Moncrieff: 527-540; Grieve: 388-397
by Dennis Abrams
Aime tells Marcel that “Dreyfus was guilty a thousand over times over. ‘It will come out…'” On the first page of the list of visitors is “Simonet and family.” “Once again I fashioned such a being, utilising for the purpose the name Simonet and the memory of the harmony that had reigned between the young bodies which I had seen deployed on the beach in a sportive procession worthy of Greek art or of Giotto. I did not know which of these girls was Mlle Simonet, if indeed any of them was so named, but I did know that I was loved by Mlle Simonet and that with Saint-Loup’s help I was going to try to get to know her.” Dining with Saint-Loup at Rivebelle. Marcel throws all caution about his health (and the promise that being healthy means that he’ll be able to write) aside, with beer, champagne, and port. The waiters, “flying along at full speed, each carrying on his outstretched palm a dish which it seemed to be the object of this kind of race not to fall.” The waiter compared to a macaw. “I looked at the round tables whose innumerable assemblage filled the restaurant like so many planets, as the latter are represented in old allegorical pictures. Moreover, there seemed to be some irresistible force of attraction at work among these various stars, and at each table the diners had eyes only for the tables at which they were not sitting…” Marcel’s feeling of well-being, caused by being drinking, music (waltzes, German operettas, music hall-songs), in which “I found …an element of cruelty; because any such thing as a disinterested feeling for beauty, a gleam of intelligence, was unknown to them; for them physical pleasure alone existed,” and beautiful women, all of which held the promise of happiness. In Marcel’s spirit of intoxication, “I was enclosed in the present, like heroes and drunkards, momentarily eclipsed, my past no longer projected before me that shadow of itself which we call our future; placing the goal of my life no longer in the realisition of the past, but in the felicity of the present moment, I could see no further than it. So that, by a contradiction which was only apparent, it was at the very moment in which I was experiencing an exceptional pleasure, in which I felt that my life might yet be happy, in which it should have become more precious in my sight, it was at this very moment that, delivered from the anxieties which it had hitherto inspired me…since I no longer saw, in a distance too remote to have any reality, my grandmother, my life to come, the books I might write, since I now clung body and soul to the woman at the next table, to the politeness of the waiters, to the contours of the waltz that the band was playing, since I was glued to the sensation of the moment, with no extension beyond its limits, nor any object other than not to be separated from it, I should have died in and with that sensation, I should have let myself be slaughtered without offering any resistance…”
Wonderful. I think that in this section, Proust nails exactly the feeling of euphoria, of living in the moment without thought of past or future, that music, alcohol, and beauty can provide.
I also loved the analogy of the diners at their tables as being like planets in a solar system, and especially, the Narrator’s comment about those who don’t see the analogy.
“And I rather pitied all the diners because I felt that for them the round tables were not planets and that they had not cut through the scheme of things in such a way as to be delivered from the bondage of habitual appearances and enabled to perceive analogies.”
It seems to me that among the many many things we should take from Proust, is just that: the ability to “cut through the scheme of things in such as a way as to be delivered from the bondage of habitual appearances and enabled to perceive analogies.”
In other words, Proust should teach us to open our eyes and look at and understand the world, not through Proust’s eyes, or in ways we would imagine that Proust would see things, but in ways that are unique to ourselves.
Wednesday’s Reading — A short one, thanks to a convenient break.
Moncrieff: Page 540 “I ought here to add…” through Page 549 “…the image of one particular person.”
Grieve: Page 397 “It must be added…” through Page 404 “…of the memory of a certain person.”