Moncrieff: 218-248; Patterson: 149-170
by Dennis Abrams
The bombing ends, the all-clear sounds. Arriving home Francoise informs Marcel that Saint-Loup had stopped by, looking for his missing croix de guerre. Saint-Loup had made a poor impression on Francoise and on the butler, both convinced that he would be sent where there was no danger, that he lacked courage because he used the word “Boches,” and had praised the valor of the Germans. The butler continues to torment Francoise with dire prognostications about the war. “Scoop” vs. “scope.” “On days when the news was good he destroyed its effect by assuring Francoise that the war would last thirty-five years, and if there was talk of an armistice, he declared that peace would not last more than a few months and would be followed by battles which would make the present ones look like child’s play, such battles that after them there would be nothing left of France.” [The butler] “waited for pieces of bad news as eagerly as if they had been Easter eggs,. hoping that things would go badly enough to terrify Francoise but not badly enough to cause him any material suffering.” Francoise’s cousins the Larivieres and their niece’s cafe: “If there were a few vile shirkers like the arrogant young man in a dinner-jacket whom I had seen in Jupien’s establishment…they are redeemed by the innumerable throng of all the Frenchmen of Saint-Andre-des-Champs, by all the sublime soldiers and by those whom I rank as their equals, the Lariveires.” The death of Robert Saint-Loup, the day after he had returned to the front. Memories of his arrival the first time at Balbec, of his great virtues. “All this, the good as well as the bad, he had given without counting the cost, every day, as much on the last day when he advanced to attack a trench, out of generosity and because it was habit to place at the service of others all that he possessed, as on that evening when he had run along the backs of the seats in the restaurant in order not to disturb me.” Saint-Loup seen against varied backgrounds. The parallels between Saint-Loup and Albertine. Francoise’s reaction to Saint-Loup’s death, her pity for Mme de Marsante’s sorrow, her secret wish to witness that sorrow. Saint-Loup’s knowledge of his fate: “Oh! my life, don’t let’s talk about it, I am a condemned man from the start.” Death obeys certain laws. Marcel imagines that Mme de Guermantes will receive “the death of Robert with the same indifference which I had seen her display towards the deaths of so many others who had been closely linked to her life…” but instead, “I was very astonished to hear — she was unwell at the moment when Robert was killed — in order to spare her the shock which the news would cause her her family had thought it unnecessary to conceal from her for several days, under the most fallacious pretexts, the newspapers would have informed her of his death. And my surprise increased when I heard that, after they had at last been obliged to tell her the truth, the Duchess wept for a whole day, fell sick and for a long time — more than a week, which was a long time for her — was inconsolable.” Her grief vouched for the great friendship that existed between her and Saint-Loup and yet, given “all the ill-natured refusals to help each other which this friendship had excluded, I cannot help reflecting that in society a great friendship does not amount to much.” Mme de Guermantes and the Russian aristocracy. Thanks to Saint-Loup’s inquiries, Morel is arrested as a deserter, M. de Charlus and M d’Argencourt are arrested and quickly released, Morel is sent to the front and returns with the “cross which M. de Charlkus had in the past vainly solicited for him and which in this indirect fashion was procured for him by the death of Saint-Loup.” If Saint-Loup had lived; the electability of war heroes. Marcel spend many years in a new sanitarium before returning to Paris for the third time. The train stops in the countryside: the beauty of the trees “…the line which separates your radiant foreheads from your shadowy trunks…” inspires no emotion in Marcel, confirming to him that he has no vocation as a writer or as an artist, “I knew that I knew myself to be worthless. If I really had the soul of an artist, surely I would be feeling pleasure at the sight of this curtain of trees lit by the setting sun…” Marcel is still in demand socially: invitations for a tea party given by Berma for her daughter and son-in-law; and one which Marcel accepts for an afternoon party with music at the house of the Prince de Guermantes. There is no point “in forgoing the pleasures of social life if, as seems to be the case, the famous “work” which for so long I have been hoping every day to start the next day, is something I am not, or am no longer, made for and perhaps does not even correspond to any reality.” Attempting to recapture the magic of the Guermantes. The Prince de Guermantes new home, its lack of magic, “…enchantment cannot be decanted from one vessel to another, memories are indivisible, and of the Prince de Guermantes, now that he had himself shattered the illusions of my belief by going to live in the Avenue du Bois, nothing much was left.” The carriage ride to the Avenue du Bois is a journey through time. Marcel arrives at the Prince de Guermantes’ and is struck by “the spectacle presented by another cab which was also stopping. A man with staring eyes and hunched figure was placed rather than seated in the back, and was making, to keep himself upright, the efforts that might have been made by a child who was told to be good…It was — side by side with Jupien, who was unremitting in his attentions to him — M. de Charlus, now convalescent after an attack of apoplexy of which I had had not knowledge…this latest illness had conferred the Shakespearian majesty of a King Lear.” M. de Charlus’s bow to Mme de Saint-Euverte, “whom formally the Baron had not considered elegant enough for him.” Charlus’s “almost physical gentleness, his rapid speaking, “I perceived that the sick man retained the use of his intelligence absolutely intact. There were, however, two M. de Charluses, not to mention any others.”
My apologies for the long synopsis, but frankly, there was a lot to sum-up, as we begin to enter the last of the major social scenes, which are, as know, always the pivotal sections of the book.
1. Like Marcel, I can’t help but grieve Saint-Loup’s death, as well as remember his kindness, his anguish over Rachel, and the moment when he so elegantly ran across the back of the chairs at the restaurant…”
2. Charlus as King Lear. Perfect.
And finally, this:
“I was not traversing the same streets as the people who were walking about the town that day, I was traversing a past, gliding, sad and sweet; a past which was moreover compounded of so many different pasts that it was difficult for me to recognise the cause of my melancholy, to know whether it was due to those walks in which the hopes of meeting Gilberte had co-existed with the fear that she would not come, to the proximity of a certain house to which I had been told that Albertine had gone with Andree, or to that vanity of all things which seems to be the significance of a route which one has followed a thousand times in a state of passion which has disappeared and which has borne no fruit, like the route which I used to take on those expeditions of feverish haste after luncheon to see, with the paste still damp upon them, the posters of Phedre and Le Domino noir.
Moncrieff: Pages 248-259 “I had found it difficult at first to understand what he was saying…” through “…pure and disembodied, caused me to swell with happiness.” Kindle locations 3200-3207/3337-44
Patterson: Pages 170-177 “At first I had hardly been able to make out what he was saying…” through “…pure and disembodied, filled me with delight.” Kindle locations 3149-56/3272-79