Moncrieff: 497-514; Sturrock: 355-368
by Dennis Abrams
Refreshments are served, and Charlus, by selecting strawberry-juice over orangeade, “with endless simperings and wrigglings of the hips,” makes it clear that one could say: “Ah, he likes the stronger sex,” with the same certainty as enables a judge to sentence a criminal who has not confessed, or a doctor a patient suffering from general paralysis who himself is perhaps unaware of his malady but has made some mistake in pronunciation from which it can be deduced that he will be dead in three years.” The Baron de Charlus remains in his seat, not offering it to Mme Verdurin. Mme Verdurin refers to the Baron as “Charlus,” and begins their first skirmish. Mme Verdurin is perturbed at seeing Marcel with M. de Cambremer. Mme Verdurin asks Charlus whether he goes to Mme de Mole’s, whether or not he has ever met the Duc de Guermantes there, and finally, is shocked to learn that the Duc is Charlus’s brother, “the idea that the brother of the Duc de Guermantes might be called Baron de Charlus had never entered her head.” Mme Verdurin works to dissuade Marcel from having dinner at Feterne with the Cambremers: “…for your own sake I very much hope you won’t go. For one thing the place is infested with bores. Oh, if you like dining with provincial counts and marquises whom nobody knows, you’ll have all you wish…it’s extremely unhealthy; when you’ve caught pneumonia, or a nice little chronic rheumatism, what good will that do you?…Go there once, and you won’t sleep for a week after, but it’s not my business.” Despite what she’s said, Mme Verdurin offers, if Marcel insists on still going, to accompany him to the Cambremer’s with the entire clan. Marcel, to make it easier for him to take Albertine about, tells Mme Verdurin that she’s his cousin. Mme Verdurin invites “cousin” Albertine to visit before they all go to the Cambremers. Mme Verdurin attempts to discourage Marcel from having a tea-party at Rivebelle with Albertine “and M. de Charlus, and I forget who else. You should arrange to bring the whole lot on here…I can’t imagine what you find attractive in Rivebelle, it’s infested with mosquitoes. Perhaps you’re thinking of the reputation of the local pancakes. My cook makes them far better…Ah! if you want the sort of filth they give you at Rivebelle, you won’t get it from me, I don’t poison my guests…Those pancakes you get down there, you can’t tell what they’re made of. I knew a poor girl who got peritonitis from them, which carried her off in three days. She was only seventeen. It was sad for her poor mother…However, go and have tea at Rivebelle if you enjoy being fleeced and flinging money out of the window. But one thing I beg of you — it’s a confidential mission I’m entrusting you with — on the stroke of six bring all your party here, don’t allow them to go straggling away by themselves. You can bring whom you please. I wouldn’t say that to everybody. But I’m sure your friends are nice. I can see at once that we understand one another.” Mme Verdurin assures Marcel that next Wednesday’s crowd will be much better than that day’s. Mme Verdurin disparages Swann, “I heard you say that you thought Swann clever. To my mind it’s greatly exaggerated, but without even speaking of the character of the man, which I’ve always found fundamentally antipathetic, sly, underhand…ask the others here if he ever said anything interesting in our dinners. That after all is the test…I was always bored to death by him (Translation: ‘He went to the La Tremoilles and the Guermantes and knew that I didn’t.’)” Mme Verdurins’ horror of boredom. Ranking Swann, Brichot, and the Guermantes. The nature of intelligence. Mme Verdurin offers to let Marcel and his “cousin” stay with her at Raspliere. Mme Verdurin, who had heard that Saint-Loup knew Charlus, assumed it was through Morel, and that Saint-Loup was one of “his greatest friends,” despite the fact that they “were not even aware of one another’s existence.” Mme Verdurin offers to put in a good word for Saint-Loup wherever necessary. M. Verdurin is still irritated by Saniette. More card playing. More puns from Dr. Cottard. Departure. Marcel turns down a rug to protect him from the cold “which, on subsequent evenings, I was to accept when Albertine was with me, more to preserve the secrecy of pleasure than to avoid the risk of cold.” The disappearance of the Norwegian philosopher. Cottard and Dr. du Boulbon. Mme Verdurin praises Saniette. Departures. Mme de Cambremer’s love of teasing (or attacking) others, and M de Cambremer’s enjoyment.
