_____Chapter III begins with an extended passage on some familiar themes in the novel: sleep, memory, and time. Exhausted from his visit to the Verdurins, the narrator can hardly stay awake as he's taken up to his room by an elevator operator who chatters on about his sister, who is the mistress of a rich man and who "never leaves a hotel without relieving herself in a wardrobe or a chest of drawers, so as to leave a small memento for the chambermaid who'll have to clean it up." He seems inordinately proud of this.
The narrator observes that in dreams there are two kinds of time, but then narrows it to "only one, not because that of the waking man holds good for the sleeper, but perhaps because the other life, that in which we sleep is not -- in its profound part -- subject to the category of time.... On these mornings (which is what makes me say that sleep perhaps knows nothing of the law of time), my attempt to wake up consisted above all in an attempt to introduce the obscure, undefined block of sleep that I had just been living into the framework of time."
As for memory, the narrator comments on "the great Norwegian philosopher" he had met at the Verdurins and his endorsement of Bergson's theory that "We possess all our memories, if not the faculty of recalling them." The narrator (or the Norwegian philosopher -- Proust doesn't quite make it clear) objects,
But what is a memory that we cannot recall? Or let us go further. We do not recall our memories of the last thirty years, but we are totally steeped in them; why, then, stop at thirty years, why not continue this previous existence back before our birth?... If I can have, in me and around me, so many memories that I do not remember, this oblivion (a de facto oblivion at least, since I do not hae the faculty of seeing anything) may apply to a life that I have lied in the body of another man, or even on another planet.... The person that I shall be after death has no more reason to remember the man that I have been since my birth than this latter remembers what I was before it.The arrival of the valet de chambre interrupts these metaphysical speculations, and the narrator's thoughts turn to Charlus, about whom he had dreamed that he "was 110 years old and had just twice slapped him mother, Mme Verdurin, in the face for spending five billion on a bunch of violets." Charlus had recently dined in a private room at the hotel with "none other than the footman of a cousin of the Cambremers." All of the servants at the hotel, even Françoise, had recognized the footman, but his "playacting" had fooled the guests. The occasion allowed the narrator to identify Charlus to Aimé, who was surprised to learn his identity. The narrator learns that Charlus had been smitten with Aimé and had written him a long letter commenting, among other things, on his resemblance to a dead friend of Charlus's. The narrator speculates that Charlus's relationship with Morel is "perhaps Platonic," leading the Baron to "now and again seek out company for an evening such as that in which I had just met him in the hall."