Moncrieff: 269-298; Clark: 186-206
by Dennis Abrams
Still on the threshold of entering the Verdurin’s, Brichot reassures himself regarding Charlus by thinking about Plato and Virgil, “because, being mentally as well as physically blind, he did not understand that in their day to love a young man was the equivalent (Socrates’s jokes reveal this more clearly than Plato’s theories) of keeping a dancing girl before getting engaged to be married in ours.” Charlus’s ‘tastes’ reveal themselves in the furnishing of his home. The Baron’s appearance, his mascara’ed eyelids and powdered cheeks, “gave him the appearance of a Grand Inquisitor painted by El Greco.” Charlus’s ‘vice” once a secret, is now apparent in his language and appearance. Charlus embarrasses Brichot with his speech: “So this is how you prowl the streets at night, Brichot, with a good-looking young man…” Charlus’s vice has bored him to the point where he sometimes spends the night with a woman. Why has Charlus taken off his mask? Age? Contempt for the opinion of others? “A vice (so M. de Charlus used at one time to style it) to which the Baron now gave the genial aspect of a mere failing, extremely common, attractive on the whole and almost amusing, like laziness, absent-mindedness or greed.” Camping. Charlus admits to seeing Morel that morning, which Marcel translates to mean that he has seen him within the hour. The reason for such lies. Charlus speaks of Morel as “his nice little friend.” Several weeks after the evening at the Verdurin’s, Charlus is “plunged into a state of grief and stupification,” when he reads a letter from the actress to Lea, which indicates that Morel shares with Lea a taste for women. “One of us.” The Baron’s jealousy “could not longer confine itself to the men of Morel’s acquaintance, but would have to extend to the women also.” Charlus hires spies to watch Morel. Despite his jealousy regarding Morel, Charlus is still interested in other young men, and uses Morel’s fame to “provide the bait.” The Baron’s continued interest in Bloch. The magnificence of the programme Charlus has planned for the Verdurin’s, spread over two nights. His invitation to Oriane, “it is not certain that she will come, but it is on the other hand certain that if she does come, she will understand absolutely nothing. But one doesn’t ask her to understand, which is beyond her capacity, but to talk, a task for which she is admirably suited, and which she never fails to perform.” Morel’s compositions and lampoons. Charlus’s fashion advice for Marcel’s “cousin” Albertine, and his gift of “observing minutely and distinguishing the detail’s of a woman’s clothes as much as of a painting…a fondness for male attractions is balanced by an innate taste, a knowledge and feeling for female dress.” The dressmaker. Marcel’s regret that Charlus never wrote, and his conviction that he would have been a good writer, “In any case, even if I am mistaken about what he might have achieved with the merest page of prose, he would have performed a rare service by writing, for, while he observed and distinguished everything, he also knew that name of everything he distinguished.” Marcel learns from Charlus that Vinteuil’s daughter and her friend “who both have a terrible reputation,” are expected at the Verdurin’s, and were supposed to have been at the rehearsal earlier that afternoon. Marcel turns green at the news, realizing why Albertine wanted to be at the Verdurin’s that afternoon. New doubts are introduced. Doubt revives pain. “A single word is enough…for all the preconceived happiness towards which we were reaching out to collapse, for the sun to hide its face…” “At that moment I would have gladly allowed Albertine to go out by herself, to go wherever she might choose, provided that I might lock up Mlle Vinteuil and her friend somewhere and be certain that Albertine would not meet them.” Jealousy is partial, intermittent and localised.
This weekend’s reading is a nice example of Proust’s ability to slow down time at his will — how long have Marcel, Brichot, and Charlus been standing at the Verdurin’s door? The similarities between Marcel and Charlus’s jealousy…
I liked this a lot:
“The shepherd in Theocritus who sighs for love of a boy will have no reason later to be less hard of heart, less dull of wit than the other shepherd whose flute sounds for Amaryllis. For the former is not suffering from a disease; he is conforming to the customs of his time. It is the homosexuality that survives in spite of obstacles, shameful, execrated, that is the only true form, the only form that corresponds in one and the same person to an intensification of the intellectual qualities. One is dismayed at the relationship that can exist between these and a person’s bodily attributes when one thinks of the tiny dislocation of a purely physical taste, the slight blemish in one of the senses, that explains why the world of poets and musicians, so firmly barred against the Duc de Guermantes, opens its portals to M. de Charlus.”
“The poet is to be pitied the most, with no Virgil to guide him, pass through the circles of an inferno of sulphur and brimstone, who must cast himself into the fire that falls from heaven in order to rescue a few of the inhabitants of Sodom!”
Was he thinking of himself?
Moncrieff: “Just as we were about to enter the courtyard…” through “…he will not tolerate the collaboration of a homeopath.” Pages 298-311; Kindle locations 3877-85/4051-58
Clark: “As we were about to enter the courtyard of the Verdurin’s house…” through “intends not to have forced on him the collaboration of a homeopath.” Pages 206-215; Kindle locations 3998-4006/4151-58