On Love after Death

Jupiter and Io

No doubt there was nothing extraordinary in the fact that Albertine’s death had so little altered my preoccupations. When one’s mistress is alive, a large proportion of the thoughts which form what one calls one’s love comes to one during the hours when she is not by one’s side. Thus one acquires the habit of having as the object of one’s musings an absent person, and one who, even if she remains absent for a few hours only, during those hours is no more than a memory. Hence death does not make any great difference. When Aimé returned, I asked him to go down to Châtellerault, and thus by virtue not only of my thoughts, my sorrows, the emotion caused me by a name connected, however remotely, with a certain person, but also of all my actions, the inquiries that I undertook, the use that I made of my money, all of which was devoted to the discovery of Albertine’s actions, I may say that throughout the whole of that year my life remained fully occupied with a love affair, a veritable liaison. And she who was its object was dead. It is often said that something may survive of a person after his death, if that person was an artist and put a little of himself into his work. It is perhaps in the same way that a sort of cutting taken from one person and grafted on to the heart of another continues to carry on its existence even when the person from whom it had been detached has perished.

Marcel Proust
In Search of Lost Time (1909-22)

Painting by Antonio Allegri da Correggio: Jupiter and Io (c. 1530)


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