Moncrieff: 692-724; Sturrock: 492-514
by Dennis Abrams
Saint-Loup gets off the train, Marcel realizes that Albertine has done everything she can to spare Marcel any uneasiness, placing herself so that “she could not even unintentionally brush against Robert, almost too far away even to shake hands with him…” Summer is drawing to a close. “Incarville, which had filled my mind with so many dreams in the past, what I saw, as though its old sandstone wall had become transparent, was the comfortable house of an uncle of M. de Cambremer…So that it was not merely the place-names of this district that had lost their initial mystery, but the places themselves.” Stops at train stations “were a setting for social intercourse like any other…” Stops along the way, the journey itself was now reduced to “a series of visits.” “The benefit that I did at least derive from it was that of looking at things only from a practical point of view. The idea of marrying Albertine appeared to be madness.” Intermittences of the heart II: Marcel informs his mother of his intention not to marry Albertine and to stop seeing her altogether. Marcel decides that he wants to be free to be with Andree when she arrives at Balbec in a few days, “not to marry her if I did not wish to do so, to be able to go to Venice, but at the same to have her entirely to myself in the meantime…” and plans to tell Andree that it’s too bad she hadn’t arrived earlier, that he’s unhappy in his other love, “and you will help to console me….for in this way I should give Andree the impression that I was not really in love with her; hence she would not grow tired of me and I should take a joyful and pleasant advantage of her affection.” Returning home from La Raspliere, Marcel tells Albertine that on his next visit, he wants Mme Verdurin to “let him here some things by a musician whose work she knows very well…I should like to know if the rest of his work is published…his name is Vinteuil.” Albertine informs Marcel that Vinteuil’s daughter and her “friend” are like big sisters to her, that the happiest years of her life were spent with them at Trieste, and that she’s planning to join them in a few weeks at Cherbourg, before setting out on a cruise together. On hearing this, “an image stirred in [Marcel’s] heart, an image which I had kept in reserve for so many years that even I had been able to guess, when I stored it up long ago, that it had a noxious power, I should have supposed that in the course of time it had entirely lost it; preserved alive in the depths of my being…” Orestes. Memory of the scene at Montjouvain “concealed behind a bush where (as when I had complacently listened to the account of Swann’s love affairs) I had perilously allowed to open up within me the fatal and inevitably painful road of Knowledge.” Horror at the notion “of Albertine as the friend of Mlle Vinteuil and of Mlle Vinteuil’s friend, a practicing and professional Sapphist…” Marcel pleads with Albertine to spend the night with him at Balbec. “The truth of what Cottard had said to me in the casino at Incarville was now confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt. What I had long dreaded, had vaguely suspected of Albertine, what my instinct deduced from her whole personality and my reason controlled by my despair had gradually made me repudiate, was true! Marcel sees Albertine in a new light. Marcel visits Albertine in her room at the Grand Hotel, and tells her that he is unhappy because of a woman he was to have married in Paris. Albertine promises “‘I shan’t leave you any more, I’m going to spend all my time here,’…offering me, in fact — and alone could offer it — the sole remedy for the poison that was consuming me…” Marcel wants nothing more than to stop Albertine from boarding the boat with Mlle Vinteuil and her friend. Marcel imagines Albertine surrendering herself “with her strange, deep laugh,” to Mlle Vinteuil’s friend. Jealousy. Desire to lock Albertine away. Marcel asks Albertine to come live with him in Paris. Albertine initially objects, and then gives in. The manager’s unhappiness that Marcel is leaving immediately, and Marcel’s desire to keep Albertine away from Bloch’s sisters. The women he has loved and love’s source: “It was as though a virtue that had no connexion with them had been artificially attached to them by nature, and that this virtue, this quasi-electric power, had the effect upon me of exciting my love, that is to say of controlling all my actions and causing all my sufferings. But from this, the beauty, or the intelligence, or the kindness of these women was entirely distinct.” Watching the sunrise. Marcel informs his mother of his intentions: “…I absolutely must marry Albertine.”
Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?
Proust’s comic irony — just as soon as he realizes how much Albertine distances herself from Saint-Loup to assuage his jealousy, just as he prepares to dump her for the possibility of Andree, Marcel learns about Mlle Vinteuil and her friend, and his world turns upside-down.
“Being, in spite of myself, still pursued in my jealousy by the memory of Saint-Loup’s relations with ‘Rachael when from the Lord’ and of Swann’s with Odette, I was too inclined to believe that, once I was in love, I could not be loved in return, and that pecuniary interest alone could attach a woman to me. No doubt it was foolish to judge Albertine by Odette and Rachel. But it was not her I was afraid of, it was myself; it was the feelings that I was capable of inspiring that my jealousy made me underestimate. And from this judgment, possibly erroneous, sprang no doubt many of the calamities that were to befall us.”
I loved this:
“The notion of Albertine as the friend of Mlle Veinteuil and of Mlle Vinteuil’s friend, a practicing and professional Sapphist, was as momentous, compared to what I had imagined when I had doubted her most, as are the telephones that soar over streets, cities, fields, seas, linking one country to another, compared to the little acousticon of the 1889 Exhibition, which was barely expected to transmit sound from one end of a house to the other.”
