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Clark Lunberry (University of North Florida)
In his prescient, early study of Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett focuses upon several specific episodes in Remembrance of Things Past where the narrator Marcel abruptly sees before him time’s corrosive invasion. In one of the more poignant scenes described by Beckett, the young Marcel returns rapidly to Paris from his travels in order to be with his ailing grandmother. The day before, in Doncières, he had spoken with her on the telephone, hearing a voice almost unrecognizable, so different, Beckett writes, from the one “that he had been accustomed to follow on the open score of her face that he does not recognise it as hers.” Marcel arrives at his grandmother’s home and quietly, unannounced and unseen, enters the drawing-room where she is sitting alone, resting and reading. But, as Beckett states, the narrator suddenly feels “he is not there because she does not know that he is there. He is present at his own absence.” The domestic scene disrupted, the familiar sentiments disturbed, “His eye functions with the cruel precision of a camera [….] And he realises with horror that his grandmother is dead, long since and many times [….] This mad old woman, drowsing over her book, overburdened with years, flushed and coarse and vulgar, is a stranger whom he has never seen.”
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