This essay discusses the literary genre of Proust's In Search of Lost Time as analogous with the genre peculiar to Dante's Commedia and Augustine's Confessions. Both Dante and Augustine narrate their autobiography in terms of a writerly vocation pursued by means of a love quest; both authors' success in the affirmation of their respective identity depends on the success of the love quest. Dante's case is especially relevant to this essay insofar as his poem instantiates his authorial identity as coincident with that of his fictional character. Augustine's confessions, however driven by a love quest, belong to the more conventionally autobiographic genre of the personal memoir. The fiction of the Commedia is that the biography of its fictional protagonist is the author's autobiography. The same principle, which challenges the narratological distinction among real author, implied author, and narrator, may be applied to Proust's novel. Marcel, the protagonist, crowns his literary vocation only at the end of a protracted love quest. His success in the love quest coincides with the end of the novel, and it is at this point that the distinction between fictional character and historical author loses its force. After Erich Auerbach on the Commedia, one can argue that Marcel and Marcel Proust come to coincide at the point of intersection of allegory and history; the fictional character is the allegory of the author's historical authenticity. Toward the end, Marcel-the-character, finally equipped with the means and determination to write the novel we have just read, metamorphoses into Proust-the-author: he is Proust's deliberate choice for his own autobiography.
Gian Balsamo; The Fiction of Marcel Proust's Autobiography. Poetics Today 1 December 2007; 28 (4): 573–606. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2007-008
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