Moncrieff: 348-358; Sturrock: 252=259
by Dennis Abrams
Saint-Loup, with only an hour to spare, meets Marcel and Albertine at the train station at Doncieres. Albertine devotes her attention to Saint-Loup, angering Marcel. Saint-Loup offers to try and find the friends with whom he used to dine with Marcel, but Marcel declines, “for I did not wish to run the risk of being parted from Albertine, but also because now I was detached from them.” Alterations within us. Albertine apologizes for her behavior, telling Marcel that “she had intended, by her coldness towards me, to dispel any idea that he might have formed if, at the moment when the train stopped, he had seen me leaning against her with my arm around her waist.” M. de Charlus, appearing much aged, arrives at the station to return home to Paris. “Now, in a light travelling suit which made him appear stouter, as he waddled along with his swaying paunch and almost symbolic behind, the cruel light of day decomposed, into pain on his lips, into face-powder fixed by cold cream on the tip of his nose, into mascara on his dyed moustache whose ebony hue contrasted with his grizzled hair, everything that in an artificial light would have seemed the healthy complexion of a man who was stil young.” Charlus send Marcel to “summon a soldier, a relative of his, who was standing on the opposite platform…’He is in the regimental band,’ said M. de Charlus….” Marcel discovers that the soldier is in fact Morel, the son of his uncle’s valet. Charlus arrives on the other platform himself, and offers Morel 500 frances for the evening, “which may perhaps be of interest to one of your friends, if you have any in the band,” before dismissing Marcel. Marcel wonders how Charlus, by knwoing Morel, could have “bridged the social gulf to which I had not given a thought,” before realizing that “M. Charlus had never in his life set eyes upon Morel, nor Morel upon M. de Charlus, who, dazzled but also intimidated by a soldier even though he carried no weapon but a lyre, in his agitation had called upon me to bring him a person whom he never suspected that I already knew. In any case, for Morel, the offer of five hundred francs must have made up for the absence of any previous relations…I saw at once the resemblance to certain of his relatives when they picked up a woman in the street. The desired object had merely changed sex.” Morel drives away a particularly annoying flower seller with an “authoritative, virile gesture, wielded by the graceful hand for which it ought still to have been too weighty, too massively brutal, with a precocious firmness and suppleness which gave to this still beardless adolescent the air of young David capable of challenging Goliath.” The Baron’s admiration. Marcel and Albertine discuss Saint-Loup, and Marcel, ‘since she had seemed to desire Saint-Loup…felt more or less cured for the time being of the idea that she cared for women, assuming that the two things were irreconcilable.”
There was a lot packed into that ten pages: A look at friendship, ourselves, and paradise, Charlus picking up Morel, (a violinist who we previously met as a very good looking young man, a bit of a poseur, bringing to Marcel some of his uncle’s belongings, including the photograph of “Miss Sacripant,” aka the Lady in Pink, and who, at the time, seemed to be interested in Jupien’s niece) as well as Marcel’s abandonment of his idea that Albertine was interested in women. Loved it.
One of my favorite passages in all of Proust:
“We passionately long for there to be another life in which we shall be similar to what we are below. But we do not pause to reflect that, even without waiting for that other life, in this life, after a few years, we are unfaithful to what we once were, to what we wished to remain immortally. Even without supposing that death is to alter us more completely than the changes that occur in the course of our lives, if in that other life we were to encounter the self that we have been, we should turn away from ourselves as from those people with whom were once on friendly berms but whom we have not seen for years — such as Saint-Loup’s friends whom I used to so much to enjoy meeting every evening at the Faisan Dore, and whose conversation would now have seemed to me merely a boring importunity. In this respect, and because I preferred not to go there in search of what had given me pleasure in the past, a stroll through Doncieres might have seemed to me a prefiguration of an arrival in paradise. We dream much of paradise, or rather of a number of successive paradises, but each of them is, long before we die, a paradise lost, in which we should feel ourselves lost too.”
Amazing. How many of our former selves would we recognize, want to know, even acknowledge as being ours? How many paradises have we lost along the way?
If you have never before left a comment, now is the time — what did you think of this section? Is this as good as I think it is, or is it just me? And for the regulars…you know what to do.
Moncrieff: Page 358 “Two days later, on the famous Wednesday…” through Page 371 “…he stood and gazed at the scenery from the other end of the ‘twister.'”
Sturrock: Page 259 “Two days later, on the famous Wednesday…” through Page 269 “…he gazed at the countryside from the other end of the ‘slow coach.'”