by Dennis Abrams
Swann understands that Odette does not love him. Swann returns to his study of Vermeer, and dreams of leaving the city in order to leave Odette. “But to leave Paris while Odette was there…was for him so cruel a plan that he was able to think about it constantly only because he knew he was resolved never to execute it.” “Sometimes he hoped she would die in an accident without suffering…” “And Swann felt very close in his heart to Mohammed II, whose portrait by Bellini he loved so much, who, realizing that he had fallen madly in love with one of his wives, stabbed her in order…to recover his independence of mind.” Swann receives an anonymous letter telling him that Odette had been the mistress of countless men, and of women, “and that she had frequented houses of ill repute.” Swann questions who among the men he knew was capable of sending such a letter. Swann doesn’t believe the letter “He knew very well as a general truth that people’s lives are full of contrasts, but for each person in particular he imagined the whole part of his life that he did not know as being identical to the part he knew.” Swann pushes Odette to tell him the truth,even lying himself to do so. Swann, remembering a simple statement of Odette’s made two years earlier, wonders whether she had a relationship with Mme. Verdurin. Odette, under pressure, confesses that she has had relations with other women, “…maybe a very long time ago, without realizing what I was doing, maybe two or three times.” Swann’s reaction: “The pain he was now experiencing resembled nothing he had imagined.” “…and he realized what madness had come over him when he had begun, on the evening when he had not found Odette at the Verdurins’, to want something that was impossible — to possess anotyher person.” His jealousy grows, even more so when he learns that one of Odette’s adventures with another woman was the night he had dinner with the Princesse de Laume. Odette makes further confessions, letting Swann know that the night that Swann was looking for her, she had been with Forcheville looking at his engravings. Swann’s memories of his happiness with Odette are destroyed — every moment, every thing she has told him is now under question.
A remarkable section, as Swann’s relationship with Odette makes a profound turn, as Odette’s slow revealing of her past and of her lies forces Swann to question everything. For me, this is the key passage:
“For what we believe to be our love, or our jealousy, is not one single passion, continuous and indivisible. They are composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, which are ephemeral but by their uninterrupted multitude give the impression of continuity, the illusion of unity.”
What are your thoughts on this? On Odette? Given what we along with Swann have learned, how have your feelings about Odette, Swann, their relationship, and the whole subject of love and our ability to know another person changed?
Davis: Page 386 “On certain evenings…” through Page 396 “…who was not my type!”
Moncrieff: Sorry I don’t have the page readings — I only brought the Davis translation with me. Continue from where you left off through the end of the section “Swann in Love.”