Day One Hundred Sixteen: Sodom and Gomorrah, pp. 230-248

Part II, Chapter II, from "Calmed by my discussion with Albertine, I began..." to "...whom Albertine had perhaps loved was in any case about abruptly to cease."
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The narrator's mother encourages him to read more, but he can't resist spending his time with Albertine and her old gang of girls. Chiefly, he's concerned with keeping an eye on Albertine because of his suspicion that she may be a lesbian. Every time he spots a new girl on the beach, he feels "uneasy and proposed the most distant excursions to Albertine, so that she might not make the acquaintance of, or even, if it were possible, set eyes on, the new arrival." He is even nervous that the lady's maid to Mme. Putbus whom Saint-Loup told him about, mentioning that she also liked women, will "try to corrupt her." 

Meanwhile, Bloch's sister has caused a scandal at the hotel by a public demonstration of affection for her actress girlfriend. (Proust had earlier said it was Bloch's cousin in the relationship with an actress.) But she has a protector in the person of M. Nissim Bernard, who keeps a young man who works at the hotel. M. Nissim Bernard takes his lunch at the hotel every day just to see the young man, a habit that Bloch père attributes to "a poetic liking for the beautiful light, the sunsets along this coast" and to "the inveterate idiosyncrasy of an old bachelor." 


The narrator then digresses into a portrait of "two sisters who had accompanied an old foreign lady to Balbec, as lady's maids," Mlle. Marie Gineste and Mme. Céleste Albert. (Sturrock's note identifies them as actual people; Céleste Albert was Proust's housekeeper from 1914 to his death in 1922.) They give us one of the few physical descriptions of the narrator, Céleste referring to him as a "little black devil with hair like a jay," "just like a bird," as fastidious, as having "cool and friendly cheeks like the inside of an almond, little satin hands all plush, nails like claws," and "pretty skin." Françoise is shocked at his friendship with servants, and even the hotel manager "pointed solemnly out to me that it was undignified for a guest to talk to" them. 

Returning to the subject of Bloch's sister's misbehavior, we learn that "everything that concerned M. Nissim Bernard was 'taboo' for the manager of the Balbec hotel," so that the manager doesn't bring the subject up to him but only asks her to maintain "a certain circumspection." Nevertheless, one evening, as the narrator, Albertine, and Bloch are leaving the casino the sister and her lover "came past, intertwined, kissing without stopping, and, having drawn level with us, gave vent to giggles, laughter, and indecent shouts. Bloch looked down, so as to appear not to have recognized his sister, while I was in torments at the thought that this private and atrocious language was perhaps directed at Albertine." 

And then the narrator sees a newcomer, a beautiful young woman, in the casino where "she never stopped letting the alternating and revolving light from her glances rest on Albertine." The narrator suspects that Albertine knows the young woman, but she doesn't acknowledge her. And a few days later he witnesses a flirtation between the young woman and Bloch's cousin.
Words followed, a conversation got under way, and the young woman's innocent husband, who had been looking for her everywhere, was astonished to find her making plans for that same evening with a girl he did not know. His wife introduced Bloch's cousin to him as a girlhood friend, under some unintelligible name, for she had forgotten to ask her what her name was. But the presence of the husband advanced their intimacy by a step, for they addressed each other as tu, having met at the convent, an incident at which they laughed heartily later on, as well as at the deluded husband, with a merriment that was an opportunity for further intimacies.
But the section ends with the narrator's assurance that "the jealousy caused in me by the women whom Albertine had perhaps loved was in any case abruptly to cease."    

4 comments:

cantueso said...

I see you have literally everything about Proust. Is this a term paper or some dissertation? I cannot see any personal perspective in your collection; I cannot see where it is going or what you are looking for.

Charles Matthews said...

It's simply a reading journal -- a record of my progress through "In Search of Lost Time," nothing more. Not a dissertation or a term paper. Just my notes on what I read each day, with occasional comments about things I noticed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Don't be such a Cottard, Cantueso, This is a very useful blog for new readers of Proust.

Linda McC said...

Yes--very useful indeed. And exactly what it says it is. Merci beaucoup!