Moncrieff: 692-710; Grieve: 505-518
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel makes a show of preferring Andree to Albertine. “I arranged in this way to have her entirely to myself every evening, not with the intention of making Albertine jealous, but of enhancing my prestige in her eyes, or at any rate not imperiling it by letting Albertine know that it was herself and not Andree that I loved.” Marcel feigns indifference in meeting Mme Bontemps, Albertine’s aunt, although he secretly asks Eltsir to introduce them. Andree’s knowledge that Marcel loves Albertine, and her unhappiness at that fact. Albertine tells Marcel that she’ll be spending the night in the Grand Hotel alone, “…and in fact as I’ve got a bit of a cold I shall be going to bed before dinner. You can come and sit by my bed and watch me eat if you like, and afterwards we’ll play at anything you choose…” Marcel’s excitement at coming to Albertine’s room, “Then suddenly I reflected that I was wrong to be in any doubt; she had told me to come when she was in bed.” But, when Marcel makes his move, “Stop it or I’ll ring the bell!’ cried Albertine, seeing that I was flinging myself upon her to kiss her. But I told myself that not for nothing does a girl invite a young man to her room in secret,arranging that her aunt should not know…Albertine’s round face, lit by an inner flame as a night-light, stood out in such relief that, imitating the rotation of a glowing sphere, it seemed to me to be turning, like those Michelangelo figures which are being swept away in a stationary and vertiginous whirlwind. I was about to discover the fragrance, the flavour which this strange fruit concealed. I heard a sound, abrupt, prolonged and shrill. Albertine had pulled the bell with all her might.” One week later Albertine tells Marcel “I forgive you; in fact, I’m sorry to have upset you, but you must never do it again.” With that, Marcel abandons hope of being loved by her, and decides to transfer his feelings to one of Albertine’s friends, perhaps Andree first of all. We learn that Albertine spends a few weeks every year with the family of one of the Governors of the Bank of France, who was also Chairman of the Board of Directors of a railway company — this fact impresses Andree’s mother to no end, as well as the other middle-class social climbing families of their circle. Albertine finds herself popular beyond her wishes, and attempts to please others while at the same time winning favor for herself. In this way she’s very similar to Norpois, “And often at the Ministry he would make use of my father, who was a simple soul, while making him believe that it was he, M. de Norpois, who was being useful to my father.”
1. The comedy of the kiss. For Marcel, once again, disaster. Who is misreading who? Is Albertine leading Marcel on?
2. And again, on the topic of misreading. I was struck by Octave’s statement explaining why Mme De Villeparisis complained that someone hit her in the face during a game of diabolo while Mme de Cambremer did not: “I’ll explain the difference, replied Octave gravely, striking a match as he spoke. “It’s my belief that Mme de Cambremer is a society lady, and Mme de Villeparisis is just an upstart.” Mme de Villeparisis, a true aristocrat, an upstart, while Mme de Cambremer, Legrandin’s sister, who while seeming to be “somebody” in Balbec is a nobody in Paris, is a “society lady.” Appearances, appearances, appearances.
3. And finally, the events in Berkeley on the 24th, Eric Karpeles’ talk on “Proust, Paintings, and the Making of A la recherche du temps perdu,” in which he brilliantly showed to a standing room only crowd, in words and pictures, how Proust transformed his visual experiences into words; followed by a concert of the music that inspired Vinteuil’s sonata; followed by a “Proustian” inspired dinner (and an inspired dinner it was) at Chez Panisse, was an evening to remember. And, it was great meeting and spending time with Robin and Judy — two of our more prolific posters. Thank you both for being there, and for helping to make The Cork Lined Room an ongoing discussion of Proust.
The Weekend’s Reading:
The same for both translations: This weekend, we finish reading Within a Budding Grove, and on Monday we’ll start Volume Three, The Guermantes Way. I promise that this is a volume to treasure: drama, witty dialogue, and parties galore.
Enjoy the rest of Within a Budding Grove. And enjoy your weekend.