What can I say — I loved this section. It’s all about Mme Verdurin of course, her need for the clan to be exclusive, her seeming insecurity, and her dislike of anything that might take someone away from her for whatever reason.
Is it just me, or is she the greatest Jewish mother ever? “Go, go if you want, but don’t come crying to me when you get food poisoning…You want to waste your money on what?” The seventeen year old girl who died of peritonitis from a bad pancake? Feterne is “starvation corner?” If you like rats, “go there at once, you’ll get as many as you want.” From a distance, she’s such an enjoyable, unforgettable monster.
And a question for the group: Can anyone imagine what life is like for the Verdurins when they’re alone?
“But on hearing M. de Charlus say, in that shrill voice and with that smile and those gestures, ‘No, I preferred its neighbour, the strawberry-juice,’ one could say: ‘Ah, he likes the stronger sex…” Pinching Morel’s ear wasn’t enough — it took the choice of strawberry-juice to reveal Charlus’s secret?
And finally, the last of George Painter’s discussion of the real-life women and their salons that helped to inspire Proust:
“If a musical evening at Mme Lemaire’s was very like the ‘crush’ at Mme de Saint-Euverte’s, where Swann heard the Vinteuil Sonata for the second time, it is none the less certain that the chief original of that hapless lady was Marquise Diane de Saint-Paul. Like Mme de Saint-Eurverte she was of excellent family, being born a Feydeau de Brou, and her company was as aristocratic as she pleased: it must be remembered that Mme de Saint-Euverte’s salon was attended by the Duchesse, Breaute, Swann and the rest of the Guermantes set, and it was only M. de Charlus who pretended, for his own sadistic pleasure, that her house was no better than a privy. Mme de Saint-Paul gave concerts at which the greatest artists of the day performed, and dinners for academicians at which the food was not infrequently provided by the guests: ‘They’ll bring me flowers, so why shouldn’t they bring pheasants?’ she said. Her biting tongue and her brilliance as a pianist were expressed in her nickname, the Serpent a Sonates, or sonata-snake — a pun which Proust gave to Swann’s rival Forcheville, who had to explain it to the baffled Cottard. Proust gave Mme de Saint-Euverte the forename, Diane, of her original, and took her surname from the Rue Saint-Euverte near his lodgings at Orleans in his army year. At the Princesse de Guermantes’s soiree M. de Charlus taunts her with her ‘mystic name’, and Montesquiou had once loudly exclaimed in Mme de Saint Paul’s hearing: ‘That she should dare to call herself both Diana dn Saint Paul is as monstrous an insult to paganism as it is to Christianity!’ In his Figaro article of 11 May 1903 on Mme Lemaire’s salon Proust was to introduce the Marquise de Saint-Paul angling there for her next week’s guests (as Mme de Saint-Euverte did at the Princesse de Guermantes’s soiree), and promising the singer Gabrielle Krauss ‘a fan painted by her own hands if she would promise to perform at her next Thursday in the Rue Nitot’.
Mme Aubernon, nevertheless, remains the most important model of Mme Verdurin; and the chief significance of Mme Lemaire for Proust was that in her salon was the most accessible entrance to the Guermantes Way…”
Moncrieff: Page 515 “I was dropping with sleep.” through Page 524 “…this was enough to make me feel entirely rested.”
Sturrock: Page 369 “I could not keep awake.” through Page 375 “…that was enough for me to feel fully rested.”
(A note on translation: How different is “I was dropping with sleep” from “I could not keep awake.”?