And this, while rather horrifying…
“Today, in order that Albertine might not go to Trieste, I would have endured every possible torment, and if that proved insufficient, would have inflicted torments on her, would have isolated her, kept her under lock and key, would have taken from her the little money that she had so that it should be physically impossible for her to make the journey.”
“It was Trieste, it was that unknown world in which I could feel that Albertine took a delight, in which were her memories, her friendships, her childhood loves, that exhaled that hostile, inexplicable atmosphere, like that atmosphere that used to float up to my bedroom at Combray, from the dining-room in whichI could hear, talking and laughing with strangers amid the clatter of knives and forks, Mamma who would not be coming upstairs to say good-night to me; like the atmosphere that for Swann, had filled the houses to which Odette went at night in search of inconceivable joys. It was no longer as of a delightful place where the people were pensive, the sunsets golden, the church bells melancholy, that I thought now of Trieste, but as of an accursed city which I should have liked to see instantaneously burned down and eliminated from the real world.”
Like Sodom and Gomorrah?
Why do I have the all too uncomfortable feeling that, in different circumstances, Marcel would be more than happy to keep Albertine in a burka?
A brief re-cap of what we saw in Sodom and Gomorrah:
Marcel witnessing Charlus with Jupien.
The dinner reception at the Princesse de Guermantes.
A visit from Albertine.
Marcel’s return to Balbec.
The first intermittency of the heart: Marcel’s grief over his grandmother’s death.
Marcel renews his relationship with Albertine.
Charlus and Morel.
The Verdurins at La Raspeliere, Charlus becomes one of the “faithful.”
Albertine’s revelation about her long friendship with Mlle Vinteuil and her friend.
Marcel’s jealousy, and his decision to marry Albertine.
And finally, from Samuel Beckett’s study Proust, his look at the changing relationship between Marcel and Albertine. I’m going to begin this quote starting with his description of Albertine’s phone call in Paris to Marcel, when she attempts to beg off coming to visit him:
“But when she telephones to explain, when he knows that she is on her way, then he wonders how he could have seen in this vulgar Albertine, similar, even inferior to so many others, a source of comfort and salvation that no miracle could replace. ‘One only loves that which is not possessed, one only loves that in which one pursues the inaccessible.’
The second visit to Balbec, inaugurated by the retrospective loss and mourning of his grandmother, completes the transformation of a creature of surface into a creature of depth– unfathomable, accomplishes the solidification of a profile. From the moment that Dr. Cottard sees Albertine and her friend Andree (one of the band) dancing together in the Casino at Incarville and pompously diagnoses a case of sexual perversion, dates the ‘reciprocal torture’ of their relations. From this point lies and counterlies, pursuit and evasion, and on the part of the narrator a love for Albertine whose intensity is related in direct proportion to the success of her prevarications. Because Albertine is not only a liar as all those that believe themselves loved are liars: she is a natural liar. A succession of incidents consolidate the narrator’s doubt on the chapter of Albertine, that is to say, exasperate his love for her. She fails to keep an appointment, she lies about an appointment with a mythical friend of her aunt at Infreville, she stares at the reflection in a mirror of Mlle Bloch and her cousin, two practising Sapphists, and then denies having seen them. Then, the narrator’s jealousy and sense of impotence being at their height, their follows a lull, and he is calmed by the docility of an always available Albertine. He becomes indifferent to this new creature who opposes no further resistance. He resolves to break with her, and announces his decision to his mother. Returning one evening with Albertine in the ‘tacot’ from a party at La Raspliere he goes over in his mind the formulae of separation. He happens to mention that he is interested in the music of Vinteuil. Albertine, whose taste in music is as primitive as her appreciation of painting and architecture is developed, hopes to create a favourable impression, declares that she is perfectly familiar with the music of Vinteuil, thanks to her intimacy with Mlle Vinteuil and her friend, the actress Lea. In a paroxysm of jealousy the narrator is back again at Montjouvain, the horrified spectator of those two Lesbians flavouring their pleasure in a sadistic act of desecration at the expense of M Vinteuil himself, who has been dead some time. And this vision of Montjouvain seems to come like Orestes to avenge the murder of Agamemmon. And he thinks of his grandmother and of his cruelties towards her. Albertine, so remote and detached from his heart a moment before, is now not merely an obsession, but part of himself, within him, and the movement she makes to descend from the train threatens to tear open his body. He forces her to accompany him to Balbec. The strand and the waves exist no more, the summer is dead. The sea is a veil that cannot hide the horror of Montjouvain, the intolerable vision of sadistic lubricity and a photograph defiled. He sees in Albertine another Rachel and another Odette, and the sterility and mockery of an affection dictated by interest. He sees his life as a succession of joyless dawns, poisoned by the torture of memory and isolation. The next morning he brings Albertine to Paris and locks her up in his house.”
Moncrieff: Page 1: “At daybreak, my face still turned to the wall…” through Page 11 “…even more than to punish us.”
Clark: Sorry, my copy hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s through Page 10.