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A la recherche du temps perdu

Posted 12/20/2016 7:09pm by Eugene Wyatt.

"... —was no longer Albertine’s future, it was her past. Her past? That is the wrong word, since for jealousy there can be neither past nor future, and what it imagines is invariably the present."

The Fugitive, Marcel Proust; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin, Enright in the Modern Library Edition, P. 662 

 

"... –ce n’était plus l’Avenir d’Albertine, c’était son Passé. Son Passé? C’est mal dire puisque pour la jalousie il n’est ni passé ni avenir et que ce qu’elle imagine est toujours le Présent."

Albertine disparue, Marcel Proust, Edition Humanis, Loc 45166

Posted 3/18/2016 7:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Si un être peut être le produit d’un sol dont on goûte en lui le charme particulier, plus encore que la paysanne que j’avais tant désiré voir apparaître quand j’errais seul du côté de Méséglise, dans les bois de Roussainville, ce devait être la grande fille que je vis sortir de cette maison et, sur le sentier qu’illuminait obliquement le soleil levant, venir vers la gare en portant une jarre de lait. Dans la vallée à qui ces hauteurs cachaient le reste du monde, elle ne devait jamais voir personne que dans ces trains qui ne s’arrêtaient qu’un instant. Elle longea les wagons, offrant du café au lait à quelques voyageurs réveillés. Empourpré des reflets du matin, son visage était plus rose que le ciel. Je ressentis devant elle ce désir de vivre qui renaît en nous chaque fois que nous prenons de nouveau conscience de la beauté et du bonheur. Nous oublions toujours qu’ils sont individuels et, leur substituant dans notre esprit un type de convention que nous formons en faisant une sorte de moyenne entre les différents visages qui nous ont plu, entre les plaisirs que nous avons connus, nous n’avons que des images abstraites qui sont languissantes et fades parce qu’il leur manque précisément ce caractère d’une chose nouvelle, différente de ce que nous avons connu, ce caractère qui est propre à la beauté et au bonheur. Et nous portons sur la vie un jugement pessimiste et que nous supposons juste, car nous avons cru y faire entrer en ligne de compte le bonheur et la beauté quand nous les avons omis et remplacés par des synthèses où d’eux il n’y a pas un seul atome. C’est ainsi que bâille d’avance d’ennui un lettré à qui on parle d’un nouveau « beau livre », parce qu’il imagine une sorte de composé de tous les beaux livres qu’il a lus, tandis qu’un beau livre est particulier, imprévisible, et n’est pas fait de la somme de tous les chefs-d’œuvre précédents mais de quelque chose que s’être parfaitement assimilé cette somme ne suffit nullement à faire trouver, car c’est justement en dehors d’elle. Dès qu’il a eu connaissance de cette nouvelle œuvre, le lettré, tout à l’heure blasé, se sent de l’intérêt pour la réalité qu’elle dépeint. Telle, étrangère aux modèles de beauté que dessinait ma pensée quand je me trouvais seul, la belle fille me donna aussitôt le goût d’un certain bonheur (seule forme, toujours particulière, sous laquelle nous puissions connaître le goût du bonheur), d’un bonheur qui se réaliserait en vivant auprès d’elle. Mais ici encore la cessation momentanée de l’Habitude agissait pour une grande part. Je faisais bénéficier la marchande de lait de ce que c’était mon être complet, apte à goûter de vives jouissances, qui était en face d’elle. C’est d’ordinaire avec notre être réduit au minimum que nous vivons, la plupart de nos facultés restent endormies parce qu’elles se reposent sur l’habitude qui sait ce qu’il y a à faire et n’a pas besoin d’elles. Mais par ce matin de voyage l’interruption de la routine de mon existence, le changement de lieu et d’heure avaient rendu leur présence indispensable. Mon habitude qui était sédentaire et n’était pas matinale faisait défaut, et toutes mes facultés étaient accourues pour la remplacer, rivalisant entre elles de zèle –s’élevant toutes, comme des vagues, à un même niveau inaccoutumé –de la plus basse à la plus noble, de la respiration, de l’appétit, et de la circulation sanguine à la sensibilité et à l’imagination. Je ne sais si, en me faisant croire que cette fille n’était pas pareille aux autres femmes, le charme sauvage de ces lieux ajoutait au sien, mais elle le leur rendait. La vie m’aurait paru délicieuse si seulement j’avais pu, heure par heure, la passer avec elle, l’accompagner jusqu’au torrent, jusqu’à la vache, jusqu’au train, être toujours à ses côtés, me sentir connu d’elle, ayant ma place dans sa pensée. Elle m’aurait initié aux charmes de la vie rustique et des premières heures du jour. Je lui fis signe qu’elle vînt me donner du café au lait. J’avais besoin d’être remarqué d’elle. Elle ne me vit pas, je l’appelai. Au-dessus de son corps très grand, le teint de sa figure était si doré et si rose qu’elle avait l’air d’être vue à travers un vitrail illuminé. Elle revint sur ses pas, je ne pouvais détacher mes yeux de son visage de plus en plus large, pareil à un soleil qu’on pourrait fixer et qui s’approcherait jusqu’à venir tout près de vous, se laissant regarder de près, vous éblouissant d’or et de rouge. Elle posa sur moi son regard perçant, mais comme les employés fermaient les portières, le train se mit en marche ; je la vis quitter la gare et reprendre le sentier, il faisait grand jour maintenant : je m’éloignais de l’aurore.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur, Marcel Proust 1918, Humanis Edition, Loc 11886

