingly as a source ofmisinterpretation and error forming the basis of a false analogythat in time turns out to be true. Proust uses one of the mostabstruse letters in Albertine disparue to portray a basicpremise of la Recherche: the truth is revealed through error andover the course of time. It is as if the depiction of errorsand false interpretations are necessary on the road to thediscovery of the truth—the long and arduous detours of theliterary apprenticeship.The same pattern of error and misinterpretation is seenthroughout the correspondence in Albertine disparue. The loveletters found by Gilberte, "une correspondance amoureuseaddressee a Robert et signee Bobette que Mme de Saint-Loup avaitsurprise" (66 L 257), produce a similar problem of communicationdue to errors of mistaken identity by an unintended receiver.Again, Proust creates a double layer of misinterpretation: theidentity of the sender, Bobette, is unknown to the second,unintended receiver, Gilberte, and therefore the significance ofthe letters is misunderstood. Because of the mysterioussignature, "Bobette," Gilberte assumes she has been betrayed by- 107 -another woman but, in reality, and unknown to her, she has beenbetrayed by a man. At an earlier meeting, Jupien informedMarcel that Bobette is actually Morel, the ex-lover of Charlus,confirming that Saint-Loup is homosexual or at least bisexual.(As mentioned earlier, the name Bobette is a diminutive forBobby Santois, the name Proust used at the beginning of thenovel for the character Charlie Morel [see 343n].)The misinterpretation of these love letters falls intothe same pattern of error created in other letters in Albertinedisparue: a false assumption (based on a mysterious signature inthis case) leads to a misreading of the message, and,ultimately, in Gilberte's mind, to the creation of a new messagewith regard to Saint-Loup's indiscretions. As the pattern goes,there are, in this case, one sender (Bobette), two receivers(Saint-Loup, Gilberte), and three messages: the message of theoriginal letters, which forms the basis by error of thefictional message conjured up by Gilberte. And, as usual thefinal message is "delivered" at a later date when Gilbertediscovers the truth, i.e., that she is being deceived by herhusband, but in a way different than she thought.In a final example of mistaken identity, Proust uses atelegram from a dead person to illustrate the perverserelationship between words and their meanings in thecorrespondence of Albertine disparue. Language is again subjectto misinterpretation delivered in the guise of error as it leadsthe hero along the pathway to the perception of truth. This is- 108 -perhaps the most important document in Albertine disparue as itcompletes the process of oubli and finalizes Albertine's deathin Marcel's mind. While in Venice the hero receives a telegram,purportedly from Albertine who by then has been dead for a year!Mon ami vous me croyez morte, pardonnez-moi, jesuis três vivante, je voudrais vous voir, vousparler mariage, quand revenez-vous? Tendrement.Albertine. (53 T 220)Errors are made at every level of this disturbingtelegram: in the identification of the sender and of thereceiver, as well as in the transcription and the interpretationof the message. It is not until the end of his stay in Venice .when Marcel receives a letter from Mlle de Forcheville(55 L 230) who announces her marriage to Saint-Loup, that Marcelrealizes that "la depéche que j'avais revue dernierement et quej'avais crue d'Albertine etait de Gilberte" (234). Gilberte'sillegible, floral handwriting caused the telegraph operator tomisread her complicated signature full of "queues etarabesques," which he deciphered as the name Albertine!The initial error in transcription is compounded whenthe telegram is delivered. The address on the envelope is sobadly written that the identity of the receiver is in doubt aswell:...le portier me remit une del:Ache que l'employedu telegraphe etait dêja venu trois fois pourm'apporter car a cause de l'inexactitude du nomdu destinataire (que je compris pourtant- 109 -travers les deformations des employes italiensetre le mien), on demandait un accuse dereception certifiant que le telegramme etait bienpour moi. (220)After seeing the signature on the telegram, Marcel, assumingthere has been some mistake, refuses to accept it: "Au matin jerendis la depeche au portier de l'hOtel en disant qu'on mel'avait remise par erreur et elle n'etait pas pour moi" (223).However, the porter himself refuses to take back the openedtelegram and Marcel pockets it, determined to deny that he everreceived it: "Je me promis de faire comme si je ne l'avaisjamais revue" (223).Reading the telegram is just as confusing as trying todecipher the address. Marcel has problems interpreting themessage not only because he assumes at the time that the messagecould be from Albertine but also because it is badly written,"un libelle de mots mal transmis" (220):Qu'en dehors de cela deux ou trois mots eussentete mal lus, pris les uns dans les autres(certains, d'ailleurs, m'avaient paruincomprehensibles), cela etait suffisant pourexpliquer les details de mon erreur...