Moncrieff: 474-489; Grieve: 349-359
by Dennis Abrams
An evening at the Bloch’s. A son’s admiration of his father, the sister’s admiration of their brother. “In fact, all the famous people M. Bloch claimed to know he knew only ‘without actually knowing them,’ from having seen them at a distance in the theatre or in the street.” “Self-centredness thus enabling every human being to see the universe spread out in descending tiers beneath himself who is it’s lord, M. Bloch afforded himself the luxury of being a pitiless one…” M. Bloch on Bergotte: “‘That fellow Bergotte has become unreadable. My word, what a bore the brute can be. I really must stop my subscription. It’s such a rigmarole — stodgy stuff!.’ And he helped himself to another slice of bread.” M. Bloch’s children consider him to be a superior person. “…an alleged similarity in his way of wearing his moustache and in the bridge of his nose led to M. Bloch’s being called ‘the Duc d’Aumale’s double.'” “He was one of those people who, when they die, because for years they have shared a table in a restaurant on the boulevard with its editor, are described in the social column of the Radical as ‘well known Paris figures.'” The lies of M. Nissim Bernard. M. Bloch “treats” Marcel, Saint-Loup and his son to “champagne” and “orchestra stalls” which are really just cheap sparkling wine and cheap seats in the pit. M. Bloch shows Saint-Loup his “Rubens.” “Saint-Loup asked innocently if it was signed. M. Bloch replied, blushing, that he had had the signature cut off to make it fit the frame, but that it made no difference, as he had no intention of selling the picture.” Bloch insults Saint-Loup’s uncle, the Baron de Charlus. “Heartiest congratulations. I ought to have guessed: he has a lot of style, and the most priceless dial of an old dotard of the highest lineage.” Bloch boasts of having enjoyed Mme Swann, “who gave herself to me three times running, and in the most rarefied manner, between Paris and the Point-du-Jour. I’m bound to see her again some night.”
I found the scene of the dinner party extraordinarily painful. The Blochs are who they are, and utterly believable in their airs and pretensions and lack of class (although Bloch junior, for me, is still unclear — why are he and Marcel still friends? It can’t just because Bloch introduced Marcel to Bergotte…), but…it’s so close to being stereotypical, to being anti-Semitic, that I’m not altogether certain (as one is when reading Shylock in The Merchant of Venice) just how to read it.
I know I’ve asked this before, but I’d like to continue the discussion. What are your thoughts on this? What is Proust doing in these scenes?
On a slightly different note, I was struck by this description/analysis of Bloch senior by the Narrator:
“He lived in the world of approximations, where people salute in a ovid and criticise in error, a world where assurance, far from being tempered by ignorance and inaccuracy, is increased thereby. It is the propitious miracle of self-esteem that, since few of us can have brilliant connexions or profound attainments, those for whom they are denied still believe themselves to be the best endowed of men, because the optics of our social perspective make every grade of society seem the best to him who occupies it, and who regards as less favoured than himself, ill-endowed, to be pitied, the greater men who he names and calumniates without knowing them, judges and despises without understanding them.”
Once again, “the optics of our social perspective.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 490 “I called upon Bloch after his dinner…” through Page 526 “…from the first petal of the flower towards which it is steering.”
Grieve: Page 359 “I went to see Bloch shortly after this dinner…” through Page 380 “…nothing remains but a tiny glowing gap of blue.”
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend. Geaux Saints!