Archive for the ‘The Fugitive’ Category

Loose Ends

May 4, 2010

Proust died before publication of The Fugitive, which explains the loose ends one finds scattered about.

Reports of Mme de Villeparisis’s death (V,391) were premature. We meet her again in Venice, where we learn more about her diminished social status in this account by Mme Sazerat about how she and her family lost their fortune:

“Because M de Villeparisis was, before her second marriage, the Duchesse d’Havré, beautiful as an angel, wicked as a demon, who drove my father to distraction, ruined him and then abandoned him immediately. Well, she may have behaved to him like the lowest prostitute, she may have been the cause of our having had to live, my family and myself, in humble circumstances at Combray, but now that my father is dead, my consolation is to think that he loved the most beautiful woman of his generation…? (V,859)

M. Legrandin has a distinctive way of entering male brothels. Robert de Saint-Loup has a distinctive way of entering male brothels.

He [Legrandin] was in the habit of frequenting certain low haunts where he did not wish to be seen going in or coming out: he would hurl himself into them….First of all upon Legrandin; needless to say, he swept like a hurricane into M. de Charlus’s town house, for all the world as though he were entering a house of ill-fame where he must on no account be seen… (V,904-905)

Something, however, struck me: not his face, which I did not see, nor his uniform, which was disguised by a heavy greatcoat, but the extraordinary disproportion between the number of different points which his body successively occupied and the very small number of seconds with which he made good this departure which had almost the air of a sortie from a besieged town. (VI,174-175)

Gilberte, “as we shall see,” becomes that Duchesse de Guermantes and the mother of a whole brood of children.

However that may be, Gilberte had been for only a short time the Marquise de Saint-Loup (in the process of becoming, as we shall see, Duchesse de Guermantes)…(V,909)

He [Saint-Loup] was seated by the side of Gilberte–already pregnant (subsequently he did not fail to keep her continually supplied with off-spring)…(V,926)

I like to think of myself as an informed reader, but I was not alert enough to anticipate this revelation:

No, the Baron and Baronne de Forcheville, despite these deceptive appearances, did figure on the wife’s side, it is true, and not on the Cambremer side, not because of the Guermantes, but because of Jupien, who, the better informed reader knows, was Odette’s first cousin. (V,915)

 One final loose end: This completes my reading of In Search of Lost Time and of this blog, at least in this form. I will turn next to some critical literary works on Proust and will probably find there something  on which to comment.


A Victim

May 3, 2010

Andrée, perhaps not an altogether reliable person, has given Marcel the reason why Albertine left him.

 “…I think she was forced to leave you by her aunt who had designs for her future upon that guttersnipe, you know, the young man you used to call ‘I’m a wash-out,’ the young man who ws in love with Albertine and had asked for her hand. Seeing that you weren’t marrying her, they were afraid that the shocking length of her stay in your house might prevent the young man from doing so. And so Mme Bontemps, on whom the young man was constantly bringing pressure to bear, summoned Albertine home.” (V,830)

Marcel, who had been so engrossed with his jealous speculations, had never once thought how his living arrangement with Albertine might harm her.

I had never in my jealousy thought of this explanation, but only of Albertine’s desire for women and of my own surveillance of her; I had forgotten that there was also Mme Bontemps who might eventually regard as strange what had shocked my mother from the first. At least Mme Bontemps was afraid that it might shock this possible husband whom she was keeping in reserve for Albertine in case I failed to marry her. (V,831)

Jane Austen would have understood Albertine’s position, that of a young woman with no independent means, caught in a social web, where a mistake with a man might leave her forever penniless.

It was not the first time I had felt astonishment and a sort of shame at never once having told myself that Albertine was in a false position in my house, a position that might give offence to her aunt; it was not the first, nor was it the last….Listening to the people who maintained that Albertine was a schemer who had tried to get one man after another to marry her, it was not difficult to image how they would have defined her life with me. And yet to me she was a victim, a victim who perhaps was not altogether pure, but in that case guilty for other reasons, on account of vices which people did not mention.

