The “Mademoiselle de Forcheville” section of The Fugitive starts out funny, which is refreshing: our narrator’s doing his usual thing of walking around looking at girls, he sees a group of three and tries to follow them but fails when they get in a carriage. But then, joy of joys, he sees them leaving his courtyard a few days later. One smiles at him and his heart is aflutter. He asks the concierge who they are, and learns the name of the girl who smiled at him, which is, he thinks, the same name as a girl who Saint-Loup mentioned to him: it must be the same girl, and Saint-Loup had said that this girl was the sort of girl with whom one could do naughty things (and Saint-Loup, indeed, said he himself had done naughty things with her). Our narrator eagerly sets about planning to meet the girl in two more days, when she’ll be visiting the Duchesse de Guermantes again, and meanwhile telegraphs Saint-Loup just to be sure it is the same girl, though he’s certain it must be. Saint-Loup’s telegram, though, tells him the contrary: the girl’s name was something similar, not identical; this isn’t that girl at all.

Luckily, our narrator is distracted from this by the arrival of his mother in his room with the newspapers: the article he sent to the Figaro has finally appeared. This feels like adulthood, like agency: just page before, the narrator had been talking about how much freer he felt than when he was younger, how he can go out on his own to send a telegram to Saint-Loup to ask about a girl, how different this is from his youth, when he couldn’t do anything but sit in his room and pine over Gilberte. At the same time, though, maybe things haven’t changed that much: we soon learn that Mlle de Forcheville is Gilberte, who has taken her stepfather’s last name. So he’s had an article published, and he can walk himself to the telegraph office, but he’s still daydreaming over the same girl.

Meanwhile, time passes, and the narrator keeps on forgetting Albertine: he talks about how the self he was when he loved her has, almost without his noticing, been replaced by the next self in line. Before, he talked about how Albertine’s death was a shock to him over and over, how with each new task he did, he had to introduce the fact of her death to a new self, since as we go about our days, we’re often different selves when in different company, or when doing different chores. Now, all those selves know that Albertine’s gone, and, indeed, all have grown used to life without her, so he’s not too bothered when he finally gets an admission from Andrée that she and Albertine were lovers, or even when he learns a twist beyond that, something he hadn’t suspected at all. Still, he can’t be sure whether Andrée is lying to him now or was lying to him before when she denied that she and Albertine ever did anything together; he goes back and forth and basically concludes, wisely, that he can’t know Albertine’s motivations, which may at any rate have been multiple.

(All page numbers are from the Modern Library paperback edition of The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright)

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