Moncrieff: 621-633; Clark: 429-437
by Dennis Abrams
“Time passes, and little by little everything that we had spoken in falsehood becomes true;” Marcel’s indifference to Gilberte, his hope of forgetting about Albertine, but “…forgetfulness, although it was working towards inuring me to separation from her, nevertheless, by showing me a sweeter and more beautiful Albertine, made me long all the more for her return.” Francoise’s discovery of the two identical rings that Albertine had left behind. Was she consciously causing Marcel pain? Had Albertine lied to Marcel about the second ring? Marcel’s horror: “I might have picked up the wrong bottle of pills and, instead of swallowing a few veronal tablets on a day when I felt that I had drunk too many cups of tea, might have swallowed as many caffeine tablets, and my heart would not have pounded more violently…My horror at her lie, my jealousy of the unknown donor, was combined with pain at the thought that she should have allowed herself to accept presents.” From morning till night, Marcel never ceases to grieve over Albertine’s departure, but her “charm having for a long time past spread gradually over things which had since become quite remote from her…what I myself called thinking of Albertine meant thinking of how I might get her back, how I might join her, how I might discover what she is doing.” Because Marcel finds in everything around him the effect of her presence in the emotion he feels, “herself, the cause, we find nowhere. I was so incapable during those days of forming any picture of Albertine that I could almost have believed that I did not love her…” Francoise’s hope that Albertine will not return, Marcel’s attempts to convince Francoise that she will. A letter from Albertine offering to cancel the order for the Rolls-Royce; Marcel’s admiration of how his influence has improved her and enriched her with new qualities. Marcel writes back, pretending he hadn’t received her letter, to inform her that he has invited Andree to come stay with him and that it will inevitably lead to marriage. Marcel believes that “when Albertine had written to me to say: ‘I should have been only so glad to come back if you had written to me direct,’ she had said this only because I had not written her, and that had I done so she would still have not come back, that she would be happy to know that Andree was with me, and was to be my wife, provided that she herself remained free, because she could now, as already for a week past, stultifying the hourly precautions which I had taken during more than six months in Paris, abandon herself to her vices and do what, minute by minute, I had prevented her from doing. An endurable pain. Saint-Loup arrives.
Andree? Is she that interchangeable with Albertine?
From Joshua Landy’s Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust:
“What Marcel seeks here, and what he seeks relentlessly in various other contexts throughout the novel, is a way to move beyond his own subjectivity and to enter the consciousness of another human being. When in love, he contends, ‘one does not think of oneself, but only of escaping from oneself.’ What he learns, of course, is that love (or again friendship) will not allow us to do so — ‘man is the creature who cannot escape from himself, who knows other people only in himself’ — and that we are left, at most, with the indirect route of aesthetic contemplation: ‘through art alone are we able to emerge from ourselves.’ Now Proust, who appears to agree with Marcfel about the predicament of insular subjectivity, forever locked out of other minds, finds in female homosexuality, considered from the point of view of a heterosexual male, a maximally dramatic way of presenting it. Albertine has to be a woman, and Marcel a heterosexual man, because her bisexuality has to be something he cannot understand, something that fills him with unparalleled dread by representing, in an excruciatingly vivid synecdoche, the breadth of the gulf that separates her consciousness from his.
Once again, the distinction between Proust and Marcel turns out to be a distinction that matters. In hastily assuming that Proust is essentially writing an autobiography, and that female characters like Gilberte and Albertine are really men in makeup, critics have neglected to consider the strictly literary reasons why Proust might have chosen a heterosexual protagonist for his novel. To be sure, it is conceivable that Proust set out with the intention of producing a sanitized portrait of Agostinelli (i.e., one acceptable to a largely homophobic French reading public), and later made the changes imposed on him by its incorporation in a particular literary universe. It is, however, more plausible, given Proust’s specific literary project, to imagine him setting out to produce a female love interest for a heterosexual character — just as he had done, repeatedly, from ‘Avant la nuit’ (1893) through Jean Santeuil (1895-96) to Un Amour de Swann (1913) — and simply borrowing his fond memories of Agostinelli in order to flesh out the former. Of course, we should remain wary of attempts to ‘straighten’ Proust, who remains a writer keenly interested in, and often making an apologia for, homosexual relations. But there may actually be something uncharitable in the reverse attempt to ‘queer’ Marcel, the implicit assumption appearing to be that a homosexual author is only capable of constructing — or only has the right to construct, homosexual protagonists.”
An excellent point. Other gay writers, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee to name just two, have also been accused of “hiding” homosexuals and their relationships under the guise of healthy all-American heterosexual relationships.
Moncrieff: “Before I explain why the information that he gave me made me so unhappy…” through “Yours with all my heart, Albertine.” Pages 633-644; Kindle locations 8202-10/8347-54
Clark: “Before saying why the words that he uttered made me so unhappy…” through “Yours with all my heart, Albertine.” Pages 437-445; Kindle locations 7977-84/8105-12