Albertine was an accomplished liar, capable of delivering the most obvious falsehood with full eye contact and emotion in her voice. But that was her only tool for survival in this artificial world created by Marcel.

But above all we must remember this: on the one had, lying is often a trait of character; on the other hand, in women who would not otherwise be liars, it is a natural defence, improvised at first, them more and more organised, against that sudden danger which would be capable of destroying all life: love. (V,834-835)

Contrasts in Forgetting

May 2, 2010

Marcel is gradually forgetting Albertine. Time is the agent. He has a finite set of memories and as they fade they are not replaced, while he himself changes into another person.

It is not because other people are dead that our affection of them fades; it is because we ourselves are dying. Albertine had no cause to reproach her friend. The man who was usurping his name was merely his heir. We can only be faithful to what we remember, and we remember only what we have known. My new self, while it grew up in the shadow of the old, had often heard the other speak of Albertine; through that other self, through the stories it gathered from it, it thought that it knew her, it found her lovable, it loved her; but it was only a love at second hand. (V,805)

Swann is also being forgotten, but by a quite different process. Gilberte has been adopted by her step-father, de Forcheville, and wishes him to be known as her true father. She has inherited Swann’s tact and intelligence and Odette’s morality.

But when, to this daughter of his, he used from time to time to say, taking her in his arms and kissing her: “How comforting it is, my darling, to have a daughter like you; one day when I’m no longer here, if people still mention your poor papa, it will be only to you and because of you,” Swann, in thus pinning  a timorous and anxious hope of survival on his daughter after his death, was as mistaken as an old banker who, having made a will in favour of a little dancer whom he is keeping and who has very nice manners, tells himself that though her he is not more than a great friend, she will remain faithful to his memory. She had very nice manners while her feet under the table sought the feet of those of the old banker’s friends who attracted her, but all this very discreetly, behind an altogether respectable exterior. (V,800)

Gilberte’s presence in a drawing-room, instead of being an occasion for people to speak of her father from time to time, was an obstacle in the way of their seizing the opportunities that might still have remained for them to do so, and that were becoming more and more rare. Even in connexion with the things he had said, the presents he had given, people acquired the habit of not mentioning him, and she who ought to have kept his memory young, if not perpetuated it, found herself hastening and completing the work of death and oblivion. (V,800)

Triumphant Joy

May 1, 2010

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)

The Good Night Kiss

April 28, 2010

Marcel knows that his love for Albertine was not foreordained.

…which now was for ever impossible and yet was indispensable to me. Indispensable without perhaps having been in itself and at the outset something necessary, since I should not have known Albertine had I not read in an archaeological treatise a description of the church at Balbec, had not Swann, by telling me that this church was almost Persian, directed my taste to the Byzantine Norman, had not a financial syndicate, by erecting at Balbec a hygienic and comfortable hotel, made my parents decide to grant my wish and send me to Balbec. To be sure, in that Balbec so long desired, I had not found the Persian church of my dreams, nor the eternal mists. (V,675)

 But that is not to say that the character of his love was not determined in advance. It was imprinted on him as a child by his mother.

Who would have told me at Combray, when I lay waiting for my mother’s good-night with so heavy a heart, that those anxieties would be healed, and would then break out again one day, not for my mother, but for a girl who would at first be no more, against the horizon of the sea, than a flower upon which my eyes would daily be invited to gaze, but a thinking flower in whose mind I was so childishly anxious to occupy a prominent place that I was distressed by her not being aware that I knew Mme de Villeparisis? Yes, it was for the good-night kiss of such an unknown girl that, in years to come, I was to suffer as intensely as I had suffered as a child when my mother did not come up to my room. (V,676)

Explosions in the Dark

April 27, 2010

For Marcel memories are impregnated with sensations. Often they provoke pleasure, as those laid down in childhood.

