Moncrieff: 240-253; Grieve: 176-185
by Dennis Abrams
Odette’s desire for a salon, and her envy of Mme Verdurin for “knowing how to ‘bring people together,’ how to ‘group,’ to ‘draw out,’ to ‘keep in the background,’ to act as a ‘connecting link.’” Mme Verdurin insults Odette’s neighborhood, insinuates her house might have rats, and tells her “‘You don’t know how to arrange chrysanthemums,’ she added as she prepared to leave the room, Mme Swann having risen to escort her. ‘They are Japanese flowers; you must arrange them the same way as the Japanese.’” Mme Cottard supports Mme Swann’s flower arranging skills, but only after Mme Verdurin is safely gone. Where do you buy your flowers? Mme Bontemps’ delight at being asked to go to the Verdurins,’ and her calculations as to how often she can and should go. Where do you get your sweets? How do you feel about large hats? Mme Swann insists she is not clever, and is just “an ordinary woman, very easily shocked, full of prejudices, living in my own little groove and dreadfully ignorant.” Mme Verdurin’s voice is scary. Mme Verdurin new house is to be lighted by electricity. Telephones. Mme Cottard: “Just fancy — the sister-in-law of a friend of mine has had the telephone installed in her house! She can order things from tradesmen without having to go out!” New Year’s Day, and its lack of letter from Gilberte, is painful for Marcel. “For me to cease to expect a reconciliation, it would have sufficed that I should have ceased to wish for one. “
Again, a marvelous section. Proust’s mastery of dialogue, of the attempts at wit among conspicuously people lacking in such, is, to my ear at least, pitch-perfect.
A couple of thoughts and favorite passages:
1. We learn from Mme Cottard that Mme Verdurin was much taken by Marcel, yet we’re given no examples of his conversation. Is Proust not giving us Marcel’s conversation, or is Mme Verdurin charmed by his silence and ability to listen?
2. “When we are in love, our love is too big a thing for us to be able altogether to contain it within ourselves. It radiates towards the loved one, finds there a surface which arrests it, forcing it to return to its starting-point, and it is this repercussion of our own feeling which we call the others feelings and which charms us more than on its outward journey because we do not recognize it as having originated in ourselves.”
If I’m reading this correctly, the love that we think someone feels for us is merely the “reflection” of our own feelings of love for them? Is that correct? What do you think?
And, an additional selection from Howard Moss’ book The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust on the thematic link between Odette and flowers:
“In Odette’s house after her marriage to Swann, ‘There was always beside her chair an immense bowl of crystal filled to the brim with Parma violets or with long white daisy-petals scattered upon the water…’ In the passage quoted [yesterday] there is one reference to water, ‘the big lake’, and, interestingly enough, in a scene that connects two important gardens together, we get the same brief juxtaposition of the floral and the marine. It is the scene in the Champs-Elysees where Marcel wrestles with Gilberte. He saw her first in Swann’s garden at Tansonville, where she beckoned to him from a distance by sketching ‘in the air an indelicate gesture’, one he assumes is a deliberate insult, but which, for him, has a definite sexual connotation. In the second garden, the Champs-Elysees, we come upon this passage:
‘I held her gripped between my legs like a young tree which I was trying to climb; and, in the middle of my gymnastics, when I was already out of breath with the muscular exercise and the heat of the game, I felt, as it were, a few drops of sweat wrung from me by the effort, my pleasure express itself in a form which I could not even pause to analyse…Perhaps she was dimly conscious that my game had had another object than that which I had avowed, but too dimply to have been able to see that I had attained it.’
It is immediately after this scene that Marcel has an involuntary memory. The mouldy smell of the urinal in the Champs-Elysees reminds him of his Uncle Adolphe’s room at Combray. The linnking of flowers and water — the Champs-Elysees and the water closet — of the later garden and the early one should not be lost upon us, for it is through Uncle Adolphe that Marcel first met Odette, and it is Odette who makes possible, both biologically and socially, Marcel’s relationship with Gilberte.”
Moncrieff: Page 253 “New Year’s Day went by…” through Page 265 :…”she would change her pose at once.”
Grieve: Page 185 “New Year’s Day chimed its hours…” through Page “…make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”