Moncrieff: 307-337; Sturrock: 223-244
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel lies to Albertine, informing her that he had a great passion for Andree, “and I made this confession with a simplicity and frankness worthy of the stage, but seldom expressed in real life except in declaring a love which one does not feel,” and goes on to say to her that while once he had been on the point of falling in love with her, too much time had passed, and now Albertine was no more to him than a good friend, “and that even if I wished, it would no longer be possible for me to feel a more ardent sentiment for her.” (Just as he did with Gilberte.) The binary rhythm of love. Marcel, having told Albertine of his indifference to her, can barely keep from kissing her, feeling for her “that profound pity, which would have been less profound if I had not loved her.” “…of what use is it to analyse further the refluences of human pity, which, the opposite of love, though spring perhaps unconsciously from the same cause, in any case produce the same effects?” Albertine’s aunt arrives to take her home, but Albertine decides to stay with Marcel, “Having relinquished for my benefit that remote hour which she spent without me, among her own people, Albertine was giving it to me; I might make what use of it I chose.” Marcel informs Albertine of the rumors he had heard “about her way of life.” Albertine swears that it isn’t true, and tells him “If it had been true, I would have told you. But Andree and I both loathe that sort of thing. We haven’t reached our age without seeing women with cropped hair who behave like men and do the things you mean, and nothing revolts us more.” Marcel is reassured even though all Albertine gave him was her word, “…this was precisely what was best calculated to calm me, jealousy belonging to that family of morbid doubts which are elminated by the vigour of an affirmation far more surely than by its probability.” The person we love presents too essential personalities. Marcel convinces himself, despite having Swann’s experiences in the back of his mind, that there was a great gulf “between Albertine, a girl of good middle-class parentage, and Odette, a whore sold by her mother in her childhood….Besides, Albertine had in no sense the same interest in lying to me that Odette had had in lying to Swann. And in any case to him Odette had admitted what Albertine had just denied.” A new Albertine, a frank, kind Albertine. Marcel’s happiness, and his belief that he “ought to have gone away that evening and never seen her again.” Marcel becomes close to his mother, and re-reads the Arabian Nights. A question of translation. Marcel’s excursions with Albertine. Fantasies about other girls. Drinking port wine to bridge the gulf between desire and action. Marcel’s suspicions and desire to keep Albertine away from vice. Andree and Albertine go out of their way to ease Marcel’s fears. Scandal at the Grand Hotel when Bloch’s sister and her girlfriend engage in far too public a display of affection, offending two officers. They are protected by the influence of M. Nissim Bernard, who, it turns out, has lunch at the hotel every day so that he can watch a young waiter, his latest conquest, in action. “The fact of the matter was that he was keeping, as other men keep a dancer from the corps de ballet, a fledgling waiter of much the same type as the pages of whom we have spoken, and who made us think of the young Israelites in Esther and Athalie.” Marcel becomes friends with “two sisters who had come to Balbec with an old foreign lady as her maids,” Mlle Marie Gineste and Mme Celeste Albaret. Their language and praise of Marcel, “while I dipped croissants in my milk, Celeste would say to me, ‘Oh! little black devil with raven hair, oh deep-dyed mischief! I don’t know what your mother was thinking of when she made youk, you’re just like a bird. Look, Marie, wouldn’t you say he’s preening his feathers, and the supple way he turns his head right round, he looks so light, you’d think he was just learning to fly. ah! it’s lucky for you that you were born into the ranks of the rich, otherwise what would have become of you, spendthrift that you are! ” Celeste, a country girl, sees through Marcel, “Oh, what a bag of tricks! Oh, the soft talk, the deceitfulness! ah, rogue among rogues, churl of churls!”
A couple of thoughts:
1. I have to admit that I had and am still having a difficult time with the beginning of this section, specifically, the concept of the “binary rhythm of love.” Any help out there?
2. Marcel can certainly be a manipulative little shit, can’t he?
3. As I’m sure you know, the maid Celeste Albaret is named after Proust’s own housekeeper from 1913 – 1922, the woman who, in no small part, made it possible for Proust to complete his work. If you haven’t read it, her book, Monsieur Proust, is a must.
4. I loved this passage, talking about his solitary excursions with Albertine:
“I remember the hot weather that we had then, when from the foreheads of the farm labourers toiling in the sun drops of sweat would fall, vertical, regular, intermittent, like drops of water from a cistern, alternating with the fall of the ripe fruit dropping from the tree in the adjoining orchard; they have remained to this day, together with that mystery of a woman’s scent, the most enduring element in every love that offers itself to me. For a woman who is mentioned to me and to whom ordinarily I would not give a moment’s thought, I will upset all my week’s engagements to make her acquaintance, if it is a week of similar weather, and if I am to meet her in some isolated farmhouse. Even if I am aware that this kind of weather, this kind of assignation, have nothing to do with her, they are still the bait which, however familiar, I allow myself to be tempted by, and which is sufficient to hook me. I know that in cold weather, in a town, I might perhaps have desired this woman, but without the accompaniment of romantic feelings, without falling in love; love is none the less strong as soon as, by force of circumstances, it has enchained me — it is simply more melancholy, as over the years our feelings for other people become, in proportion as we grow aware of the ever smaller part they play in our lives and realixe that the new love which we would love to be so enduring, cut short in the same moment as life itself, will be the last.”
How Proust moved from point a to point to point c and beyond in this section is a miracle to behold.
Moncrieff: Page 337 “In spite of the fact that Bloch’s family had never suspected…” through Page 348 “…I began to embrace Albertine without bothering about the lady.”
Sturrock: Page 244 “For all that Bloch’s family had never suspected…” through Page 252 “…I began to twine myself around Albertine without concerning myself with this lady.”