Moncrieff: 188-200; Grieve: 138-147
by Dennis Abrams
Gilberte’s likeness to both M. Swann and Mme Swann. Gilberte gets the same look in here eyes as Odette did when she was lying. The two natures of Gilberte. “Indeed, the disparity was at times so great between the two Gilbertes that you asked yourself though without finding an answer, what on earth you could have said or done to her to find her now so different.” M. Swann’s love for his daughter. “Swann was one of those men who, having lived for a long time amid the illusions of love, have seen the blessings they have brought to a number of women increase the happiness of those women without exciting in them any gratitude, any tenderness towards their benefactors, but who believe that in their children they can feel an affection which, being incarnate in their own name, will enable them to survive after their death. When there would no longer be any Charles Swann, there would be a Mlle Swann, or a Mme X, nee Swann, who would continue to love the vanished father.” Swann acknowledges to Marcel that “Upon my soul, your presence among us does raise the tone of the conversation!” Marcel rides home with Bergotte, who tells him that “Our friends were telling me that you had been ill. I’m very sorry. And yet, after all, I’m not to sorry, because I can see quite well that you are able to enjoy the pleasures of the mind, and they are probably what means most to you, as to everyone who has known them.” Marcel doubts Bergotte’s words, “Alas, how little I felt that what he was saying applied to me, whom all reasoning, however exalted it might be, left cold, who was happy only in moments of pure idleness, when I was comfortable and well. I felt how purely material was everything I desired in life, and how easily I could dispense with the intellect…I thought, when the moment came to answer him, that I should have liked an existence in which I was on intimate terms with the Duchesse de Guermantes and often came across, as in the old toll-house in the Champs-Elysees, a fusty coolness that would remind me of Combray.” Marcel tells Bergotte “No, Monsieur, the pleasures of the mind count for very little with me; it is not them that I seek after; indeed I don’t even know that I have ever tasted them.” Bergotte calls Dr. Cottard “an imbecile” and tells Marcel that “People like you must have suitable doctors…Cottard will bore you, and that alone will prevent the treatment from having any effect.” Bergotte comments that Swann is becoming ill. “Well, don’t you see, he’s typical of the man who has married a whore, and has to pocket a dozen insults a day from women who refuse to meet his wife or men who have slept with her. Just look, one day when you’re there, at the way he lifts his eyebrows when he comes in, to see who’s in the room.”
Two brief observations:
1. I’m struck by Marcel’s wish for an existence “in which [he] was on intimate terms with the Duchesse de Guermantes and often came across, as in the old toll-house in the Champs-Elysees, a fusty coolness that would remind me of Combray.” Torn between “the Guermantes Way,” society, and the musty smell of the restroom in the Champs-Elysees, which reminds him of his childhood in Combray, and brings him a happiness that he still does not understand.
2. And, something that I should have mentioned several posts ago. Back on page 116 of the Moncrieff translation (page 86 of Grieve) we had our first mention, our first glimpse of Albertine, who will, in due time, become one of the book’s major characters. The scene is the one when M. Swann comes home to find Mme. Swann’s “at home” still going on, as he talks to Gilberte and Marcel about Odette’s visitors and the Chief Secretary to the Ministry of Public Works, to which Gilberte replies,
“He’s the uncle of a girl who used to come to my lessons, in a class a long way below mine, the famous ‘Albertine.’ She’s certain to be dreadfully ‘fast’ when she’s older, but meanwhile she’s an odd fish.”
Albertine, therefore, is the niece of Mme. Bontemps, who, pleased and satisfied that the Swann’s had invited them to meet the Duchesse de Vendome at an intimate dinner, was infuriated to learn that the Cottards had also been invited to the same dinner.
3. And finally, I highly recommend Itzhak Perlman’s recording of Franck’s Sonata for Piano and Violin. Whether or not it’s one of the pieces that Proust based Vinteuil’s sonata, it’s a beautiful piece of music to listen to while reading In Search of Lost Time.
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 200 “Men of letters who were in my eyes…” through Page 228 “…stood out more distinct and more explicit.”
Grieve: Page 147 “Literary people who to me…” through Page 167 “…against the background of silence laid down by the rubber-rimmed wheels.”