Moncrieff: 176-188; Grieve: 130-138
by Dennis Abrams
Bergotte’s influence on the younger generation of writers, “younger man who were beginning to repudiate him and disclaimed any intellectual affinity with him nevertheless displayed it willy-nilly…” Bergotte’s modesty regarding his own writing,”‘I think it’s more or less true, more or less accurate, it may be of some value perhaps’…and the same words which had served Bergotte as a superfluous excuse for the excellence of his early works became as it were as ineffective consolation to him for the mediocrity of the last.” As Marcel gets to know Bergotte, he begins to perceive the the similarities between the writer and the man. Bergotte’s willingness to defer and be kind to others in order to further his career. The space between Bergotte’s personal life and the morality exposed in his books. Marcel and Bergotte discuss La Berma in Phedre, and the physical aspects of her performance, conscious or not, taken from Greek and Archaic art, which only adds to Marcel’s reassessment of her performance. The difference between discussions with Bergotte and those with Norpois: “A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it. Partaking of the universal community of minds, it infiltrates, grafts itself on to, the mind of him who it refutes, among other contiguous ideas, with the aid of which, counter-attacking, he complements and corrects it; so that the final verdict is always to some extent the work of both parties to a discussion. It is to ideas which are not, strictly speaking, ideas at all, to ideas which, based on nothing, can find no word to say in answer. The arguements of M. de Norpois (in the matter of art) were unanswerable simply because they were devoid of reality.” Mme Swann speaks unkindly of Norpois. Swann, with his interest in ‘collecting scraps of real life’ defends him. Swann tells of Norpois’ long distance love affair and says, “Highly strung people ought always to love, as the lower orders say, ‘beneath’ them, so that their women have a material inducement to be at their disposal,” and immediately regrets it, realising that Marcel might apply that maxim to him and Odette.
Yesterday’s somewhat rough going opens up into a fascinating discussion of literature and morality. I was especially drawn to the case the narrator makes for moral literature being written by the most immoral artists. Most people I think, rightly or wrongly, confuse the author with his personal life. (Or any public figure with their personal life — politicians, athletes — the list goes on forever.)
“Just as in pathology certain conditions similar in appearance are due, some to an excess, others to an insufficiency of blood pressure, of glandular secretion and so forth, there may be vice arising from hypersensitiveness just as much as from the lack of it. Perhaps it is only in vicious lives that the problem of morality can arise in all its disquieting strength. And to this problem the artist offers a solution in the terms not of his own personal life but of what is for him his true life, a general, a literary solution. As the great Doctors of the Church began often, while remaining good, by experiencing the sins of all mankind, out of which they drew their own personal sanctity, so great artists often, while being wicked, make use of their vices in order to arrive at a conception of the moral law that is binding upon us all.”
I was also struck that the narrator goes on to remark that, even then, the public was becoming more and more fascinated and knowledgeable about the private lives of literary men.
And, finally, a passage that once again shows the powerful link between Swann and Marcel, as Swann, attempting to recover from his comments about lovers and the lower orders, “completed his thought in these words, words which were to assume later on in my memory the importance of a prophetic warning which I had not had the sense to heed: ‘The danger of that kind of love, however, is that the woman’s subjection calms the man’s jealousy for a time but also makes it more exacting. After a while he will force his mistress to live like one of prisoners whose cells are kept lighted day and night to prevent their escaping. And that generally ends in trouble.”
Moncrieff: Page 188 “Meanwhile Gilberte, who had twice been told…” through Page 200 “…I bowed my head in silence.”
Grieve: Page 138: “Gilberte, who had already been asked twice…” through Page 147 “…I quietly acquiesced.”