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Proust inachevé: le dossier ‘Albertine disparue’. By Nathalie Mauriac Dyer . ( Recherches proustiennes, 6). Paris, Champion, 2005. 405 pp. Hb €70.00.

Combining painstaking detective work with creative speculation, Nathalie Mauriac Dyer's study marks a bold engagement with the structural, thematic and editorial problems posed by the discovery, in 1986, of the Albertine disparue typescript. For Mauriac Dyer, this typescript, which Proust was revising just before his death, reveals the degree of structural incompletion that posthumous editors of Proust's novel have masked by creating a 'finished' seven-volume novel despite evidence that Proust envisaged a symmetrical eight-volume work. This study explores, in exhaustive detail, the wide-ranging implications of the typescript. More broadly, it challenges future editors to recognize the unresolved plurality of a novel whose legacy is now sufficiently strong to resist the threat of oblivion that early editors feared would be its fate were it not rendered unified and 'complete'. The study begins by charting the gradual development of the series, in four (or more) parts, that Proust planned, under the title Sodome et Gomorrhe I–IV, as the largest part of the second 'panel' in the diptych of illusion and revelation that would structure the novel (Swann, Guermantes/Sodome, Temps retrouvé). Drawing extensively on Proust's correspondence, Mauriac Dyer meticulously crashing sets out the chronology of revisions to both text and 'tomaison' and offers engaging hypotheses as to how the arrangement of volumes might have been further developed, had Proust survived, to enhance symmetries and tighten composition. This is followed by a detailed scrutiny of all of the work undertaken by Proust in 1922, notably his revisions to the thousand-odd pages that were to bear the title Sodome et Gomorrhe III (La Prisonnière, Albertine disparue) and a possible Sodome et Gomorrhe IV. The interplay of external and internal impulses, commercial and creative tensions, here allows for a fascinating reconstruction of the hesitations and volte-face that mark Proust's choice of titles and arrangement of volumes. The possibility of a proliferation of coexistent revisions is also opened up by such factors as Proust's near-concurrent editing of manuscript versions of the novel and the typed copies of these same manuscripts that were requested by Gallimard from [End Page 409] Sodome et Gomorrhe I onwards. Subsequent chapters address the literary interest of the 1986 typescript as an accessible source of authorial intentions that may contradict other avant-textes to reveal a succession of 'repentirs' and 'bifurcations' (p. 126). For instance, the version, dating from the war years, of the telegram announcing Albertine's death reveals an identical structural and narrative pattern of expectation followed by reversal to that found in the 1986 typescript, but an opposing outcome in terms of establishing Albertine's guilt or innocence. The co-existence of two mutually exclusive genetic stages destabilizes the text with which readers are most familiar today. The history of the posthumous volumes of Proust's novel is marked by a tension between completion and incompletion, stability and instability, unity and plurality. Mauriac Dyer's study, which is complemented by valuable annexes detailing many of Proust's revisions, persuasively calls for a validation of the latter in future editing and scholarship without proposing an effacement of the former.

Margaret Topping
Cardiff University

Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-10
Open Access
No
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