Moncrieff: 574-584; Clark: 394-401
by Dennis Abrams
“The present calamity was the worst that I had experienced in my life. And yet the suffering that it caused me was perhaps even exceeded by my curiosity to learn the causes of his calamity; who Albertine had desired and gone to join.” Marcel wonders whether Albertine had been planning her escape, given her attitude “since the day she had ceased to kiss me.” Two days before she left, Francoise had discovered her standing out on her balcony — had she been communicating with somebody from there? Wrapping paper the night before, a thousand francs repaid, “Good-bye, little one, good-bye.” Marcel’s need to believe that Albertine will be returning that evening, but she must return on her own accord — Marcel can’t beg her to return. Marcel’s need, not so much to see Albertine, but to “put an end to the physical anguish which my heart, less robust than of old, could endure no longer.” “…this anguish was incomparably more intense for a number of reasons of which the most important was perhaps not that I hadf never tasted any sensual pleasure with Mme de Guermantes or with Gilberte, but that, not seeing them every day, and at every hour of the day, having no opportunity and consequently no need to see them, there had been lacking, in my love for them, the immense force of Habit.” Two solutions. Marcel finally gets out of bed to go to Albertine’s house to make inquiries. The items in the apartment connected with Albertine, the pianola, the chairs, bring memories of her. The need to inform “one more of those innumerable and humble ‘selves’ that compose our personality which was still unaware of Albertine’s departure and must be informed of it…” The argument that Albertine could not just “leave” without giving a reason or giving him a chance to reply. Marcel’s hope that Albertine had returned to her aunt’s home in Touraine; his fear that she “might have stayed in Paris or have gone to Amsterdam or to Montjouvain, in other words that she had escaped in order to pursue some intrigue the preliminaries of which I had failed to observe.” But when Marcel learns that Albertine has indeed gone to Touraine, that place of residence which I had thought desirable seemed to me the most dreadful because it was real, and because for the first time, tortured by the certainty of the future, I pictured Albertine starting deliberately chosen to lead apart from me, perhaps for a long time, perhaps forever…” Albertine’s lovely outer shell, but it was the “unknown element that formed the core of my love.” Silently repeating her name, inscribing it inside oneself. Marcel takes a poor little girl home who he found outside Albertine’s house, holds her for some time on his knee, and sends on her way with a five-hundred franc note. Other little girls might help make Albertine’s absence bearable. Even if Albertine makes the first move on returning to him, Marcel would never be able to forget the time when she had been alone, and he would be the vanquished one.
A beautiful section, as Marcel seems to have taken a deep breath, and despite his anguish, calmed down just a bit…
1. The worst calamity of his life? Hyperbole? What about his grandmother’s death?
2. I much appreciated Marcel (or the Narrator) pointing out to us that we can truly know the “sources of great events,” and that Albertine’s flight (much like Marcel’s love) allows for no simple explanation.
3. Loved this:
“…one realises that the woman who appealed to us so much less than any of the women whom one meets so easily in the course of the briefest outing, the woman who makes us resent having to sacrifice them to her, is on the contrary the one we would a thousand times prefer.”
4. And the end of this made me laugh:
“Suffering, the prolongation of a spiritual shock that has come from without, keeps aspiring to change its form; one hopes to be able to dispel it by making plans, by seeking information; one wants it to pass through metamorphoses, for this requires less courage than keeping our suffering intact; the bed on which we lie down with our greif appears so narrow, hard and cold. I therefore put my feet to the ground…”
5. The selves who still need to be informed.
6. This was just beautiful:
As for Albertine herself, she scarcely existed in me save under the form of her name, which, but for certain rare moments of respite when I awoke, came and engraved itself upon my brain and continued incessantly to do so. If I had thought aloud, I should have kept on repeating it, and my speech would have been as monotonous, as limited, as if I had been transformed into a bird, a bird like the one in the fable whose song repeated incessantly the name of her whom it had loved when a man. One says the name to oneself, and since one remains silent it is as though one were inscribing it inside oneself, as though it were leaving its trace on one’s brain, which must end up, like a wall on which somebody has amused himself scribbling, by being entirely covered with the name, written a thousand times over, of the woman one loves. One rewrites it all the time in one’s mind when one is happy, and even more when one is unhappy.”
7. And finally…the “little poor girl who gazed at [Marcel] with huge eyes…” Seriously?
Moncrieff: “As for the means of bringing Albertine back…” through “I have answered quick as a flash.” Pages 584-596; Kindle locations 7542-49/7702-9
Clark: “As for the means of bringing Albertine back…” through “I have returned her shot on the volley.” Pages 401-410; Kindle locations 7350-56/7498-7505