Moncrieff: 596-621; Clark: 410-429
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel is “choked with rage,” when he meets Bloch and finds out that he had talked to M Bontemps about Albertine, but Bloch never stopped smiling, “perhaps because, even if he had been a man of a different kind, other people can never see things from our point of view and therefore do not realise the magnitude of the injury that words uttered at random can do us.” Marcel is summoned to the police station, “the parents of the little girl whom I had brought into the house for an hour had decided to bring a charge against me for abduction of a minor.” The “multiplicity of the troubles that assail us, intertwined like Wagnerian motifs…” Marcel at the police station: insulted by the girl’s parents who return his five hundred francs, “My innocence of the alleged crime was never taken into consideration, for that was the sole hypothesis which nobody was willing to accept for an instance.” Marcel escapes with just a warning, and after the girl’s parents, “the head of the Suerte, who had a weakness for little girls, changed his tone and admonished me as man to man: ‘Next time, you must be more careful. Good God, you can’t pick them up as easily as that, or you’ll get into trouble. Anyhow, you’ll find dozens of little girls who are better-looking than that one, and far cheaper. It was a ridiculous amount to pay.” Returning home, every person he passes “seemed to me an inspector appointed to spy on my every movement.” Marcel feels unburdened now that he had passed the responsibility of Albertine’s return to Saint-Loup. “It is in reality our anticipation, our hope of happy events that fills us with a joy which we ascribe to other causes and which ceases, plunging us into misery, if we are no longer certain that what we desire will come to pass.” Rereading a sentence from Albertine’s letter “succeeded in making my heartache as acute as it had been in the first instant and (I am bound to admit) no longer was.” “My decision is irrevocable.” “There is in inanimate objects, in events, in farewell letters, a special danger which amplifies and alters the very nature of the grief that people are causing us.” An inspector from the Suerte come to the house, “to inquire whether [Marcel] was in the habit of having little girls in the house, [and] the concierge, supposing him to be referring to Albertine, had replied in the affirmative, and that since then it seemed as though the house was being watched.” Marcel’s horror that “the charge of corrupting minors might apply to Albertine also. Thereupon my life appeared to me to be hedge in on every side.” Fear that if Albertine returned he would be charged with a crime and degraded in Albertine’s eyes, immediately replaced with a passionate desire for her return.” Reliving the first experience of separation, but “the competition of other forms of life thrust this new pain into the background,” moments of calm thinking about Venice and other unknown women. “The calm which I had just enjoyed was the first apparition of that great intermittent force which was to wage war in me against grief, against love, and would ultimately get the better of them.” Constant thoughts of Albertine, “but at night, if I had succeeded in going to sleep, then it was as though the memory of Albertine had been the drug…” Thoughts of her room, her empty bed, her piano, her motor-car, the sound of doors being shut. Four days since Albertine has departed, and Saint-Loup announces by telegram that he will be delayed, since “The ladies have gone away for three days.” Marcel does not have the courage to enter Albertine’s room. Slowly recovering: “And soon, perhaps, the consideration that was helping me thus to go on living — the prospect of Albertine’s return — would cease to be necessary to me; I should be able to say to myself ‘She will never come back,’ and go on living all the same…” A declaration of affection from a niece of Mme de Guermantes; marriage is urged by the Duke. “…whatever joy I might feel at the moment of her return, I sensed that very soon the same difficulties would recur and that to seek happiness in the satisfaction of the mind was as naive as to attempt to reach the horizon by walking straight ahead.” “…forgetfulness alone brings about the ultimate extinction of desire.” “The bonds between ourselves and another person exist only in our minds.” Saint-Loup’s mission fails; Albertine sees him. “Since man is capable of influencing the external world, how could I fail, by bringing into play cunning, intelligence, money, affection to abolish this terrible fact: Albertine’s absence?” Albertine and Manon. Marcel summons Saint-Loup back to Paris, and receives a message from Albertine saying, “My dearest, if you needed me, why did you not write to me direct? I should have been only too delighted to come back. Do not let us have any more of these absurd approaches.” Certain that Albertine is ready to return, Marcel now “must not appear to be seeking to hasten it.” Disappointment of how little there is of a person in a letter. Marcel sends Albertine a letter, praising her sense of loyalty to an old friend, saying he does not ask her to return, that it is too late, life has driven them apart, praising her decision to leave when she did, that “the habits which I shared with you…will not remain so for long,” that he had been ready to propose marriage, arrange an independent existence for her, he had already ordered a yacht, a Rolls-Royce, that he will keep them both, embellished with poetic quotations, his unwillingness to jeopardize her happiness by insisting that they meet again, now that she has decided “that it lies in your living apart from me.” Marcel goes back and forth on sending the letter, he thinks that it’s a clumsy obvious action, that he should have foreseen a negative response, “But the disastrous way in which the psychopathological universe is constructed has decreed that the clumsy act, the act which we ought most sedulously to avoid, is precisely the act that will calm us…” Marcel pictures to himself Albertine’s return, and “suddenly all the reasons which made our marriage a thing disastrous to myself returned in their fullest force. I hoped she would refuse to come back.” Marcel sends the letter anyway, wanting the decision to come from her. La Berma, Phedre.
So much in this section…
1. Marcel at the police station accused of being a pedophile? I loved this passage where he describes the pain of thinking he’d never be able to dangle little girls on his lap again:
“Henceforth it would be impossible for me ever to bring a little girl into the house to console my grief without risking the shame of an inspector suddenly appearing and taking me for a criminal. And in the same instant I realised how much more important certain longings are to us than we suppose, for this impossibility of my ever taking a little girl on my knee again seemed me to strip life of all its value but what was more, I realised how understandable it is that people will readily refuse wealth and risk death, whereas we imagine that pecuniary interest and the fear of dying rule the world. For, rather than think that even an unknown girl might be given a bad impression of me by the arrival of a policeman, I should have preferred to kill myself!”
2. And then there’s this passage, one of my favorites despite it’s (at least to me) utterly depressing vision of the world, is one of my favorites. And doesn’t Proust here seem to be moving towards a Buddhist/Eastern view of the world?
“The further the desire advances, the further does real possession recede. So that if happiness, or at least the absence of suffering, can be found, it is not the satisfaction, but the gradual reduction and the eventual extinction of desire that one should seek. One seeks to see the beloved object, but one ought to seek not to: forgetfulness alone brings about the ultimate extinction of desire…The bonds between ourselves and another person exist only in our minds. Memory as it grows fainter loosens them, and notwithstanding the illusion by which we want to be duped and with which, out of love, friendship, politeness, duty, deference, duty, we dupe other people, we exist alone. Man is the creature who cannot escape from himself, who knows other people only in himself, and when he asserts the contrary, he is lying.”
Depressing, because I think he is absolutely correct.
3. And finally, a question. In the Moncrieff et al. translation, when Marcel is reading the newspaper, it says “It announced a performance by Berma.” In the Clark translation, it says “It announced the death of Berma.” Quite the difference.
Moncrieff: “Time passes,and little by little everything that we have spoken in falsehood becomes true;…” through “…and became atrocious when Saint-Loup arrived.” Pages 621-633; Kindle locations 8040-47/8202-10
Clark: “Time passes, and gradually all the things which he have falsely alleged come true…” through “…became atrocious when Saint-Loup arrived.” Pages 429-437; Kindle locations 7827-34/7977-84