Moncrieff: 682-692; Sturrock: 485-492
by Dennis Abrams
At Beausoliel or Doncieres, Saint-Loup or one of his friends would board the train with an invitation from Captain de Borodino. Marcel’s jealousy of Saint-Loup: “…the whole of the time he was with us I contrived, without letting anyone notice, to keep Albertine a prisoner under my unnecessarily vigilant eye.” During one such protracted stop, Bloch boards the train and invites Marcel to get out and say hello to his father who is waiting in his carriage, “But I could not bear to leave Albertine in the train with Saint-Loup; they might, while my back was turned, get into conversation, go into another compartment, smile at one another, touch one another; my eyes, glued to Albertine, could not detach themselves from her so long as Saint-Loup was there.” Marcel refuses Bloch’s request, and Bloch, who sees the kind of people (Charlus among them) that Marcel is traveling with is angered, “I was sorry to appear lacking in comradeship, and even more so for the reason for which Bloch supposed that I was lacking in it, and to feel that he imagined that I was not the same towards my middle-class friends when I was with people of ‘birth.'” Marcel would rather appear to be a snob than confess his jealousy of Albertine. Misunderstandings that can destroy friendships. Marcel reveals his disappointment with Bloch that, at a luncheon he had at Mme Bontemps, he didn’t join in the chorus of praise for Marcel. “It is not that I admire you less than the ravening dogs with whom I had been bidden to feed. But I admire you because I admire you, and they admire you without understanding you.” Pudor, daughter of Kronion. Bloch’s belief that “I was incapable of depriving myself for a second of the company of smart people, but that, jealous of the advances that they might make to him (M. de Charlus, for instance), I was trying to put a spoke in his wheel and to prevent him from making friends with them…” Charlus’s interest in Bloch, and his attempts not to appear interested. Charlus goes on an anti-Semitic tirade: “As soon as a Jew has enough money to buy a place in the country he always chooses one that is called Priory, Abbey, Minster, Chantry…When they perform in Holy Week those indecent spectacles that are called ‘the Passion,’ half the audience are Jews, exulting in the thought that they are about to hang Christ a second time on the Cross, at least in effigy…” The tirade continues when Charlus learns that Bloch’s father’s office was in the Rue des Blancs-Manteaux: “Oh, isn’t that the last word in perversity!…What sacrilege! To think that these White Mantles polluted by M. Bloch were those of the mendicant friars, styled Serfs of the Blessed Virgin, whom Saint Louis established there…” Charlus pulls back a bit before continuing: “‘Of course,’ he went on in a lofty, grandiloquent tone suited to the discussion of aesthetic matters, and giving, by an unconscious atavistic reflex, the air of an old Louis XIII musketeer to his uplifted face: ‘I take an interest in all that sort of thing only from the point of view of art. Politics are not in my line, and I cannot condemn wholesale, because Bloch belongs to it, a nation that numbers Spinoza among its illustrious sons. And I admire Rembrandt too much not to realise the beauty that can be derived from frequenting the synagogue. But after all, a ghetto is all the finer the more homogeneous and complete it is.” Charlus suggests that Bloch could take them to see the Church of the White Mantles. Morel, noticing the impression that Bloch made on Charlus, “murmured his thanks in my ear for having ‘given him the push,’ adding cynically: ‘He wanted to stay, it’s all jealousy, he’d like to take my place. Just like a Yid!'”
Marcel would rather appear to be a snob than appear to be jealous? Marcel is too jealous to leave Albertine with Saint-Loup on a public train for just a few minutes because they might smile at each other?
And Charlus’s interest in Bloch? And that venemous diatribe? What was going on with this story?
“It was there, by the way, that there lived a strange Jew who boiled the Host, after which I think theyboiledhim, which is stranger still since it seems to suggest that the body of a Jew can be equivalent to the Body of Our Lord.”
And of course there’s this:
“So it is that in theory we find that we ought always to explain ourselves frankly, to avoid misunderstandings. But very often life arranges these in such a way that, in order to dispel them, in the rare circumstances in which it might be possible to do so, we must real either — something that would annoy our friend even more than the imaginary wrong that he imputes to us, or a secret the disclosure of which — and this was my predicament — appears to us even worse than the misunderstanding.”
And, for those you who were wondering who “sacred Pudor” was…
Seneca, Hercules Furens 686 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
“[Description of the Underworld :] The foul pool of Cocytus’ sluggish stream lies here; here the vulture, there the dole-bringing owl utters its cry, and the sad omen of the gruesome screech-owl sounds. The leaves shudder, black with gloomy foliage where sluggish Sopor [Hypnos, sleep] clings to the overhanging yew, where sad Fames [Limos, hunger] lies with wasted jaws, and Pudor [Aidos, shame], too late, hides her guilt-burdened face. Metus [Deimos, dread] stalks there, gloomy Pavor [Phobos, fear] and gnashing Dolor [Algos, pain], sable Luctus [Penthos, grief], tottering Morbus [disease] and iron-girt Bella [Enyo, war]; and last of all slow Senectus [Geras, age] supports his steps upon a staff.”
And finally…I read this essay by J.P. Smith at one of my favorite sites, “The Millions,” on reading Proust in French, and thought it would make excellent weekend reading:
Both translations — we’re finishing Sodom and Gomorrah. If you get a chance over the weekend, post something…your assessment of the books so far, your evaluation of Sodom and Gomorrah, favorite characters, least favorite characters, what pushes you forward, what you have problems with, how it compares with what you thought it would be, things you’d like to see in my posts…whatever you’d like. Even if you’ve NEVER posted, make your voice heard!
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.