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Bergler, E. (1953). Proust and the “Torture-Theory” of Love. Am. Imago, 10(3):265-288.

(1953). American Imago, 10(3):265-288

Proust and the “Torture-Theory” of Love

Edmund Bergler, M.D.

We pick out in love only those who are capable of satisfying our senses and agonizing our hearts.

Marcel Proust

To go through a “Proust period” has become a prerequisite for the half-intelligentsia everywhere. What the poor readers get out of their wearisome period of indoctrination in Proust's modern classic is another matter. Officially, they dutifully admire; unofficially, they are bored. In general, they retain a vague feeling or impression, which might be characterized by the title of the fifteen-volume work, REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, an unprecise translation of the original title, A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU. The vague feeling is focused on one or more of the details used by Proust as significant vehicles for his recollections; perhaps on the triad: madeleine soaked in herb tea, two uneven paving stones, a starched napkin. These net gains from diligent reading march hand in hand with a certain element of self-reproach aroused by the book. “Too few recollections of my own,” one female patient complained. She had been looking through the window of my waiting room, and remarked, while walking into the appointment room, “If I were Proust, I could take that look at the park as my point of departure and tell you my whole past.” There was no irony in her statement; she made it with an air of deep regret, as though apologizing for her lack of “psychological refinement.”


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