‘Hélas, l’oiseau qui fuit ce qu’il croit l’esclavage.’ On the narrator as a murderer in Prévost and Proust

This article revolves around the depiction of love in À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–1927) by Marcel Proust (1871–1922) and Manon Lescaut (1731; 1753) by Abbé Prévost (1697–1763). In both novels the central love story ends tragically with the death of the beloved woman. In my article, I claim that these deaths appear as logically prepared in the texts. More specifically, I mean that the tragic fate of Prévost’s Manon and Proust’s Albertine can be read as a logical consequence of how the narrators choose to depict them. The narrators are also the lovers of these two women, and by analysing the two love stories, I reveal that Proust’s novel is in fact problematizing the ethics of storytelling, notably by exploring the close relations between language, ethics and power.

Keywords: Albertine, Manon, narration, ethics, love.