(235)With this telegram Proust creates multi-layers ofmisinterpretation: complications in the composition of thetelegram (Gilberte's illegible handwriting) cause errors in thetransmission of the message; a badly transcribed address causesconfusion in the reception; and the mistake in the identity of- 110 -the sender leads to a complete misunderstanding of the message.Given the series of almost unbelievable circumstancessurrounding this disastrous telegram, there is a total lack ofcommunication between the unintended correspondents: theresuscitated "Albertine" and the reluctant Marcel. By the timehe realizes the true identity of the sender and the significanceof her message, it is too late for any meaningful communicationbetween the real correspondents: Gilberte and Marcel.Ironically, the major significance of this telegram hasnothing to do with the original sender or her intended message.Time separates the reception and attribution of the telegramsince the recognition of the meaning of the intended messagefrom Gilberte—"parler mariage"—is deferred to a point in timewhere it loses any meaning it may have had originally since bythen Gilberte is already married to Saint-Loup. The lack ofcommunication between the correspondents acquires meaning onlybecause it forms the basis for what is effectively communicatedto Marcel through the misinterpretation of that message—thereality of his final indifference to Albertine. As in theletter to l'Americaine, the deceptive interplay between thesenders and the receivers again delivers the ultimate message tothe hero: the truth is communicated by error in time.What is noteworthy about this disturbing telegram isMarcel's reaction of complete indifference to the shockingnews—the supposedly real message that Albertine is still alive:"la nouvelle qu'elle etait vivante ne me causa pas la joie quej'aurais cru"(220). In his advanced stage of indifference oroubli, Marcel writes "Albertine ne ressuscitait nullement pourmoi avec son corps"(220). This telegram is not only a case ofmistaken identity: it is completely inopportune since it arrivesafter the death of Albertine but also after the death of love.While "Albertine" is reclaiming life, Marcel has accepted herdeath. The message that Marcel is so reluctant to receive marksthe end of the cycle of forgetting with his comment: "J'avaisdefinitivement cesse d'aimer Albertine"(222).As with most of the erroneous correspondence inAlbertine disparue, there are several messages connected withthis cable: the original intended message which is badlytransmitted; the second, unintended, false message from aresuscitated Albertine, that, in the end, has the mostsignificance for Marcel. Ironically, this meaningless andthoroughly deceptive telegram "delivers" the third and mostimportant message of the hero's life—the truth about Albertine.What makes this telegram the most important documentthat Marcel receives is not simply due to the fact that itteaches him one of the significant lessons of l'apprentis-sage—the role of error in the pursuit of truth. This misleadingmessage informs Marcel of the more practical aspects of hischosen métier and one of the essential elements of language,i.e., how the sign signifies. Marcel finally learns whatAlbertine represents for him. Opening this envelope does notgive Marcel access to the truth about Albertine's past. He does- 112 -not penetrate the infinite plurality of meaning that Albertinepotentially represents. But he does become aware of the realityand limitation of his ability to know Albertine, to know theother, to know that she can represent for him nothing more than"un faisceau de pensees":Maintenant qu'Albertine dans ma pensee ne vivait pluspour moi, la nouvelle qu'elle etait vivante ne mecausa pas la joie que j'aurais cru. Albertinen'avait ete pour moi qu'un faisceau de pensêes, elleavait survecu a sa mort materielle tant que cespensees vivaient en moi; en revanche maintenant queces pensees etaient mortes, Albertine ne ressuscitaitnullement pour moi avec son corps. (220)With this final cable, Marcel learns how languagesignifies for him. In effect, thought constructions, "lefaisceau de pensees," become more significant and prolific inthe production of meaning and, in that sense, more substantialthan the material world of the physical body—le corpsd'Albertine. The process of encoding signs, as Marcel describesit, is an internal process that needs little support from theoutside, physical world. Marcel had already learned from hisexperience with the Aline letters that his love for Albertine was"moins un amour pour elle qu'un amour en moi" (137):On aime sur un sourire, sur un regard, sur uneepaule. Cela suffit; alors dans les longues heuresd'esperance ou de tristesse, on fabrique unepersonne, on compose un caractere.(111)- 113 -With the Aim6 letters, although Albertine is dead, she continuesto generate signs as she continues to live on in Marcel'sthought; with the "Albertine" telegram, even though she isrevived, Albertine—"son corps"—is incapable of generating signs.The resuscitated Albertine finds an absence of any response inthe thoughts of the indifferent Marcel.With the Venetian cable, Albertine moves from the statusof absent referent to that of absent signified as the thoughtsthat supported her persona in Marcel's mind are dead. Marcel isleft simply with a neutral signifier—un nom, a noun, a word,absent of meaning. In Marcel's world, with the final separationof the signifier first from the referent, then from thesignified, i.e., with the disconnection of the word from realityand meaning, Albertine is truly dead. Effectively, for Marcel,Albertine is killed by language and not simply by un accident decheval.The production of meaning in Proustian terms is an innerreality all but divorced from the referential, material world ofan external reality that, in any event, remains elusive andunknowable. This situation creates a serious stumbling block tocommunication because so much of the content of the "faisceau depensees" is self-generated, fabricated personal associations.The narrator describes the basis of this dilemma:Nous n'avons de l'univers que des visions informes,fragment -6es et que nous completons par desassociations d'idees arbitraires, cr6atrices dedangereuses suggestions. (154)- 114 -In other words, so much of Marcel's so-called knowledge of theother person, of Albertine, is invented that communication withthat person becomes problematic and, in the final analysis,impossible. Clearly, communication is not a simple process inProust.Although problems of mistaken identity andmisinterpreted messages are most often responsible for the lackof communication between the sender and the receiver inAlbertine disparue, some letters received by Marcel minimize thecommunication due to timing: the letter or telegram arrives tooearly or too late or not at all to make an effective connectionbetween the correspondents. The so-called anachronistic lettersaccentuate the gulf that exists between the author and thereader of this type of correspondence. In one of theseinopportune letters where the identity of the receiver isunknown, no real connection is made between Marcel and themysterious admirer who sends a letter of congratulationsconcerning the publication of the hero's first article in LeFigaro:Je recus une autre lettre [44 L 169] que celle deMme Goupil, [43 L 169] mais le nom, Sautton, m'etaitinconnu. C'etait une ecriture populaire, un langagecharmant. Je fus navre de ne pouvoir decouvrir quim'avait ecrit. (170)The identity of the unknown admirer, Sautton, is not revealeduntil much later in Le Temps retrouvê as Theodore: "C'etait luiqui m'avait ecrit pour mon article du Figaro!' m'ecriai-je en- 115 -apprenant qu'il s'appelait Sautton"(7). Theodore, who was achildhood acquaintance of Marcel and Gilberte Swann, was"L'enfant de choeur de l'eglise de Combray...et it estmaintenant pharmacien a Meseglise"(269). However, thisrevelation is too late to have the same impact on Marcel that itwould have if he had known who had sent the letter when itarrived. The emotional intensity of the moment of his firstpublication has passed when he might have enjoyed the praise ofTheodore. Again, time plays a role in the relationship of thecorrespondents. A connection is finally made but in theseanachronistic letters, time separates the reception and theattribution of the letter and defers the effective communicationbetween the sender and the receiver. The letter is, in a sense,too early.The lack of communication so typical of the correspond-ence in Albertine disparue is epitomized by the letters that donot arrive at all. These absent letters often make as much ofan impression on the hero as those that are received. Forexample, the letters of congratulations that do not arrive afterthe publication of his article in Le Figaro have more effect onMarcel than the two letters he does receive from virtualstrangers: the unknown Sautton (44 L 169) and "l'une deMme Goupil, dame de Combray que je n'avais pas revue depuis tantd'annees et a qui, meme a Combray je n'avais pas trois foisadresse la parole" (43 L 169). The wished for letters fromadmired friends are painfully absent: Bloch "dont j'eusse tant- 116 -aime savoir ce qu'il pensait de mon article, ne m'ecrivait pas(45 L 170), and Bergotte, "un grand admirateur de mon article,qu'il n'avait pu lire sans envie...ne m'avait absolument rienecrit"(46 L 171). Marcel analyses Bergotte's humiliatingsilence:Je m'etais seulement demande s'il eet aline cetarticle, en craignant que non. A cette questionque je me posais, Mme de Forcheville m'avaitrepondu qu'il l'admirait infiniment, le trouvaitd'un grand ecrivain. Mais elle me l'avait ditpendant que je dormais: c'etait un rave. (171)This dream correspondence concerning Bergotte bears a noticeableresemblance to a letter from Proust's personal correspondence.In the letter to Mme de Noailles mentioned earlier, Proustdescribes a strikingly similar experience:Je m'endors, je rave que le plus grand poete detous les temps m'ecrit que je suis merveilleux,que j'ai du talent, je me reveille, je suis déjàimpatient de ne pas avoir la lettre de ce poetesublime.'Although there is no effective communication between thecorrespondents in these dream letters; they are a reflection ofthe unconscious desire of the receiver, in the absence of valuedletters of appreciation, to invent fictional letters of praisefrom respected admirers "qui n'ont pas de lendemain" (171).'°Correspondance de Marcel Proust, Tome V, 1905, 241- 117 -There is a whole subtext of correspondence in Albertinedisparue that consists of imagined letters. Fifteen of thesemake-believe letters—ten of which occur in Chapter I—concernAlbertine. Marcel's volatile emotional state after Albertine'sdeparture causes him to invent seven letters and telegramsinvolving Albertine in addition to the exchange of real letters.Marcel vacillates between wishing Albertine would not come back,"J'aurais voulu lui telegraphier de ne pas revenir" (5 T 30),and, conversely, imagining her return:On sonnait: c'est une lettre d'elle [8 L 33], c'estelle-meme peut-etre! Si je me sentais bien portantpas trop malheureux, je n'etais plus jaloux, jen'avais plus de griefs contre elle, j'aurais vouluvite la revoir, l'embrasser, passer gaiement toute mavie avec elle. Lui telegraphier: Venez vite(9 T 33).Should Albertine refuse to come back, Marcel cannot imaginehimself resisting the temptation to telegraph a last desperateappeal: "Revenez" (16 T 40). But, of course, Marcel does notsend these telegrams and Albertine does not send the letter.This make-believe correspondence does not bring Albertine back.Marcel's brief moment of hope is quickly followed by the painfulawareness of the Albertine's absence: "cette chose atroce:l'absence d'Albertine" (35).These imaginary letters, which are fictional au deuxiemedegre, accentuate the delusional nature of the powerfulemotional desire to recreate the "absent presence," "de- 118 -restituer la presence" as Rousset says," to make the.connection with the absent other. But, more importantly, thehero begins to move into the world of fiction-making with thisimaginary correspondence. The long letter Marcel imaginesreceiving from the dead Albertine is inspired by his strongemotional desire to restore her presence: "l'espoir incessant dela voir entrer" (94). Faute de mieux, faced with her permanentabsence, Marcel restores an imagined "presence." The herocreates a fictional Albertine:...me faisant penser maintenant que j'allais recevoirun mot d'Albertine m'apprenant qu'elle avait bien euun accident de cheval mais pour des raisonsromanesques (et comme en somme it est quelques foisarrive pour des personnages qu'on a cru longtempsmorts) elle n'avait pas voulu que j'apprisse qu'elleavait gueri et, maintenant repentante, demandaitvenir vivre pour toujours avec moi. (29 L 94)Of course, this "letter" is never received. It becomes part ofthe correspondence that Buisine refers to as "tragiquementabsente. H12The imagined letter is an expression of the emotionalneed of the hero to make a connection with the absent other,even to the extent of recreating that person as a fictionalbeing. If the interpretation of souls is the dream of the hero,separation is his experience. If the imaginary correspondenceattempts to break down the walls of separation in a fictional"Rousset, Forme et Signification, 78.'Alain Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, 77- 119 -sense, the real correspondence in Albertine disparue has justthe opposite effect. Generally, there is a complete lack ofcommunication between the senders and the receivers in the oftenineffective, erroneous, or ill-timed correspondence due to avariety of self-conceived errors or unintended deceptions madeby others.Certain untimely letters in Albertine disparue lead to acomplete breakdown, or rather a breaking off, of communicationbetween the correspondents. In the case of Marcel's lasttelegram to Albertine, there are tragic overtones:Je laissai toute fierte vis a vis d'Albertine, je luienvoyai un telegramme desespere lui demandant derevenir a n'importe quelles conditions, qu'elleferait tout ce qu'elle voudrait, que je demandaisseulement a l'embrasser une minute trois fois parsemaine avant qu'elle se couche. Et elle eat dit:"une fois seulement", que j'eusse accepte une fois.(22 T 58)Marcel has no hope of a response. The telegram arrives toolate; he is tragically unaware that Albertine had already diedbefore it was sent: "Mon telegramme venait de partir que j'enregus un"—the fateful telegram from Mme Bontemps telling him ofAlbertine's accidental death: "Mon pauvre ami, notre petiteAlbertine n'est plus..."(23 T 58).Albertine's two posthumous letters, the one acceptingMarcel's decision to have Andree move in with him (24 L 59) andthe second, probably written the same day, asking that if he hasnot written to Andree yet, "Consentiriez-vous a me reprendre?"- 120 -(25 L 60), leave Marcel unable to respond, for all communicationhas been cut off by death.The tragic criss-crossing of these last ill-timedletters and telegrams underscores the notion of separation inthe correspondence of Albertine disparue and accentuates thereality of the two solitudes: the sender and the receiver.Marcel's last telegram to Albertine with its pleading, solitaryvoice in a discontinued dialogue and Albertine's final appealsfrom the dead symbolize the inability of the correspondents tocommunicate, whether in life or in death.The analysis of these few letters received by Marcelillustrates the unavoidable separation of the correspondents andtheir message either by the intervention of fate or by whatseems inevitable errors both self-conceived or unwittinglyinflicted by others. The disconnected relationship between thesender and the receiver that is so characteristic of thecorrespondence in Albertine disparue produces a body of lettersthat are often misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted, or simplyout of sync with the emotions that they might have touched hadthey arrived at another time. A study of how these letters arereceived and interpreted reveals the decisive role that time anderror play in the process of reading, interpreting, or decodingthe text of a letter and how they affect the ability of thecorrespondents to communicate. The line of communication in thecorrespondence of Albertine disparue is, for the most part, notdirectly between the senders and the receivers or by implication- 121 -between the author and the reader or, taken further in language,between the word (Sa) and its meaning (Se). The connection isnot made through what is said or read, for, in reality, thepoint of contact lies somewhere between the "petits signesnoirs" and what they conjure up, usually in error, in the mindof the reader with "un faisceau de pensees."As we have seen, the notion of error can be perceived asa creative force in the correspondence of Albertine disparue.What Marcel "reads" upon receiving a letter is often a falseinterpretation of the original message which he invents, like analtered translation, through a screen of false premises,misguided assumptions, suspicions, or inappropriateassociations. The effect of this erroneous process of decodinga text is almost like sending a letter to yourself.Essentially, Marcel creates his own messages through error; inreading he becomes an author, recreating his own text—his ownmisinterpretation of the original letter.According to the narrator, "on devine en lisant, oncree." Error ends up by being a positive force in Albertinedisparue as it allows the process of decoding to be more fluidand creative. Marcel, as the reader of the correspondence, andthe implied reader of the novel in turn, are not anchored to onemeaning or a single interpretation. It allows the significanceor meaning of a text to float free from its moorings. Error andthe creative misinterpretation of the message turn the receiverinto an author of his own misguided fictions and, in a sense,the reader becomes a writer. By extension, the narrator- 122 -suggests that these erroneous interpretations have widerphilosophical implications about our inability to communicatedirectly at any level with reality.Combien de lettres lit dans un mot une personnedistraite et surtout prevenue, qui part de l'idee quela lettre est d'une certaine personne? Combien demots dans la phrase? On devine en lisant, on cree;tout part d'une erreur initiale; celles qui suivent(et ce n'est pas seulement dans la lecture deslettres et des telegrammes, pas seulement dans toutelecture), si extraordinaires qu'elles puissentparaitre a celui qui n'a pas le meme point de depart,sont toutes naturelles. Une bonne partie de ce quenous croyons, et jusque dans les conclusionsdernieres c'est ainsi, avec un entetement et unebonne foi egales, vient d'une premiere meprise surles premisses. (235)Letters and Language The quest of the aspiring writer in la Recherche hasbeen a search for the truth but his experience with language inthe reading and writing of letters in Albertine disparue hassent him on a long detour in the opposite direction, down thepath of lies, error, and deception—"un detour si long et sidouloureux" (223). Marcel's unique experience with letters inthis volume has shown that the path to the truth in Proust'snovel is not exclusively the quasi-mystical experience of the"memoire involontaire," "la voie courte" as Descombes callsit,' of instantaneous revelation. In the Albertine sequence,"Descombes, Proust, Philosophie du roman, 122.