About this Recording
NA319012 - PROUST, M.: Remembrance of Things Past, Vol. 5: Captive (The): Part I (Abridged)

Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

The Captive, Part I


The Captive continues the story of the Narrator’s obsession with Albertine.

Having re-established his friendship with her during his second visit to Balbec, Marcel is tortured by fears regarding her sexual orientation. These fears have their origin in two incidents. The first was when Marcel, accompanied by Dr. Cottard, watched Albertine and her friend Andrée dancing together in the Casino and the doctor remarked on the intimate way the two girls were holding each other with their breasts touching, thereby alerting Marcel to the possibility that Albertine might be attracted to members of her own sex. However, he was ready to believe that the idea was due to his overheated imagination until Albertine innocently mentioned that her greatest friends were two older women, the daughter of the composer Vinteuil and her lesbian friend, whose private love-making Marcel had accidentally witnessed some years earlier at Combray.

From this moment he is determined to keep Albertine from satisfying her desire for women by whatever means necessary, even if it entails marrying her. On the spur of the moment he decides to take her back to Paris with him where, in the absence of his parents, he installs her in his family’s apartment and lavishes on her expensive gifts of jewelry and dresses. Albertine revels in such unaccustomed luxury, and in return tries to please him by granting him certain sexual favors. But Marcel’s jealous suspicions gradually turn her into a prisoner. He allows her to go nowhere without his permission, and gives the chauffeur he has engaged to drive her around Paris orders to keep constant watch on her. Although Albertine does not complain, Marcel is aware that by curtailing her freedom in this way he is making her more and more unhappy.

Marcel’s is a love, which can never be satisfied; as long as he feels secure in his possession of Albertine he is bored; it is only when he fears she is escaping that he feels an overwhelming yearning for her. The moment he suspects her of deceiving him, his passion instantly revives. Although her docile obedience has the effect of calming his fears, Albertine is given to lying to him, and each time he catches her out, his anguish returns. He realizes that even stronger than his wish to enjoy her himself is his determination to prevent her from being enjoyed by another.


Proust’s analysis of the pain caused by erotic love is unique. Not only does he display the observation of a scientist and the language of a poet, but also his insight is that of a psychologist. In linking the Narrator’s desire for Albertine’s nightly caresses with his need for the benediction of his mother’s goodnight kiss, Proust’s understanding of the psychological phenomenon of a continuing Oedipal struggle is clearly demonstrated. Marcel’s wish-fantasy of gaining complete possession of his mother’s love by interposing himself between her and his father is replayed again and again as he attempts to secure the undivided affection of Albertine in separating her from possible rivals.

In Remembrance of Things Past the line between fact and fiction is fine indeed. Although publicly Proust denied that he and the Narrator were the same person, in The Captive, for the first time anywhere in the work, he teasingly lets slip the Narrator’s name, which we are hardly surprised to learn is ‘Marcel’. Nowhere in the narrative is it more evident that the author is speaking from the depths of his own experience when he observes in the words of the Narrator; “Jealousy, which wears a bandage over its eyes, is not merely powerless to discover anything in the darkness which enshrouds it, it is also one of those torments where the task must be incessantly repeated, like that of the Danaïdes or Ixion.”


Marcel Proust


Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871. His father, a distinguished professor of medicine, was from a Catholic family, while his mother was Jewish.

Although intent on becoming a writer from an early age, Proust was riddled with self-doubt. During his twenties he co-founded a short-lived review, Le Banquet, contributed to La Revue Blanche and had his first book published, a collection of articles and essays entitled Les Plaisirs et les Jours.


He became an enthusiastic admirer of the work of Ruskin and translated his Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies into French. A novel, Jean Santeuil, which was the precursor of Remembrance of Things Past, was eventually abandoned and only published long after his death, in 1954.

For much of his youth he led the life of a man of fashion, frequenting fashionable Paris drawing rooms and literary salons, and these formed the background for a number of his stories and sketches, and subsequently of Remembrance of Things Past.


The death of his adored mother in 1905 resulted in a nervous collapse and aggravated his chronic asthma and insomnia. But despite his grief and the sense of loss from which he never recovered, his mother’s death freed him with regard to his homosexual emotional life and allowed him to address homosexuality in his writing, albeit in a manner which treated such experiences as happenings to others rather than to himself.


In 1907 he moved into an apartment in the Boulevard Haussmann where, in the bedroom which he had lined with cork to keep out noise, he embarked upon his great work A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past).


This long cycle of autobiographical novels was published in eight sections: Du Côté de Chez Swann  (Swann’s Way) in 1913; A L’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur (Within A Budding Grove) in 1918; Le Côté de Guermantes I (The Guermantes Way I) in 1920; Le Côté de Guermantes II and Sodome et Gomorrhe (Cities of the Plain I) in 1921; Sodome et Gomorrhe II in 1922; La Prisonnière (The Captive) in 1923; Albertine Disparue (The Sweet Cheat Gone) in 1925; Le Temps Retrouvé (Time Regained) in 1927.


Proust was obliged to publish Swann’s Way at his own expense, and even after

it had appeared, he had trouble finding a publisher for the next volume, A L’ Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur. However, when it appeared in 1918 it received considerable acclaim, and was awarded the Prix Goncourt the following year.


By the time Proust died on November 18, 1922, the first four parts of the

cycle had been published, leaving the others to appear posthumously. The English translations by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, from which this abridged audiobook version has been prepared, were published between 1922 and 1930.


In Remembrance of Things Past, the minuteness of Proust’s observation, the depth of his psychological understanding and the vividness of his descriptive powers have combined to create one of the most poetic and magical works in all literature.


Notes by Neville Jason


Neville Jason


Neville Jason trained at RADA where he was awarded the Diction Prize by Sir John Gielgud. He has worked with the English Stage Co., the Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as in films and musicals. Jason has appeared in popular television serials such as Maigret, Emergency Ward 10 and Dr. Who, as well as playing classical roles such as Orestes and Horatio. Formally a member of the BBC Radio Drama Co.,

he can be frequently heard on radio. Jason’s passion for Remembrance of Things Past comes alive in his adaptation and reading of the series, for which he has received worldwide praise.



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