Bloch Head


Marcel spots his childhood friend Bloch at the party. Once more Proust makes Bloch his painful Jewish alter ego.

…it would have needed my grandfather’s flair to detect the “sweet vale of Hebron” and those “chains of Israel” which my old schoolmate seemed definitively to have broken….His nose remained large and red, but seemed now to owe its tumescence to a sort of permanent cold which served also to explain the nasal intonation with which he languidly delivered his studied sentences….And thanks to the way in which he brushed his hair, to the suppression of his moustache, to the elegance of his whole figure–thanks, that is to say, to his determination–his Jewish nose was now scarcely more visible than is the deformity of a hunchbacked woman who skilfully arranges her appearance. (VI,384)

This rather vicious characterization is leavened with this humorous passage:

But above all–and one saw this the moment one set eyes on him–the significance of his physiognomy had been altered by a formidable monocle. By introducing an element of machinery into Bloch’s face this monocle absolved it of all those difficult duties which a human face is normally called upon to discharge, such as being beautiful or expressing intelligence or kindliness or effort. (VI,384)

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