Moncrieff: 680-692; Grieve: 496-505
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel plays a game of “ferret” (also called “hunt the slipper,” or, in the Grieve translation, “ring-on-a-string.”) with the band of girls and others. Marcel’s fascination with Andree’s hands and then Albertine’s hands. “The act of pressing Albertine’s hand had a sensual sweetness which was in keeping with the pink, almost mauve colouring of her skin. This pressure seemed to allow you to penetrate into the girl’s being, to plumb the depths of her senses, like the ringing of her laughter, indecent in the way that the cooing of doves or certain animal cries can be…If the arbitrary code of good manners had replaced the hand-shake by some other gesture, I should have gazed, day after day, at the untouchable hands of Albertine with a curiosity to know the feel of them as ardent as was my curiosity to learn the savour of her cheeks.” While Marcel contemplates and observes Albertine, certain that she’s taking advantage of the game to let him know she likes him, he spoils the game, angering her. “People shouldn’t play if they won’t pay attention and spoil the game for others. We shan’t ask him again when we’re going to play, Andree, or else I shan’t come.” Andree, to console Marcel, takes him for a walk to the Creuniers, the scene that Elstir had painted. Along the way, the hawthornes that the two walk through stir a childhood memory in Marcel. Andree’s kindness to Albertine, and to Marcel. Marcel works to make certain that Albertine doesn’t know he loves her. “For one thing, the avowal, the declaration of my passion to her whom I loved no longer seemed to be one of the vital and necessary stages of love, nor love itself an external reality, but simply a subjective pleasure. And I felt that Albertine would do what was necessary to sustain that pleasure all the more readily if she did not know that I was experiencing it.”
An excerpt from a marvelous book I’m reading, The Proustian Community by Seth L. Wolitz
“Having known his first love in Paris, Marcel sets out for his first fabled city, Balbec, which he will visit twice in his career. Balbec wil disappoint him, for whoever has been to a French resort bordering the English Channel knows how tame the area appears. Just as the steeple of Combray attracted Marcel, so the first thing he must see in Balbec is the Persian church — and it is no Taj Mahal. External reality continues to erode the dream.
Marcel finally settles in the Grand Hotel of Balbec. This hotel parallels Aunt Leonie’s house as a symbol. Marcel’s life is spent coming and going from it, and the building serves as the social center of the resort. It contains every level of society, each member of which is trying either to climb or to fend off an arriviste. The building’s very location is symbolic — like Balbec it is on the shore, where land meets sea as well as where bourgeoisie and aristocracy merge. Here Marcel meets Mme de Villeparisis and Saint-Loup. In Balbec Marcel enters into his first real love affair with Albertine and makes his first attempt at social climbing. But the trip to Balbec offers a third alternative: Art. The visit to the studio and home of Elstir is one of the great moments in the book. In Elstir’s painting of Carquethuit Marcel learns how mistaken his view of life had been until then. There are no distinct separate worlds but a blending of elements into a totality: ‘no fixed boundary between earth and ocean.’
The rides into the country in Mlle de Villeparisis’ carriage extend the limits of the geographical world for Marcel. Proust also develops an interesting parallel between this carriage ride, with the sudden memory evoked by the three trees, and the ride in Dr. Percepied’s carriage, when Marcel saw the steeples. He saw both at the extreme outskirts of the little worlds of Combray and Balbec, and both memories revealed to Marcel that seemingly distinct worlds can be combined into one. Proust had Marcel experience the two memories at the frontiers of these two worlds to symbolize the greater world which he must yet discover within himself.”
I’ll be in Berkeley on Wednesday the 24th, returning home to Houston on the 25th, so my next post won’t be until Thursday night/Friday morning.
Wednesday and Thursday’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 692 “In the week the followed…” through Page 710 “…who was being useful to my father.”
Grieve: Page 505 “Throughout the following week…” through Page 518 “…while letting him think he was being of use to him.”