Moncrieff: 735-752; Clark: 511-522
by Dennis Abrams
The arrival of Andree. To Marcel it seems “that her almost frizzy hair, her dark, shadowed eyes, were doubtless what Albertine had loved so much, this materialisation before my eyes of what she pictured in her amorous day-dreams…” With Albertine alive, Marcel would not have been able to question Andree about her sexual proclivities. Andree admits the fondness she has for women and her relations with Mlle Vinteuil. New pain — Marcel believes that given their close friendship, Andree and Albertine must have had relations. Marcel tells Andree that he would like to watch her with other women performing the acts that she had performed with Albertine, mentioning several of Albertine’s friends. Andree refuses Marcel “Apart from the fact that not for anything in the world would I do the things you mention in your presence,” denies that any of the friends that Marcel had mentioned were lovers of women, and states that she herself “never did anything of the sort with Albertine.” The similarity between Marcel and Andree. New hope for Marcel regarding Albertine’s relations with other women: “Andree had none the less never had any carnal relations with Albertine and had never been aware that Albertine had those tastes, this meant that Albertine did not have them, and had never enjoyed with anyone those relations which, rather than with anyone else, she would have enjoyed with Andree.” Marcel watches two laundry girls — the difficulty in understanding their cries: “…one never understands precisely the meaning of an original sound expressive of a sensation which one does not experience oneself.” Marcel wishes for the presence of a narrator, as in a work of fiction, who can tell him everything there is to know about Albertine. Marcel’s new attraction to women “whom Albertine had known or whom she might have known, women of her own background or the sort with whom she liked to associate, in a word those women who had in my eyes the distinction of resembling her or of being of the type that might have appealed to her.” Other women as substitutes for Albertine, but it Albertine that he is seeking. “I could now understand the widowers whom we suppose to have found consolation and prove on the contrary they are inconsolable because they marry their deceased wife’s sister.” Marcel’s waning love makes new love possible. Women similar to Albertine cannot replace her because they don’t bring with them the same experiences: “I would have liked also that the newcomer should be able to play Vinteuil’s music to melike Albertine, to talk to me as she talked about Elstir. All this was impossible. Her love could not match up to Albertine’s.” Regret at denying Albertine her desires, the missed opportunities for threesomes, “perhaps because thus, when they had left her, I should have remained alone with her, the last and the master…Of how many pleasures, of what an agreeable life she deprived us, I said to myself, by that stubborn obstinacy in denying her tastes!” Taking home the women who would have appealed to Albertine the least. “The same vacuum that I had found in my room since Albertine had left, and had supposed that I could fill by taking women in my arms, I regained in them…What these women had in common with Albertine made me feel all the more strongly what was lacking of her in them, which was everything, and would never exist again since Albertine was dead.” Realization that the time will come when he will forget Albertine.
All I can say is “wow.” A truly extraordinary ending to the chapter “Grieving and Forgetting.” A few comments…
1. Once again, the unknowingness of Albertine. Who is telling the truth? Aime? The bath-house woman? Andree?
2. This sentence, written after Marcel comes to the conclusion that Albertine and Andree must have been lovers made me laugh:
“It was especially painful to me to hear Andree say of Albertine: ‘Oh yes, she always loved going to the Chevreuse valley.’ To the vague and non-existent universe in which Albertine’s excursions with Andree occured, it seemed to me that the latter, by a subsequent and diabolical act of creation, had just added to God’s work an accursed valley.”
3. Marcel’s desire to find a “well-informed narrator! And undoubtedly he exists,” written in a novel with a shifting consciousness between Marcel and a…well-informed narrator…
4. While Marcel was discussing bringing women home hoping to replace Albertine, someone who could play the piano, talk about Elstir…I kept flashing on the James Stewart character in the film “Vertigo,” obsessed with the Kim Novak character…
5. Loved this:
“True, in the past, even with a woman I had merely glimpsed on a road near Balbec or in a street in Paris, I had felt the individuality of my desire and that it would be adulterating it to seek to assuage it with another person. But life, by disclosing to me little by little the permanence of our needs, had taught me that failing one person we must content ourselves with another, and I felt that what I had demanded of Albertine could have been given to me by another, by Mlle de Stermaria. But it had been Albertine; and between the satisfaction of my need for tenderness and the distinctive characteristics of her body, such an inextricable network of memories had been woven that I could no longer detach all the embroidery from any new physical desire.”
5. In yesterday’s post, I said that I would take the opportunity to write a longer post for the weekend, summing up the section we just completed: Marcel’s reaction to Albertine’s escape and death. It was in a lot of ways a difficult section to read — not a lot of dialogue, no movement out of his room, just Marcel musings and evolving thoughts and emotions. But the effort, I think, pays off. I can’t think of a more in-depth analysis of jealousy, loss, death, and finally, the beginnings of the of suffering. I could go on like this for pages, but I know that Proust, in the last paragraph of this section, sums it up far better than I could ever hope to:
“As there is a geometry in space, so there is a psychology in time, in which the calculations of a plane psychology would no longer be accurate because we should not be taking account of Time and one of the forms that it assumes, forgetting — forgetting, the force which I was beginning to feel and which is so powerful an instrument of adaption to reality because it gradually destroys in us the surviving past which is in perpetual conflict with it. And I really ought to have discovered sooner that one day I should no longer be in love with Albertine. When I had realised, from the difference that existed between what the importance of her person and of her actions was to me and what it was to other people, that my love was not so much a love for herself as a love in myself, I might have drawn various conclusions from this subjective nature of my love and in particular deduced that, being a mental state, it might survive the person for some time, but also that, having no real connexion with that person, having no support outside itself, it must, like every mental state, even the most lasting, find itself one day obsolete, be ‘replaced,’ and that when that day came everything that seemed to attach me so sweetly, indissolubly, to the memory of Albertine could no longer exist for me. It is the tragedy of other people that they are merely showcases for the very perishable collections of one’s own mind. For this very reason one bases upon them projects which have all the fervour of thought; but thought languishes and memory decays: the day would come when I would readily admit the first comer to Albertine’s room, as I had without the slightest regret given Albertine the agate marble or other gifts that I had borrowed from Gilberte.”
6. And finally, an announcement. I’m going on vacation next week, and, for the first time since starting this blog last year, I’m taking a break. My duties will be assumed by one of our most devoted readers, “artmama,” — please keep up the responses, ask any questions you may have — she’s going to do a great job. One thing — I didn’t have the heart to force her to purchase both the Clark translation as well as a Kindle for a little over one week’s work (I’ll be back on October 12th), so she will only be giving the page assignments for the next day’s reading using the Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright translation.
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: “It was not that I did not still love Albertine…” through “would have wished her to do while they were alive.” Pages 752-781; Kindle locations 9701-7/10055-61
Clark: “This is not to say that I did not still love Albertine…” through “she had mistreated during their lifetime once they were dead.” Pages 523-545; Kindle locations 9439-46/9784-91
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.