Day One Hundred Fifty-One: The Prisoner, pp. 305-321

From "We had arrived at my door...." to " is difficult for me now to say."
From the moment the narrator returns, it's as if he and Albertine had been spoiling for a fight. She is angry when he tells her that he has been to the Verdurins', and he is provoked when she asks, "Wasn't Mlle Vinteuil supposed to be there?" He brings up a trip she made to Balbec with the chauffeur, the postcards from which arrived much later, and she says she really went to Auteuil to see some friends and arranged for the chauffeur to have the postcards mailed from Balbec:
"I didn't even dare go out in Auteuil for fear someone would see me. I only went out once and then I was dressed as a man, just for a laugh. And with my luck, of course the first person I bumped into was your sheeny friend Bloch. But I don't think he can have been the one who told you that our trip to Balbec only ever existed in my imagination, for I don't think he recognized me."
This incident, which looms so large here, seems not to have been mentioned before. Did Proust intend to revise the incident at Versailles into one involving Balbec?

Then the narrator begins to talk about Mlle. Vinteuil and her partner, intending to reveal to Albertine that he knows about their relationship, but she interrupts him to confess that she had made up her friendship with them: "I saw you getting so passionate about this fellow Vinteuil's music that, seeing one of my friends -- this is really true, I swear -- had been a friend of Mlle Vinteuil's friend, I had the silly idea of making myself more interesting to you by pretending that I'd know those two girls very well."

The narrator is touched by her revelation and by her feeling "insignificant in the Verdurin circle," and he offers to give her the money to "give a grand dinner and ask M. and Mme Verdurin." But she is offended by the condescension, and says, "Thanks a lot! Spend money on those old gargoyles, I'd much rather you left me alone for once, let me go out and get ..." Then she breaks off in evident embarrassment. He presses her to continue what she was saying, but she says she was on the brink of saying "something horribly vulgar" that she had ''heard the most terrible people saying in the street." He is convinced she's lying, and begins to try to puzzle out what she must have been about to say. Here there's a bit of a translation problem, because the  word in the French before she interrupted herself was casser, which means "break," though Clark has translated it as "get," probably because "let me go out and break..." would have made no sense. (Is the translator's interpretation "get laid"?) So the narrator has to run through several idiomatic expressions involving the word casser before he hits on one referring to anal sex.
Horrors! That is what she would have preferred. Horror upon horror! For even the lowest prostitute, who lends herself to that activity, or even welcomes it, will not use in speaking to the man who performs it such a revolting expression. She would feel herself too humiliated. Only with another woman, if she prefers women, will she use it, as if to excuse herself for yielding to a man.
And the inference, whether or not it's correct, is enough to cause the narrator to make this proposal:
Darling Albertine, I said gently, with deep sadness, you must see that your life here is depressing for you, we should separate, and as the quickest separations are the best, I will ask you, to make my suffering a little less, to say good-bye this evening and leave tomorrow morning before I wake up, so that I do not have to see you again.
He proposes to ask Bloch to send his cousin Esther to stay with her, which puzzles her. He does it "to try to force a confession from Albertine," but it doesn't work.

Truthfully, I find this scene something of a muddle, not only because of the translation problem, but also because Proust has not fully externalized the drama, relying instead on the narrator's internal musings and giving us no clear glimpse of what's going on inside Albertine. While Proust has no reluctance to violate point of view elsewhere, and give us the thoughts of characters like the Verdurins, the veil he draws around Albertine's inner life keeps her something of a mystery to us -- which of course is what she is to the narrator -- at some sacrifice to dramatic effect.

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