Rats


Proust, in his later, more erotically mature years, would sometimes go to a male brothel and be excited to climax by the staged sight of starving rats fighting each other to the death. Marcel is attracted to Mme de Guermantes in a similar vein.

Here again, Mme de Guermantes’s mind attracted me just because of what it excluded (which was precisely the substance of my own thoughts) and everything which, by virtue of that exclusion, it had been able to preserve, that seductive vigour of supple bodies which no exhausting reflexion, no moral anxiety or nervous disorder has deformed. Her mind, of a formation so anterior to my own, was for me the equivalent of what had been offered me by the gait and bearing of the girls of the little band along the sea-shore. Mme de Guermantes offered me, domesticated and subdued by civility, by respect for intellectual values, all the energy and charm of cruel little girl of one of the noble families round Combray who from her childhood had been brought up in the saddle, had tortured cats, gouged out the eyes of rabbits, and, instead of having remained a pillar of virtue, might equally well have been, a good few years ago now, so much did she have the same dashing style, the most brilliant mistress of the Prince de Sagan. (III,689)

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