Day Seventy-Three: The Guermantes Way, pp. 61-75

From "I really was in love with..." to "...on the corner of an unpacked trunk." 
"I really was in love with Mme de Guermantes." Oh dear, that means the narrator is about to get whiny and weepy and self-indulgent, and to start going on at length about minutiae. And so he does, with four-page meditation on sound occasioned by the noise of burning logs shifting in a fireplace and the ticking of a watch (pp. 67-71). True, these observations are related to the novel's constant observations on the relationship of sensory experience to memory, but the impatient reader (that would be me) is tempted to skim. 

He knows, of course, that his love for Mme. de Guermantes is impossible: 
I had, alas, in the real world, chosen to love the very woman whose person possibly combined the greatest number of different advantages there are, in whose eyes I therefore could not hope to cut any sort of figure; for she was richer than the richest people outside the nobility, not to mention the personal charm that placed her in the eye of fashion and made her into a sort of queen among all others.
And so he considers ways of getting himself under control, including taking a trip. So he orders Françoise to pack, and then decides to tell her to unpack. "Françoise, borrowing the expression from her daughter's vocabulary, remarked that I was 'crazy.'" Finally, he decides to visit Saint-Loup at his garrison, not least because Saint-Loup is related to the Duchesse. 

But when he gets there, there's a problem about where to stay. Saint-Loup has just returned from a leave, so he can't go off with the narrator somewhere. He recommends a hotel, but he knows how sensitive the narrator is about strange rooms. Finally, he arranges with his captain to allow the narrator to stay in his room for one night. 
"And he has given his permission?" I cried. 
"He has no objection at all." 
"Oh! I adore him!" 
"No, that would be going too far."
Indeed. Actually, the reason for Saint-Loup's quashing of the narrator's enthusiasm is that the captain is "the biggest fool who's ever walked the earth." Saint-Loup prefers his major, whom all his fellow soldiers dislike "because he's a Freemason and doesn't go to confession." Saint-Loup, the narrator notes, had "the social theories of his teachers and the worldly prejudices of his relatives, unwittingly [combining] a democratic love of humanity with a contempt for the nobility created by the Empire." 

But this glimpse of garrison life and its social hierarchies is unfortunately brief. The narrator's attention is turned to Saint-Loup's portrait of the Duchesse and to the view from his window. And after the night with Saint-Loup, he is forced to stay with the hotel, where he sinks into his usual mope: "I had to face the world with a 'self' that I encountered only after years of absence, but which was always the same, the self that had never grown up since Combray, since my first arrival at Balbec, weeping inconsolably on the corner of an unpacked trunk."


No comments: