Friday, May 30, 2008

Notes on The Captive and Suspicion

I finished reading The Captive today. In this volume of In Search of Lost Time, Albertine has secretly moved in with Marcel--for it is here that the Narrator tentatively assigns himself the author's first name--who is holding her emotionally captive. He is jealous. He is obsessed with the idea that she desires women and, were it not for his intervention, would always be engaged in some tryst or other. He keeps tabs on her, interrogates her friends. Eventually he begins to detect, through various forms of non-verbal communication, that she feels like a prisoner in his house, though she repeatedly claims to be happy. He spends hundreds of pages describing the fluctuations in his affections for her. Indifference to the point of boredom on the one hand, to being in anguish at the thought of her leaving, or straying, on the other. He pedantically documents the lunacy that is his deepening jealousy, amid reflections on beauty, on the nature of love, and of lies, and of that jealousy.

Reading the book on the train yesterday, I found myself thinking, while in the middle of one of these digressions on love--love as possession, love almost defined by jealousy--that this is not what love is. Love is about, among other things, trust. Not without some exasperation, I thought that love doesn't have anything to do with jealousy, is in fact antithetical to it. Meditating on this for a bit, I then thought of Josipovici's On Trust. Not too deeply; I was just thinking of the title. Then I remembered the subtitle: Art and the Temptations of Suspicion. I've written a little here about the concept of trust as employed by Josipovici, but I haven't devoted much, if any, time to its opposite, suspicion. It occurs to me that in some way this volume of In Search of Lost Time explores the problems of suspicion. Throughout the novel, the Narrator finds that his experiences do not measure up with his anticipation of them. In a sense, this is part of the novel's "refusal to accept easily the comforts of the imagination", to borrow a phrase from Josipovici's Introduction to his earlier collection, The Mirror of Criticism (just received in the mail today!). Part of this refusal is the writer's suspicion of those novels that seek to provide such comforts, the sort of total novel that Proust, it seems, did not feel justified in writing. But the problem with suspicion is that, if carried to an extreme, it doesn't leave one with a way out, a way forward. In his ever-returning suspicion of Albertine, Marcel has tied himself in knots, all but locked himself up in his house, himself a captive to his own jealousy and fanciful, destructive notions of love. He keeps telling himself that he is indifferent to her, and then he learns something new, something which he always seems able to fit into his narrative of suspicion, and his need to control Albertine returns, each time with a vengeance, and he seems stuck. . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Does he tell himself he's indifferent, as in--trying to convince himself? Trying to make himself indifferent? Or is this more a confession of how he really feels about Albertine? I think the latter.

Marcel needs that state of imaginative excitement which jealousy and suspicion provide. Jealousy is a product of the same impulse that would, if Albertine were not there to absorb all his creative energy, bring him to write and put an end to his procrastination. Albertine's failure to satisfy him is in part her failure to live up to Marcel's imaginative expectation, which is also a failure of correspondence to what he remembers, what he made of that anticipation before they were lovers.