Apples without Snakes: Proust’s Sapphic/Organic Rewritings of Eden

Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 44)


In this paper I propose a close reading of selected passages from Proust’s novel-sequence Remembrance of Things Past in which the Edenic model surfaces and creates lastingly resonant imagery, especially with reference to fragments of Sappho’s lyrical poetry which are woven into the complex thematics of the Proustian text in such a way as to suggest an alternative vision to the Biblical model of ‘paradise lost.’ Proust’s famous edict that ‘the true paradises are those which we have lost’ will be shown to evince a deeper sense of poignancy upon examination of the ‘mixing of memory and desire’ active in the creation of the character of Albertine. The young heroine’s ambiguous status in current Proust studies1 will also be considered with reference to the conflicting extant editions of the second-last volume of the novel, variously titled (in translation) The Sweet Cheat Gone, Lost Albertine, The Fugitive, etc. The principal focus of these editorial disputes concerns the various ‘deaths’ of Albertine, real, threatened or imagined; these disappearances also connect with the Sappho model, since as Joan DeJean2 and Elaine Marks3 have recently reminded us, Western authors since Ovid have frequently imagined legendary ‘deaths’ for the poet of Lesbos. I suggest that the Sappho model provides a key to the understanding of the character of Albertine and thus to Proust’s evocations of utopian desire. The ‘elemental passion of place’ evoked in the novel will be explored in relation to Albertine’s death ‘on the banks of the Vivonne’ in the new editions; this new development in Proust interpretation acts as a ‘unifying stroke’4 drawing together the constellations of poetic and thematic associations related to the ‘jeune fille en fleurs.’ Proust’s subtle poetic devices will be further explored with reference to the famous ‘hawthorn’ passage of Swann’s Way; which I intend to read as a rewriting of Sappho’s wedding celebration lyric, truly a celebration of “apples without snakes.”


Elemental Passion Romance Language Classical Antiquity Girl Friend Thematic Association 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baylor UniversityUSA

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