Finding the Mole in Balbec


Marcel’s social self crowds out his really observant self, which only works in solitude, so it takes time for him to see clearly what Albertine looks like.

 I found myself giving to these various incidents the same importance as to my introduction to Mlle Simonet, an introduction which was now nothing more than one among several incidents, having entirely forgotten that it had been, but a few minutes since, my sole object in coming there. (II,615)

Her actual self begins to erode the imagined Albertine .

As I drew closer to the girl and began to know her better, this knowledge developed by a process of subtraction, each constituent of imagination and desire giving place to a notion which was worth infinitely less…(II,618)

We can track Marcel’s progress by following the mole on Albertine’s face.

Her friendly greeting as, standing close beside her, I once again saw the tiny mole on her cheek, below her eye, marked another stage…(II,618)

And yet, whatever the inevitable disappointments that it must bring in its train, this movement towards what we have only glimpsed, what we have been free to dwell upon and imagine at our leisure, this movement is the only one that is wholesome for the senses,that whets their appetite. (II,620)

Finally, to conclude this account of my first introduction to Albertine, when trying to recapture that little beauty spot on her cheek, just under the eye, I remembered that, looking from Elstir’s window when Albertine had gone by, I had seen it on her chin. In fact, when I saw her I noticed that she had a beauty spot, but my errant memory made it wander abour her face, fixing now in one place, now in another. (II,622)

I took advantage of this immobility to look again and discover once and for all where exactly the little mole was placed. Then, just as a phrase of Vinteuil which had delighted me in the sonata, and which my recollection allowed to wander from the andante to the finale, until the day when, having the score in my hands, I was able to find it and to fix it in my memory in its proper place, in the scherzo, so this mole, which I had visualised now on her cheek, now on her chin, came to rest for ever on her upper lip, just below her nose. (II,624)

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