Quotes from The Captive & The Fugitive

Marcel Proust ·  957 pages

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“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do [with great artists]; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star. ”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“From the sound of pattering raindrops I recaptured the scent of the lilacs at Combray; from the shifting of the sun's rays on the balcony the pigeons in the Champs-Elysées; from the muffling of sounds in the heat of the morning hours, the cool taste of cherries; the longing for Brittany or Venice from the noise of the wind and the return of Easter. Summer was at hand, the days were long, the weather was warm. It was the season when, early in the morning, pupils and teachers repair to the public gardens to prepare for the final examinations under the trees, seeking to extract the sole drop of coolness vouchsafed by a sky less ardent than in the midday heat but already as sterilely pure.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Our shadows, now parallel, now close together and joined, traced an exquisite pattern at our feet.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“People are not always very tolerant of the tears which they themselves have provoked.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive



“After a certain age our memories are so intertwined with one another that what we are thinking of, the book we are reading, scarcely matters any more. We have put something of ourselves everywhere, everything is fertile, everything is dangerous, and we can make discoveries no less precious than in Pascal's Pensées in an advertisement for soap.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“I wondered whether music might not be the unique example of what might have been - if the invention of language, the formation of words, the analysis of ideas had not intervened - the means of communication between souls.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Truth and life are very difficult to fathom, and I retained of them, without really having got to know them, an impression in which sadness was perhaps actually eclipsed by exhaustion.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Our love of life is only an old liaison of which we do not know how to rid ourselves. Its strength lies in its permanence. But death which severs it will cure us of the desire for immortality.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Her blue, almond-shaped eyes - now even more elongated - had altered in appearance; they were indeed of the same colour, but seemed to have passed into a liquid state. So much so that, when she closed them, it was as though a pair of curtains had been drawn to shut out a view of the sea.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive



“We exist only by virtue of what we possess, we possess only what is really present to us, and many of our memories, our moods, our ideas sail away on a voyage of their own until they are lost to sight! Then we can no longer take them into account in the total which is our personality. But they know of secret paths by which to return to us.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“At daybreak, my face still turned to the wall, and before I had seen above the big window-curtains what shade of colour the first streaks of light assumed, I could already tell what the weather was like. The first sounds from the street had told me, according to whether they came to my ears deadened and distorted by the moisture of the atmosphere or quivering like arrows in the resonant, empty expanses of a spacious, frosty, pure morning; as soon as I heard the rumble of the first tramcar, I could tell whether it was sodden with rain or setting forth into the blue.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“The only true voyage of discovery . . . would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“The lie, the perfect lie, about people we know, about the relations we have with them, about our motive for some action, formulated in totally different terms, the lie as to what we are, whom we love, what we feel with regard to people who love us … that lie is one of the few things in the world that can open windows for us on to what is new and unknown, that can awaken in us sleeping senses for the contemplation of universes that otherwise we should never have known.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“And in love, it is easier to relinquish a feeling than to give up a habit.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive



“But all of a sudden the scene changed; it was the memory, no longer of old impressions but of an old desire, only recently reawakened by the Fortuny gown in blue and gold, that spread before me another spring, a spring not leafy at all but on the contrary suddenly stripped of its trees and flowers by the name that I had just murmured to myself: “Venice”; a decanted springtime, which is reduced to its own essence and expresses the lengthening, the warming, the gradual unfolding of its days in the progressive fermentation, no longer, now, of an impure soil, but of a blue and virginal water, springlike without bud or blossom, which could answer the call of May only by the gleaming facets fashioned and polished by May, harmonising exactly with it in the radiant, unalterable nakedness of its dusky sapphire. Likewise, too, no more than the seasons to its flowerless creeks, do modern times bring any change to the Gothic city; I knew it, even if I could not imagine it, or rather, imagining it, this was what I longed for with the same desire which long ago, when I was a boy, in the very ardour of departure, had broken and robbed me of the strength to make the journey: to find myself face to face with my Venetian imaginings, to observe how that divided sea enclosed in its meanderings, like the sinuosities of the ocean stream, and urbane and refined civilization, but one that, isolated by their azure girdle, had evolved independently, had had its own schools of painting and architecture, to admire that fabulous garden of fruits and birds in coloured stone, flowering in the midst of the sea which kept it refreshed, lapped the base of the columns with its tide, and, like a somber azure gaze watching in the shadows, kept patches of light perpetually flickering on the bold relief of the capitals.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“By shutting her eyes, by losing consciousness, Albertine had stripped off, one after another, the different human personalities with which we had deceived me ever since the day when I had first made her acquaintance. She was animated now only by the unconscious life of plants, of trees, a life more different from my own, more alien, and yet one that belonged more to me. Her psonality was not constantly escaping, as when we talked, by the outlets of her unacknowledged thoughts and of her eyes. She had called back into herself everything of her that lay outside, had withdrawn, enclosed, reabsorbed herself into her body. In keeping her in front of my eyes, in my hands, I had an impression of possessing her entirely which I never had when she was awake. Her life was submitted to me, exhaled towards me its gentle breath.

