Chapter I: Grieving and Forgetting, from "Of course these very short nights cannot last long...." to "...even the approach of death would not have disturbed."
_____The narrator's grief is so deep that he even anticipates how he will feel in the future:
And when I thought that I would once again see the start of the cold weather, which had always seemed so sad to me since the days of Gilberte and our games on the Champs-Élysées ... I told myself that the hardest period for me to get through would probably be the winter.(Notice here that his memory of Albertine is overlaid with his memories of Gilberte.) And indeed, he tells us how he did in fact feel at a future date, about the time when he sent Françoise to bring Albertine home from the Trocadéro, an event that in his immediate grief gives him pain:
I at last remembered it while no longer adding suffering to it, but on the contrary, rather as we remember certain summer days which we found too hot at the time, and where it is only after the event that we extract from their alloys the pure, hallmarked gold and the indelible lapis lazuli.Once again, the theme is memory, of events which leave us but "find secret ways of returning within us."
Many of the sentences in this section end with a sharp reminder: "...she was dead." "...for Albertine was dead." "...unbelievable that Albertine could be dead." For while he finds it "difficult to accept that Albertine, who was so alive within me, was dead," it's because his old suspicion and jealousy is also alive: "During her last few months I had kept her locked up in my house. But now in my imagination Albertine was free; she used this freedom ill, she prostituted herself to all and sundry."
In his morbid obsession with the things she had done while she was alive, he sends Aimé to Balbec to "make enquiries" about her. But soon afterward, "What now filled my heart, instead of suspicion and hatred, was the tender memory of hours of affectionate intimacy." Suffering, he observes, "is able to imbue the most insignificant things with charm and mystery."
One morning I thought that I glimpsed the oblong shape of a hill surrounded by mist, and felt the warmth of a cup of chocolate, while my heart was horribly wrung by the memory of the afternoon when Albertine had come to see me and when I had kissed her for the first time: it was because I had just heard the boiler gurgle as it was relit.He resents the fact that "Albertine was dead so young, while Brichot continued to dine with Mme Verdurin, who was still entertaining guests and would perhaps continue to do so for years to come!" And he feels guilt, a "great shame in surviving her."
In such moments, connecting my grandmother's death with that of Albertine, it seemed to me that my life was besmirched with a double murder for which only the cowardice of society could forgive me.And he returns to thoughts of Swann and Odette, which has been one of his touchstones in assessing relationships:
And finally I had experienced a happiness and an unhappiness which Swann had not known, precisely because, during all the time that he had loved Odette and had been so jealous of her, there were days when he had hardly seen her at all, since it was virtually impossible for him to go and call on her whenever she called off their appointment at the last moment. But afterwards he had had her to himself, as his wife, until he died. Whereas I, on the other hand, even while I was so jealous of Albertine, was happier than Swann, for I had her at home with me.... But ultimately I had not kept Albertine as he had kept Odette. She had fled, she had died.