Triumphant Joy


We know that by now in the narrative Marcel has begun to write what will become Swann in Love. He has also written an article for the Figaro, where for the first time he feels all the pleasure and anxiety of seeing his published work. His first reaction is to hold the newspaper as if it were a nourishing loaf of newly baked bread which, as in the parable, multiplies a thousand-fold.

Then I considered the spiritual bread of life that a newspaper is, still warm and damp from the press and the morning fog in which it is distributed, at daybreak, to the housemaids who bring it to their masters with their morning coffee, a miraculous, self-multiplying bread which is at the same time one and ten thousand, which remains the same for each person while penetrating innumerably into every house at once. (V,767)

 He wonders if it will be noticed (even though it is the main article). To answer this question he pantomimes a typical newspaper reader.

To appreciate exactly the phenomenon which was occurring at this moment in other houses, it was essential that I read this article not as its author but as one of the readers of the paper; what I was holding in my hand was not only what I had written, it was the symbol of its incarnation in so many minds. But then came an initial anxiety. Would the reader who had not been forewarned see this article?  I opened the paper carelessly as would such a reader, even assuming an air of not knowing what there was this morning in my paper, of being in a hurry to look at the social and political news. But my article was so long that my eye, which was avoiding it (in order to be absolutely fair and not load the dice in my favor, as a person who is waiting counts very slowly on purpose) picked up a fragment of it in passing. (V,767-768)

The thought that ten thousand people will read his article and, most importantly, see his name, fills him with a surging joy, unique in  his life.

And setting my own self-distrust against the ten-thousand-fold approbation which now sustained me, I drew as much strength and hope for my talent from reading this article at this moment as I drew misgivings when what I had written was addressed only to myself. I saw at that same hour my thought–or at least, failing my thought for those who were incapable of understanding it, the repetition of my name and as it were an embellished evocation of my person–shine on countless people, colour their own thoughts in an auroral light which filled me with more strength and triumphant joy than the multiple dawn which at that moment was blushing at every window. (V,770)

Finally, being a published writer provides him with a vision, however confused, of a way out of his current life in society and into a transcendent place where he communicates his truest thoughts to his friends. His famous distrust of friendship begins here, not as misanthropic, but as learning how to be a truer friend.

With regard to other friends, however, I told myself that if the state of my health continued to grow worse and I could no longer see them, it would be pleasant to continue to write, in order thus to have access to them still, to speak to them between the lines, to make them share my thoughts, to please them, to be received into their hearts….[A]lthough I chose to imagine their attention as the object of my pleasure, that pleasure was an internal, spiritual, self-generated pleasure which they could not give me and which I could find not in conversing with them, but in writing far away from them, and that if I began to write in the hope of seeing them indirectly, in the hope they might have a better idea of me, in the hope of preparing for myself a better position in society, perhaps writing would relieve me of the wish to see them, and I should no longer have any desire to enjoy the position in society which literature might have given me, because my pleasure would be no longer in society but in literature. (V,772)

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