I listened to this murmuring, mysterious emanation, soft as a sea breeze, magical as a gleam of moonlight, that was her sleep. So long as it lasted, I was free to dream about her and yet at the same time to look at her, and when that sleep grew deeper, to touch, to kiss her. What I felt then was a love as pure, as immaterial, as mysterious, as if I had been in the presence of those inanimate creatures which are the beauties of nature. And indeed, as soon as her sleep became at all deep, she ceased to be merely the plant that she had been; her sleep,on the margin of which I remained musing, with a fresh delight of which I never tired, which I could have gone on enjoying indefinitely, was to me a whole lanscape. Her sleep brought within my reach something as serene, as sensually delicious as those nights of full moon on the bay of Balbec, calm as a lake over which the branches barely stir, where, stretched out upon the stand, one could listen for hours on end to the surf breaking and receding.

On entering the room, I would remain standing in the doorway, not venturing to make a sound, and hearing none but that of her breath rising to expire upon her lips at regular intervals, like the reflux of the sea, but drowsier and softer. And at the moment when my ear absorbed that divine sound, I felt that there was condensed in it the whole person, the whole life of the charming captive outstretched there before my eyes. Carriages went rattling past in the street, but her brow remained as smooth and untroubled, her breath as light, reduced to the simple expulsion of the necessary quantity of air. Then, seeing that her sleep would not be disturbed, I would advance cautiously, sit down on the chair that stood by the bedside, then on the bed itself.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“When we have passed a certain age, the soul of the child that we were and the souls of the dead from whom we sprang come and shower upon us their riches and their spells, asking to be allowed to contribute to the new emotions which we feel and in which, erasing their former image, we recast them in an original creation.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Memory, instead of being a duplicate, always present before one's eyes, of the various events of one's life, is rather a void from which at odd moments a chance resemblance enables ones to resuscitate dead recollections, but even then, there are innumerable little details which have not fallen into that potential reservoir of memory, and which will remain for ever unverifiable.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Every woman feels that the greater her power over a man, the more impossible it is to leave him except by sudden flight: a fugitive precisely because a queen.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive



“We remember the truth because it has a name, is rooted in the past, but a makeshift lie is quickly forgotten.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“I could no longer desire physically without feeling a need for her, without suffering from her absence.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“I was so much in the habit of having Albertine with me, and now I suddenly saw a new aspect of Habit. Hitherto I had regarded it chiefly as an annihilating force which suppresses the originality and even the awareness of one's perceptions; now I saw it as a dread deity, so riveted to one's being, its insignificant face so incrusted in one's heart, that if it detaches itself, if it turns away from one, this deity that one had barely distinguished inflicts on one sufferings more terrible than any other and is then as cruel as death itself.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“Sometimes, on days when the weather was beyond redemption, mere residence in the house, situated in the midst of a steady and continuous rain, had all the gliding ease, the soothing silence, the interest of a sea voyage; another time, on a bright day, to lie still in bed was to let the lights and shadows play around me as round a tree trunk.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“...the mode by which he "heard" the universe and projected it far beyond himself. Perhaps it was in this, I said to Albertine, this unknown quality of a unique world which no other composer had ever yet revealed, that the most authentic proof of genius lies, even more than in the content of the work itself. "Even in literature?” Albertine inquired. “Even in literature.” And thinking again of the sameness of Vinteuil’s works, I explained to Albertine that the great men of letters have never created more than a single work, or rather have never done more than refract through various media an identical beauty which they bring into the world. “If it were not so late, my sweet,” I said to her, “I would show you this quality in all the writers whose works you read while I’m asleep, I would show you the same identity as in Vinteuil. These key-phrases, which you are beginning to recognise as I do, my little Albertine, the same in the sonata, in the septet, in the other works, would be, say for instance in Barbey dAurevilly, a hidden reality revealed by a physical sign, the physiological blush...”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive



“...her [Albertine's] intense and velvety gaze fastened itself, glued itself to the passer-by, so adhesive, so corrosive, that you felt that, in withdrawing, it must tear away the skin.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“For the possession of what we love is an even greater joy than love itself.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


“And it is perhaps one of the causes of our perpetual disappointments in love, this perpetual displacement whereby, in response to our expectation of the ideal person whom we love, each meeting provides us with a person in flesh and blood who yet contains so little trace of our dream.”
― Marcel Proust, quote from The Captive & The Fugitive


About the author

Marcel Proust
Born place: in Auteuil, France
Born date July 10, 1871
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