So then my life was entirely altered. What had constituted its sweetness–not because of Albertine, but concurrently with her, when I was alone–was precisely the perpetual resurgence, at the bidding of identical moments, of moments from the past. From the sound of pattering raindrops I recaptured the scent of the lilacs at Combray, from the shifting of the sun’s rays on the balcony the pigeons in the Champs Elysées; from the muffling of sounds in the heat of the morning hours, the cool taste of cherries; the longing for Brittany or Venice from the noise of the wind and return of Easter. (V,645)

Those associated with a loved one who is recently dead are full of pain.

And if Françoise, when she came in, accidentally disturbed the folds of the big curtains, I stifled a cry of pain at the rent that had just been made in my heart by that ray of long-ago sunlight which had made beautiful in my eyes the modern facade of Marcouville-l’Orgueilleuse when Albertine had said to me: “It’s restored,” Not knowing how to account to Francoise for my groan, I said to her: “Oh, I’m so thirsty.” She left the room, then returned, but I turned sharply away under the impact of the painful discharge of one the thousand invisible memories which incessantly exploded around me in the darkness. (V,646)

It was not enough now to draw the curtains; I tried to stop the eyes and ears of my memory in order not to see that band of orange in the western sky, in order not to hear those invisible birds responding from one tree to the next on either side of me who was then so tenderly embraced by her who was now dead. I  tried to avoid those sensations that are produced by the dampness of leaves in the evening air, the rise and fall of humpback roads. But already those sensations had gripped me once more, carrying me far enough back from the present moment to give the necessary recoil, the necessary momentum to strike me anew, to the idea that Albertine was dead. (V,647)

Little Girls

April 26, 2010

Marcel had sometimes found Albertine’s presence comforting, “like a domestic animal which comes into a room and goes out again and is to found wherever one least expects to find it, and she would often–something that I found profoundly restful–come and lie down beside me on my bed, making a place for herself from which she never stirred, without disturbing me as a person would have done.” (V,9) He requires a similar presence to ease his anguish over Albertine’s escape.

Outside the door of Albertine’s house I found a little poor girl who gazed at me with huge eyes and who looked so sweet-natured that I asked her whether she would care to come home with me, as I might have taken home a dog with faithful eyes. She seemed pleased at the suggestion. When I got home, I held her for some time on my knee, but very soon her presence, by making me feel too keenly Albertine’s absence, became intolerable. And I asked her to go away, after giving her a five-hundred franc note. And yet, soon afterwards, the thought of having some other little girl in the house with me, of never being alone without the comfort of an innocent presence, was the only thing that enabled me to endure the idea that Albertine might  perhaps remain away for some time. (V,583)

 The girl’s parents are outraged and press charges, which also bring a respite of sorts to his distress.

…and fear, to a certain extent, as I felt on my way to see the head of the Sûreté, is an at least temporary and fairly efficacious counter-irritant for sentimental miseries. (V,598)

But as soon as they had gone, the head of the Sûreté, who had a weakness for little girls, changed his tone and admonished me as man to man: “Next time, you must be more careful. Good God, you can’t pick them up as easily as that, or you’ll get into trouble. Anyhow, you’ll find dozens of little girls who are better-looking that than one, and far cheaper. It was a perfectly ridiculous amount to pay.”  I was so certain that he would fail to understand me if I attempted to tell him the truth that without saying a word I took advantage of his permission to withdraw. Every passer-by, until I was safely at home, seemed to me an inspector appointed to  spy on my every movement. (V,598-599)

 Proust continues to play the incident as comedy, perhaps to diminish the creepiness, with Françoise, his unfailing Falstaff.

