Moncrieff: 337-348; Sturrock: 244-252
by Dennis Abrams
Mlle Bloch and her friend, under the protection of M. Nissim Bernard, “were delighted to show those respectable family men who held aloof from them that they might with impunity take the utmost liberties,” and, passing Marcel, Albertine, and bloch, “they came by, linked together, kissing each other incessantly, and, as they passed us, crowed and chortles and uttered indecent cries.” Marcel is convinced that “this private and horrifying language was addressed perhaps to Albertine.” “A handsome young woman, slender and pale,” arrived at Balbec, and Marcel observes “that she never ceased to fasten upon Albertine the alternating and revolving beam of her gaze,” once again focusing his preoccupations “even more in the direction of Gomorrah.” Marcel’s jealousy of Albertine with other women. Bloch’s cousin is picked up by the unknown woman while reading a magazine. “Presently the young woman came and sat down beside her with an abstracted air. But under the table one could presently see their feet wriggling, then their legs and hands intertwined. Words followed, a conversation began, and the young woman’s guileless husband, who had been looking everywhere for her, was astonished to find her making plans for that very evening with a girl whom he did not know.” Marcel believes that Albertine’s indifference towards other girls is simply a ruse to throw him off the track, as is her professed hostility to a friend of her aunt. “Yes, I ran into her on the beach and knocked against her as I passed, on purpose, to be rude to her,” leading Marcel to worry that she did so simply “to tease this woman’s senses, or wantonly to remind her of former propositions.” Marcel’s jealousy caused by the women who Albertine “perhaps loved was abruptly to cease.” Wanting to keep her entertained and away from other women, Marcel takes Albertine by train to meet Saint-Loup at Doncieres. M. Nissim Bernard, his black eye, and the twin waiters, the two tomatoes. “To the detached observer, the charm of these perfect resemblances between twins is that nature, as if momentarily industrialised, seems to be turning out identical products.” An invitation fro Mme Verdurin to attend one of her “Wednesdays,” and Marcel’s need to find out the whereabouts of Mme Potbus’ maid to keep her away from Albertine. The woman on the train, “with a massive face, old and ugly, and a masculine expression, very much in her Sunday best, who was reading the Revue des Deux Mondes,” who Marcel “at once concluded that she must be te manageress of some large brothel, a procuress on holiday…Only, I had hitherto been unaware that such ladies read the Revue des Deux Mondes.” Marcel’s pride.
A few things…
1. It pained me, in part because I can personally recognize the thought process, to read Marcel’s mounting fears and jealousy regarding Albertine and the “handsome young woman, slender and pale…”
“…I saw that she never ceased to fasten upon Albertine the alternating and revolving beam of her gaze. It was as though she were making signals to her with a lamp. It pained me that Albertine should see that she was being so closely observed, and I was afraid that these incessantly rekindled glances might be the agreed signal for an amorous assignation next day. For all I knew, this assignation might not be the first. The young woman with the flashing eyes might have come another year to Balbec. It was perhaps because Albertine had already yielded to her desires, or to those of a friend, that this woman allowed herself to address to her those flashing signals. If so, they were doing more than demand something for the present; they invoked a justification for it in pleasant hours in the past.
This assignation, in that case, must be not the first, but the sequel to adventures shared in past years. And indeed her glance did not say: ‘Will you?’ As soon as the young woman had caught sight of Albertine, she had turned her head and beamed upon her glances charged with recollection, as though she were afraid and amazed that my beloved did not remember.”
I was, and probably still am, capable of this kind of mounting fear/insecurity/jealousy.
2. Was this the first example of Marcel’s social preening and pride?
“The lady wore an air of extreme dignity; and as I, for my part, was inwardly aware that I was invited, two days hence, to the house of the celebrated Mme Verdurin at the terminal point of the little railway line, that at an intermediate station I was awaited by Robert de Saint-Loup, and that a little further on I would have given great pleasure to Mme de Cambremer by going to stay at Feterne, my eyes sparkled with irony as I gazed at this self-important lady who seemed to think that, because of her elaborate attire, the feathers in her hat, her Revue des Deux Mondes, she was a more considerable personage than myself.”
3. And finally, from an essay by Harold Bloom on Proust, focusing on jealousy:
“Sexual jealousy is the most novelistic of circumstances, just as incest, according to Shelley, is the most poetical of circumstances. Proust is the novelist of our era, even as Freud is our moralist. Both are speculative thinkers, who divide between the eminence of being the prime wisdom writers of the age.
Proust died in 1922, the year of Freud’s grim and splendid essay, “Certain Neurotic Mechanisms in Jealousy, Paranoia, and Homosexuality.” Both of them great ironists, tragic celebrants of the comic spirit, Proust and Freud are not much in agreement on jealousy, paranoia, and homosexuality, though both start with the realization that all of us are bisexual in nature.
Freud charmingly begins his essay by remarking that jealousy, like grief, is normal and comes in three stages: competitive or normal, projected, delusional. The competitive, or garden variety, is compounded of grief, due to the loss of the loved object, and of the reactivation of the narcissistic scar, the tragic first loss, by the infant, of the parent of the other sex to the parent of the same sex. As normal, competitive jealousy is really normal Hell, Freud genially throws into the compound such delights as enmity against the successful rival, some self-blaming, self-criticism, and a generous portion of bisexuality.
Projected jealousy attributes to the erotic partner one’s own actual unfaithfulness or repressed impulses, and is cheerfully regarded by Freud as being relatively innocuous, since its almost delusional character is highly amenable to analytic exposure of unconscious fantasies. But delusional jealousy proper is more serious; it also takes its origin in repressed impulses towards infidelity, but the object of those impulses is of one’s own sex, and this, for Freud, moves one across the border into paranoia.
What the three stages of jealousy have in common is a bisexual component, since even projected jealousy trades in repressed impulses, and these include homosexual desires. Proust, our other authority on jealousy, preferred to call homosexuality ‘inversion,’ and in a brilliant mythological fantasia traced the sons of Sodom and the daughters of Gomorrah to the surviving exiles from the Cities of the Plain. Inversion and jealousy, so intimately related in Freud, become in Proust a dialectical pairing, with the aesthetic sensibility linked to both as a third term in a complex series.
On the topos of jealousy, Proust is fecund and generous; no writer has devoted himself so lovingly to expounding and illustrating the emotion, except of course Shakespeare in Othello and Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter. Proust’s jealous lovers — Swann, Saint-Loup, above all Marcel himself — suffer so intensely that we sometimes need to make an effort not to empathize too closely. It is difficult to determine just what Proust’s stance towards their suffering is, partly because Proust’s ironies are both pervasive and cunning. Comedy hovers nearby; but even tragicomedy seems an inadequate term for the compulsive sorrows of Proust’s protagnoists. Swann, after complimenting himself that he has not, proved to Odette that he loves her too much, falls into the mouth of Hell:”
Moncrieff: Page 348 “At Doncieres, Saint-Loup had come to meet me at the station…” through Page 358 “…by the parallel chains of distant blue hills.”
Sturrock: Page 252 “At Doncieres, Saint-Loup had come to wait for me at the station…” through Page 259 “…by the parallel ranges of distant, blue-colored foothills.”