_____The narrator recalls the two months he spent in Paris in 1914 before returning to the sanatorium, and the contrasting views of Bloch and Saint-Loup toward the war, Bloch being the more chauvinist of the two. Saint-Loup maintains that those who don't fight are afraid and counts himself among the number who are afraid, but later the narrator learns that Saint-Loup is working to re-enlist. And Bloch, who expects to be exempt from service because of nearsightedness, shows up in a panic a few days later because he has been declared fit to serve. Bloch resents Saint-Loup as one of "the 'favoured sons' in their braided uniforms, strutting around at headquarters."
I sensed that parading about was not at all what Robert wanted to do, even though I was not so fully aware of his intentions then as I later became when, the cavalry continuing inactive, he obtained permission to serve as an officer with the infantry, and then with the light infantry, or when finally occurred the sequel which the reader will discover later.During his conversation with the narrator, Saint-Loup asks if he has heard the rumor that the Duchesse de Guermantes is filing for divorce, but the narrator cites no confirmation of the rumor. We also learn that Saint-Loup, on a recent visit to Balbec, had tried to seduce the manager of the restaurant, who had inherited it from M. Nissim Bernard, whose lover he had once been. Saint-Loup was unsuccessful because the manager was one of those "promiscuous youths" who become "men of principle." Saint-Loup has given up the heavy use of cocaine in which he had indulged at Tansonville because "heroism -- as one remedy replaces another -- was curing him.
The narrator also notes that Saint-Loup now demonstrates a "horror of effeminacy" that causes him "to find any contact with virility intoxicating" -- an attitude once displayed by Charlus: "By adopting the habits of M. de Charlus, Robert found that he had also taken on, albeit in a very different form, his ideal of masculinity." In Saint-Loup this resembles the stiff-upper-lip attitude toward death that "appears in men who do not want to appear to feel grief, a fact which would be simply ridiculous if it were not also ugly and terribly sad, because it is the way that people who think that that grief does not matter, who think that there are more important things in life than partings, etc., experience grief."
The ideal of masculinity found in homosexuals like Saint-Loup is not the same, but it is equally conventional and dishonest.... War, which renders capital cities, where only women remain, the despair of homosexuals, is at the same time a story of intense romance for homosexuals.... [F]or Saint-Loup war was ... the very ideal he imagined himself pursuing in his much more concrete desires, clouded in ideology though they were, an ideal he served alongside the kind of people he liked best, in a purely masculine order of chivalry, far removed from women, where he could risk his life to save his batman, and die inspiring a fanatical love in his men.Not that the narrator doesn't respond positively to this Hemingwayesque homoerotic romanticizing of war: "I admire Saint-Loup's asking to be set to the positions where there was greatest danger infinitely more than M. de Charlus's avoiding wearing brightly coloured cravats."
From Saint-Loup he also learns that "the lift" from the Balbec hotel has joined up and has asked Saint-Loup to recommend him for the flying corps.
Returning to the sanatorium, he receives letters from Gilberte and Saint-Loup. She reports that the air-raids on Paris caused her to return to Tansonville, but that she had had to billet officers of the invading Germans there. Fortunately, they had "good manners which she contrasted with the disorderly violence of the French deserters, who had devastated everything as they passed through the property." The letter from Saint-Loup is characteristic of the man he had known when they first met at Balbec: "Saint-Loup ... remained intelligent and artistic, and, while halted at the edge of some marshy forest, with characteristic good taste would note down descriptions of the landscape for me, in the same way as he would have done if he had been out duck-shooting." Saint-Loup also eschews anti-German chauvinisim:
If Saint-Loup happened to mention a melody by Schumann, he would only give its title in German, nor did he have recourse to circumlocution to tell me that, when he had heard the first twitterings of the dawn chorus at the edge of the forest, he had been as intoxicated as if he had just been spoken to by the bird in that "sublime Siegfried," which he very much hoped to hear performed after the war.