Monday, October 23, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 618

   "Monsieur will kindly forgive me for not having written sooner to Monsieur.  the person whom Monsieur instructed me to see had gone away for a few days, and, anxious to justify the confidence which Monsieur had placed in me, I did not wish to return empty-handed.  I have just spoken at last to this person who remembers (Mlle A.) very well." (Aime, who possessed certain rudiments of culture, meant to put "Mlle A." in italics or between inverted commas. But when he meant to put something in brackets he put it between inverted commas. In the same way Francoise would say that someone stayed in my street meaning that he dwelt there, and that one could dwell for a few minutes, meaning stay, the mistakes of popular speech consisting merely, as often as not, in interchanging - as for the matter the French language has done- terms which in the course of centuries have replaced one another.) "According to her the thing that Monsieur supposed is absolutely certain. For one thing, it was she who looked after Mlle Albertine whenever she came to the baths. (Mlle A.) came very often to take her shower with a tall woman older than herself, always dressed in grey, whom the shower-attendant without knowing her name recognised from having often seen her going after girls. But she took no notice of any of them after she met (Mlle A.). She and (Mlle. A.) always shut themselves up in the cabin, remained there a very long time, and the lady in grey used to give at least 10 francs as a tip to the person I spoke to.  (Mlle A.) also used to come sometimes with a woman with a very dark skin and a lorgnette.  But (Mlle A.) came most often with girls younger than herself, especially one with very red hair.  Apart from the lady in grey, the people (Mlle A.) was in the habit of bring were not from Balbec and must even quite often have come from quite a distance.  They never went in together, but (Mlle A.) would come in, and ask for the door of her cabin to be left unlocked - as she was expecting a friend, and the person I spoke to knew what she meant.  This person could not give me any other details as she did not remember very well, 'which is easy to understand after such a long time.' Besides, this person did not try to find out, because she is very discreet and it was to her advantage because (Mlle A.) brought her in a lot of money. She was quite sincerely touched to hear that she was dead.  It is true that so young it is a great calamity for her and for her family.  I await Monsieur's orders to know whether I may leave  Balbec where I do not think that I can learn anything more. I thank Monsieur again for the little holiday that he has procured me, and which has been very pleasant especially as the weather is as fine as could be.  The season promises well for this year. Everyone hopes that Monsieur will come and put in a little apparition.
   "I can think of nothing else to say that will interest Monsieur," etc.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, pp. 525-526

In the wake of Albertine's death Marcel attempts to gather information about Albertine's activities, and whether or not his suppositions about her trysts were in fact correct. "Alas, I had supposed that it would be immaterial to me, even agreeable, not to see Albertine again, until her departure had revealed to me my error. Similarly her death had shown me how greatly I had been mistaken in believing that I sometimes wished for her death and supposed that it would be my deliverance.  So it was that, when I received Aime's letter, I realised that if I had not until then suffered too painfully from my doubts as to Ablertine's virtue it was because in reality they were not doubts at all." (p. 524) Aime provides him with a glimpse into a world that Marcel suspected, and it's not the first information that he receives that confirms his worst fears.  Nevertheless, it's difficult for a modern reader to feel feel any shock at the revelation or to muster any great sympathy for Marcel's feelings.  Part of this is gender-related (aren't we hard- or soft-wired to pull for the underdog) for much the same reason that in the Aeneid we sympathize with Dido and not Aeneas (in a way that the ancient Romans would not have understood).  In addition, Marcel's efforts to draft help to investigate Albertine's secret life just feels like a violation.

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