Moncrieff: 636-669; Grieve: 464-489
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel asks Andree if he can see her again the next day, but she lies and says she had to stay with her sick mother. “Although this falsehood was of no real significance since Andree knew me so slightly, I ought not to have continued to seek the company of a person who was capable of it. For what people have once done they will go on doing indefinitely…” Albertine is compared to Giotto’s “Idolatry.” Marcel meets Gisele, the girl “whose expression I had thought so cruel when I heard her say: ‘Poor old boy, I do feel sorry for him,'” Based on her handshake, smile, and confiding eyes, Marcel makes plans to run away with Gisele. “And yet, what would she have thought of me had she known that I had hesitated for a long time between her and her friends, that quite as much as with her I had contemplated falling in love with Albertine, with the girl with the bright eyes, with Rosemonde.” Marcel meets the rest of the girls, and began to spend all of his time with them. Watching the girls, Marcel gets hints of what is to come. “Alas! in the freshest flower it is possible to discern those just perceptible signs which to the instructed mind already betray what will, by the desiccation or fruitification of the flesh that is today in bloom, be the ultimate form, immutable and already predestined, of the autumnal seed…Human faces seem not to change while we are looking at them, because the revolution they perform is too slow for us to perceive it. But one had only to see, by the side of any of these girls, her mother or her aunt, to realize the distance over which, obeying the internal gravitation of a type that was generally frightful, these features would have traveled in less than thirty years, until the hour when the looks have begun to wane, until the hour when the face, having sunk altogether below the horizon, catches the light no more.” Marcel, wanting to spend all of his time with the girls, neglects Mme de Villeparisis, Elstir, and even Saint-Loup. Rainy days are spent in the casino, where Marcel joins the gang of girls in their games, tricks, and contempt for the Ambresac sisters. Andree’s kindness to Marcel. Similarities between Albertine and Gilberte, “that is because a certain similarity exists, although the type evolves, between all the women we successively love…” Andree’s generosity towards Albertine. Through Elstir’s eyes, Elstir’s art, Marcel views Balbec in an entirely new light, willing to accept the existence of modern life, of yachts, and women with parasols in his view of the sea. Albertine and Andree’s contempt for Bloch’s sisters: “‘I’m not allowed to play with Israelites’….’Besides, they’re shocking bad form, your friends’, said Andree with a smile which implied that she knew very well that they were no friends of mine. ‘Like everything to do with the tribe,” added Albertine, in the sententious tone of one who spoke from personal experience.” But Marcel adds, “To tell the truth, Bloch’s sisters, at once overdressed and half naked, with their languid, brazen, ostentatious, slatternly air, did not create the best impression.” The admiration of Bloch’s fifteen year old cousin for Mlle Lea, “whose talent as an actress M. Bloch senior rated very high, but whose tastes were understood not to be primarily directed towards gentlemen.” Picnics and games at Marie-Antoinette farm. Marcel’s friendship with Marcel causes him “to be cosily preserved from solitude, nobly desirous of sacrificing myself for him, in short incapable of realising myself. With the girls, on the other hand, if the pleasure which I enjoyed was selfish, at least it was not based on the lie which seeks to make us believe that we are not irremediably alone and prevents us from admitting that, when we chat, it is not longer we who speak, that we are fashioning ourselves then in the likeness of other people and not of a self that differs from them.” Marcel is charmed by the girls’ ways of speaking.
1. I was struck and bemused by Marcel’s brief infatuation with Gisele. Based on nothing, Marcel decides that she loves him and wants to be with him, and he can certainly fall in love with her, and then, in a brief sentence “except Gisels, whom, owning to a prolonged delay at the level crossing by the station and a change in the time-table, I had not succeeded in meeting on the train, which had left some minutes before I arrived, and to whom in any case I never gave another thought” is immediately forgotten. The absolute fickleness and arbitrariness of love. Of course, to confess, I know of myself as well that based on as little as a smile and a look, I’m quite capable of behaving in a similar fashion.
2. I do find myself constantly disturbed by Marcel’s (or is it the Narrator’s?) feelings about friendship. I suspect what disturbs me is that when Marcel says things about friendship such as “…at least it was not based on the lie which seeks to make us believe that we are not irremediably alone and prevents us from admitting that, when we chat, it is no longer we who speak, that we are fashioning ourselves then in the likeness of other people and not of a self that differs from them,” that he is right. Are in essence alone? Is friendship a distraction from ourselves?
3. If any of you are in the San Francisco area, I’m going to be in Berkeley this Wednesday the 24th attending Eric Karpeles’ lecture at UC Berkeley on Paintings in Proust, to be followed by a concert of the music that inspired Vinteuil’s sonata, followed by a Proustian inspired dinner at Chez Panisse. I’ll be writing about it both for The Cork-Lined Room and for our sponsor, Publishing Perspectives. The lecture and concert are free, so if any of you are in the area, I hope you can attend — I have a feeling it’s going to be great. Here’s the basics:
Talk by Eric Karpeles: 5:00, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
A musical interlude of passages that inspired the Vinteiul sonata, 6:30, 125 Morrison Hall, UC Berkley Campus.
Additional information needed? 510-643-9670
Moncrieff: Page 669 “Now and then a pretty attention…” through Page 680 “…or singing-masters as of a draughtsman.”
Grieve: Page 489 “Now and then one or another of the girls…” through Page 496 “…or a singing teacher as of a draftsman.”