If a person can be the product of a soil the peculiar charm of which one distinguishes in that person, more even than the peasant girl whom I had so desperately longed to see appear when I wandered by myself along the Méséglise way, in the woods of Roussainville, such a person must be the big girl whom I now saw emerge from the house and, climbing a path lighted by the first slanting rays of the sun, come towards the station carrying a jar of milk. In her valley from which its congregated summits hid the rest of the world, she could never see anyone save in these trains which stopped for a moment only. She passed down the line of windows, offering coffee and milk to a few awakened passengers. Purpled with the glow of morning, her face was rosier than the sky. I felt in her presence that desire to live which is reborn in us whenever we become conscious anew of beauty and of happiness. We invariably forget that these are individual qualities, and, substituting for them in our mind a conventional type at which we arrive by striking a sort of mean amongst the different faces that have taken our fancy, the pleasures we have known, we are left with mere abstract images which are lifeless and dull because they are lacking in precisely that element of novelty, different from anything we have known, that element which is proper to beauty and to happiness. And we deliver on life a pessimistic judgment which we suppose to be fair, for we believed that we were taking into account when we formed it happiness and beauty, whereas in fact we left them out and replaced them by syntheses in which there is not a single atom of either. So it is that a well-read man will at once begin to yawn with boredom when anyone speaks to him of a new ‘good book,’ because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read and knows already, whereas a good book is something special, something incalculable, and is made up not of the sum of all previous masterpieces but of something which the most thorough assimilation of every one of them would not enable him to discover, since it exists not in their sum but beyond it. Once he has become acquainted with this new work, the well-read man, till then apathetic, feels his interest awaken in the reality which it depicts. So, alien to the models of beauty which my fancy was wont to sketch when I was by myself, this strapping girl gave me at once the sensation of a certain happiness (the sole form, always different, in which we may learn the sensation of happiness), of a happiness that would be realised by my staying and living there by her side. But in this again the temporary cessation of Habit played a great part. I was giving the milk-girl the benefit of what was really my own entire being, ready to taste the keenest joys, which now confronted her. As a rule it is with our being reduced to a minimum that we live, most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely upon Habit, which knows what there is to be done and has no need of their services. But on this morning of travel, the interruption of the routine of my existence, the change of place and time, had made their presence indispensable. My habits, which were sedentary and not matutinal, played me false, and all my faculties came hurrying to take their place, vying with one another in their zeal, rising, each of them, like waves in a storm, to the same unaccustomed level, from the basest to the most exalted, from breath, appetite, the circulation of my blood to receptivity and imagination. I cannot say whether, so as to make me believe that this girl was unlike the rest of women, the rugged charm of these barren tracts had been added to her own, but if so she gave it back to them. Life would have seemed an exquisite thing to me if only I had been free to spend it, hour after hour, with her, to go with her to the stream, to the cow, to the train, to be always at her side, to feel that I was known to her, had my place in her thoughts. She would have initiated me into the delights of country life and of the first hours of the day. I signalled to her to give me some of her coffee. I felt that I must be noticed by her. She did not see me; I called to her. Above her body, which was of massive build, the complexion of her face was so burnished and so ruddy that she appeared almost as though I were looking at her through a lighted window. She had turned and was coming towards me; I could not take my eyes from her face which grew larger as she approached, like a sun which it was somehow possible to arrest in its course and draw towards one, letting itself be seen at close quarters, blinding the eyes with its blaze of red and gold. She fastened on me her penetrating stare, but while the porters ran along the platform shutting doors the train had begun to move. I saw her leave the station and go down the hill to her home; it was broad daylight now; I was speeding away from the dawn.

Within A Budding Grove, Marcel Proust 1918; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Loc 4008

Posted 3/4/2016 4:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Et Swann, qui était simple et négligent avec une duchesse, tremblait d’être méprisé, posait, quand il était devant une femme de chambre.

Il n’était pas comme tant de gens qui, par paresse, ou sentiment résigné de l’obligation que crée la grandeur sociale de rester attaché à un certain rivage, s’abstiennent des plaisirs que la réalité leur présente en dehors de la position mondaine où ils vivent cantonnés jusqu’à leur mort, se contentant de finir par appeler plaisirs, faute de mieux, une fois qu’ils sont parvenus à s’y habituer, les divertissements médiocres ou les supportables ennuis qu’elle renferme. Swann, lui, ne cherchait pas à trouver jolies les femmes avec qui il passait son temps, mais à passer son temps avec les femmes qu’il avait d’abord trouvées jolies. Et c’était souvent des femmes de beauté assez vulgaire, car les qualités physiques qu’il recherchait sans s’en rendre compte étaient en complète opposition avec celles qui lui rendaient admirables les femmes sculptées ou peintes par les maîtres qu’il préférait. La profondeur, la mélancolie de l’expression, glaçaient ses sens que suffisait au contraire à éveiller une chair saine, plantureuse et rose.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 3571.

And though Swann was unaffected and casual with a duchess, he trembled at being scorned by a chamber-maid, and posed in front of her.

He was not like so many people who from laziness or a resigned sense of the obligation created by social grandeur to remain moored to a certain shore, abstain from the pleasures real life offers them outside the high-society position in which they live billeted and encamped until their death, contenting themselves in the end with describing as pleasures, for lack of any better, once they have managed to become used to them, the mediocre amusements or bearable tedium it contains. Swann did not try to convince himself that the women with whom he spent his time were pretty, but to spend his time with women he already knew were pretty. And these were often women of a rather vulgar beauty, for the physical qualities that he looked for without realizing it were the direct opposite of those he admired in the women sculpted or painted by his favorite masters. Depth of expression, melancholy, would freeze his senses, which were, however, immediately aroused by flesh that was healthy, plump, and pink.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 216.

Posted 3/2/2016 6:13pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Comme la promenade du côté de Méséglise était la moins longue des deux que nous faisions autour de Combray et qu’à cause de cela on la réservait pour les temps incertains, le climat du côté de Méséglise était assez pluvieux et nous ne perdions jamais de vue la lisière des bois de Roussainville dans l’épaisseur desquels nous pourrions nous mettre à couvert.

Souvent le soleil se cachait derrière une nuée qui déformait son ovale et dont il jaunissait la bordure. L’éclat, mais non la clarté, était enlevé à la campagne où toute vie semblait suspendue, tandis que le petit village de Roussainville sculptait sur le ciel le relief de ses arêtes blanches avec une précision et un fini accablants. Un peu de vent faisait envoler un corbeau qui retombait dans le lointain, et, contre le ciel blanchissant, le lointain des bois paraissait plus bleu, comme peint dans ces camaïeux qui décorent les trumeaux des anciennes demeures.

