Day One Hundred Twenty-Two: Sodom and Gomorrah, pp. 344-368

Part II, Chapter II, from "The piece having finished, I took the liberty..." to "...imploring heaven, beneath his monocle, for a martyr's crown."
The narrator's request that Morel play something by César Franck is met with dismay by Mme. Verdurin, who requests Debussy's Fêtes instead. As Sturrock's note points out, these are orchestral pieces not readily transcribable to a solo violin. Morel knows only the beginning in any case, so he segues from that to a Meyerbeer march -- musically about as far away from Debussy as one can get. But "everyone thought it was still Debussy, and they went on calling out, 'Sublime!' By revealing that the composer was that not of Pelléas but of Robert le Diable, Morel cast a certain chill."

The rest of the evening is full of the same kind of comedy -- the whole "Wednesday" is one of Proust's funniest scenes. Ski informs the hostess that Charlus is not really a prince, "his family's bourgeois merely, of minor architects." When the narrator corrects him, Ski shrugs off the correction, "no more apologizing for his mistake than a few hours earlier for that which had almost caused us to miss the train."

Mme. Verdurin, who used to respond to anything funny by burying her face in her hands, now, on hearing a witticism from Brichot, "the Patronne would clutch at the Princesse's armpit, digging in her nails, and hide her head there for a moment or two like a child playing hide-and-seek." Once her phony spasm of laughter ends, "she could now let go of the Princesse's bruised shoulder, and she allowed her face to reappear, not without pretending to wipe her eyes and to catch her breath two or three times." 

Saniette remains the butt of every Verdurin joke, and when he admits that he doesn't know how to play whist, spoiling M. Verdurin's desire to play the game, "M. Verdurin, furious, marched on Saniette wearing a terrible expression: 'You don't know how to play anything, then!' he shouted, furious at having lost an opportunity for a game of whist, but overjoyed at finding one for insulting the former archivist." 

The Marquis de Cambremer, listening to Cottard's lame puns, demands of Verdurin, "Who is that gentleman playing cards? What's his occupation in life? What does he sell? I rather like to know who I find myself with, so as not to become intimate with just anyone at all." Verdurin seizes the opportunity to aggrandize himself, asserting that the man is "our family doctor," the more to astonish the Marquis when he reveals that this is the famous Professor Cottard. As for Cottard, he's annoyed when his wife drops off to sleep in her armchair. He succeeds in waking her: 
"My bath is just the right temperature," she murmured, "but the feathers of the dictionary..." she exclaimed, coming upright. "Oh, good heavens, I'm so silly! What am I saying? I was thinking about my hat, I must have said something foolish, I was just about to doze off, it's that wretched fire." Everyone started to laugh, for there was no fire.

Charlus, who is watching Morel play cards, "could not restrain himself from pinching the violinist's ear" and saying, "This young man is astonishing.... He plays like a god." When Mme. Verdurin suggests that they stay the night, Charlus replies that Morel's leave from Doncières extends only till midnight. "'He must go back there to sleep, like a very good, very obedient little boy,' he added, in a voice at once self-satisfied, affected, and insistent, as though he were deriving a sadistic and voluptuous pleasure from employing this chaste comparison, as well as letting his voice dwell in passing on what concerned Morel, from touching him with, for want of a hand, words that seemed to be palpating him." 

The narrator observes that Charlus's voice and mannerisms have become more effeminate. At the same time, the Baron has begun to utter witticisms at Mme. Verdurin's expense. "This was the first of the skirmishes between them.... There were, alas, to be others in Paris." But the Baron is still on guard against having his homosexuality exposed, and when Mme. Verdurin, referring to a little trip her husband is planning, says, "'I'm none too sure who he's invited. M. de Charlus, are you one of them?' The Baron, who heard only these final words and did not know they had been talking about an excursion to Arembouville, gave a start." 

Meanwhile, Mme. Verdurin has begun trying to sink her hooks into the narrator. She has invited him to bring Albertine -- whom the narrator is pretending is his cousin -- to her Wednesdays, and she makes disparaging remarks about Swann, partly because Swann had been part of the Duchesse de Guermantes' circle. "'And who's this Robert de Saint-Loup you were talking about?' she said anxiously, for she had heard that I was due to go and visit him in Doncières and was afraid he might cause me to default." She claims to have heard about Saint-Loup from Morel, "a complete lie, because Saint-Loup and Morel did not even know of each other's existence." 

Finally, the carriages arrive and the little group disperses.                                                                 

No comments: