Short summary - In Search of Lost Time
Marcel Proust - Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
Marcel again visits Tansonville and takes long walks with Madame de Saint-Loup, and then goes to sleep before supper. Once, in a brief moment of awakening from sleep, it seems to him that the long-dead Albertina is lying next to him. Love was gone forever, but the memory of the body turned out to be stronger.
Marcel reads The Diary of the Goncourts, and his attention is drawn to the Record of an evening at the Verdurins. Under the pen of the Goncourts, they appear not as vulgar bourgeois, but as romantic aesthetes: their friend was the cleverest and highly educated doctor Kotard, and they affectionately called the great Elstir “Maestro Bish”. Marcel cannot hide his amazement, because it was these two who drove poor Swann into despair with their vulgar judgments. And he himself knew the Verdurins much better than the Goncourts, but he did not notice any merits in their cabin. Does this mean lack of observation? He wants to visit this "amazing clan" again. At the same time, he experiences agonizing doubts about his literary talent.
Aggravation of asthma forces Marcel to leave society. He is treated in a sanatorium and returns to Paris in 1916, in the midst of the war. In the Saint-Germain suburb, no one remembers the Dreyfus affair - all this happened in "prehistoric" times. Madame Verdurin has greatly strengthened her position in the world. The short-sighted Bloc, who was not threatened with mobilization, turned into an ardent nationalist, and Robert de Saint-Loup, who despised ostentatious patriotism, died in the very first months of the war. Marcel receives another letter from Gilberte: before she admitted that she fled to Tansonville out of fear of bombing, but now she says that she wanted to defend her castle with weapons in her hands. According to her, the Germans lost more than one hundred thousand people in the Battle of Mesegliz.
Baron de Charlus openly challenged the Saint-Germain suburb, defending Germany from adjustments, and the patriots immediately remembered that his mother was the Duchess of Bavaria. Madame Verdurin publicly declared that he was either an Austrian or a Prussian, and that his relative, the Queen of Naples, was an undoubted spy. The Baron remained true to his perverted habits, and Marcel witnesses a masochistic orgy in a hotel, bought by him in the name of his former vest Jupienne. Under the roar of falling German bombs, de Charlus prophesies to Paris the fate of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. Marcel recalls the deaths of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.
Marseille once again leaves for a sanatorium and returns to Paris after the end of the war. In the world he was not forgotten: he receives two invitations - from the princess de Guermantes and the actress Berma. Like all aristocratic Paris, he chooses the princess's salon. Berma is left alone in an empty living room: even her daughter and her son-in-law secretly leave the house, seeking protection from her happy and mediocre rival, Rachel. Marcel is convinced that time is a great destroyer. Heading towards the princess, he sees a completely decrepit Baron de Charlus: having survived an apoplectic stroke, he minces with great difficulty - Jupien leads him like a small child.
The title of Princess de Guermantes now belongs to Madame Verdurin. Widowed, she married the prince's cousin, and after his death, the prince himself, who had lost both his wife and his fortune. She managed to climb to the very top of the Saint-Germain suburb, and in her salon the "clan" is gathering again - but her herd of "faithful" is much larger. Marcel realizes that he himself has changed too. Young people treat him with emphasized deference, and the Duchess of Guermantes calls him "an old friend." The arrogant Oriana welcomes actresses and humiliates herself in front of Rachel, whom she once persecuted. It seems to Marcel that he was at a costume ball. How dramatically the suburb of Saint-Germain has changed! Everything here is mixed, as in a kaleidoscope, and only a few are unshakable: for example, the Duke of Guermantes, in his eighty-three years, is still hunting for women, and his last mistress was Odette, who seemed to “freeze” her beauty and looks younger than her own daughter. When a fat lady greets Marcel, he hardly recognizes Gilberte in her.
Marseille is going through a period of disillusionment - hopes of creating something significant in literature have died. But as soon as he stumbles over the uneven slabs of the yard, longing and anxiety disappear without a trace. He strains his memory, and he recalls the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice, where there were exactly the same uneven slabs. Combre and Venice have the ability to bring happiness, but it is pointless to return there in search of lost time. The dead past comes to life at the sight of Mademoiselle de Saint-Loup. In this girl, the daughter of Gilberte and Robert, two directions seem to be connected: Meseglise - after her grandfather, Guermantes - after her father. The first leads to Combra, and the second to Balbec, where Marseille would never have gone if Swann had not told him about the "Persian" church. And then he would not have met Saint-Loup and would not have ended up in the Saint-Germain suburb. And Albertine? After all, it was Swann who instilled in Marcel a love of Venteuil's music. If Marcel had not mentioned the composer's name in a conversation with Albertina, he would never have known that she was friends with his lesbian daughter. And then there would be no confinement, which ended with the flight and death of his beloved.
Realizing the essence of the planned work, Marcel is horrified: will he have enough time? Now he blesses his illness, although every walk to the Champs Elysees can be his last, as happened with his grandmother. How much energy was wasted on a scattered life in the light! And everything was decided on that unforgettable night when my mother renounced - it was then that the decline of will and health began. In the mansion of the Prince of Guermantes, Marseille clearly hears the steps of the parents accompanying the guest to the gate, and the rattling of the bell, which announces that Swann has finally left. Now mom will climb the stairs - this is the only starting point in unlimited Time.