Moncrieff: 1-10; Clark: 1-10
by Dennis Abrams
Daybreak in Paris. Street sounds. “I would awake finally to clarion peals of music. It was, in fact, principally from my bedroom that I took in the life of the outer world during this period.” Bloch, who had heard the sounds of conversation coming from Marcel’s bedroom in the evening, is shocked to later learn that Albertine had been living there, Marcel “having concealed her presence from everybody…” Late night kisses from Albertine, “she used to slide her tongue between my lips like a portion of daily bread, a nourishing food…” Marcel and Albertine’s adjoining bathrooms, “the windows, so that their occupants might not be visible from without, were not smooth and transparent but crinkled with an artificial and old-fashioned hoar-frost. All of a sudden, the sun would colour this muslin glass, gild it, and, gently disclosing in my person an earlier young man whom habit had long concealed, would intoxicate me with memories, as though I were in the heart of the country amidst golden foliage in which even a bird was not lacking.” Albertine’s bad taste in music. Many mornings, Marcel would stay in bed as long as possible; even ringing the bell for Francoise was too much effort. Now that he has her, Marcel is bored with Albertine, and “was indeed clearly conscious that I was not in love…” The little people inside Marcel, whose company he prefers to Albertine. Ringing for Francoise, opening the Figaro in the hope of finding “an article, or so-called article, which I had sent to the editor, and which was no more than a slightly revised version of the page that had recently come to light, written long ago in Dr. Percepied’s carriage, as I gazed at the spires of Martinville. Mamma’s letter, her disapproval mixed with tolerance of Albertine living in the house. Mme Bontemp’s approval of the situation. Mamma will be away at Combray for months. Legrandin’s kindness in caring for Marcel’s great-aunt until his mother arrives, “Snobbery is a grave disease, but it is localised and does not utterly corrupt the soul.” New rules for Albertine. Francoise’s traditionalism.
Well, that didn’t take long did it:
“But this calm which my mistress procured for me was an assuagement of suffering rather than a joy. Not that it did not enable me to taste many joys from which the intensity of my anguish had debarred me, but, far from my owning them to Albertine, who in any case I no longer found very pretty and with whom I was bored, with whom I was indeed clearly conscious that I was not in love, I tasted these joys on the contrary when Albertine was not with me.”
Yet, if she had gone to Trieste…
I’m not sure how many of you read the comments, but Clint White left this one yesterday in response to my asking on Friday for your impressions, evaluations, etc., and I think it’s very well worth posting:
“As for your questions about impressions, evaluations, difficulties, experiences vs. expectations, and such… I am finding Proust far, far funnier than I expected (which seems to be a not uncommon reaction). Also, I am surprised at how clean the writing is. Having heard of the marathon sentences, I guess I expected more stream of consciousness, run on sentences with little or no structure. Instead I’m finding that virtually every sentence, while perhaps a cascade of numerous clauses, is well constructed. Thoughts which open a sentence may be interrupted for a while with various dependent clauses, but eventually Proust returns to finish off those opening thoughts by the end of the sentence. I like that. Along these lines, I absolutely love how we keep happening upon people, places, and events that we knew before. I like how Francoise, Aimee, and others show up from time to time. Here in the final pages of of “Sodom and Gomorrah” we are recalled to a moment from the early part of “Swann’s Way” and from moments in “Budding Grove”. Like clauses in his sentences, these earlier parts of the narrative don’t simply trail off; they may be interrupted for a while by other parts, but they keep coming back.”
I was particularly struck by Clint’s idea (which, alas, had never occured to me) of the book being similar in structure to Proust’s sentences, where clauses (or characters) that may seem to have been dropped or forgotten or interrupted, return once again.
And finally, a brief excerpt from Edmund Wilson’s essay on Proust from his collection Axel’s Castle, regarding the two volumes we are just beginning:
“The episode with Albertine upon which Proust put so much labor and which he intended for the climax of his book, has not been one of the most popular sections, and it is certainly one of the most trying to read. Albertine is seen in so many varying moods, made the subject of so many ideas, dissociated into so many different images, and her lover describes at such unconscionable length the writhings of his own sensibility, that we sometimes feel ourselves going under in the gray horizonless ocean of analysis and lose sight of Proust’s unwavering objective grasp of the characters of both lovers which make the catastrophe inevitable. Furthermore, the episode of Albertine does not supply us with any of the things which we ordinarily expect from love affairs in novels: it is quite without tenderness, glamour or romance — the relation between Albertine and her lover seems to involve neither idealism nor enjoyment. But this is also its particular strength: it is one of the most original studies of love in fiction and, in spite of the highly special conditions under which it is made to take place, we recognize it as an inescapable truth. And it ends by moving us in a curious way…”
Moncrieff: Page 11 “Among the reasons which led Mamma to write me a letter every day…” through Page 22 “…in keeping watch on my behalf.”
Clark: Page 10 through Page 17 “…relying on others to do my surveillance for me.”