Moncrieff: 389-402; Treharne: 281-290
by Dennis Abrams
Still walking with Marcel, M. de Charlus questions him about Bloch, asking if he was “young, good-looking, and so forth,” before adding “‘It is not a bad idea, if you wish to learn about life…to have a few foreigners among your friends.’ I replied that Bloch was French. ‘Indeed,’ said M. de Charlus, ‘I took him to be a Jew.'” Charlus proposes that “Perhaps you could ask your friend to allow me to attend some great festival in the Temple, a circumcision, or some Hebrew chants,” before going on to propose “For instance, a contest between your friend and his father, in which he would smite him as David smote Goliath. That would make quite an amusing farce…” And “As he poured out these terrible, almost insane words, M. de Charlus,” squeezed Marcel’s arm until it hurt. Seeing M. Bloch Senior coming down the street, Marcel offers to introduce him to Charlus, much to his displeasure. “Introduce him to me! But you must have singularly little idea of social values! People to not get to me know as easily as that. In the present instance, the impropriety would be twofold, on account of the youth of the introducer and the unworthiness of the person introduced. At the most, if I am ever permitted to witness the Asiatic spectacle which I outlined to you, I might address to the frightful fellow a few affable words…” Because she is a Dreyfusard Mme Sazerat greets M. Bloch, despite being an avowed antisemitic. M. de Charlus laments that the whole Dreyfus affair is destroying society, by bringing people together for political reasons, “as if a political opinion entitled one to a social qualification.” Charlus again talks about taking Marcel under his wing, but warns him, “Do not be foolish, do not refuse for reasons of tact and discretion. Try to understand that, if I do you a great service, I do not expect my reward from you to be any less great,” but before learning if Marcel is worthy, “I must see you often, very often, every day.” Seeing M. d’Argencourt coming towards them, Charlus yanks his arm away from Marcel. d’Argencourt’s odd reaction to seeing Marcel and Charlus together. M. de Charlus warns Marcel that if he wants to take advantage of his offer, he will have to avoid society all together, at least until Charlus deems him ready. Marcel learns from Charlus that Mme de Villeparisis is actually nothing more than the wife of a M. Thirion who “thought that he could assume an extinct aristocratic name with impunity.” Charlus informs Marcel that Saint-Loup is worthy as being a friend, telling him “At least he’s a man, not one of those effeminate creatures one sees so many of nowadays, who look like little rent boys and at any moment may bring their innocent victims to the gallows.” Charlus finds a cab to his liking, driven by a half-tipsy cabman, and goes off in it, pulling down the hood and taking the reins.
So much…Marcel’s ongoing disillusion “Mme de Villeparisis being merely Mme Thirion completed the decline and fall in my estimation of her which had begun when I had seen the mixed composition of her salon,” and Charlus’ true nature becomes more and more clear. (At least I think so…anyone have any questions about it?)
Is anyone else startled to realize that the last 200 pages of the Moncrieff translation, from Marcel leaving the house to pick up Saint-Loup through Charlus jumping into the cab with the tipsy driver is just one day’s activity? Three major scenes: the lunch with Saint-Loup and Rachel, the theatre, and Mme de Villeparisis’ salon. Scenes where nothing really happens in the way of plot, yet, scenes that open up worlds to us.
And finally, Rick and I were having a brief discussion in the comments section about the differences between Marcel and the Narrator. This paragraph from Roger Shattuck’s Proust’s Way, may help clarify.
“I have already mentioned one device Proust adopted to express and almost to embody conflicting principles of fragmentation and unity in registering experiences: namely, the double I. Inside that simplest and most elusive of words, Marcel’s clumsy projects keep going astray and collapsing under the detached, ordering, sardonic gaze of the Narrator, who is Marcel’s older ego. The double I projects a stereoscopic perspective and creates a narrative relief or depth perception on the events related. This narrative device arises from Proust’s style, from his use of the first-person singular pronoun with two edges on it so that it cuts two ways. We are carried back toward a protagonist growing up and forward toward a mature adult watching his (own) progress. That stylistic device also operates structurally to permit asides, recall related events, and remind us how far we have traveled in this seemingly infinite itinerary.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 402 “As for myself, no sooner had I turned in at our gate…” through Page 424 (the end of Part One) “…she had had a slight stroke.”
Treharne: Page 290 “I, for my part, returned home…” through Page 306 (the end of Part One) “…she had had a slight stroke.”
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.