One of the most sensational literary discoveries of the last year was the hitherto unknown first draft of La Fugitive
. In the final version, Albertine dies off-stage, and the precise circumstances of her passing are never known.
It transpires that Proust had originally planned a more explicit treatment. I am proud to present my translation of the following key passage from Volume 6, at the time provisionally entitled Albertine Tuée Par Les Crabes Géantes
Just as Françoise, on the days at Combray when she had agreed to prepare her incomparable asparagus for our delectation, would examine the delicately scaled green stems with her expert eye, keeping the messenger boy waiting until she found one that was broken, then, regretfully, as one professional to another, drawing his attention to the offending article, shaking her head at the unforgivable lowering of his standards but, a moment later, making amends by offering him, with her "crooked smile", a newly baked madeleine, still warm from her oven, Doctor Brichot drew back back the sheet, unhappy to be the person who revealed to me Albertine in her new and unfamiliar state, her frail body cleanly snapped in two by the crab's claws, so that her torso rested on one half of the folding table and her legs, still streaked with blood and pond-weed, on the other; and I suddenly thought of those vertiginous dislocations of space that I loved in Elstir's paintings, where the human body, separated into its component parts, appears spread across different areas of the canvas, so that at first the eye is unable to relate a face to an arm, seeing them as belonging to different people or simply as geometric patterns, but, a second later, led by the subtle harmony of colour and shade, resolving them into a single whole; and I realised that I had never as much appreciated the essential unity of Albertine's corporeal being as I did now, when I experienced it lifeless and disjointed, the removal of her spirit somehow heightening my understanding of [That's enough Proust - Ed.]