Although it is, in principle, almost universally accepted today that authors and narrators must be rigorously demarcated, somehow scholars of Marcel Proust seem—whether wittingly or unwittingly—to make an exception for In Search of Lost me. Because it is written in the first person and because it incorporates scenes borrowed from Proust's own life, the fictional narrative is routinely read as his thinly veiled autobiography, if not as evidence for any number of psychiatric disorders. At the very least, critics tend to have no hesitation in taking theses put forward by the narrator as Proust's own vision of the world and the narrator's future masterpiece as the Search itself. Now these are not only mistakes, as evidence both internal and external clearly shows, but alsoconsequential mistakes: they prevent us, that is, from understanding how the novel functions and from taking advantage of all it has to offer. For above and beyond the dry, theoretical insights it presents for our consideration, it grants us the opportunity to train ourselves, both in the complicated art of self-fashioning and in the related art of self-deception. And it is only because the narrator's insights do not entirely add up—a weakness, so long as one treats the Search as a treatise—that the implied author can produce the training effect, one which gives his novel its ultimate strength.

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