A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Proust Project, Day 38

Where this began
Day 37


In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (translated by James Grieve), pp. 107-119.

Swann, we learn, will apparently always associate Vinteuil's sonata with the Bois de Boulogne, and "the charm of certain nights" there, "about which it would have been pointless to ask Odette." Indeed, we have already seen Odette in her element in the Bois. She proposes that the narrator join them on an outing to the Zoo in the Bois, which also reminds her of Mme. Blatin, giving her occasion to make fun of the narrator's misapprehension that that the Swanns were friends of hers. "Even nice Dr. Cottard, who wouldn't speak evil of a soul, says the woman's a pest." And she tells the story of Mme. Blatin calling a "Singhalese" man a "blackie," to which the man retorted, "'Me blackie,' he bellowed at Mme Blatin, 'you camel!'" For the reader, however, Mme. Blatin remains an odd enigma.

While Gilberte is readying herself for their outing, the Swanns enjoyed "telling me about the rare virtues of their daughter," whose "thoughtful kindness" and "desire to please" he had already observed. He also notes that, "Young as she was, she seemed much more sensible than her parents," and that when he mentioned Mlle. Vinteuil to her, Gilberte replies, "She's a person I'll never have anything to do with. Because she wasn't nice to her father -- I've heard she made him unhappy."

His infatuation with the Swanns and their household continues, and he observes,
For years I had been convinced that to go to the house of Mme Swann was a vague pipe-dream that would never come to pass; a quarter-hour after I first stepped into her drawing room, it was all the former amount of time I had spent not knowing her that had become the pipe-dream, as insubstantial as a mere possibility which has been abolished by the fulfillment of a different possibility.

In the Bois, the Swanns encounter the Princesse Mathilde, whom Swann identifies to the narrator as "the friend of Flaubert, Sainte-Beuve, and Dumas. Just think, a niece of Napoleon I! Both Napoleon III and the Tsar of Russia wanted to marry her." While they are chatting with the Princesse, listening to her say that Hippolyte Taine "behaved like a pig" and that Alfred de Musset once arrived an hour late and "dead drunk" when she invited him to dinner, the narrator's friend Bloch makes an appearance. But Mme. Swann is under the impression that Bloch, who has "been introduced to her by Mme. Bontemps" is "on the minister's staff, which was news to me ... and that his name was M. Moreul."