Davis: 146-158; Moncrieff: 201-216
by Dennis Abrams
Leonie realizes she will never again see Tansonville. Marcel’s attempts to get his parents to talk about the Swanns, to say their names. Hawthorns. M. Vieuntil’s daughter and her relationship with an older female friend becomes the talk of Combray. M. Vieuntil’s shame. Stepping out of the rain during rainy walks onto the porch of Saint-Andre-des Champs. The death of Aunt Leonie and Francoise’s grief. Marcel’s attempts to anger Francoise.
With the death of Leonie, we are at the end of the first part, or perhaps the first movement of Swann’s Way. For the first 150 pages of the book, Leonie, as Nabokov describes her, is the “center in the web from which radiants go to the garden, to the street, to the church, to the walks around Combray, and every now and then back to Aunt Leonie’s room.” But now, with her death, which rates just a casual mention, “…during the autumn in which we had to come to Combray to settle my aunt Leonie’s estate, because she had at last died…” Marcel’s world will begin to expand further and further away from his childhood paradise — the garden at Combray.
I’d like to expand on this for a moment, with several excerpts from the poet Howard Moss’ book, The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust.
“If, like a botanist, one were to search through Remembrance of Things Past for flowers, one would be surprised at the size of the bouquet. Swann’s way is a country of lilac and hawthorn; hawthorn, particularly, is to be the flower that reminds Marcel of Combray. Its pink exquisite version is found on the way to Swann’s house, and it is also a religious flower, whose white species not only decorates the church of Saint-Hillaire at Combray during festivals but ‘arranged upon the alter itself, inseparable from the mysteries in whose celebrations it was playing a part, it thrust in among the tapers and sacred vessels its rows of branches.”
“Just as the madeleine dipped in tea — a tiny garden image in itself, for the tea consists of lime blossoms steeped in water — is the magic potion from which all of Combray is to be released, so Aunt Leonie’s garden, so real originally, becomes that ideal ground, the perpetual springtime of childhood.
We have three gardens to begin with: the one attached to Aunt Leonie’s house; the hawthorn and lilac along the Meseglise way; and the water-lillies and violets that perfume the Vivonne along the Guermantes way. About each of these gardens, the three ‘families’ cluster: Marcel’s, Swann’s, and the Guermantes’s. They are all Combray, and around that magic land, that garden from which a child is expelled — in the same way that Adam was expelled from the garden of Eden, and for much the same reason — a universe began to expand, as magical in its embodiment as the genie escaping from the bottle.”
“Tiny as Aunt Leonie’s garden is, it includes a Gethsemane. Swann’s ringing of the garden gate bell — a sound which is to re-echo throughout all of Remberance of Things Past — carries the sound of doom to Marcel. It means he will be sent to bed early; his mother will forego his good-night kiss, that kiss upon which all his security and well-being depend…Watching Swann, his mother, and his father in the garden through his window, waiting for his mother to relieve him of his agony, he becomes a spy, the watcher whose beloved object is kept under surveillance until what he must irrationally possess becomes his. The full flowering of the implications of this incident is elaborated in his love for Albertine, five volumes lter, but here, at the very beginning, we have all the precipitating influences which will determine Marcel’s emotional life. Since there is no security in a possession based on anxiety, the act must be repeated over and over again. Love is not a choice but a desperate reassaurance, and the greatest power love has is the cessation of anxiety.”
Please share your thoughts and opinions regarding this, as well as anything else you’d like to say about the book so far. And again, to all lurkers, please don’t be shy — we want to know what you think!
Davis: page 158 “My walks that autumn were all the more pleasant..” through page 169 “…is the terrible and lasting form assumed by cruelty.”
Moncrieff: pge 217 “My walks, that autumn, were all the more delightful…” through page 233 “is the most terrible and lasting form of cruelty.”