Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 565

   Albertine had never told me that she suspected me of being jealous of her, preoccupied with everything that she did.  The only words we had exchanged - fairly long ago, it must be said - on the subject of jealousy seemed to prove the opposite.  I remember that, on a find moonlight evening towards the beginning of our relationship, on one of the first occasions when I had accompanied her home and would have been just as glad not to do so and to leave her in order to run after other girls, I had said to her: "You know, if I"m offering to take you home, it's not from jealousy; if you have anything else to do, I shall slip discreetly away." And she had replied: "Oh, I know quite well that you aren't jealous and that you don't care a fig, but I've nothing else to do except to stay with you." . . . She had never told me since then that she had changed her mind; but she must have formed a number of fresh ideas on the subject, which she concealed from me but which an accident might betray willy-nilly, for that evening when, on reaching home, after going to fetch her from her own room and taking her to mind, I said to her (with a certain awkwardness which I did not myself understand, for I had indeed told Albertine that I was going to pay a call and had said that I did not know where, perhaps on Mme de Villeparisis, perhaps on Mme de Guermantes, perhaps on Mme de Gambremer; it is true that I had not actually mentioned the Verdurins): "Guess where I've been - at the Verdurins'," I had barely had time to utter the words before Albertine, a look of utter consternation on her face, had answered me in words which seemed to explode of their own accord with a force which she was unable to contain: "I thought as much."
   "I didn't know that you'd be annoyed by my going to see the Verdurins." (It is true that she had not told me that she was annoyed, but it was obvious.  It is true also that I had not said to myself that she would be annoyed.  And yet, faced with the explosions of her wrath, as with one of those events which  sort of retrospective second sight makes us imagine that we have already experienced in the past, it seemed to me that I could never have expected anything else).
   "Annoyed? What difference does it make to me?  I couldn't care less. Wasn't Mlle Vinteuil to be there?"
   Besides myself at these words, "You never told me you'd met her the other day," I said to her, to show her that I was better informed than she knew.
Marcel Proust, The Captive, pp. 337-338

It's funny, as much as I love Remembrance of Things Past - and, come on, is there really anything that compares to it (I remember when we chose to have the students read Othello in the Core I was initially disappointed and proposed that we should have chosen Hamlet because it could be argued that the world is in Hamlet; well, the world is in Remembrance of Things Past) - there are times when I think that Marcel and Albertine just deserved each other.  And, no, I don't mean that in a good way. They both can be pretty clueless.   I laughed out loud when Marcel observed, "Albertine had never told me that she suspected me of being jealous of her, preoccupied with everything that she did."  If she never noticed how jealous he was then she was pretty dim - and if he never noticed her noticing how jealous he was then he's even dimmer.  Using logic that I'd normally associate with my mother or my sister, he latched on to one isolated, random event and clung to as prove of the irrefutably wrong.  The other way that they were clearly made for each other - and, again, not in a good way - is their ability to, seemingly on demand, either wind each other up or hurt each other.  Marcel knows very well that Albertine would be angered by him keeping the fact that he was going to a soiree at the Verdurins from her, and shared the information with her at just the right time for maximum impact.  She is hurt, naturally, but turns the tables on him instantaneously: "Annoyed?  What difference does it make to me?  I couldn't care less.  Wasn't Mlle Vinteuil to be there?" [Albertine drops mike and exits stage as Marcel grabs his chest] As we know, Marcel is madly jealous of anything to do with Mlle Vinteuil or her friend because he believes that it was they who began Albertine on her sapphic journey.  She can both grab the high ground by pointing out a friend of hers (or an alleged friend of hers) who she didn't get to see because Marcel was being selfish, and also in the process stoke his jealousy.  Sadly, it's not the end because then he uses it as an excuse to try and unravel one of her lies.  Maybe this really isn't that different than any other relationships, because we all waste an inordinate amount of time that we could be used in making each other happy (either emotionally or carnally) with making each other miserable.  With some couples, however, a certain level of gentle sniping serves as foreplay, with a reasonably dependable transition from jibes to clothes flying in the air.  Unfortunately, with Marcel and Albertine I think it just led to an agonizingly slow bleed out from a thousand paper cuts.

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