The profound fascination of memory of past experience

and the double aspect of this fascination—^its irresistible

lure into the past with its promise of happiness and pleasure, and its threat to the kind of activity, planning, and

purposeful thought and behavior encouraged by modern

western civilization—^have attracted the thought of two men

in recent times who have made the most significant modern

contribution to the ancient questions posed by the Greek

myth: Sigmund Freud and Marcel Proust.

Both are aware of the antagonism inherent in memory,

the conflict between reviving the past and actively participating in the present life of society. Both illuminate the

nature of this conflict from different angles. Proust, the

poet of memory, is ready to renounce all that people usually

consider as active life, to renounce activity, enjoyment of

the present moment, concern with the future, friendship,

social intercourse, for the subUme happiness and profound

truth recaptured in the most elusive of all treasures that

man has hunted for, the “Remembrance of Things Past.”

He pursues this conflict between activity and memory into

its most subtle manifestations. He knows that, as the awakening dreamer may lose the memory of his dream when

he moves his limbs, opens his eyes, changes the position of

his body, so the slightest motion may endanger and dispel

the deep pleasure of the vision of the time in Combray,

recaptured by the flavor of the madeleine, or the image of

Venice conjured up by the sensation and the posture which

the unevenness of the pavement in the court of the Guermantes town house brought to him as the unevenness of

the pavement of San Marco had years ago


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