Moncrieff: 300-313; Treharne: 217-226
by Dennis Abrams
The Duke de Guermantes, “who, despite his advancing years, still led the life of a gay bachelor,’ enters the room, amiably greeting all those in his path. “Being formidably rich in a world where people were becoming steadily less so, and having adapted himself long since to the idea of his enormous fortune, he had all the vanity of the great nobleman combined with that of the man of means, the refinement and breeding of the former just managing to counterbalance the smugness of the latter.” While Agencourt and the Duchess continue to discuss Rachel, Marcel takes M. de Norpois aside to ask him about his father’s election to the Academe. Much to his surprise, M. de Norpois tells Marcel that his father should not run, that he should wait ten or fifteen years “until the Society itself comes to seek him out,” and goes on to add that if he should run that, despite the fact that they “are known as the inseparables…” he “would not vote for him.” Mme de Guermantes continues to hold forth on Saint-Loup’s love for Rachel “‘What I fail to understand,’ resumed the Duchess, ‘is how in the world Robert ever came to fall in love with her,” and on the mysteries of love itself, “‘Oh, dear, yes, it’s a very mysterious thing, love,’ declared the Duchess, with a sweet smile of a good natured-woman of the world, but also with the uncompromising conviction with which a Wagnerian assures a clubman that there is something more than just noise in the Walkure. ‘After all, one never does know what what makes one person fall in love with another…” Mme de Guermantes says that Swann’s case was different, in that Odette “was at one time pretty…Not that that made me any less sorry when Charles married her, because it was so unnecessary.” Mme de Guermantes continues to attack Rachel, both for her lack of beauty and for her lack of acting ability. Mme de Guermantes changes her focus, and goes back to speaking badly of poor Mme de Cambremer, much to her husband’s delight.
A few of my favorite things…
1. This brief give and take between the Duke and Duchess de Guermantes regarding Rachel:
“‘You know who ‘we’re talking about, Basin?’ the Duchess asked her husband.
‘I can make a pretty good guess,’ said the Duke. ‘As an actress she’s not, I’m afraid, in what one would call the great tradition.’
‘You can’t imagine anything more ridiculous,’ went on Mme de Guermantes to M. d’Argencourt.
‘In fact, it was drolatic,’ put in M. de Guermantes, whose odd vocabulary enabled society people to declare that he was no fool and literary people, at the same time, to regard him as a complete imbecile.”
2. I also love the give and take between the Duke and the Duchess as shown in the scene where he tells her that Mme de Cambremer is “not in the least like a cow,” which allows her to continue her barrage of jokes “I admit she doesn’t look like a cow, she looks like several…I assure you, I didn’t know what to do when I saw a herd of cattle come marching into my drawing-room and asking me how I was…” Like the two are some sort of French aristocratic version of George Burns and Gracie Allen, and he plays straight man to allow her to show off her “wit.”
And, finally, back to the character who I admittedly am becoming slightly obsessed with: Bloch. Why did he start slandering Saint-Loup? What was going on with him in that threatened lawsuit where he made clear he would introduce evidence that was “entirely false, though the defendant would be unable to disprove it?” Thoughts from my fellow readers? (And I don’t like to beg, but this week I do seem to be talking to myself…)
From The Proustian Community
“But another interpretation of Bloch is possible: perhaps he is not just a vile Jewish pedant and snob who serves as comic relief, but rather the image of a pathetic soul caught in the terrible position of being a ‘man without a country.’ Though Bloch’s father is a successful businessman, he is still an unassimilated Jew who is proud of being French….he…has little or no social intercourse with his Christian neighbors but lives in his family circle according to the fading code of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Young Bloch has not been taught to live according to this tradition. He knows no Hebrew; he may understand some Yiddish but does not speak it; he is not religious; he has no Jewish culture: he has only Jewishness, which is, as for Heine, ein Ungluck. He is a Jewish Frenchman who has yet to absorb all the French traditions and values. Bloch is a trapeze artist who has let go of one bar and who, floating free, is trying to grasp the next one. He is swing from the Jewish world to the French world in the novel. From Combray until the matinee, we observe his mistakes and vulgarities, which are brought on more by ignorance and the desire to be accepted by willful acts of malice — except when they are compensatory reactions to hide his pitiful sense of inferiority. It is to the honor of F.C. Green that he alone among the critics has seen in Bloch more than an assemblage of unpleasant stereotyped Jewish characteristics. Bloch, in summary, is the young Jewish intellectual disparately looking for acceptance in a world basically hostile to him. His objective is to enter what is considered truly “Old France,” the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and this occupies his efforts for three thousand pages.”
More to come…
Moncrieff: Page 313 “M. de Norpois raised his eyes to the ceiling…” through Page 328 “…Yes, Your Highness, of your bracelets.”
Treharne: Page 226 “M. de Norpois raised his eyes to the ceiling…” through Page 237 “…Yes, Your Highness, of your bracelets.”