Swann's Way (translated by Lydia Davis), pp. 340-356.
Proust remains in satiric mode, giving us a portrait of those gathered at Mme. de Saint-Euverte's soiree, including the Marquise de Cambremer and the Vicomtesse de Franquetot, and the various layers of snobbery on display. We also learn that Swann is the object of some anti-Semitism:
"It's funny that he should go to old Saint-Euverte's," said Mme de Gallardon. "Oh, I know he's intelligent," she added, meaning he was a schemer, "but still and all, a Jew in the home of the sister and sister-in-law of two archbishops!"(One thinks of the insistence that Obama is still a Muslim.)
"I confess to my shame that I'm not shocked," said the Princess des Laumes.
"I know he's a convert, and even his parents and grandparents before him. But they do say converts remain more attached to their religion than anyone else, that it's all just a pretense."
The Princesse de Laumes reveals why Swann is so attached to her when Mme. de Gallardon persists in observing that "people claim that M. Swann is someone whom one can't have in one's house, is that true?" The Princesse replies, "Why ... you ought to know, ... since you've invited him fifty times and he hasn't come once."
The Princesse is herself no stranger to the sexual vagaries of high society, "because everyone knew that the very day after the Prince des Laumes married his ravishing cousin, he had deceived her, and he had not stopped deceiving her since." No wonder then that
Swann liked the Princesse des Laumes very much, and the sight of her also reminded him of Guermantes, the estate next to Combray, the whole countryside which he loved so much and had ceased to visit so as not to be away from Odette.
He can talk to the Princesse in ways that he is unable to do with others: "Swann, who was accustomed, when he was in the company of a woman whom he had kept up the habit of addressing in gallant language, to say things so delicately nuanced that many society people could not understand them.... Swann and the Princesse had the same way of looking at the small things of life, the effect of which -- unless it was the cause -- was a great similarity in their ways of expressing things and even in their pronunciation." So he fully understands and agrees that "life is a dreadful thing." When he hears her say this, "he felt as comforted as if she had been talking about Odette."
The Princesse, who senses Swann's unhappiness and its cause, says later to her husband,
"I do find it absurd that a man of his intelligence should suffer over a person of that sort, who isn't even interesting -- because they say she's an idiot," she added with the wisdom of people not in love who believe a man of sense should be unhappy only over a person who is worth it; which is rather like being surprised that anyone should condescend to suffer from cholera because of so small a creature as the comma bacillus.