Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 583

   Sometimes there was such a beautiful moonlight that, an hour after Albertine had gone to bed, I would go to her bedside to tell her to look out of the window.  I am certain that it was for this reason that I went to her room, and not to assure myself that she was really there.  What likelihood was there of her being able to escape, even if she had wished? It would have required an improbable collusion with Francoise. In the dim room, I could see nothing except, against the whiteness of the pillow, a slender diadem of dark hair.  But I could hear Albertine's breathing.  Her sleep was so deep that I hesitated at first to go as far as the bed.  Then I sat down on the edge of it.  Her sleep continued to flow with the same murmur.  What I find it impossible to express is how gay her awakenings were.  I would kiss her and shake her.  At once she would cease to sleep, without even a moment's interval, would break out in a laugh, saying as she twined her arms round my neck: "I was just beginning to wonder whether you were coming," and then laugh even more blithely and tenderly.  It was as though her charming head, when she slept, was filled with nothing but gaiety, affection and laughter.  And in waking her I had merely, as when we cut open a fruit, released the gushing juice which quenches thirst.
Marcel Proust, The Captive, p. 394

Marcel and Albertine, and, technically, us, are in the middle of that long, tortuous Bataan death march that constitutes the end of a relationship.  As I've been reading this sad, seemingly inevitable decline, I keep flashing back to Kathleen Edwards's song House Full of Empty Rooms (which will be making an appearance on the Discography music discussion soon). However, it's not as if it was all terrible. On one level the passage above is another example (and to quote my excellent friend Sanford Zale, as if we need another example) of Marcel treating Albertine as an object, both the fruit reference and also his feeling of freedom to wake her up at any time.  However, we don't have to be so painfully skeptical all the time. We can all remember times when we could not not wake up the woman we loved to share something with her, even if it was just ourselves.  In their internecine war it's hard to not side with Albertine, partially because of Marcel's own actions but also because we're going to naturally (unless you're our mad king) support the weaker party (and a woman living a century ago in an even more patriarchal society consistently found herself on the defensive).  However, do we also take her side because we sense that Albertine, despite her (at the time, shocking) carnal adventures (which are essentially cancelled out by Marcel's own), was a good, happy soul who truly loved Marcel, and much more cleanly and simply and purely than he loved her?

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