Moncrieff: 165-176; Patterson: 112-119
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel realizes that Charlus is serious about wanting to see Morel, “I got the impression that there was something here more than an ordinary attempt at bluff.” Two years later: Marcel meets Morel, urges him to go and see Charlus even it was only once. “He has been good to you…he is an old man now, he may die, you should settle old scores and obliterate all trace of your quarrel.” Morel refuses, not from obstinacy, not from indolence or from spite, not from misplaced vanity or concern for his virtue, “…it is not from any of these reasons, I am mad to tell you — it is, it is…from fear!” Marcel does not understand, but after Charlus’s death, he is bequeathed a letter written to him been years earlier, thanking Archangel Michael, his patron saint for interceding and stopping Morel from visiting him, because if he had, Charlus would have killed him, “for I was resolved, had he could, that he should not leave my house alive. One of us two had to disappear.” Marcel and Charlus complete their walk: Charlus compares Paris to Pompeii, “The lava of some German Vesuvius — and their naval guns are no less terrible than a volcano — has only to surprise these good people at their toilet and to eternise their gestures by interrupting them, and in days to come it will be part of a child’s education to look at pictures in his school-books of Mme Mole about to put on a last layer of powder before going out to dine with a sister-in-law, or Southene de Guermantes adding the final touches to his false eyebrows, these things will be the subject of lectures by the Brichots of the future, for the frivolity of an age, when ten centuries have passed over it, is matter for the gravest erudition, particularly if it has been embalmed by a volcanic eruption or by the substances akin to lava which a bombardment projects.” Vesuvius, Paris, Sodoma, Gomora. Charlus’s admiration for the British soldiers, “they are quite simply Greek athletes, you understand me, my boy, Greek athletes, they are the young men of Plato, or rather they are Spartans.” German virility, French dilettantism. Charlus leaves Marcel with a strong handshake and a piercing stare at a passing Senegalese soldier, “the intensity of contact and of gaze was greater than propriety permitted.” “Don’t you see all the Orient of Decamps and Fromentin and Ingres and Delacroix in this scene?” says Charlus, but to Marcel, it’s seen of the old Orient out of the Arabian Nights. The area seems deserted; most of the hotels and restaurants are closed, but Marcel sees one hotel that appears open. A man in uniform is seen quickly leaving the building, could it be Saint-Loup? Is the hotel a meeting place for spies? A sailor is given room No. 28.
And yet another perspective of Charlus: potential murderer.
I loved the idea of Paris as Vesuvius. It was easy to imagine Francoise, Mme de Guermantes, Mme Verdurin…frozen in time.
And finally, since the scene we are beginning is, basically, Marcel’s final steps into darkness, I thought I’d end on a slightly more upbeat note, a more detailed version of a story I posted last week, this version taken from George Painter’s biography of Proust:
“Among the most welcome features of the revival of the arts in the Paris of 1916, after two years of wartime austerity, was the foundation of the Quatuor Poulet, which specialised in the chamber music of Cesar Franck, Faure, Chausson, Ravel and Borodin. After a performance of the Franck quartet in November 1916 at the concert Rouge in the Rue de Tournon, the viola player, Amable Massis, was approached by a pale, black-mustached stranger in a fur coat, who asked if the four musicians would be willing to play Franck’s work privately in his apartment. Massis agreed; and a few days later, at the Mephistophelean hour of midnight, Proust arrived by taxi to rouse the young man from bed, despite the indignant resistance of his mother, and to claim his awful promise. Inside the taxi, while the chauffeur reassuringly winked and beamed, the alarmed Massis glimpsed a tureen of mashed potatoes, and a vast eiderdown beneath which Proust instantly crept. Off they drove to collect the leader and first violin, the twenty-year-old Gaston Poulet, the second violin Victor Gentil, and the ‘cellist Louis Ruyssen, who made more fuss than anyone. Celeste, wearing formal black with white apron and starched cuffs, towering over her master, received them at 102 Boulevard Haussmann; ‘she wouldn’t have had much problem in knocking him out,’ remarked Massis irreverently. Proust lay on his bed, with manuscript of A la Recherche stacked and strewn on the floor beside him; the players propped their music on the furniture; and at on a.m., in the deep silence of the night and (as Poulet admitted) the superlative acoustics of the corklined bedroom, they performed the Franck quartet in D major. ‘Would you do me the immense kindness of playing the whole work again?’ Proust entreated. The weary players, fortified with a supper of champagne and fried potatoes served by Celeste, did as he asked; and Proust, with cries of delight and congratulations, paid them on the spot from a Chinese casket stuffed with fifty-franc notes. Four taxis awaited them in the blacked-out street below; and next day, charmed with so courteous, appreciative and generous a listener, they send him a round-robin of thanks. On other evenings they played Faure’s Piano Quartet in G minor, quartets by Mozart, Ravel and Schumann, the late Beethoven quartets, and the Cesar Franck violin sonata, of which Proust insisted on hearing the third movement again and again…”
Moncrieff: Pages 176-191 “These men, as they chatted quietly together…” through “It depends a lot on the camp you’re in.” Kindle locations: 2279-86/2482-89
Patterson: Pages 119-130 “These man, chatting peacefully…” through “”It depends a lot on what camp you’re in.” Kindle locations 2263-69/2454-61