Moncrieff: 174-185; Clark: 121-128
by Dennis Abrams
With Albertine gone, Marcel stands for a moment at the window. “There was at first a silence, amid which the whistle of the tripe-vendor and the hooting trams reverberated through the air in different octaves, like a blind piano-tuner.” If Marcel were to leave his aristocratic quarter (unless it was for something entirely plebeian), it “would seem to me very dreary, quite uninhabitable, stripped, drained of all these litanies of the small trades and itinerant victuals, deprived of the orchestra that came every morning to charm me.” “The whirring of a violin was due at one time to the passing of the car, at another to my not having put enough water in my electric hot-water bottle.” The sounds, noise, and cries of the street. Marcel watches the girls making their deliveries. “To estimate the loss that I suffered by my seclusion, that is to say the riches that the day had to offer me, I should have had to intercept in the long unwinding of the animated frieze some damsel carrying her laundry or her milk, transfer her for a moment, like the silhouette of a mobile piece of stage decor between its supports, into the frame of my door, and keep her there before my eyes long enough to elicit some information about her which would enable me to find her again some day…” Marcel asks Francoise to send one of the girls up to run an errand for him. The girl from the dairy: “…a startling towhead, tall in stature though little more than a child…I had seen her from a distance only, and for so brief an instant that I could not have described her appearance…a sharply defined nose (a rare thing in a child) in a thin face, which recalled the beaks of baby vultures…In this too skinny young person, who also struck one’s attention too forcibly, the excess of what another person would perhaps have called her charms was precisely what was calculated to repel me, but had nevertheless had the effect of preventing me from even noticing, let alone remembering, anything about the other dairymaids…” Marcel reads a letter from his mother, and senses that she is annoyed that Albertine is still living there and that Marcel still plans to marry Albertine, even though he has not informed Albertine of this fact. Francoise returns with the dairymaid. Elstir and violets. The gap between the women of our imagination and real women, the ones we are able to approach.
A beautiful section: I loved (once again) the description of the sounds of the street, the street hawkers, the “woman with no pretence to fashion (or else obedient to an ugly fashion) came past, too brightly dressed in a sack overcoat of goatskin; but no, it was not a woman, it was a chauffeur who, enveloped in his goatskin, was proceeding on foot to his garage,” the butcher’s assistant, arranging in the window a display of kidneys, steaks and ribs — “was really far more reminiscent of a handsome angel who, on the Day of Judgment, will organise for God, according to their quality, the separation of the good and the wicked and the weighing of souls.”
2. And this: “A whore smiles at us in the street as she will smile when she is by our side. We are sculptors. We want to obtain of a woman a statue entirely different from the one she has presented to us.”
3. And this: “And so one spends one’s life in anxious approaches, constantly renewed, to serious working-girls whose calling seems to distance them from one. Once they are in one’s arms, they are no longer what they were, the distance that one dreamed of bridging is abolished. But one begins anew with other women, one devotes all one’s time, all one’s money, all one’s energy to these enterprises, one is enraged by the too cautious driver who may make us miss the first rendezvous, one works oneself up to a fever. And yet one knows that this first rendezvous will bring the end of an illusion. No matter: as long as the illusion lasts one wants to see whether one can convert it into reality…Amorous curiosity is like the curiosity aroused in us by the names of places, perpetually disappointed, it revives and remains forever insatiable.”
Reality disappoints. Unless, like Elstir, you’re able to turn a single violet into an entire field.
Moncrieff: “Alas, as soon as she stood before me…” through “…I sought to ward off my suffering without thereby realising my love.” Pages 184-196; Kindle locations 2407-14/2564-71
Clark: “Alas, once in my room…” through “…without thereby giving any more reality to my love.” Pages 128-136; Kindle locations 2634-41/2777-83