Moncrieff: 176-191; Patterson: 119-130
by Dennis Abrams
In the Hotel Jupien: Conversations between workers and soldiers: “Well, you can be jolly sure I don’t mean to get killed…I reckon, at twenty-two, after only doing six months, it would be a bit hard,” “Of course, I can’t wait to take a pot-shot or two at these filthy Boches.” “The banality of the conversation did not inspire me with any great wish to hear more…when I was jolted out of my indifference by hearing a series of remarks which made me shudder: ‘I amazed the boss isn’t back yet, damn it, at this hour of the night I don’t know where he’s going to find any chains,’ ‘Tied up? Well, he is, and he isn’t…” “Don’t you try and tell me, I was beating the stuffing out of him all last night until my hands were covered with blood…” Marcel comments, “…the whole scene, in the midst of this peaceful and threatened night, was like a dream or a fairy tale, so that it was at once with the pride of an emissary of justice and the rapture of a poet that I at length, my mind made up, entered the hotel. The boss enters, carrying several yards of heavy chains. Marcel is taken up to Room 43, where he can have a drink and rest before proceeding home, but “Suddenly from a room sitauted by itself at the end of a corridor, I thought I heard stifled groans. I walked rapidly towards the sounds and put my ear to the door. ‘I beseech you, mercy, have pity, untie me, don’t beat me so hard,” said a voice.” The crack of a whip, reinforced by nails, the cries of pain. Marcel sees a window opening from the room onto the corridor of which the curtain had not been fully drawn, looks threw, and there, “chained to a bed like Prometheus to his rock, receiving the blows that Maurice rained upon him with a whip which was in fact studded with nails, I saw, with blood already flowing from him and covered with bruises which proved that the chastisement was not taking place for the first time — I saw before me M. de Charlus.” Jupien, the owner of the “hotel,” with funding provided by Charlus, enters the room, sending Maurice, who, according to Charlus, “isn’t sufficiently brutal. He has a charming face, but when he calls me a filthy brute he might be just repeating a lesson.” Jupien and his distinguished clientele, referred to only by their Christian names. “Sometimes Jupien was unaware of the real identity of the client and imagined that he was some well-known financier or nobleman or artist…” Charlus’s slight anger at Jupien for letting his identity be known in the house. Jupien tried to assure Charlus about the effectiveness of Maurice, “…he was involved in the murder of a concierge in La Villette.” Marcel notes the physical similarity between Morel, Maurice, and Charlus’s next “beater,” the man from the slaughter house. What was the root of Charlus’s desire? Was he always faithful to a particular type? Had his love for Morel “modified the type he pursued?” Or…had he and Morel never actually had relations, “and that M. de Charlus caused young men who resembled Morel to come to Jupien’s establishment so that he might have the illusion, while he was with them, of enjoying pleasure with Morel himself?” Universal rules of love. Too much evident desire on the part of the pursuer, give the pursued the power to withhold sex while still receiving all the financial and emotional rewards. Charlus’s fate (if in fact Morel had turned him down) was like that of the Germans who,no matter how many times they attacked, were destined to lose. The lost croix de guerre. The chauffeur returns. Marcel is ready to leave.
Wow. And it’s interesting to note how Proust links the scene of Charlus’s ultimate degradation with a philosophical view of the universality of love. And once again, we have Marcel spying on Charlus and finding out things…he probably shouldn’t be finding out.
From Edmund White’s biography of Proust:
“Celeste stayed with Proust until the end of his life. She went so far in her loyalty as to deny his homosexuality altogether when she was quizzed by biographers later.
Nevertheless, Celeste Albaret did not hesitate to recount that during the war Proust visited (for the purposes of ‘research,’ as she put it) a male brothel for homosexuals, run by Albert Le Cuziat, a former valet in princely households who not only catered to the bizarre tastes of his rich clientele but also knew their lineages by heart. Proust consulted him often for anecdotes he could use in Sodom and Gomorrah. Proust helped Le Cuziat pay for the building where his establishment was housed and, more shockingly, even gave some of his parents’ furniture to be used in this brothel of homosexual prostitution — perhaps his most extreme act of profanation, given the cult he had established around the memory of his mother and father. [My note: You might remember the character Marcel donating some of the furniture he inherited from his aunt to the brothel that Rachel worked.] One might point out that at about the same time Proust gave his father’s clothes to the deceased Alfred Agostinelli’s brother, Emile — again a profanation, considering how much Dr. Proust would have hated having his things worn by someone from the family of his son’s lover.
According to the German (and heterosexual) essayist Walter Benjamin — who went on a ‘field trip’ to the brothel in 1930 with the weird writer Maurice Sachs (a Jewish homosexual who collaborated with the Nazis during the war) — the story was still circulating at the bordello that Proust had been known as ‘the rat man.’ Sachs — a witness more flamboyant than reliable — wrote that Proust had alive rat brought to him in a cage and stabbed to death with hatpins as he watched with lust and fear. Proust was afraid of rats and mice — he even wrote a friend during the war that he was more afraid of rats than of bombs. The Narrator dreams that his parents have become white mice in a cage, covered with pustules.”
Moncrieff: Pages 191-205 “Meanwhile, two very smart clients…” through “…which I had seen inflicted upon M. de Charlus.” Kindle locations 2482-89/2664-70
Patterson: Pages 130-140 “While this was going on, two very elegant clients…” through “with the memory of the blows I had seen M. de Charlus receiving.” Kindle locations 2454-61/2629-36