Part 3: À la Recherche d'un Temps Passé
Vesper Lynds's grave is unadorned, consisting of a small granite cross inscribed with her name and the haunting acronym R.I.P. The dates of her birth and death are curiously missing, as if her short life is deprived of her sense of human time; that her personal history has been erased from the world. But her voice lives on, apparently, calling James Bond back to her grave again and again. As the inscription on the cross emphasizes, she is resting in peace, something that she never found in her short life, understandably, because she was trapped in the vicious world of spying, danger, and treachery. We could look upon her love affair with Bond as the only quantum of solace she found, although their romantic getaway near the end of Casino Royale isn't exactly brimming with joy. It's best not to carry out a romance while your fellow SMERSH agents are lurking in the background, planning to kill you. I imagine Bond looking at the granite cross: I suspect it was he who made the arrangements of Vesper's interment in the aftermath of the first novel. Each year, with the tranquility of a French seaside town in the air, he finds himself visiting the grave in homage to her and, as we gather, in a bid to search for his own peace—the joy and the promise of love in that bygone time with Vesper.
But doesn't the pilgrimage, along with his traditional drink at Royale—the Taittinger, his first champagne with Vesper—only serve as sorrowful reminders of things past? Put another way, in his annual pilgrimage, isn't Bond remembering Vesper not purely out of respect, but because a part of him loves her and wants the poignancy of the Royale adventure to have a concrete presence? The urge to resist impermanence, the search for something utterly gone in the fleeting reality of the present—this impulse lies at the center of all our struggles, and Fleming implies it through Bond's solitude and his commemoration of Vesper. Let us return to that hotel room in On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Bond sits at the window, looking “out across the promenade to the sea” and wondering “where he would have dinner” (21). He would dine alone with memories of Vesper. It seems the time they spent together still has meaning for him. Now, in roaming Royale-les-Eaux and visiting her grave, he is trying desperately to latch on to that period so as to rebuild a person who no longer exists. But a paradox emerges: memory doesn't bring back the vanished person—it only reinforces her absence. In Bond's remembrance, Vesper Lynd is only a bygone past that is receding, growing dimmer, and unattainable.
On the terrace of Domain Carneros, I filled my glass with more of the Taittinger champagne and remembered a passage from the novel, Bond's declaration of joy in simple things: “But when travelling abroad, generally by himself, meals were a welcome break in the day, something to look forward to, something to beak the tension of fast driving, with its risks taken or avoided” (21). To this end, the 007 lifestyle of fast cars and high living is nothing more than a rehash of carpe diem. That may be the meaning behind Bond's rapid drinking of the champagne in the room. The joy of devouring the champagne is, in a sense, a protective against the pain of impermanence, enabling Bond to affirm the very act of living.