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Sheri writes in with this discussion of the afterlife from pp. 245-246 of Volume V. The Narrator is discussing Bergotte's death:

"He was dead. Dead for ever? Who can say? Certainly, experiments in spiritualism offer us no more proof than the dogmas of religion that the soul survives death. All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to begin over gain a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his worm-eaten body, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much skill and refinement by an artist destined to be for ever unknown and barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations, which have no sanction in our present life, seem to belong to a different world, a world based on kindness, scrupulousness, and self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one and which we leave in order to be born on this earth, before perhaps returning there to live once again beneath the sway of those unknown laws which we obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, not knowing whose hand had traced them there--those laws to which every profound work of the the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only--if then!--to fools. So that the idea that Bergotte was not dead for ever is by no means improbable" (ML, 245-246).

This seems an uncharacteristic piece of wishful thinking by the Narrator, to me. Doesn't it to you? Simply because we toil at projects, showing, on occasion, "kindness, scrupulousness and self-sacrifice, why should we therefore assume a "different world" with "unknown laws"? Isn't that a leap too far? I still think the idea that Bergotte is not dead forever remains highly improbable. So why does Proust have the Narrator speculate this way? Is he demonstrating the popular thinking of the day? Is it a slip into sentimentality because of Bergotte's special status as a fellow writer?

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