Moncrieff: 323-335; Clark: 223-230
by Dennis Abrams
Charlus pulls Morel aside, ostensibly to discuss his upcoming performance, but, “above all taking a sweet delight..in displaying thus publicly their secret intimacy.” Marcel notes the relatively large number of young girls in attendance, and “The air was thus continually embellished with charming girlish smiles.” Afterwards, Charlus has a quiet conversation with “two dukes, a distinguished general, an eminent physician and a great lawyer,” discussing the attributes of the footman, “a little blond person in short breeches, who seemed to me most attractive…a big strapping fellow over six feet tall, with a perfect skin…” Mme Verdurin announces to Brichot that even though Charlus is an agreeable man who she knew wouldn’t flirt with the other women of the little group and cause problems, now that he’s preventing Morel from performing at a party he hasn’t been invited to, “he’s going to be taught a lesson, and I hope he’ll profit by it, otherwise he can simply take his hat and go.” M. Verdurin offers to speak to Morel, but Mme Verdurin, afraid that it will effect his performance, asks her husband to wait. M. de Charlus’s downfall will be caused by the behavior of the guests he invited to the Verdurins, who, with the exception of the Queen of Naples, absolutely ignore their hosts, and “formed a group by themselves, watched, bubbling over with ironical curiosity, the arrival of the faithful, but were able at the most to point a finger at the somewhat peculiar hair-style of a person who, a few years later, was to make this the fashion in the highest society…” Charlus never thinks to ask his guests to say a few words to Mme Verdurin, but with a sudden glare, silences the crowd before the performance. “They were all hypnotised; no one dared to utter another sound, to move a chair; respect for music — by virtue of Palamede’s prestige — had been instantaneously inculcated in a crowd as ill-bred as it was elegant.” Mme Verdurin sits alone. The concert begins, there is no program, “I did not know what was being played; I found myself in a strange land.” but as Marcel listens, “all of a sudden, I found myself, in the midst of this music that was new to me, right in the heart of Vinteuil’s sonata; and more marvelous than any girl, the little phrase, sheathed, harnessed in silver, glittering with brilliant sonorities, as light and soft as silken scarves, came to me, recognisable in this new guise….No sooner was it thus recalled than it vanished, and I found myself once more in an unknown world, but I knew now, and everything that followed only confirmed my knowledge, that this world was one of those which I had never even been capable of imagining that Vinteuil could have created…” Mme Verdurin’s “upright,motionless body, her expressionless eyes…spoke of her courage, said the musicians could carry on, that they need not spare her nerves, that she would not flinch at the andante, would not cry out at the allegro.”
And so the performance begins…both the musical performance, and what, on its face seems to be an unevenly matched performance of the upstart Mme Verdurin vs. her unknowing opponent, Palamede, Baron de Charlus, Prince des Laumes, Duke of Brabant, Squire of Montargis, Prince d’Oloron, of Carency, Viareggio and of the Dunes.
1. Loved this:
“There is no so great social function that does not, if one takes a cross-section of it and cuts sufficiently deep, resemble those parties to which doctors invite their patients, who utter the most intelligent remarks, have perfect manners, and would never show that they were mad if they did not whisper in your ear, pointing to some old gentleman going past: ‘That’s Joan of Arc.'”
2. And this from yesterday’s reading from Mme Verdurin:
“‘I have nothing against Vinteuil; to my mind, he’s the greatest composer of the age. Only, I can never listen to that sort of stuff without weeping all the time’ (there was not the slightest suggestion of pathos in the way she said ‘weeping’; she would have used precisely the same tone for ‘sleeping’; certain slandermongers used indeed to insist that the latter verb would have been more applicable, though no one could ever be certain, for she listened to the music with her face buried in her hands, and certain snoring sounds might after all have been sobs).”
“…and certain snoring sounds might after all have been sobs.” Delicious.
Moncrieff: “I turned my head slightly…” through “…by the only person who had been sufficiently close to Vinteuil to understand his method of working, to interpret his orchestral indications: Mlle Vinteuil’s friend.” Pages 335-348; Kindle locations: 4346-52/4510-17
Clark: “I turned my head a fraction toward the audience…” through “…to understand his hints for orchestration: Mlle Vinteuil’s friend.” Pages 231-240; Kindle locations: 4427-33/4578-85