Moncrieff: 111-146; Clark: 79-102
by Dennis Abrams
“…if jealousy helps us to discover a certain tendency to falsehood in the woman we love, it multiplies this tendency a hundredfold when the woman has discovered that we are jealous. She lies…” Deciphering Albertine’s lies: saying something isn’t important means that it is. “Jealousy is often only an anxious need to be tyrannical applied to matters of love.” An inheritance from his father to threaten the people he loved. Marcel suggests other expeditions for Albertine which would make the visit to the Verdurins impossible. Sparks flash from Albertine’s eyes. The desire for flight. “…we perceive that our love is a function of our sorrow, that our love perhaps is our sorrow…” “…a body becomes the object of love only when an emotion, fear of losing it, uncertainty of getting it backs, melts into it.” “Afraid of losing her, we forget all the others. Sure of keeping her, we compare her with those others whom at once we prefer to her…these fears and these certainties may vary from week to week…” Albertine concedes that, properly speaking, Marcel is not her “lover.” The desire to know at all costs what Albertine is thinking. “…the continuous weft of habit from which we can never free ourselves.” “What we need is to extricate ourselves from these bonds which are so much more important than the person…” Lies. Francoise’s dislike of Albertine, her “sibylline utterances.” Marcel calls Andree to ask her to keep Albertine away from the Verdurins. Marcel’s pride of possession in being able to say “Albertine.” Marcel considers going with Andree and Albertine to the Verduri9ons. The telephone goddesses. The dissimilarities in women’s voices. The black satin dress. Marcel tells Albertine that he has called Andree. Suffering in love. “Jealousy is moreover a demon that cannot be exorcised, but constantly reappears in new incarnations.” Albertine’s new lack of spontaneous impulses. Albertine warns Marcel that that’s nights fog is sure to last until the next day, and it wouldn’t be good for him to go out in it. Albertine considers the possibility of going shopping at a department store instead of going to the Verdurins, setting off new alarms with Marcel, who worries about the people she might brush up against, and that she will be “provided with so many exits that a woman can always say that when she came out she could not find her carriage which was waiting further along the street…” making Marcel extremely unhappy. Albertine is no longer a woman, “but a series of insoluble problems…” Aerodromes. Despite spending more time with Albertine, Marcel still has no peace of mind. “I must choose to cease from suffering or to cease from loving. For, just as in the beginning it is formed by desire, so afterwards love is kept in existence by painful anxiety.” Marcel suggests a show at the Trocadero. Marcel speaks to Albertine like his parents spoke to him. The sensitive boy and “the man of the opposite sort.” Marcel believes he can break from Albertine to Venice, but when Albertine tells him “my aunt never knew anybody at Infreville, and I’ve never been to the place,” forgetting the lie she had told him about having to leave him to have tea with the friend, Marcel is shattered, “And once again I postponed our rupture to another day.” Marcel speaks to Albertine as his grandmother spoke to him.” Marcel feels some remorse at being so insufferable towards Albertine, but can’t tell her he loves her because “apart from the fact it would have told Albertine nothing new, would perhaps have made her colder towards me than the harshness and deceit for which love was the sole excuse.” “Other people leave us indifferent, and indifference does not prompt us to unkindness.” Albertine denies knowing Bloch’s cousin Esther. Marcel’s ruses to win Albertine’s kiss: his refusal to call her back, pacing outside her room, trapping her into falling asleep in his bed, knowing her affection when she wakes up. When asleep, Albertine seems to have recaptured her innocence. “I could take her head, lift it up, press her face to my lips, put her arms around my neck, and she would continue to sleep…”
This whole section of Marcel’s description of his feeling and actions towards Albertine, his desperate jealousy, his manipulations, Albertine’s manipulations, was painfully brilliant.
1. Like a slap across the face: “A person has no need for sincerity, nor even of skill in lying, in order to be loved. Here I mean by love reciprocal torture.”
2. And this: “Love, in the pain of anxiety as in the bliss of desire, is a demand for the whole. It is born, and it survives, only if some part remains for it to conquer. We love only what we do not possess.”
“We love only what we do not possess.”
3. Reading Albertine’s strategy for getting to go on her visit to the Verdurins, “Well…I might go…I haven’t decided yet…,” casually downplaying the importance, it hit me how capable I am of behaving the same way.
4. Marcel’s need for the kiss from Albertine as a repeat of his need for a kiss from his mother.
And finally…I mentioned in my previous post that Marcel had become his own Iago. I did a little reading in Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why, and found this that elaborates a bit on the idea:
“Nietzsche, in one of his most Hamlet-like formulations, advised us that what we could find words for was something already dead in our hearts, so that there was always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Proust, unlike Shakespeare, is free of that contempt, and his grandest characters manifest his generosity. The deadness of our hearts, our selfish egoism, is an intense concern, manifested more by sexual jealousy than by any other human affect, in Proust as in Shakespeare. I venture that novel-reading now performs the labor of assuaging envy, of which a most virulent form is sexual jealousy. Since the two Western authors most supreme in dramatizing sexual jealousy are Shakespeare and Proust, the quest for how to read a novel can provisionally be reduced to how to read sexual jealousy. I sometimes feel that the best literary training my students at Yale and NYU can obtain is only an enhancement of their pragmatic training by sexual jealousy, the most aesthetic of all psychic maladies, as Iago knew. That must be why Proust compares the quests of his jealous lovers to the obsessions of the art historian, as when Swann reconstructs the details of Odette’s sexual past with ‘as much passion as the aesthete who ransacks the extant documents of fifteenth-century Florence in order to penetrate further into the soul of the Primavera, the fair Vanna or the Venus of Botticelli.’ Presumably art historians revel in this ransacking, whereas poor Swann gazes ‘in impotent, blind, dizzy anguish over the bottomless abyss.’ Yet Swann provides our comic pleasure by his sufferings, eve as we wince. Reading about the fictive jealousies of others may not heal our parallel torments, and may never teach us a comic perspective applicable to ourselves, and yet the sympathetic pleasure aroused seems close to the center of aesthetic experience. In Proust as in Shakespeare, the art itself is nature, an observation crucial to The Winter’s Tale, which rivals Othello as Shakespeare’s vision of sexual jealousy. Proust does not make us into Iago when we read, and yet we revel in his narrator’s self-ruinings, for in Proust every major character, but Marcel in particular, becomes his own Iago. Of all Shakespeare’s villains, Iago is the most inventive at stimulating sexual jealousy in his prime victim, Othello. The genius of Iago is that of a great playwright who delights in tormenting and mutilating his characters. In Proust, many of the protagonists become instances of an Iago turned against himself. What gives more aesthetic pleasure than a pride of self-mutilating Iagos?”
And, finally, finally…
respectability, his family had begun to deliberately destroy and sell their inheritance of his notebooks, letters, manuscripts, furni-ture, and personal effects. Horrified by the destruction, and consumed with desire, Guérin ingratiated himself with Marcel’s heirs, placating them with cash and kindness in exchange for the writer’s priceless, rare material remains. After years of relentless persuasion, Guérin was at last rewarded with a highly personal prize, one he had never dreamed of possessing, a relic he treasured to the end of his long life: Proust’s overcoat.
Moncrieff: “The day after the evening when Albertine had told me…” through “…to make her return home to my side.” Pages 146-160; Kindle locations: 1911-18/2104-13
C lark: “The morning after the evening when Albertine had told me…” through “…and make her come home to me.” Pages 102-112; Kindle locations 2181-87/2358-66