Fantaisies et paradoxes mathématiques by E.P. Northrop, J. Bodet (trad.)

By E.P. Northrop, J. Bodet (trad.)

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Albertine is the source of many Proustian metaphors, but by far the most constant representation of her is as an embodiment of the sea. The primary memory the Narrator has of Albertine is her first appearance on the beach at Balbec, pushing a bicycle while surrounded by other members of the little band. It is this vision of her that the Narrator always pursues. The gesture she makes the first time he sees her on the beach creates a visual memory capable of evoking the marine setting whenever she repeats the motion in a different locale.

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949) revived the design motifs on fabrics worn by figures depicted in the Venetian paintings of Carpaccio and Titian. The Narrator—one of whose great, unfulfilled dreams is to travel to Venice—finds in Albertine, clothed in a Fortuny gown, the living embodiment of the Italian city and the paintings of these old masters: “La robe de Fortuny que portait ce soir-là Albertine me semblait comme l’ombre tentatrice de cette invisible Venise” (III, 394). In spite of these rich, aesthetic trappings, he rejects the temptation to consider Albertine a work of art, as Swann did for Odette during her Botticelli phase.

4 In depicting the passantes, Proust combines naturalism for the origin of the species, wherein each girl embodies a unique species and is the product of a particular habitat, with impressionism, wherein each girl is seen outdoors in the light of a specific time and place. Just as the Impressionists depicted an entire series of railway stations, bridges, cathedrals, poplar trees, water lilies, and so forth, with each painting in the series reflecting the light of a particular moment, Proust gives us many versions of the major female characters as they appear at different times and in different surroundings.

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