- 123 -the hero explores what Descombes refers to as "la voie longue"that involves the trials of unfulfilled love: suffering,separation, indifference, oubli—a dialectic process that takestime, like a Dantesque descent into hell through experiences ofdeception and error preceding the illumination of the Truth.The novelistic episodes like those in Albertine disparue—whereMarcel's involvement with a large corpus of letters leads him toa new perception of the truth and allows the hero time to becomeadept at the practice of interpreting signs—are, according toGilles Deleuze, more important than the involuntaryreminiscences and illuminations that Marcel experiencesthroughout the novel:L'essentiel dans la Recherche, ce n'est pas lamemoire et le temps, mais le signe et la verite.L'essentiel n'est pas de se souvenir, maisd'apprendre."Learning, however, is a slow process for Marcel. His bungledexperiences with correspondence could almost be consideredhumorous: if something can go wrong, it does. Marcel interceptsthe wrong mail, misinterprets his own mail, receives garbledmessages, and generally sends letters designed to deceive andconfuse to the people whom he most wants to impress. It doesnot seem to matter what Marcel reads or writes, he always "gets"the wrong message or, alternately, sends messages that create'Gilles Deleuze, Marcel Proust et les signes, 81.- 124 -the wrong response—a discouraging situation for a literaryapprentice searching for the truth.Language itself plays a passive role in this epistolarymuddle. It is subject to misinterpretation and misunderstandingand only acquires meaning through error. In fact, it appears onthe surface that Albertine disparue is solely about how languagemalfunctions. Language in the Proustian letter does notcommunicate anything directly for different reasons: either inwriting the letter when lies or misinformation are encoded or inreceiving the letter when errors of misunderstanding ormisinterpretation are decoded. The messages of the letters areobscure or immaterial since what they have to say.isinsignificant in the end.It was Marcel's wish to find an authentic language thattruthfully represented reality—words that signify with the samedirectness and authenticity as a blush:Les paroles elles-memes ne me renseignaient qu'à lacondition d'être interpretees a la fagon d'un affluxde sang a la figure d'une personne qui se trouble, ala fagon d'un silence subit. (La Prisonni6re, 80)However, during his literary journey with letters, Marcel onlyfinds words that conceal, confuse, deceive, trick, and entrap.Nevertheless, these very words attain quasi-mystical powersthat, in time, do inform Marcel of the truth. The mostdistinctive characteristic of the correspondence in Albertinedisparue is the notion that the words. themselves harbor theprophetic truth whether it is encoded in lies or decoded by- 125 -error. The power of the word is not considered in its usualsense, to denote or connote, but to reveal by inversion if notby perversion. The seemingly ineffectual correspondence inAlbertine disparue deals in knowledge by revelation. Withdeceptive letters, the author becomes the receiver of the truth,which is revealed in time through his own consciously deceptivewords. With erroneous corespondence, the reader of the lettersbecomes the author of his own misguided fictions throughmisinterpretations and errors that eventually lead to the truth.In this Alice-in-Wonderland upside down Proustian world, what isnot said is what is meant, and what is false becomes true.Although in this section of Proust's Recherche the herobecomes aware of the truth without the experience of "la memoireinvolontaire," the process is still, in some sense, involuntary.The truth comes unbidden through language-using words. ForMarcel, becoming aware of reality is still a mysteriousexperience but in this case it is a passive, receptive waitinggame involving time rather than the gratuitous and instantaneousrevelations of "la memoire involontaire" or the aggressive,acquisitive pursuit of the truth, objectively pursued, as in theexperience of "la memoire volontaire." The narrator experienceslanguage and the sign as ambiguous, expansive, and mysterious.There is a human, almost visceral quality about Proustianwords-living entities burdened with the truth: "ces petitstitres familiers, A la fois vivants et couches dans une especed'engourdissement sur le papier" (105).- 126 -Communication of the truth is insular or circulatingwithin the self in Proust's novel; the truth is self-generatingin a mysterious, creative way. It is not found "out there" tobe communicated from one to another since it lies within, "inhere." By implication, the truth cannot be told to someone inthe form of a transferable message whether in a letter or book:"...nous ne pouvons recevoir la verite de personne ... nousdevons la creer nous-meme..."" In this sense, thecorrespondence acts as a kind of raise en abyme of the wholequestion of (mis)representation in la Recherche. In theProustian scheme of things, the truth cannot be consciouslyencoded in language; consequently, by extension, the authorcannot communicate the truth to the reader. The narratorhimself questions the ability of authors, like Stendhal, whorecount someone's life story pretending to represent past eventsin an informed way:Combien nous voudrions quand nous aimons, c'est-&-dire quand l'existence d'une autre personne noussemble mysterieuse, trouver un tel narrateur informe!(131)Actually, the problem of communication becomes a centralissue in Albertine disparue. Speaking generally, whether theletters are studied from the point of view of encoding or fromthe point of view of decoding, both views underscore theprofound limitations of communication in Proustian terms.'Proust, "Journees de lecture" in Contre Sainte -Beuve, Paris:Gallimard (Pleiade), 1971, 171.- 127 -First, the information received is suspect and, second, theinterpretation of this information, or what is probablymisinformation, by a receiver who must translate the textthrough a screen of his or her assumptions, suspicions, or"premisses" (235), as the narrator calls them, defies thepossibility of the direct communication of any kind of truth or"hard information" about human relationships. The truth waits,hidden behind a tangled web of errors, misinterpretation, andlies. This causes the narrator to comment:...combien de fois sans le savoir, sans levouloir, nous les avions dites en des parolescrues sans doute mensongêres par nous maisauxquelles l'evenement avait donne apres coupleur valeur prophetique...Mensonges, erreurs, endecor de la realite profonde que nousn'apercevions pas, verite au-delA, verite de noscaracteres dont les lois essentielles nousechappaient et demandent le temps pour sereveler, verite de nos destins aussi. (89)The effect of the letters in general can be described inthe same way as the narrator describes the telegrams ofSaint-Loup in particular: "leur attente...inutile, leur resultatnul" (86). Albertine disparue describes a profound sense ofseparation and isolation on the part of the narrator, and theletters do not bridge the gap: "les liens entre un etre et nousn'existent que dans notre pensee...l'homme est l'etre qui nepeut sortir de soi, qui ne connait les autres qu'en soi et endisant le contraire, ment" (34).When the youthful Marcel imagines his mother reading hisfirst letter, he muses:- 128 -Maintenant je n'etais plus se-pare d'elle; lesbarrieres etaient tombees, un fil delicieux nousreunissait. (Swann, 30)With the devastating words from Frangoise, "Il n'y a pas dereponse" (Swann, 31), it was clear that no connection had beenmade. This early separation between sender and receiverpersists throughout the correspondence of Albertine disparue.The letters and telegrams do not connect the correspondents withan imaginary thread. Instead, the kinds of letters that arefound in Albertine disparue tend to break the lines ofcommunication: deceptive letters or lettres feintes thatconsciously hide true feelings and pass along false information;erroneous letters that are misread or misinterpreted due to themistaken identity of the sender or receiver; inopportune or ill-timed letters that arrive too late to be effective; and dreamedof or make-believe letters that never arrive. In effect, theencoding of misinformation is the hallmark of the letters inAlbertine disparue and in the process of decoding, error is thebyword. This situation represents in Buisine's terms acorrespondence "qui ne correspond pas. j1616Studying the body of letters in Albertine disparuereinforces the same profound sense of separation revealed by theanalysis of their form and context within the narrative. Thesequence of Albertine's departure, death, and ultimatedisappearance through oubli demonstrates that we are dealingwith a correspondence that does not correspond and a narrative'Buisine, Proust et ses lettres, 74- 129 -that does not tell a consistent story. The body of letterspresents a form that is partial, fragmented, and discontinuouswhile the text of these letters reveals a content that isdeceptive, complicated, confusing, and erroneous. The narrativetext, which is often repetitive and imprecise, represents adiagesis that is elliptical to the point of being inaccessibleto the reader.Given this disjointed state of affairs, the theme ofseparation has a more profound significance than the merereality of Albertine's physical departure or of Marcel's tripaway from Paris. There is disconnection or separation at everylevel in this volume of /a Recherche among elements that onemight consider "natural" pairs: hero/heroine, plot/story,narrative/diagesis, senders/receivers, medium/message,form/content, language/meaning, signifier/signified. On thephysical level the hero is separated from the