Mais d’autres fois se mettait à tomber la pluie dont nous avait menacés le capucin que l’opticien avait à sa devanture ; les gouttes d’eau, comme des oiseaux migrateurs qui prennent leur vol tous ensemble, descendaient à rangs pressés du ciel. Elles ne se séparent point, elles ne vont pas à l’aventure pendant la rapide traversée, mais chacune tenant sa place attire à elle celle qui la suit et le ciel en est plus obscurci qu’au départ des hirondelles. Nous nous réfugiions dans le bois. Quand leur voyage semblait fini, quelques-unes, plus débiles, plus lentes, arrivaient encore. Mais nous ressortions de notre abri, car les gouttes se plaisent aux feuillages, et la terre était déjà presque séchée que plus d’une s’attardait à jouer sur les nervures d’une feuille, et suspendue à la pointe, reposée, brillant au soleil, tout d’un coup se laissait glisser de toute la hauteur de la branche et nous tombait sur le nez.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 2937.

Since the walk along the Méséglise way was the shorter of the two that we took out of Combray and since, because of that, we saved it for uncertain weather, the climate along the Méséglise way was quite rainy and we would never lose sight of the edge of the Roussainville woods, in the thickness of which we could take cover.

Often the sun would hide behind a storm cloud, distorting its oval, yellowing the edges of the cloud. The brilliance, though not the brightness, would be withdrawn from the countryside, where all life seemed suspended, while the little village of Roussainville sculpted its white rooflines in relief upon the sky with an unbearable precision and finish. Nudged by a gust of wind, a crow flew up and dropped down again in the distance, and, against the whitening sky, the distant parts of the woods appeared bluer, as though painted in one of those monochromes that decorate the pier glasses of old houses.

But at other times the rain with which we had been threatened by the little hooded monk in the optician’s window would begin to fall; the drops of water, like migrating birds which take flight all at the same time, would descend in close ranks from the sky. They do not separate at all, they do not wander away during their rapid course, but each one keeps to its place, drawing along the one that comes after it, and the sky is more darkened by them than when the swallows leave. We would take refuge in the woods. When their flight seemed to be over, a few of them, feebler, slower, would still be arriving. But we would come back out of our shelter, because raindrops delight in leafy branches, and, when the earth was already nearly dry again, more than one would still linger to play on the ribs of a leaf and, hanging from the tip, tranquil and sparkling in the sun, would suddenly let go, slip off, and drop from the entire height of the branch onto one’s nose.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 167.

Posted 3/1/2016 1:26pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The noted Hungarian photographer Brassaï came to Paris in 1924 speaking poor French. To learn it better he began reading the works of Marcel Proust.

Nous croisâmes près de l’église Legrandin qui venait en sens inverse conduisant la même dame à sa voiture. Il passa contre nous, ne s’interrompit pas de parler à sa voisine, et nous fit du coin de son œil bleu un petit signe en quelque sorte intérieur aux paupières et qui, n’intéressant pas les muscles de son visage, put passer parfaitement inaperçu de son interlocutrice ; mais, cherchant à compenser par l’intensité du sentiment le champ un peu étroit où il en circonscrivait l’expression, dans ce coin d’azur qui nous était affecté il fit pétiller tout l’entrain de la bonne grâce qui dépassa l’enjouement, frisa la malice ; il subtilisa les finesses de l’amabilité jusqu’aux clignements de la connivence, aux demi-mots, aux sous-entendus, aux mystères de la complicité ; et finalement exalta les assurances d’amitié jusqu’aux protestations de tendresse, jusqu’à la déclaration d’amour, illuminant alors pour nous seuls, d’une langueur secrète et invisible à la châtelaine, une prunelle énamourée dans un visage de glace.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 2399.

Near the church we met Legrandin, who was coming in the opposite direction escorting the same lady to her carriage. He passed close to us, did not break off his conversation with his neighbor, and from the corner of his blue eye gave us a little sign that was in some way interior to his eyelid and which, not involving the muscles of his face, could go perfectly unnoticed by the lady he was talking to; but seeking to compensate by intensity of feeling for the somewhat narrow field in which he had circumscribed its expression, in the azure corner assigned to us he set sparkling all the liveliness of a grace that exceeded playfulness, bordered on mischievousness; he overrefined the subtleties of amiability into winks of connivance, insinuations, innuendos, the mysteries of complicity; and finally exalted his assurances of friendship into protestations of affection, into a declaration of love, illuminating for us alone, at that moment, with a secret languor invisible to the lady, a love-smitten eye in a face of ice.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 139.

À vrai dire mon père lui-même, qui était pourtant le plus irrité contre l’attitude qu’avait eue Legrandin, gardait peut-être un dernier doute sur le sens qu’elle comportait. Elle était comme toute attitude ou action où se révèle le caractère profond et caché de quelqu’un : elle ne se relie pas à ses paroles antérieures, nous ne pouvons pas la faire confirmer par le témoignage du coupable qui n’avouera pas ; nous en sommes réduits à celui de nos sens dont nous nous demandons, devant ce souvenir isolé et incohérent, s’ils n’ont pas été le jouet d’une illusion ; de sorte que de telles attitudes, les seules qui aient de l’importance, nous laissent souvent quelques doutes.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 2416.

In fact, my father himself, though he was the one most irritated by Legrandin’s attitude, may still have harbored a last doubt as to what it meant. It was like any attitude or action that reveals a person’s deep and hidden character: it has no connection with anything he has said before, we cannot seek confirmation from the culprit’s testimony for he will not confess; we are reduced to the testimony of our own senses concerning which we wonder, confronting this isolated and incoherent memory, if they were not the victims of an illusion; so that these attitudes, the only ones of any importance, often leave us with some doubts.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 141.

Posted 2/18/2016 6:20am by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel Proust says that Camille Saint-Saëns, the source of his little phrase at the Saint-Euverte soirée, is "a composer I dislike" and Charles Swann complains of Odette, whom he later marries, that she "was not my type". 

what's good for the goose is good for the gander—

From the author,

"... the little phrase from this Sonata, and I've never told anyone this before, is, at the Saint-Euverte soirée (to begin at the end), the charming but mediocre theme from a Violin and Piano Sonata by Saint-Saëns, a composer I dislike."

A letter from Marcel Proust to Jacques Lacretelle, April 20, 1918.

And Swann on Odette,

And with the intermittent coarseness that reappeared in him as soon as he was no longer unhappy and the level of his morality dropped accordingly, he exclaimed to himself: “To think that I wasted years of my life, that I wanted to die, that I felt my deepest love, for a woman who did not appeal to me, who was not my type!”

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 433.

Mais le concert recommença et Swann comprit qu’il ne pourrait pas s’en aller avant la fin de ce nouveau numéro du programme. 

Il souffrait de rester enfermé au milieu de ces gens dont la bêtise et les ridicules le frappaient d’autant plus douloureusement qu’ignorant son amour, incapables, s’ils l’avaient connu, de s’y intéresser et de faire autre chose que d’en sourire comme d’un enfantillage ou de le déplorer comme une folie, ils le lui faisaient apparaître sous l’aspect d’un état subjectif qui n’existait que pour lui, dont rien d’extérieur ne lui affirmait la réalité ; il souffrait surtout, et au point que même le son des instruments lui donnait envie de crier, de prolonger son exil dans ce lieu où Odette ne viendrait jamais, où personne, où rien ne la connaissait, d’où elle était entièrement absente.

Mais tout à coup ce fut comme si elle était entrée, et cette apparition lui fut une si déchirante souffrance qu’il dut porter la main à son cœur. C’est que le violon était monté à des notes hautes où il restait comme pour une attente, une attente qui se prolongeait sans qu’il cessât de les tenir, dans l’exaltation où il était d’apercevoir déjà l’objet de son attente qui s’approchait, et avec un effort désespéré pour tâcher de durer jusqu’à son arrivée, de l’accueillir avant d’expirer, de lui maintenir encore un moment de toutes ses dernières forces le chemin ouvert pour qu’il pût passer, comme on soutient une porte qui sans cela retomberait. Et avant que Swann eût eu le temps de comprendre, et de se dire : « C’est la petite phrase de la sonate de Vinteuil, n’écoutons pas ! » ...

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition, Loc 6396-6407.

But the concert was beginning again and Swann realized he would not be able to leave before the end of this new number.

