Day Seventy-Nine: The Guermantes Way, pp. 137-148

From "The weather had become milder...." to "...joined the banks of the Vivonne." 
The narrator begins to go out for his daily walks again, inevitably crossing paths with Mme. de Guermantes, whose faint smile of greeting he sometimes perversely ignores. When Saint-Loup comes to Paris for a brief visit of a few hours, he surprises the narrator, "'Oriane's not at all nice,' he told me, without realizing he was going back on his previous words. 'She's not the Oriane she was, they've gone and changed her. It's not worth your bothering with her, I promise you.'" Aside from the fact that the narrator has previously tried to conceal from Saint-Loup his romantic interest in the Duchesse, this is a little odd because there's no mention of the promise to write to her about letting him see her paintings by Elstir. Instead, Saint-Loup offers to introduce him to his cousin who is married to the Duc de Poictiers, saying that she's younger and more intelligent than the Duchesse. There's some indication that Saint-Loup and Mme. de Guermantes may have had a falling-out over the Dreyfus case, because he indicates to the narrator that Mme. de Poictiers, though not a Dreyfusard, has shown signs of open-mindedness about the case.

Then we learn from the narrator's father that M. de Norpois is a friend of Mme. de Villeparisis and has suggested that the narrator "would be able to meet interesting people at her gatherings." Norpois also told him that Mme. de Villeparisis "keeps a Bureau of Wit," without elaborating on what that might mean. "As for myself," the narrator says, "lacking any very clear picture of this Bureau of Wit, it would not have come as any great surprise to find the old lady from Balbec installed behind a bureau, as in fact I eventually did." 

That the Dreyfus case has divided society is demonstrated to the narrator's father when Mme. Sazerat, a Dreyfusard, meets his greeting with "the sort of acknowledgment that is dictated by politeness toward someone who has done something disgraceful" and when she smiles at the narrator's mother "with vague melancholy, as one smiles at a playmate from one's childhood with whom all connection has been severed because she has lived a debauched life, married a jailbird or, worse still, a divorced man." 

Meanwhile, Saint-Loup returns to Paris to see his mistress and invites the narrator to join him. On his way to Saint-Loup's for the trip to the mistress's home on the outskirts of the city, the narrator runs into Legrandin, whom he has not seen since the days when the family used to visit Combray regularly. Legrandin remarks with his usual candor on the narrator's fashionable dress, and says, "Your ability to stay for a single moment in the nauseating atmosphere of the salons -- it would suffocate me -- is its own condemnation, its own damnation of your future in the eyes of the Prophet.... Ah, those aristocrats! The Terror has a lot to answer for; it should have guillotined every one of them." He offers to send him his latest novel: "You will not care for it; it is not deliquescent enough, not fin-de-siècle enough for you; it is too frank, too honest. What you need is Bergotte -- you've admitted it -- gamy fare for the jaded palates of refined voluptuaries." 

Nevertheless, the narrator parts from Legrandin "without any particular ill-feeling for him."

No comments: