Home > 1920, 20th Century, Classics, Highly Recommended, Proust, Marcel > Time Regained by Marcel Proust – a conclusion and a beginning.

Time Regained by Marcel Proust – a conclusion and a beginning.

Time Regained by Marcel Proust (1927) Original French title: Le Temps retrouvé.

Time Regained is the last volume of In Search of Lost Time and it was published five years after Proust’s death. We’re lucky that Proust’s brother had them published.

I’ve now finished rereading In Search of Lost Time. It took me several years because I wandered away, lost time and yet always found my way back to it. I never forgot where I left the Narrator and resumed reading as if I had stopped the day before. Proust’s prose and narration is a drizzle, it pervades into your brain and your soul. It goes deep and stays with you on a long-term basis.

I first read Time Regained in my last year of high school. My memories of reading it were of a brilliant conclusion to In Search of Lost Time, the book where everything starts and ends in a coherent way, a volume that made the whole journey worth all the reading time I devoted to Proust.

My memories were accurate, if it even makes sense to apply this adjective to memories after all Proust has written about their fleetingness and inaccuracy. I have twenty-five pages of quotes from Time Regained, all worthy of attention. I’m not qualified to write an essay about Proust, an imperfect summary is all I can hope for.

This last volume has three parts all equally fascinating and for different reasons.

The first part is about Paris during WWI and how things were for Parisians and Proust’s circle. The Narrator is back to Paris after two years in the country, in a nursing home. From a historical standpoint, this part is very interesting. He pictures the political context of the time and the attitude of the various characters of his novel towards the Germans and how they express or broadcast their patriotism. The war time has rearranged the cards in his friends and acquaintances’s position in the world. He unveils what the characters are up to during these difficult times. Who became a journalist. Who is on the front. Who is an army deserter. What women do and what salons have become. Who works for the government. What happened to Combray, Méséglise and a little bridge on the Vivonne river. Who is a spy. How Françoise lives through this.

But people are people and life goes on. Thanks to Charlus, Jupien runs a brothel for homosexuals, which provides for the Baron’s enjoyment of sadomasochism and the Narrator witnesses it all. (Proust used to go to this kind of brothels himself, he even got arrested in one once).

After the Narrator updates us on what happened to several of the characters, he goes to a matinée hosted by the Princesse de Guermantes, the new one, since the prince has remarried.

When he arrives at their mansion, he stumbles upon a paved stone and Venice is brought back to his memory with the same force as Combray with the madeleine. He enters the mansion and has to stay in the library until the musicians whon are currently playing have finished their piece. Then he’s be allowed into the salon. This time in the Guermantes library is a revelation. Several details trigger his memory and his brain and his literary mission downs on him. His artistic pursuit is not a pipedream after all. He now knows what he will write, how he will write it. He’s on a mission.

This second part is a breathtaking explanation of how Proust conceived In Search of Lost Time. He explains his vision of art and what was the starting point of the work we’ve been reading. The conception of his artwork is laid out here, in the book itself, in a brilliant mise en abime. We read about the aim and the blueprints of his literary cathedral. And right there, in this library, he can’t wait to start writing it. Unsurprisingly, his epiphany has something to do with the perception of Time.

But before shutting himself up to write, in a hurry to ensure he has enough time to finish it before he dies, he has to attend the party. And this party is the ultimate place to meet all kind of people from the past. Some are only there through the remembrance of guests as they are dead. Most of the guests have suffered from the assault of Time. They are grey, old, senile, forgetful. The social order is askew or even upside down. And the Narrator observes them with his acute perception, seeing through them and pointing out the changes and the ridicules.

An era is dying. Time has taken his toll and the Narrator is going to bring them back, not in a realistic way but through is perception of them. He will take us from the beginning of the Third Republic to WWI and describe a milieu and an era. There will be political, social and mored matters. There will be no judgment, no question of sin and morality. He will dig into himself and analyze others to show the mechanisms of love, jealousy, grief, habits, imagination and oblivion.

It’ll be a lie. It’ll be non-linear and impressionistic. It’ll be human. It’ll be a masterpiece.

Henri Gervex (1852-1929). “Une soirée au Pré-Catelan”, 1909. (A l’extérieur, Anna Gould et Hélie de Talleyrand-Perigord. A l’intérieur, 1ère baie, à droite : Marquis de Dion. Baie au centre : Liane de Pougy. Baie à gauche : Santos-Dumont). Paris, musée Carnavalet.
  1. October 9, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Your love of Proust is a beacon which will one day lead me to read him, the whole lot. I’d better hurry, I’m getting old.


    • October 9, 2022 at 10:08 pm

      It’s never too late to start and how wonderful it is. You won’t regret it.


  2. October 9, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Ah, yes, what a beautiful conclusion to your odyssey with Proust. I need to reread him and this time all in the original.


    • October 9, 2022 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks. There’s more to come with Jours de lecture and Proust by Beckett.


  3. October 9, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    Lovely, Emma – you encourage me to get on with my reading of him!


    • October 9, 2022 at 10:09 pm

      Thank! I hope you resume reading him. It’s great.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. October 9, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Loved the review! I read In Search of Lost Time about twenty years ago; it took me most of a year to get through all the volumes (I did read other things in-between, but the focus and attention were on Proust). It was time that was incredibly well spent; some of the volumes I liked better than others but — what an enriching experience it was! I’ve actually thought about a re-read of, at the very least Swann’s Way, but put it off. Perhaps I’ll now be inspired by your enthusiasm!


    • October 9, 2022 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks! Do you remember the characters after all these years because I never forgot them.
      Swann’s Way is not my favorite, to be honest.


      • October 9, 2022 at 10:25 pm

        As I recall, my own favorite volume was The Guermantes Way. The ones I liked the least were The Prisoner and The Fugitive but . . . they were all great! As you say, the characters stay in the mind.


        • October 10, 2022 at 8:37 pm

          Same for me. I also liked In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flowers.


  5. October 10, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    Lovely review Emma. I found it so interesting that you could pick up where you left off as if there had been no gap at all. I definitely want to read Proust, I find the prospect a bit overwhelming but you’ve definitely encouraged me.


    • October 10, 2022 at 8:39 pm

      It’s really really worth reading. Swann’s Way isn’t my favorite, it gets better in the second volume. (I’m not too fond of tortured love)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. October 10, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    This was lovely, Emma, and your choice of painting is just perfect.


    • October 10, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks Lisa. Paintings by Gervex illustrate that time very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Vishy
    October 14, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    Beautiful love letter to In Search of Lost Time and Marcel Proust, Emma 😊 Inspired by your post, I hope to read atleast the first part this year. Thanks for sharing 😊


    • October 15, 2022 at 8:31 am

      Thanks Vishy! I hope I’ve convinced you to give Proust a try.


      • Vishy
        October 15, 2022 at 10:10 am

        Just took out the first part yesterday 😊 Hoping to get started soon. Thank you for inspiring me 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  8. October 21, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    I haven’t forgotten. My silence just means I’ve been reading the last three volumes in the past few months and now I’ve just finished them all! Thanks to you I got the heads up of this Nov. 18 being the 100th anniversary of Proust’s death. Thanks too because of your posts about Proust that I decided to finish read the book which I started in 2013! I’ll be gathering my thoughts, writing and posting about my reading journey of In Search of Lost Time at Ripple Effects in November. Again, thanks for the prodding, Emma. 🙂


    • October 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

      Many many thanks for this very lovely comment. That gives worth to all the time I devote to writing billets.
      I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about In Search of Lost Time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Milena Alien
    December 12, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    I tried to read them a few times, could never finish a single one of them. Maybe the original is better, who knows… I also tried to watch a movie, it bored me to death. Despite all this, I am going to try and do it because it’s classic. I also need to train myself to stay motivated haha


    • December 12, 2022 at 9:04 pm

      We cannot love all the books we read and we shouldn’t feel guilty when we don’t get along with a classic.
      The first volume isn’t my favorite one, I’m not too fond of tortured love stories. Same for The Prisoner.
      But the rest of the volumes are a rare combination of insight, society highlights, introspection and thoughts about Art.
      Plus, he’s funny.


  10. December 15, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    Congratulations! I read the whole of it in 2014-2015, but am mnore and more toying with the idea to do it again. To better capture the connections between all the books. I’m actually considering listening to them. Have you had this experience?


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