Proust seems to be very aware of the reader's role in "Swann's Way." As the narrator describes the way his mother read books, he says, "she breathed into this very common prose a sort of continuous emotional life" (43). Then a little later, the narrator explains idiosyncratic experience of someone watching a play. The "spectator" of the theater "looked as though into a stereoscope at a scene that was for him alone, though similar to the thousand others being looked at, each one for himself, by the rest of the audience" (75). The reader/spectator in both scenes has a unique interaction with the text/play that is intended for a multiple readings and viewings. I think this individuality is somehow connected to the themes of memory, imagination, and habit, which are all more or less the same it seems. The Combray section emphasizes the loss and "retrieval" of memory. The narrator admits that "the past preserves nothing of the past itself" (44). The collection or archive of the past is only a gesture to something lost. The archive itself is always present; it is always now. If this statement suggests Proust's work functions as an archive, then what do the statements regarding reader/viewer participation mean?
After stating that the past is left in the past, the narrator considers the "Celtic belief very reasonable" (44). Specifically, he agrees with the notion that "the souls of those we have lost are held captive in some inferior creature, in an animal, in a plant, in some inaninamte object [like a book perhaps]." And, these souls are "effectively lost" until we "come into possession of the object that is their prison." Here too, the "soul" of the past requires reader/viewer/user participation. Without this interaction, the past is always lost. The interaction itself, though, is like the "very common prose" or the theater. The interaction of the user makes it meaningful, but always detaches it from the past. I think Proust has compiled an archive in _The Search for Lost Time_ that intentionally foregrounds the present. The length of the "story" alone prevents any reader from remembering all of the "plot." Computers, however, can remember everything about the story. I'm interested in how digitizing Proust's work might possibly change or support the text. Even though a computer can store all the words, the user would still have to manipulate the text while searching or organizing, which, I think, Proust had in mind anyway.