He was suffering at having to remain shut up among these people whose stupidity and absurd habits struck him all the more painfully since, being unaware of his love, incapable, had they known about it, of taking any interest in it or doing more than smile at it as at some childish nonsense or deplore it as utter madness, they made it appear to him as a subjective state which existed only for him, whose reality was confirmed for him by nothing outside himself; he suffered most of all, to the point where even the sound of the instruments made him want to cry out, from prolonging his exile in this place to which Odette would never come, where no one, where nothing knew her, from which she was entirely absent.

But suddenly it was as though she had appeared in the room, and this apparition caused him such harrowing pain that he had to put his hand on his heart. What had happened was that the violin had risen to a series of high notes on which it lingered as though waiting for something, holding on to them in a prolonged expectancy, in the exaltation of already seeing the object of its expectation approaching, and with a desperate effort to try to endure until it arrived, to welcome it before expiring, to keep the way open for it another moment with a last bit of strength so that it could come through, as one holds up a trapdoor that would otherwise fall back. And before Swann had time to understand, and say to himself: “It’s the little phrase from the sonata by Vinteuil; don’t listen!” ...

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, p. 388.

Posted 1/12/2016 4:18am by Eugene Wyatt.

And she would say to me, pointing to my note-books as though they were worm-eaten wood or a piece of stuff which the moth had got into: “Look, it’s all eaten away, isn’t that dreadful! There’s nothing left of this bit of page, it’s been torn to ribbons,” and examining it with a tailor’s eye she would go on: “I don’t think I shall be able to mend this one, it’s finished and done for. A pity, perhaps it has your best ideas. You know what they say at Combray: there isn’t a furrier who knows as much about furs as the moth, they always get into the best ones.”

Time Regained Volume VI, Marcel Proust, The Modern Library translation, Loc 6499

Elle me disait, en me montrant mes cahiers rongés comme le bois où l’insecte s’est mis : "C’est tout mité, regardez, c’est malheureux, voilà un bout de page qui n’est plus qu’une dentelle, et—l’examinant comme un tailleur—je ne crois pas que je pourrai la refaire, c’est perdu. C’est dommage, c’est peut-être vos plus belles idées. Comme on dit à Combray, il n’y a pas de fourreurs qui s’y connaissent aussi bien comme les mites. Elles se mettent toujours dans les meilleures étoffes."

A la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust, Loc 54396

Posted 7/7/2015 2:51pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I hope a better understanding of the Narrator's amorous trials with Gilberte may lead,

... in the context of another and later love affair ... (1)

to a fuller comprehension of Albertine which is a much more mysterious love.

~

As a child, when the Narrator saw Gilberte on the Méséglise way he was attracted to her; that attraction was to become a deeper love in Paris. Later, he often met her to play on the Champs-Élysées and he was overjoyed when she finally invited him to tea. At her house, he was a favorite with Gilberte, and moreover, he had become Swann's friend for the good influence on his daughter.

Surprisingly, he began to sense that Gilberte was put off by his frequent visits especially when he was invited by her parents, 

... detecting certain signs of impatience which she betrayed when her father asked me to the house almost against her will, I wondered whether what I had regarded as a protection for my happiness was not in fact the secret reason why that happiness could not last. (2)

Unwillingly Gilberte—at her mother's insistence—stays home with the visiting Narrator rather than go out dancing; she frowns and answers him in monosyllables while he assumes a mien of protective "coldness". They quarrel; he leaves and vows "never to see her again"

The storm that was blowing in my heart was so violent that I made my way home battered and bruised, feeling that I could recover my breath only by retracing my steps, by returning, upon whatever pretext, into Gilberte’s presence.

But she would have said to herself: “Back again! Evidently I can do what I like with him: he’ll come back every time, and the more wretched he is when he leaves me the more docile he’ll be.” (3)

The Narrator wants Gilberte in a singular way; she wants to go out dancing. They have many wants. A want can be denied by a power greater than what it desires, and in this instance, by parental authority. In Combray, a similar thing happened to the young Narrator: he wanted a goodnight kiss from his mother. He was denied it because of a guest and he was sent upstairs to bed by his father. But in contrast to Gilberte, he disobeyed the power,

Certainly my mother’s beautiful face seemed to shine again with youth that evening, as she sat gently holding my hands and trying to check my tears; but this was just what I felt should not have been; her anger would have saddened me less than this new gentleness, unknown to my childhood experience; I felt that I had with an impious and secret finger traced a first wrinkle upon her soul and brought out a first white hair on her head.

