Many literary detectives have pored over a great puzzle concerning the writer Marcel Proust: what happened in 1909? How did Contre Saint-Beuve, an essay attacking the methods of the critic Saint Beuve, turn into the start of the novel Remembrance of Things Past? A recently published letter from Proust to the editor Vallette confirms that Fallois, the editor of the 1954 edition of Contre Saint-Beuve, made an essentially correct guess about the relationship of the essay to the novel. Fallois proposed that Proust had tried to begin a novel in 1908, abandoned it for what was to be a long demonstration of Saint-Beuve’s blindness to the real nature of great writing, found the essay giving rise to personal memories and fictional developments, and allowed these to take over in a steadily developing novel.
Draft passages in Proust’s 1909 notebooks indicate that the transition from essay to novel began in Contre Saint-Beuve, when Proust introduced several examples to show the powerful influence that involuntary memory exerts over the creative imagination. In effect, in trying to demonstrate that the imagination is more profound and less submissive to the intellect than Saint-Beuve assumed, Proust elicited vital memories of his own and, finding subtle connections between them, began to amass the material for Remembrance. By August, Proust was writing to Vallette, informing him of his intention to develop the material as a novel. Maurice Bardeche, in Marcel Proust, romancier, has shown the importance in the drafts of Remembrance of spontaneous and apparently random associations of Proust’s subconscious. As incidents and reflections occurred to Proust, he continually inserted new passages altering and expanding his narrative. But he found it difficult to control the drift of his inspiration. The very richness and complexity of the meaningful relationships that kept presenting and rearranging themselves on all levels, from abstract intelligence to profound dreamy feelings, made it difficult for Proust to set them out coherently. The beginning of control came when he saw how to connect the beginning and the end of his novel.
Intrigued by Proust’s claim that he had “begun and finished” Remembrance at the same time, Henri Bonnet discovered that parts of Remembrance’s last book were actually started in 1909. Already in that year, Proust had drafted descriptions of his novel’s characters in their old age that would appear in the final book of Remembrance, where the permanence of art is set against the ravages of time. The letter to Vallette, drafts of the essay and novel, and Bonnet’s researches establish in broad outline the process by which Proust generated his novel out of the ruins of his essay. But those of us who hoped, with Kolb, that Kolb’s newly published complete edition of Proust’s correspondence for 1909 would document the process in greater detail are disappointed. For until Proust was confident that he was at last in sight of a viable structure for Remembrance, he told few correspondents that he was producing anything more ambitious than Contre Saint-Beuve.
1. The passage is primarily concerned with
(A) the role of involuntary memory in Proust’s writing
(B) evidence concerning the genesis of Proust’s novel Remembrance of Things Past
(C) conflicting scholarly opinions about the value of studying the drafts of Remembrance of Things Past
(D) Proust’s correspondence and what it reveals about Remembrance of Things Past
(E) the influence of Saint-Beuve’s criticism on Proust’s novel Remembrance of Things Past
2. It can be inferred from the passage that all of the following are literary detectives who have tried, by means of either scholarship or criticism, to help solve the “great puzzle” mentioned in lines 1-2 EXCEPT:
3. According to the passage, in drafts of Contre Saint Beuve Proust set out to show that Saint-Beuve made which of the following mistakes as a critic?
I. Saint-Beuve made no effort to study the development of a novel through its drafts and revisions.
II. Saint-Beuve assigned too great a role in the creative process to a writer’s conscious intellect.
III. Saint-Beuve concentrated too much on plots and not enough on imagery and other elements of style.
(A) II only
(B) III only
(C) I and II only
(D) I and III only
(E) I, II, and III
4. Which of the following best states the author’s attitude toward the information that scholars have gathered about Proust’s writing in 1909?
(A) The author is disappointed that no new documents have come to light since Fallois’s speculations.
(B) The author is dissatisfied because there are too many gaps and inconsistencies in the drafts.
(C) The author is confident that Fallois’s 1954 guess has been proved largely correct, but regrets that still more detailed documentation concerning Proust’s transition from the essay to the novel has not emerged.
(D) The author is satisfied that Fallois’s judgment was largely correct, but feels that Proust’s early work in designing and writing the novel was probably far more deliberate than Fallois’s description of the process would suggest.
(E) The author is satisfied that the facts of Proust’s life in 1909 have been thoroughly established, but believes such documents as drafts and correspondence are only of limited value in a critical assessment of Proust’s writing.
5. The author of the passage implies that which of the following would be the LEAST useful source of information about Proust’s transition from working on Contre Saint-Beuve to having a viable structure for Remembrance of Things Past?
(A) Fallois’s comments in the 1954 edition of Contre Saint-Beuve
(B) Proust’s 1909 notebooks, including the drafts of Remembrance of Things Past
(C) Proust’s 1909 correspondence, excluding the letter to Vallette
(D) Bardeche’s Marcel Proust, romancier
(E) Bonnet’s researches concerning Proust’s drafts of the final book of Remembrance of Things Past
6. The passage offers information to answer which of the following questions?
(A) Precisely when in 1909 did Proust decide to abandon Contre Saint-Beuve?
(B) Precisely when in 1909 did Proust decide to connect the beginning and the end of Remembrance of Things Past?
(C) What was the subject of the novel that Proust attempted in 1908?
(D) What specific criticisms of Saint-Beuve appear, in fictional form, in Remembrance of Things Past?
(E) What is a theme concerning art that appears in the final book of Remembrance of Things Past?
7. Which of the following best describes the relationship between Contre Saint-Beuve and Remembrance of Things Past as it is explained in the passage?
(A) Immediately after abandoning Contre Saint-Beuve, at Vallette’s suggestion, Proust started Remembrance as a fictional demonstration that Saint-Beuve was wrong about the imagination.
(B) Immediately after abandoning Contre Saint-Beuve, at Vallette’s suggestion, Proust turned his attention to Remembrance, starting with incidents that had occurred to him while planning the essay.
(C) Despondent that he could not find a coherent structure for Contre Saint-Beuve, an essay about the role of memory in fiction, Proust began instead to write Remembrance, a novel devoted to important early memories.
(D) While developing his argument about the imagination in Contre Saint-Beuve, Proust described and began to link together personal memories that became a foundation for Remembrance.
(E) While developing his argument about memory and imagination in Contre Saint-Beuve, Proust created fictional characters to embody the abstract themes in his essay.