by Dennis Abrams
Swann visits bordellos in the hope of learning more about Odette. Swann questions the blue-eyed girl. “What I’d like would be to find a man who would be a real friend to me: then he could be quite certain I’d never go with another man again.” “Really, do you think it’s possible for a woman to be touched that a man loves her, and never be unfaithful to him?” “Well, of course! But it would depend on her character, wouldn’t it now?” Odette goes on a year long sea trip with the Verduriuns. Mme. Cottard who had been on part of the trip, runs into Swann on an omnibus, and tells him that Odette had only spoke kindly about him and that even Mme. Verdurnin acknowledged Swann’s power over Odette. “I’m not saying Odette doesn’t care a great deal for us, but whatever we might say to her wouldn’t have much weight compared to what M. Swann might say.” Mme. Cottard’s words do much to cure Swann, and “hasten her tranformation into the Odette who was loved with a peaceful affection…” “But now to the weakening of his love there corresponded a simultaneous weakening of his desire to remain in love.” Swann’s jealousy fades, and “when Swann happened upon proof close at hand that Forcheville had been Odette’s loverf, he observed that he felt no pain, that his love was far away by now, and her was sorry not to have been warned of the moment when he was about to leave it behind forever.” Swann’s dream of Odette, Mme. Verdurin, Dr. Cottard, the painter, Marcel’s grandfather, the unidentified youg man in the fez, and Napoleon III.
There is, of course, only way to end our discussion of “Swann in Love,” except with the last line, one of the most famous lines in all of Proust. Swann is looking back at his dream, and reminded of his initial view of her, her “pale complexion her too thin cheeks, her drawn features, her tired eyes, everything which — in the course of the successive expression of tenderness had made of his long abiding love for Odette a long oblivion of the first image he had formed of her…” he exclaims to himself, “To think that I wasted years of my life, that I wanted to die, that I felt my deeper love, for a woman who did not appeal to me, who was not my type!”
No matter how many times I read this passage, I’m never sure if I should laugh or cry — sad or ridiculous — for me, at least, the balance between the two is perfectly balanced.
What do you think? How does Proust’s portrayal of Swann in Love, correspond with your own experiences or thoughts on the subject? Please, share.
We now leave the third person narration of “Swann in Love,” and move into the third and final part of Swann’s Way, “Place-Names: The Name,” which returns us to the first person narration of the first part, and back to the world of young Marcel.
Davis: Page 399 “Among the bedrooms whose images I summoned up…” through Page 410 “…but in this public garden nothing formed a part of my dreams.”