Moncrieff: 471-485; Clark: 323-332
b y Dennis Abrams
Hours before admitting to Marcel that she had spent three weeks with Lea, she had told him that she did not know Lea. “I realised too that Albertine’s words, when one interrogated her, never contained an atom of truth, that the truth was something she let slip only in spite of herself…” Albertine insists she has no further revelations. The ease in which “the daughters of Gomorrah” can arrange a rendezvous. An evening of horror. Lea’s proper behavior. Marcel’s feigned desire to separate from Albertine brings something of the same sadness that the actual desire to do so would. The “orgiastic life,” Albertine had led before Marcel, what she had given up, “the docility of my captive,” and her lack of resentment. Unlike his father, Marcel “does not have the courage to put a threat into practice…” “Everything depends on this battle.” A remembrance of a lying scene between aunt Leonie and Francoise, “Similarly, in order that Albertine should not think that I was exaggerating and in order to make her proceed as far as possible in the idea that we were to part…I had begun to anticipate the time which was to begin next day and was to last for ever, the time when we should be separated, addressing to Albertine the same requests as if we were not presently to be reconciled…This fictitious parting scene ended by causing me almost as grief as if it had been real, possibly because one of the actors, Albertine, by believing it to be real, had heightened the illusion for the other.” Habit and certainty of the other’s presence keep Marcel and Albertine together, “I was destroying it, it is true, only in a fictitious fashion, but that was enough to make me wretched…” Tears in Marcel’s eyes. Could Marcel forget Albertine as easily as he had forgotten Gilberte? “…I saw Gilberte only from time to time. Whereas the whole of Albertine’s time belonged to me. And in love, it is easier to relinquish a feeling than to give up a habit.” Albertine agrees to never see Marcel again, “anything sooner than see you cry like that, my darling. I don’t want to cause you pain…” Shifting jealousy between Mlle Vinteuil and Lea. Albertine confesses seeing Lea at the theater the previous year and going to her dressing room after the performance, “She changed in front of us. It was most interesting.” In order to assuage Albertine’s unhappiness at their separation, Marcel proposes extending Albertine’s lease on a week by week basis. Exhausted, Albertine goes to bed.
Fascinating — who is playing who? Are Albertine’s confessions as adroitly timed and played as Marcel’s demand of separation? It is an odd dance the two perform.
1. Loved this line: “…in love, it is easier to relinquish a feeling than to give up a habit.”
2. And, along the same lines…”We lived a day-to-day life which, however tedious, was still endurable, held down to earth by the ballast of habit and by that certainty that the next day, even if it should prove painful, would contain the presence of the other.”
How many relationships are held together by exactly that?
3. And finally, I found this scene astonishing:
“I remembered with horror an evening which at the time had struck me as merely absurd. One of my friends had invited me to dine at a restaurant with his mistress and another of his friends who had also brought his. The two women were not long in coming to an understanding, but were so impatient to enjoy one another that already at the soup stage their feet were searching for another, often finding mine. Presently their legs were intertwined. My two friends noticed nothing; I was in agonies. One of the women, who could contain herself no longer, stooped under the table, saying she had dropped something. Then one of them complained of a headache and asked to go upstairs to the lavatory. The other remembered that it was time for her to go and meet a woman friend at the theatre. Finally I was left alone with my two friends, who suspected nothing. The lady with the headache reappeared, but begged to be allowed to go home by herself to wait for her lover at his house, so that she might take a febrifuge. The two women became great friends and used to go about together, one of them, dressed as a man, picking up little girls and taking them home to the other to be initiated. The other had a little boy with whom she would pretend to be displeased and would hand him over for correction to her friend, who went to it with a will. One may say that there was no place, however public, in which they did not do what is most secret.”
Wow. My first thought while reading this, when the one woman stooped under the table was that she was going to pull a Julie Christie in “Shampoo” scene. On reflection though, unless lesbian life in France during that time was radically different from what we know now, that just doesn’t seem like the kind of behavior that women would indulge in. Gay men, on the other hand…Thoughts?
Moncrieff: “It was indeed a dead woman that I saw…” through “…the need to forget, which prisoners practice.” Pages 485-497; Kindle locations 6328-35/6479-86
Clark: “And it was a dead woman I saw…” through “…and the need to forget which we see in the art of prisoners.” Pages 332-341; Kindle locations 6204-11/6347-55