Moncrieff: 200-228, Grieve: 147-167
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel’s parents’ disapproval of Swann introducing their son to Bergotte, which turns to pleasure when they learn that Bergotte told the Swanns that he had found Marcel extremely intelligent. “And then, too, a great deal ought to be forgiven Bergotte since he thinks well of my little son.” The “little son” is introduced by his friend Bloch to his first brothel, which “opened for me fresh possibilities of happiness (which as it happened, were to change later on into possibilites of suffering) by assuring me that, contrary to all that I had believed at the time of my walks along the Meseglise way, women never asked for anything better than to make love.” The mistress of the “house” attempts to arouse Marcel’s interest in Rachel, “She’s Jewish. How about that…Think of that, my boy, a Jewess! Wouldn’t that be thrilling? Rrr!” In order to have more money to buy flowers for Mme Swann, Marcel sells some of his furniture, including a sofa owned by his aunt Leonie, to the bordello. “But as soon as I saw them again in the house where these women were putting them to their own uses, all the virtues that pervaded my aunt’s room at Combray at once appeared to me, tortured by the cruel contact to which I had abandoned them in their defencelessness! Had I outraged the dead, I would have suffered more remorse. I returned no more to visit their new mistress, for they seemed to me to be alive and appealing to me, like those apparently inanimate objects in a Persian fairy tale, in which imprisoned human souls are undergoing martyrdom and pleading for deliverance.” Marcel’s inability to devote himself to his writing, promising himself that he’ll start the next day and the next day; his grandmother’s disappointment. Mme Swann’s belief that Bergotte has become a better writer since turning to journalism. Marcel’s doubts about Gilberte: “There can be no peace of mind in love, since what one has obtained is never anything but a new starting-point for further desires.” After a spat with Gilberte, Marcel pulls back, convinced that if he returned that Gilberte would know he was under her control. Marcel writes Gilberte an angry letter, then, in anguish, waits for a letter for her. “She would be certain to write me to apologise. In spite of which, I should not return at once to see her, so as to prove to her that I was capable of living without her. Besides, once I had received her letter, Gilberte’s society was a thing with which I could more easily dispense for a time, since I should be certain of finding her ready to receive me whenever I chose.” But with a suffering more cruel than during his separation from Gilberte over the New Year’s holidays, “…I realised that it must be final, and I renounced Gilberte for ever, in the interests of my love itself and because I hoped above all that she would not retain a contemptuous memory of me.” Marcel refuses to see Gilberte, and only visits the Swanns when he is certain that she is not there.
So, why did Marcel renounce Gilberte? Had he, like Swann with Odette, grown bored with her once he had “won” her? Was he, afraid of being hurt by Gilberte, so decided to hurt her first? Was it “so as to prove to her that I was capable of living without her?” Was it so that “later on, when I should be able safely to confess to Gilberte (so much would her feeling for me hve regained its strength) my feeling for her, the latter, not having been able to resist the strain of so long a separation, would have ceased to exist: I should have become indifferent to Gilberte?” Or, is it simply that “There can be no peace of mind in love, since what one has obtained is never anything but a new starting-point for further desires.” Are these all parts of the whole? What are your thoughts?
Moncrieff: Page 228: “The ‘winter-garden,’ of which in those days…” through Page 240 “I met all the flower of Reaction!”
Grieve: page 167: “The ‘winter garden,’ which the passerby…” through Page 176 “…all the reactionary bigwigs!”