Moncrieff: 214-226; Sturrock: 157-165
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel decides to cling to the pain he is feeling, “for I realized that it was the effect of the memory I had of my grandmother, the proof that this memory was indeed present within me.” Marcel’s determination to suffer, to want to continue to feel it. The hope that there is truth to be gained from his pain. His regret at his forgetfulness. Marcel falls asleep, embarking “upon the dark current of our own blood as upon an inward Lethe…” Marcel’s dream: “I sought in vain for my grandmother’s form when I had entered beneath the sombre portals; yet I knew that she did exist still, if with a diminished life, as pale as that of memory…I felt my heart turn to stone; I had just remembered that for weeks on end I had forgotten to write to my grandmother…” In the dream, Marcel asks his father for his grandmother’s address, who tells him “She sometimes asks what’s become of you. She was told you were going to write a book. She seemed pleased…” before going on to say “It is better for her not to think, it could only make her unhappy. Thinking often makes people unhappy. Besides, you know, she’s quite faded now…” Marcel’s response? “But you know quite well I shall always live close to her, stags, stags, Francis Jammes, fork.” Marcel wakes up, and the room floods him with memories: “the sea vistas on which my grandmother used to gaze for hours on end…that partition which used to serve us as a morning messenger…” “I knew that I might knock now, even louder, that nothing would wake her any more, that I should have no response, that my grandmother would never come again.” Marcel is informed by the manager that Albertine wants to see him; Marcel informs him that he wants to be left alone. Marcel thinks back to the day before, his pleasure upon arriving at Balbec, the comfort of returning to a familiar place. Marcel receives a calling card from the Marquise de Cambremer. Her graciousness, which does not allow her to refuse an invitation “so afraid of disappointing anyone who had invited her that she would attend all the most insignificant social gatherings in the neighbourhood.”
This says it all:
“And I asked nothing more of God, if a paradise exists, than to be able, there, to knock on that wall with the three little raps which my grandmother would recognize among a thousand, to which she would give those answering knocks which meant: ‘Don’t fuss, little mouse, I know you’re impatient, but I’m just coming,’ and that he would let me stay with her throughout eternity, which would not be too long for the two of us.”
And, as irritating as find the manager’s mangled language (and Proust’s attempt to wring humor from it), I have to admit that his line “You see that everybody here desires you in the end.” did make me laugh. But perhaps not as the author intended.
And finally, from The Proustian Community, a little preview of the social circles we’ll be exploring at Balbec:
“During his second trip to Balbec, Marcel expands the circumference of the subjective frontiers of the resort. Marcel again stays at the hotel, but his trips are longer. there are two seemingly distinct ways of life here, as at Combray: La Raspeliere and Feterne. La Raspeliere is occupied by Mme Verdurin, who is a less impressive representative of the upper bourgeoise than Swann. She rents La Raspeliere, the beautifully situated chateau in the area, on a high cliff set back on the land with a view of the sea. Feterne, less desirable, is owned by the Cambremers, a provincial noble family. Notice again how Marcel creates a subjective view of Feterne like that of Guermantes: ‘on seeing this name Feterne, which had been for me, since my stay at Balbec, the name of a country house, become, what I had never dreamed that it could possibly be, a family name, I felt that same astonishment as in reading a fairy-tale.’
The Feterne estate, not by chance is set by the water, and it has a lovely garden. Actually, Proust was merging his nature symbols, water and earth. by placing the Verdurin clan on the cliff (earth symbol) overlooking the sea (aristocracy), one recognized at this stage of the novel the growing ascendancy of the bourgeois over the aristocracy. The Cambremers not only rent La Raspeliere to the Verdurins, they visit them. The money of the bourgeoisie can help their social rise, or at least allow them to mingle with local gentry, the Cambremers, who can use the income though they deny it. ‘I would let La Raspeliere for nothing so as to be obliged to live at Feterne,’ says the dowager Mme de Cambremer. Clearly two worlds are being drawn together. The land and the sea symbols are joining — as in the Carquethuit of Elstir — to create a unity.
The ways of those living at Feterne and La Raspeliere reflect the ways of the Guermantes and Swann. The merging of bourgeois and local gentry at Feterne and La Raspeliere also foreshadows the fusion of the bourgeois and the aristocracy in the world of the Guermantes and Swann. Renee de Cambremer, the sister of the snob Legrandin, by her marriage to M. de Cambremer actually joins the bourgeoisie to the aristocracy…In short, there are no distinct worlds at Balbec, or anywhere else, but rather one world of different parts or elements which interact with one another: people, clans, classes, suburbs, nature, and art; and these same elements comprise the worlds of Combray and the other places in the novel.
Clearly Balbec is a distinct little world for Marcel because he has created it out of his intellectual, emotional, and physical states which have reacted to the external elements with which he has come in contact. Marcel’s Balbec, like Combray, like Paris, Doncieres, or Venice, is an exact microcosm of the macrocosm of Marcel’s world view.”
Moncrieff: Page 226 “On the card that was brought me, Mme de Cambremer had scribbled the message…” through Page 236 “…whether I was entertaining the Grand Hotel at Balbec or the Temple of Solomon.”
Sturrock: Page 165 “On the card I was handed, Mme de Cambremer had scribbled that…” through Page 173 “…into the Grand-Hotel in Balbec or the Temple of Solomon.”