Moncrieff: 358-371; Sturrock: 259-269
by Dennis Abrams
The train to La Raspeliere. Marcel’s concern of not seeing Cottard or being seen by him, without realizing “the little clan had moulded all its regular members after the same type…” Marcel was astonished that many members of the clan had been so, “according to the stories I had heard, before my birth, at a period at once so distant and so vague that I was inclined to exaggerate its remoteness.” Brichot, now semi-blind, with “green umbrella and blue spectacles…would be gently but hastily guided towards the chosen compartment.” Cottard and others have to rush to catch the train. Mme Verdurin’s need to keep Brichot in the clan, even ending his relationship with his laundress. The glamour that Brichot holds in the eyes of his colleagues at the Sorbonne. “The Verdurins were beginning to make tentative moves in the direction of fashionable ways.” The Verdurin salon as a Temple of Music, largely due to the fact that Vinteuil, now known as “the greatest contemporary composer,” had found inspiration there. The rising stature of the Verdurin salon; Mme Verdurin and her relationship with the Princess de Capraola, “Ah! she’s intelligent, that one, she’s a charming woman. What I cannot endure are the imbeciles, the people who bore me — they drive me mad.” Odette’s reaction to the rise of Mme de Verdurin. “Yes, I do seem to have heard a lot about them lately. Every now and then there are new people like that who arrive in society.” Once casual, the Verdurins, “conscious of their future destiny…were most anxious that people should now come to dine with them in evening dress.” Saniette, once driven away by Fourcheville, has returned to the clan. The sculptor Ski. Will the Princess be on the train? Cottard, showing a card that described him as a medical officer, arranges to have “a farm labourer in a blue smock who had only a third-class ticket,” who had gotten into their compartment, ejected, leading Saniette to worry that the crowd of peasants on the platform will riot.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. From yesterday’s ruminations on paradise, to the return of the little clan, and the absurdities of Cottard, Brichot, and Saniette.
A brief reminder:
Saniette: A boring, shy, good-natured palaeographer, and, despite his Catholicism, a Dreyfusard. He was originally driven out of the clan in tears by his brother-in-law Forcheville who wanted to improve his own standing with the Verdurins, with the silent complicity of Odette.
Brichot: A professor at the Sorbonne, who the Verdurins picked up at a “watering-place somewhere,” and had been one of the faithful ever since. Pedantic, boring, and completely self-conscious, and, unfortunately, not self-aware. His amorous relations with women are always being cut short by Mme Verdurin, who allows no distractions for her faithful.
I don’t know about you, but I was shocked by the off-hand announcement of Swann’s death in the discussion of the Princesse de Capraola’s visit to Odette: “She had even mentioned the Verdurins’ name in the course of a visit of condolence which she had paid to Mme Swann after the death of her husbnad, and had asked whether she knew them.” That’s it?
I loved the description of the sculptor Ski:
“Mme Verdurin thought that Ski had more temperament than Elstir because there was no art in which he did not have some aptitude, and she was convinced that he would have developed that aptitude into talent if he had been less indolent. This indolence seemed to the Mistress to be actually an additional gift, being the opposite of hard work which she regarded as the lot of people devoid of genius. Ski would paint anything you asked, on cuff-links or on lintels. He sang like a professional and played from memory, giving the piano the effect of an orchestra, less by his virtuosity than by his vamped basses which suggested the inability of the fingers to indicate that a certain point the cornet entered, which in any case he would imitate with his lips. Searching for words when he spoke so as to convey an interesting impression, just as he would pause before banging out a chord with the exclamation ‘Ping!’ to bring out the brass, he was regarded as being marvellously intelligent, but as a matter of fact his ideas boiled down to two or three, extremely limited. Bored with his reputation for whimsicality, he had taken it into his head to show that he was a practical, down-to-earth person, whence a triumphant affection of fake precision, of fake common sense, aggravated by his having no memory and a fund of information that was always inaccurate. The movements of his head, his neck and his limbs would have been graceful if he had still been nine years old, with golden curls, a wide lace collar, and red leather bootees.”
As I did the reason for Elstir’s dislike of Ski:
“Any resemblance that there may have been between them was, however, purely external. It was sufficient to make Elstir, who had met Ski once, feel for him the profound repulsion that is inspired in us not so much by the people who are completely different from us as by those who are less satisfactory versions of ourselves, in whom are displayed our less attractive qualities, the faults of which we have cured ourselves, unpleasantly reminding us of how we must have appeared to certain other people before we became what we are now.’
For me, that’s another one of those Proustian observations that makes me shake my head and ask, “How does he KNOW that?”
Moncrieff: Page 371 “If this is your first appearance at Mme Verdurins’s, Monsieur…” through Page 381 “…and remained left of centre until his dying day.”
Sturrock: Page 269 “If this is your first time at Mme Verdurin’s, monsieur,” through Page 276 “…and died an incorrigible member of the center-left.”