Davis: 300-316; Moncrieff: 411-433
by Dennis Abrams
Swann attempts to keep Odette to himself, “to capture her through her self-love.” Odette’s lies are “an expedient of a particular order; and the only thing that could decide whether she ought to make use of it or confess the truth was a reason of a particular order too, the greater or lesser likelihood that Swann might discover the truth.” (Isn’t this the same logic behind a child’s lies as well?) Odette’s looks begin to fade. “But knowing that under the new chrysalis, what lived on was still Odette, still the same will, evanescent, elusive, and guileful, was enough to make Swann continue to put the same passion into trying to capture her.” Odette goes with the Verdurins to Pierrefonds. Swann arranges to go visit his friend, the Marquis de Forestelle, who lives in the vicinity, in the hope of seeing her without her thinking that he’s following her. Odette’s feelings for Swann are changing. “The fact was that she had not even thought of him. And occasions such as this when she forgot Swann’s very existence were more useful to Odette, did more to attach Swann to her, than all her coquetry. Because in this way Swann was kept in that state of painful agitation which had already been powerful enough to make his love blossom on the night when he had not found Odette at the Verdurins’ and had searched for her all evening.” Odette pointedly chooses Swann over Forcheville, at least for one evening. Odette asks for money to rent a house at Beyeruth in which to entertain the Verdurins for the season. Swann refuses in an angry letter, thinking that she’ll use it for a rendezvous with Forcheville, then thinks better of it, worried that it must have “brought him down from the high, the unique rank which by his goodness, his honesty, he had won in her esteem,” then goes further, thinking about how grateful and happy she would be if he gave her the money…”she would come running to him, happy, grateful, and he would have the joy of seeing her, a joy which he had not experienced for almost a week and which nothing could replace.”
A few thoughts:
1. It is interesting and I think important that on pages 306-307 in the Davis translation, the Narrator, for the first time, intrudes into the story of Swann and Odette. “And he did not have, as I had at Combray in my childhood, happy days during which to forget the sufferings that will return at night.” Why does the Narrator suddenly make his presence known here?
2. I love this analysis of Swann’s “condition,” which strikes me as remarkably true, and one of those moments when the reader slaps himself (or herself) in the forehead and asks “How does he know that?”
“Because as soon as Swann could picture her without horror, as soon as he once again saw kindness in her smile, and as soon as the desire to take her out of reach of all other men was not added by jealousy to his love, that love again became above all a predilection for the sensations that Odette’s person gave him, for the pleasure he took in admiring like a spectacle or questioning like a phenomenon the dawn of one of her glances, the evolution of one of her smiles, the emission of an intonation of her voice. And the pleasure, different from all the others, had ended by creating in him a need for that she alone could satisfy by her presence or her letters, a need almost as disinterested, almost as artistic, as perverse, as another need that characterized this new period in Swann’s life, in which the dryness, the depression of earlier years had been succeeded by a sort of spiritual superabundance, without his knowing to what he owed this unhoped-for enrichment of his inner life anymore than a person in delicate health who from a certain moment grows stronger, stouter, and seems for a time to be on the road to a complete recovery: that other need which was also developing apart from the real world was the need to hear, and to understand, music.
3. Love. Is Swann actually in love with Odette? In love with the idea of Odette? If she didn’t pull away, would he still be as interested? Is he in love with being in love and the feelings it gives him, like those of Vinteiuil’s “little phrase”? Does the real Odette even count in the equation?
Davis: Page 316 “Sometimes this was after several days…” through Page 328 “…nevertheless pained him like a betrayal.”
Moncrieff: Page 433 “Sometimes it would be after several days…” through Page 450 “…pained him as if her enjoyment of them had been an act of treachery.”