Final quotes from The Fugitive
And I will move on to the last book of Proust’s profound work: Finding Time Again.
Now if I no longer believed in the innocence of Albertine, it was because I no longer felt the need or the passionate desire to do so. It is desire that engenders belief, and if we are not usually aware of this, it is beacuse most of the desires which engender belief – unlike the one which had made me believe that Albertine was innocent – die only when we do. Rather than accept all the evidence which corroborated with my original vision, I had stupidly preferred to believe Albertine’s bald affirmations. Why had I believed her? Lying is essential to humanity. It plays perhaps as great a part as the search for pleasure and is in fact driven by this search. We lie to protect our pleasure or our honour, if to divulge this pleasure would be contrary to our honour. We lie all our lives, above all, or perhaps even only, to those who love us. For in fact they alone make us fear for our pleasure and desire their esteem.
The city I saw before me was still Venice. Its personality and its name appeared to me as mendacious fictions that I no longer had the heart to relate to its stones. The palaces appeared reduced to their congruent parts and their portions of indifferent marble, and the waters to a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen, eternal and blind, anterior and exterior to Venice, ignorant of Turner and the Doges. And yet this unexceptional place was as alien as a place where you have just arrived, which does not yet know you, or a place that you have left and that has already forgotten you. There was nothing now that could tell it about me, nothing of mine that I could invest it with, it forced me to withdraw within myself, I was no more than a beating heart and a mind anxiously following the words of ‘O sole mio‘.
If I had asked her, she might have told me the truth, as might have Albertine, if she had come back to life. And indeed, does death not come between us and women whom we no longer love but meet again years later, just as if they were no longer of this world, since the fact that our love no longer exists makes of the women that they used to be, or the men that we were, dead people? Perhaps also she might not have remembered, or she might have lied. In any case I no longer saw any interest in finding out, since my heart had already changed more than Gilberte’s face. It no longer appealed to me, but the main thing was that I was no longer unhappy, and I could not have imagined, if I had thought of it again, that I could have been so unhappy to see Gilberte walking slowly side by side with another young man that I could have thought, ‘It’s all over, I refuse ever to see her again.’ Of the state of mind which, foe the whole of that far-off year, had been nothing but endless torture to me, nothing remained. For in this world where everything wears out, where everything perishes, there is one thing that collapses and is more completely destroyed than anything else, and leaves fewer traces than beauty itself: and that is grief.
—- Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time VI: The Fugitive