heroine, theperennially absent referent; on the fictional level thenarrative does not correspond to the diagesis since Albertine isseparated from her "story." In the correspondence, the senderdoes not communicate with the receiver as one or the otherdisconnects from the intended message. The medium itself isoften confused with the message, and in deceptive correspondencethe form consciously misrepresents the intended content. On thelinguistic level, language is divorced from stable meaning—thesignifier from a single signified.One of the elements of these pairs is generally absentor misrepresented in a way that finally affects the kind of- 130 -fiction that is produced in Albertine disparue, which under thecircumstances can only be called a narrative of absence. Thelist of absentees is strategic in the Albertine sequence: thereferent is, of course, "l'etre absent" (104)—the fugitive bodyof Albertine literally disappears from Marcel's life even as heattempts, unsuccessfully, to restore the absent "presence"through writing letters and telegrams. The absent referent thenbecomes an empty signifier by degrees as she is separated fromher past or her "story" by virtue of a repetitive narrative textthat is unable to access an elusive diagesis that literallyself-destructs with the arrival of damaging letters from Aimethat destroy Marcel's memories of Albertine. As the memoriesfade other letters further confirm the advance stage ofindifference that Marcel has arrived at:Une lettre de mon coulissier [52 L 218] rouvrit uninstant pour moi les portes de la prison ou Albertineetait en moi vivante, mais si loin, si profond,qu'elle me restait inaccessible. (218)With the delivery of the Venetian telegram, Albertine no longerexists even as a signified—a source of meaning. The memorieshave died—the "faisceau de pensees" that represented andsupported the persona of Albertine in Marcel's mind: "cespensees etaient mortes" (220). The derealization of Albertineis symbolized in the words of Jean-Pierre Richard: "l'enveloppesignifiante reste neutre."" Albertine disappears from"Jean-Pierre Richard, Proust et le monde sensible, Seuil:Paris, 1974, 148.- 131 -Marcel's thoughts, from the correspondence, and from the novel,aided by the process of l'oubli " dont je commengais a sentir laforce et qui est un si puissant instrument d'adaptation a larealite parce qu'il detruit peu a peu en nous le passé survivantqui est en constante contradiction avec elle" (137). AsAlbertine retreats into neutrality, she becomes incapable ofgenerating signs:Mais au fur et a mesure que ces impressions etaientaffaiblies, l'immense champ d'impressions qu'ellescoloraient d'une teinte angoissante ou douce avaitrepris des tons neutres. (221)Ultimately, Albertine is unable to produce any associations forMarcel: "la femme qui l'inspire et qui est absente, remplaceepar un cygne inerte" (109). And her mystery, like the "mysterede tout etre," remains intact. For Marcel, Albertine has becomea signe inerte, a neutral signifier, absent of meaning withsimply the potential to generate new associations, newrelationships as a fictional presence in Marcel's livre a venir.For the moment, Albertine returns into the sealed envelope.- 132 -BIBLIOGRAPHYBarthes, Roland. Le Degre zero de l'ecriture. Paris: Seuil,1953, and 1972.Essais critiques. Paris: Seuil, 1964Beckett, Samuel. Proust. New York: Grove Press, 1931, and1970.Buisine, Alain. Proust et ses lettres. Lille: PressesUniversitaires de Lille, 1983.Butor, Michel. Repertoire II. Paris: Minuit, 1964.Daniel, Georges. Temps et mystification dans "A la recherche dutemps perdu." Paris: A.G. Nizet, 1963.Deleuze, Gilles. Marcel Proust et les signes. Paris: PressesUniversitaires de France, 1964.Descombes, Vincent. Proust, Philosophie du roman. Paris:Minuit, 1987.Genette, Gerard. Figures III. Paris: Seuil, 1972.Proust, Marcel. Chroniques. Paris: Gallimard, 1927.Contre Sainte-Beuve preceded by Pastiches et mélangesfollowed by Essais et articles. Paris: Gallimard(Pleiade), 1971.Correspondance de Marcel Proust. Tome V, 1905. Edited byPhilip Kolb. Paris: Plon, 1979.Marcel Proust - Gaston Gallimard, Correspondance1912-1922. Edited by Pascal Fouche. Paris: Gallimard,1989.8 vols. Paris: Gallimardla^du tempsA^recherche^perdu.(Folio),^1987-1990.3 vols. Paris: GallimardA la du tempsrecherche^perdu .(Pleiade),^1954.4 vols. Paris: Gallimardla^du tempsA^recherche^perdu .(Pleiade), 1987-1989.- 133 -Textes retrouvês. Edited by Philip Kolb and Larkin B.Price. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1968.Ricardou, Jean. Problemes du nouveau roman. Paris: Seuil,1967.Richard, Jean-Pierre. Proust et le monde sensible. Paris:Seuil, 1974.Rousset, Jean. Forme et signification. Paris: Jose Corti,1962.Steel, Gareth. Chronology and Time in "A la recherche du tempsperdu." Geneve: Droz, 1979.Tadie, Jean-Yves. Proust. Paris: Pierre Belfond, 1983.


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