_____The Dreyfus affair is inescapable: When he gets home the narrator finds his family's butler and the Guermantes's butler in a heated argument about the case, and in just as complicated a manner as the conversation between Bloch and de Norpois or the one between Bloch's father and Mme. Sazerat. Their butler, a Dreyfusard, is arguing that Dreyfus was guilty, while the Guermantes butler, an anti-Dreyfusard, is arguing for his innocence.
They behaved in this manner not to hide their convictions, but out of shrewd, hardheaded competition. Our butler, who was not sure there would be a retrial, wanted to compensate in advance for not winning the argument by denying the Guermantes' butler the satisfaction of seeing a just cause crushed. The Guermantes' butler thought that if a retrial was refused ours would be more incensed by the continued detention of an innocent man on Devil's Island.But the rest of the section is concentrated on the grandmother's illness, about which the narrator makes this aphoristic comment:
It is illness that makes us recognize that we do not live in isolation but are chained to a being from a different realm, worlds apart from us, with no knowledge of us, and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.The account of her illness gives us some more glimpses into the medical practices at the turn of the century, including the use of the still fairly novel medical thermometer and the fact that aspirin had "not yet come into use at the time" as a febrifuge. Cottard prescribes his milk diet, which doesn't work, though the narrator blames it on his grandmother's putting too much salt in it. The narrator remembers Bergotte's recommendation of a doctor who would not "bore" him, and calls in Dr. du Boulbon, a "specialist in nervous diseases" who studied with Charcot, the teacher of Freud.
Du Boulbon does in fact treat the grandmother's illness as at least partly psychosomatic, and recommends that she get out of bed and take walks in the Champs-Élysées, despite her fatigue. He also tries to reassure her that there should be no stigma to being called neurotic: "Everything we think of as great has come to us from neurotics. They and they alone are the ones who have founded religions and created great works of art." And noting a book by Bergotte on her table, he says, "Cured of your nervous complaint, you would no longer have any taste for it. Now, what right have I to supplant the pleasure it gives you with a nervous stability that would be quite incapable of giving you such pleasure. The pleasure itself is a powerful remedy, the most powerful of all perhaps."
And so the narrator takes his grandmother out for a walk on the Champs-Élysées, where they go to "the little old-fashioned pavilion with the green metal trellis-work" that had figured earlier in one of his more memorable encounters with Gilberte. But there his grandmother becomes more ill, and he recognizes that she has suffered a stroke.