Moncrieff: 218-228; Treharne: 158-166
by Dennis Abrams
Saint-Loup is jealous of Aime (the waiter from Balbec), because “among his coarser colleagues Aime exuded not only a modest distinction but, quite unconsciously of course, that air of romance which emanates for a certain number of years from fine hair and a Grecian nose, features thanks to which he stood out among the crowd of other waiters.” Aime is unaware of his attractiveness. Saint-Loup berates Rachel for eying Aime so closely. “‘Anything specially interesting about that wiater, Zezette?’ he inquired, after sharply dismissing Aime. ‘One would think you were making a study of him.'” Rachel discusses literary matters with Marcel, whose opinions are very similar to hers. Rachel “would have been genuinely entertaining had she not affected to an irritating degree the jargon of the coteries and studios.” Rachel’s malicious tongue when discussing her rivals of the theatre, with the exception of her backhanded defense of Berma. “But, with this simple exception, Saint-Loup’s mistress spoke of the best-known actresses in a tone of ironical superiority which annoyed me because I believed — quite mistakenly, as it happened — that it was she who was inferior to them.” The look of the restaurant’s waiters. Rachel makes eyes at a young student at the next table. M. Charlus comes to the restaurant searching for his nephew, but is told that nobody knows him there. Rachel continues making eyes at the young student, infuriating Saint-Loup, who storms off to a private room to dine alone. Rachel defends her interest in Aime to Marcel. “He has an amusing expression, hasn’t he? You see, what would amuse me would be to know what he really thinks about things, to have him wait on me often, to take him traveling. But that would be all…It’s silly of Robert to imagine things. It all begins and ends in my head: Robert has nothing to worry about…Do look what dark eyes he has. I should love to know what goes on behind them.” Saint-Loup sends word for Rachel to join him in the private room. When Marcel joins them he finds that peace has returned, and, drinking champagne with them, becomes intoxicated.
1. A couple of questions. Let’s consider the differences between the relationship between Swann and Odette vs. Saint-Loup and Rachel. Would Swann have gone storming off, or would he have suffered in silence. And, given Rachel’s explanation above regarding her interest in Aime, how are she and Marcel similar?
2. I loved Marcel’s description of viewing himself drunk in the mirror, the mirror that would “give to the drinker, even when alone, the idea that the surrounding space was multiplying itself simultaneously with his sensations, heightened by intoxication, and that, shut up by himself in this little cell, he was reigning nevertheless over something far more extensive in its indefinite luminous curve than a passage in the “Jardin de Paris.”
“Being then myself at this moment the said drinker, suddenly,looking for him in the glass, I caught sight of him, a hideous stranger, staring at me. The joy of intoxication was stronger than my disgust; from gaiety or bravado, I gave him a smile which he returned. And I felt myself so much under the ephemeral and potent sway of the minute in which our sensations are so strong, that I am not sure whether my sole regret was not at the thought that the hideous self whom I had caught sight of in the glass was perhaps on his last legs, and that I should never meet that stranger for the rest of my life.”
And, finally, the remainder of Wayne Kosterman’s essay (which I posted the first half of in yesterday’s post), “I Went By a Devious Route,” from the highly recommended collection The Proust Project
“It’s not much that Marcel loves the duchess. He loves what she does to his mind; she rearranges perception. She is a walking piece of installation art avant la lettre. Her ineffability paralyzes him; she conveniently epitomizes a milieu. Marcel’s extreme consciousness requires the ballast of a motionless, heraldic, feminine object. The duchess could be Vivien Leigh, or Arletty, or Catherine Deneuve, or Kim Novak in Vertigo, a figment one never stops searching for; the duchess is any women you have idealized for reasons that sensible people would call silly or superficial. Proust’s Search is full of love objects, and the duchess is not the central one. And yet, in my biased estimation, Marcel’s brief love for the duchess — her name, her remoteness, her station, her beauty, her nose, her pronunciation, her chiffon — stands out as the most poignant.
Once upon a time, a famous woman said to me, ‘Give me a call.’ I gave her a call. Nothing happened. She’d lost interest in me. Just as well. I can’t bear nearness to fame: overmuch eminence humiliates the glare-blinded bystander. And yet when this famous woman, my Duchesse de Guermantes, said ‘Give me a call,’ futurity opened its counterfeit gates, and, like Marcel, I believed that I had stumbled upon immanence.
The duchess’s thaw — suddenly acknowledging Marcel’s existence — epitomizes certain aesthetic experiences: recall how a difficult piece of music (Schoenberg?) eventually unlocks its latent melody and yields a thwarted warmth. Such temperature oscillations — the duchess’s quick shift from indifference to interest — remind us that, when packing for a trip to the Proustian uncanny, we should bring bathing suits and parkas.”
I love it.
Moncrieff: Page 228 “Since actors had ceased to be…” through Page 244 “…spent half the day already with me.”
Treharne: Page 166 “Ever since I had ceased to see actors…” through Page 177 “…had already spent part of the afternoon in my company.”