Unfortunately, although I had assumed that the business with the Sûreté was over and done with, Françoise came in to tell me that an inspector had called to inquire whether I was in the habit of having girls in the house, that the concierge, supposing him to be referring to Albertine, had replied in the affirmative, and that since then it seemed as though the house was being watched. (V,601)

But all of a sudden, by a confusion of which I was not aware (for it did not occur to me that Albertine, being of age, was free to live under my roof and even to by my mistress), it seemed to me that the charge of corrupting minors might apply to Albertine also. thereupon my life appeared to me to be hedged in on every side. And reflecting that I had not lived chastely with her, I saw, in the punishment that had been inflicted upon me for having dandled an unknown little girl on my knee, that relation, which almost always exists in human sanctions, whereby there is hardly ever either a just sentence or a judicial error, but a sort of compromise between the false idea that the judge forms of an innocent act and the culpable deeds of which he is unaware. But then when I thought that Albertine’s return might involve me in an ignominious charge which would degrade me in her eyes and might perhaps even do her some damage for which she would not forgive me, I ceased to look forward to her return, it terrified me. And immediately, a passionate desire for her return overwhelmed me, drowning everything else. (V,602)

To give the story its full arch, and to show Marcel’s interest in little girls is not a passing fancy:

I looked at Gilberte, and I did not think: “I should like to see her again,” I said merely, in answer to her offer, that I should always enjoy being invited to meet young girls, poor girls if possible, to whom I could give pleasure by quite small gifts, without expecting anything of them in return except that they should serve to renew within me the dreams and the sadnesses of my youth and perhaps, one  improbable day, a single chaste kiss. Gilberte smiled and then looked as though she were seriously giving her mind to the problem. (VI,439)

Intermittences of the Heart – II

April 25, 2010

Albertine has escaped and Marcel’s pain is like that of a heart attack. He knows perfectly well why she has left.

 It seemed to me that the unforeseen calamity with which I found myself grappling was also something  that I had already known (as I had known of Albertine’s friendship with a pair of lesbians), from having read it in so many signs in which (notwithstanding the contrary affirmations of my reason, based upon Albertine’s own statements) I had discerned the weariness, the loathing that she felt at having to live in that state of slavery, signs that had so often seemed to me to be written as though in invisible ink behind her sad, submissive eyes, upon her cheeks suddenly inflamed with an unaccountable blush, in the sound of the window that had suddenly been flung open. (V,569)

But reason has little power to ameliorate the pain.

I had been mistaken in thinking that I could see clearly into my own heart. But this knowledge, which the shrewdest perceptions of the mind would not have given me, had now been brought to me, hard, glittering, strange, like a crystallised salt, by the abrupt reaction of pain. I was so much in the habit of having Albertine with me, and now I suddenly saw a new aspect of Habit. Hitherto I had regarded it chiefly as an annihilating force which suppresses the originality and even the awareness of one’s perceptions; now I saw it as a dread deity, so riveted to one’s being, its insignificant face so incrusted in own’s heart, that if it detaches itself, if it turns away from one, this deity that one had barely distinguished inflicts on one sufferings more terrible that any other and is then as cruel as death itself. (V,564-564)

But above all, this anguish was incomparably more intense for a number of reasons of which the most important was perhaps not that I had never tasted any sensual pleasure with Mme de Guermantes or with Gilberte, but that, not seeing them every day, and at every hour of the day, having no opportunity and consequently no need to see them, that had been lacking, in my love for them, the immense force of Habit. (V,577)

 Habit had transformed Albertine for Marcel.

The time was long past when I had all too tentatively begun at Balbec by adding to my visual sensations when I gazed at Albertine sensations of taste, of smell, of touch. Since then, other more profound, more tender, more indefinable sensations had been added to them, and afterwards painful sensations. In short, Albertine was merely, like a stone round which snow had gathered, the generating centre of an immense structure which rose above the plane of my heart. (V,590)

 If time created this trap, only time could release him from it.

…I even enjoyed a few moments of agreeable calm in imagining Venice and beautiful, unknown women. As soon as I was conscious of this, I felt within me a panic terror. This calm which I had just enjoyed was the first apparition of that great intermittent force which was to wage war in me against grief, against love, and would ultimately get the better of them. (V,603)