Even as a schoolboy Marcel Proust specialized in thoughts of loss and doubt, and in À la recherche du temps perdu, he puts these thoughts to a very particular kind of philosophical work: the cultivation of epistemological (and other) errors that are certainly errors but are in some sense not entirely wrong. A noise is misinterpreted, attributed to an incorrect source, but Proust’s narrator, while scrupulously revising the perception, allows his first take a sort of magical afterlife. This effect is subtly developed in the last volume of the novel, where the narrator completes the experiences of involuntary memory that ground his whole theory of regained time—and also has experiences that contradict the theory, that show time to be ever-elapsing, impossible to regain. He doesn’t endorse the contradiction, and he doesn’t give up his theory. But he doesn’t erase the contradiction either.

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