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“It was Things Made Me Weep”

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Involuntary Memory in First Love

image of Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui

The narrator’s sudden access of inexplicable weeping in First Love can be read as a parodic rewriting of the famous “Les intermittences du cœur” section of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, which Beckett called “perhaps the greatest passage that Proust ever wrote.” Beckett’s restaging of involuntary memory emphatically rejects its potential as an entry point to “time regained”; instead, for Beckett’s narrator, neither the stimulus for the emotion nor the involuntary memory associated with it can be known, because they belong, not to the world of Beckett’s protagonist, but to the alien intertextual world of Proust’s novel.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in English, Australian National University, Canberra


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