Moncrieff: 175-185; Treharne: 128-135
by Dennis Abrams
After a delay, Marcel speaks on the telephone with his grandmother. “…then I spoke, and after a few seconds of silence, suddenly I heard that voice which I mistakenly thought I knew so well; for always until then, every time that my grandmother had talked to me, I had been accustomed to follow what she said on the open score of her face, in which the eyes figured so largely; but her voice itself I was hearing this afternoon for the first time.” Marcel discovers the sweetness and sadness of his grandmother’s voice, who, “thinking of me as being far away and unhappy, felt that she might abandon herself to an outpouring of tenderness which, in accordance with her principles of upbringing, she usually restrained and kept hidden.” From hearing her voice, Marcel recognizes the isolation of his grandmother, “for the first time separated from me.” Marcel decides to return home. “My grandmother, by telling me to stay, filled me with an anxious, an insensate longing to return. This freedom she was granting me henceforward, and to which I had never dreamed she would consent, appeared to me suddenly as said as my freedom of action might be after her death (when I should still love her and she would for ever have abandoned me.).” Meeting up with Saint-Loup and his friends, Marcel asks for information about the train schedule to Paris on the off chance he may have to return; Saint-Loup realizes that Marcel will leave the next day. Marcel races to the barracks the next morning to say farewell to Saint-Loup, and gives him a sweep of his hat when he drives by, but Saint-Loup, being near-sighted, doesn’t recognize him and “without stopping; driving on at full speed, without a smile, without moving a muscle of his face, he confined himself to keeping his hand raised for a minute to the peak of his cap, as though he were acknowledging the salute of a trooper whom he did not know.” Returning to Paris, Marcel walks in on his grandmother and without letting her know he’s there, watches her reading, “absorbed in thoughts she had never allowed to be seen by me.” He is startled at what he sees, at how “I saw, sitting on the sofa beneath the lamp, red-faced, heavy and vulgar, sick, day-dreaming, letting her slightly crazed eyes wander over a book, an overburdened old woman whom I did not know.”
I really don’t have anything to say — the description of Marcel on the phone with his grandmother, and then watching her when he returns, are beautifully written, heart-breaking, and need no help from me.
I would like share this passage, which I think bears re-reading.
“But then, suddenly, I ceased to hear the voice, and was left even more alone. My grandmother could no longer hear me, she was no longer in communication with me; we had ceased to be close to each other, to be audible to each other; I continued to call her, groping in the empty darkness, feeling that calls from her must also be going astray. I quivered with the same anguish I had felt once before in the distant past, when as a little child, I had lost her in a crowd, an anguish due less to my not finding her than to the thought that she must be searching for me, must be saying to herself that I was searching for her, an anguish not unlike that which I was later to feel, on the day when we speak to those who can no longer reply and when we long for them at least to hear all the things we never said to them, and our assurance that we are not unhappy.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 185 “My request to be allowed to inspect the Elstirs…” through Page 208 “…you’ll send round for me, won’t you?”
Treharne: Page 135 “My request to gain access to Mme de Guermantes’s collection of Elstirs…” through Page 151 “…you’ll send for me, won’t you?”
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.