Moncrieff: 563-574; Clark: 387-394
by Dennis Abrams
“Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” Those words, “had produced in my heart an anguish such that I had felt I could not endure it much longer. So what I had believed to be nothing to me was simply my entire life. How ignorant one if of oneself.” Marcel’s suffering is so intense that “tender towards my mother had been towards my dying grandmother,” that he attempts to convince himself that she will return, that he will bring her back at once. Marcel realizes that thinking he no longer loved her was a mistake. Habit has a new aspect: “Hitherto I had regarded it chiefly as an annihilating force which suppresses the originality and even the awareness of one’s perceptions; now I saw it is as a dread deity, so riveted to one’s being, its insignificant face so encrusted in one’s heart, that if it detaches itself, if it turns away from one, this deity that one had barely distinguished inflects on one sufferings more terrible than any other and is then as cruel as death itself.” Albertine’s letter. Marcel ponders ways to make Albertine return: giving half his fortune to Mme Bontemps, a yacht, a Rolls-Royce, unfettered independence, even marriage. “One must be prepared to make sacrifices, however painful they may be, for the thing to which one attaches most importance, which is, in spite of everything I decided this morning on the strength of my precise and absurd arguments, that Albertine shall continue to live here.” Everything pales besides Marcel’s desire to bring Albertine back: “No doubt this meant giving up any thought of Venice. But the cities for which we have most longed…how pale, how insignificant, dead they become when we are tied to another’s heart by a bond so painful that it prevents us from tearing ourselves away!” Marcel’s anguish. Were their signs of her departure? Was her flight premeditated? Hypothesis. Paranoia. Codes and letters.
A few observations:
1. I loved this:
“I had been mistaken in thinking that I could see clearly into my own heart. But this knowledge, which the shrewdest perceptions of the mind would not have given me, had now been brought to me, hard, glittering, strange, like a crystallised salt, by the abrupt reaction of pain.”
2. Albertine’s letter: Dear friend? And is there a single line in it that Marcel couldn’t have written himself if he had been able to move first?
3. A yacht? A Rolls-Royce? “It’s sad to think that the Bontemps are unscrupulous people who make use of their niece to extort money from me?” Willing to give half his fortune to get Albertine back?
4. Loved this:
“In order to picture to itself an unknown situation the imagination borrows elements that are already familiar, and, for that reason, cannot picture it.”
Moncrieff: “The present calamity was the worst I had experienced in my life.” through “…I should be the vanquished one.” Pages 574-584; Kindle locations 7421-28/7543-50
Clark: “This was the greatest misfortune of my life.” through “…I would have suffered defeat in the past, that is to say irrevocably.” Page 394-401; Kindle location 7230-36/7343-49