“One begins with the idea that duality must be transformed into unity, and that social relations must culminate in communion. This is the last vestige of a conception that identifies being with knowledge, that is, with the event through which the multiplicity of reality ends up referring to a single being and where, through the miracle of clarity, everything that encounters me exists as coming from me. It is the last vestige of idealism. The breakdown of communication is the breakdown of knowledge. One does not see that the success of knowledge would precisely abolish the proximity of the Other. A proximity that, far from meaning less than identification, precisely opens up the horizons of social existence, making the whole surplus of our experience of friendship and love burst forth, and introducing the definitive quality of our identical existence to all the non-definitive possibilities.
Marcel did not love Albertine, if love is a fusion with the Other, the ecstasy of one being over the perfections of the other, or the peace of possession. Tomorrow he will break with the young woman who bores him. He will make that journey he has been planning for so long. The account of Marcel’s love is doubled by confessions that are seemingly destined to put in question the very consistency of that love. But this non-love is precisely love, the struggle with what cannot be grasped (possession, that absence of Albertine), her presence.
Through this, the theme of solitude in Proust acquires a new meaning. Its occurrence lies in the way it turns back into communication. Its despair is an inexhaustible source of hope. This is a paradox in a civilization which, in spite of the progress made since the Eleatic philosophy still sees unity as the very apotheosis of being. But Proust’s most profound lesson, if poetry can contain lessons, consists in situating reality in a relation with something which for ever remains other, with the Other as absence and mystery, in rediscovering this relation in the very intimacy of the ‘I’, and in inaugurating a dialectic that breaks definitively with Parmenides.” —Emmanuel Levinas, The Other in Proust (translated by Sean Hand) (tnx fuckyeahphilosophy)