This thought redoubled my sobs ... (4)

A mother's love, the love of another woman...they are both beautiful but both different and both unreeling the same, 

Absence is the figure of privation; simultaneously, I desire and I need. Desire is squashed against need: that is the obsessive phenomenon of all amorous sentiment (5)

(1) À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs by Marcel Proust 1919; translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1923 et al, 278.

(2) Ibid 214.

(3) Ibid 218.

(4) Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913; translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922 et al, 52.

(5) Fragments d’un discours amoureux by Roland Barthes 1977; translated by Richard Howard as A Lover's Discourse: Fragments  1979, 16.

Posted 5/13/2015 6:17pm by Eugene Wyatt.

We have the Narrator summarizing social personality after first reporting what his family knows and thinks about Charles Swann, thereby creating him. This is 3rd person narration—the speaker is the Narrator. 

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people.

Swann's Way Vol. 1 Marcel Proust 1913 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p. 23.

Below we have 1st person narration; the speaker is also one-in-the-same but he is reflective, and a more mature Narrator—it is a different time. He speaks about what he knows of the real and imaginary Albertine. You are inside the thought process of the Narrator.

What did I know of Albertine? One or two glimpses of a profile against the sea, less beautiful, assuredly, than those of Veronese’s women whom I ought, had I been guided by purely aesthetic reasons, to have preferred to her. By what other reasons could I be guided, since, my anxiety having subsided, I could recapture only those mute profiles, possessing nothing else? Since my first sight of Albertine I had thought about her endlessly, I had carried on with what I called by her name an interminable inner dialogue in which I made her question and answer, think and act, and in the infinite series of imaginary Albertines who followed one after the other in my fancy hour by hour, the real Albertine, glimpsed on the beach, figured only at the head, just as the actress who “creates” a role, the star, appears, out of a long series of performances, in the few first alone. That Albertine was scarcely more than a silhouette, all that had been superimposed upon her being of my own invention, to such an extent when we love does the contribution that we ourselves make outweigh—even in terms of quantity alone—those that come to us from the beloved object.

Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2,  Marcel Proust 1919 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p.  597.

"Social personality" makes sense of how characters in the novel change viewed from different points and persons. On p. 698 of Within a Budding Grove there is more 1st person narration (in the voice of the Narrator) talking about the real and imagined Gilberte and Albertine. Proust's definition of social personality is of great import to the reading of the novel and entering his fictional world. There is little fixity in real life and less in fiction factoring in unreliability both real and imaginary.

My emphasis.

Posted 9/10/2014 8:06pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Yet I was so accustomed, ever since I first made their acquaintance, to consider his wife an unusual person with a thorough knowledge of Schopenhauer who had access to an intellectual _milieu_ closed to her vulgar husband, that I was at first surprised when Saint-Loup remarked: "His wife is an idiot, you can have her; but he's an excellent fellow, gifted and extremely agreeable," By the idiocy of the wife, no doubt Saint-Loup meant her mad longing to get into the best society which that society severely condemned and, by the qualities of the husband, those his niece implied when she called him the best of the family. Anyhow, he did not bother himself about duchesses but that sort of intelligence is as far removed from the kind that characterises thinkers as is the intelligence the public respects because it has enabled a rich man "to make his pile." 

But the words of Saint-Loup did not displease me since they recalled that pretentiousness is closely allied to stupidity and that simplicity has a subtle but agreeable flavor.

Time Regained Marcel Proust 1927 (posthumous) translated by Stephen Hudson 1931 on Gutenberg, (my emphasis).

Posted 9/8/2014 3:54pm by Eugene Wyatt.

And the most disagreeable part of all this was once again his vanity, for he was flattered at being loved by Gilberte and, without daring to say that it was Charlie whom he loved, gave, nevertheless, of the love which the violinist was supposed to feel for him, details which he, the Saint-Loup from whom Charlie every day demanded more and more money, knew to be wildly exaggerated if not invented from start to finish.

Time Regained Marcel Proust 1927 (posthumous) translated by Mayor, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992.