Moncrieff: 699-713; Clark: 484-494
by Dennis Abrams
“It is one of the faculties of jealousy to reveal to us the extent to which the reality of external facts and the sentiments of the heart are an unknown element which lends itself to endless suppositions. We imagine that we know exactly what things are and what people think, for the simple reason that we do not care about them. But as soon as we have the desire to know, as the jealous man has, then it becomes a dizzy kaleidoscope in which we can no longer distinguish anything.” Albertine’s wish to go to Saint-Mars-le-Vetu — was it “because she had made the acquaintance of some peasant girl who lived there?” Marcel’s pain at not being able to tell Albertine what he had learned about her: “To have so desperately desired that Albertine — who no longer existed — should know that I had heard the story of the baths! This again was one of the consequences of our inability, when we have to consider the fact of death, to picture to ourselves anything but life.” When we imagine what happens after our own death, we imagine it happening to our living self. The absurdity of the hope of posthumous fame. “I saw myself astray in life as on an endless beach where I was alone and where, in whatever direction I might turn, I would never meet her.” Memories of his grandmother calling the bath-attendant “…a woman who must suffer from a disease of mendacity,” brings comfort to Marcel — maybe she was lying about Albertine? But with the comfort comes new pain, “Then my tenderness could revive anew, but, simultaneously with it, a sorrow at being parted from Albertine which made me perhaps even more wretched than I had been during the recent hours when it had been jealousy that tormented me.” The sound of the lift, perhaps it had all been a dream. Inability to concentrate, to read newspapers, “Each impression called up an impression that was identical but marred, because Albertine’s existence had been excised from it, so that I never had the heart to live these mutilated minutes to the end.” Marcel’s jealousy revives: he sends Aime to investigate in the neighborhood of Mme Bontemp’s villa. “When one’s mistress is alive, a large proportion of the thoughts which form what one calls one’s love comes to one during the hours when she is not by one’s side.” A year wasted. A letter from Aime — a young laundry girl confirms that Albertine would hold her arm particularly tightly, but nothing more. A second letter from Aime — the young laundry-girl, after a few drinks, confirmed that she and her friends had enjoyed tickling and further relations with Albertine at a bathing spot on the bank of the Loire. “Oh, it’s too heavenly.” Aime goes to bed with the laundry-girl to confirm exactly what she and Albertine had done. The cruelty of not having Albertine to console him. Albertine’s vice has turned her into a stranger, into a different Albertine. Elstir’s nude female bathers, Albertine’s thigh, sexual possibilities — quasi-algebraic abbreviations. Marcel’s regret that he should never see Albertine again, the regret of not being able to say to her that he knew everything about the laundry-girl on the bank of the Loire.” Questioning his own torment — Albertine’s gone, she no longer exists, she isn’t telling herself that you know, she isn’t telling herself that you don’t know. But the torment continues,”Hence, at those moments, if I could have succeeded in evoking her by table-turning as Bergotte had at one time thought possible, or in meeting her in the other life as the abbe X thought, I would have wished to do so only in order to say to her: ‘I know about the laundry girl. You said to her, ‘Oh, it’s too heavenly,’ and I’ve seen the bite.”
How many times per page does Marcel (or the Narrator) say “Albertine was dead.” “She no longer existed.” Is he trying to convince himself?
1. Loved this and broke my heart:
“Hence death does not make any great difference. When Aime returned, I asked him to go down to Chatellerault, and thus by virtue not only of my thoughts, my sorrows, the emotion caused me bya name connected, however remotely, with a certain person, but also of all my actions, the inquiries that I undertook, the use that I made of my money, all of which was devoted to the discovery of Albertine’s actions, I may say that throughout the whole of that year my life remained fully occupied with a love affair, a veritable liaison. And she who was its object was dead.”
Yet, in some ways, the pain and suffering ultimately helped him.
“But in the case of the woman one loves, in order to rid oneself of the pain one feels at the thought that such a thing is possible, one wants to know not only what she has done, but what she felt what she was doing it, what she thought of what she was doing; then, probing even more deeply, through the intensity of one’s pain, one arrives at the mystery, the quintessence. I suffered to the very depths of my being, in my body and in my heart, far more thanthe pain of losing my life would have made me suffer, from this curiosity to which all the force of my intelligence and my unconscious contributed; and thus it was into the core of Albertine’s own being that I now projected everything that I learned about her. And thepainthat the revelation of her vice had thus driven into me to such a depth was to render me, much later, a final service. Like the harm that I had done my grandmother, the harm that Albertine had done me was a last bond between her and myself which outlived memory even, for with the conversation of energy which belongs to everything that is physical, suffering has no need of the lessons of memory. Thus a man who has forgotten the glorious nights spent by moonlight in the woods, suffers still from the rheumatism which he then contracted.”
Moncrieff: “What came to my rescue against this image of the laundry-girl…” through “and in the end forget Albertine herself.” Pages 713-723; Kindle locations 9207-14/9334-41
Clark: “What I fell back on to help me fight against this image of the laundry-girl…” through “…and finally forget Albertine herself.” Pages 495-502; Kindle locations 8963-70/9082-89