Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower, by Marcel Proust

Only two chapters, both very long. The second paragraph of the second chapter is:
Mais cette souffrance et ce regain d’amour pour Gilberte ne furent pas plus longs que ceux qu’on a en rêve, et cette fois, au contraire, parce qu’à Balbec l’Habitude ancienne n’était plus là pour les faire durer. Et si ces effets de l’Habitude semblent contradictoires, c’est qu’elle obéit à des lois multiples. À Paris j’étais devenu de plus en plus indifférent à Gilberte, grâce à l’Habitude. Le changement d’habitude, c’est-à-dire la cessation momentanée de l’Habitude, paracheva l’œuvre de l’Habitude quand je partis pour Balbec. Elle affaiblit mais stabilise, elle amène la désagrégation mais la fait durer indéfiniment. Chaque jour depuis des années je calquais tant bien que mal mon état d’âme sur celui de la veille. À Balbec un lit nouveau à côté duquel on m’apportait le matin un petit déjeuner différent de celui de Paris ne devait plus soutenir les pensées dont s’était nourri mon amour pour Gilberte : il y a des cas (assez rares il est vrai) où, la sédentarité immobilisant les jours, le meilleur moyen de gagner du temps, c’est de changer de place. Mon voyage à Balbec fut comme la première sortie d’un convalescent qui n’attendait plus qu’elle pour s’apercevoir qu’il est guéri. However, this recurrence of pain and the renewal of my love for Gilberte did not last longer than they would have in a dream of her, for the very reason that my life at Balbec was free of the habits which in usual circumstances would have helped it to prevail. Such effects of Habit may seem contradictory; but the laws which govern it are many and varied. In Paris, it was because of Habit that I had become more and more indifferent to Gilberte. The change in my habits, that is the momentary suspension of Habit, put its finishing touch to that process when I set off for Balbec. Habit may weaken all things, but it also stabilizes them; it brings about a dislocation, but then makes it last indefinitely. For years past, I had been roughly modelling my state of mind each day on my state of mind of the day before. At Balbec, breakfast in bed — a different bed, a different breakfast —was to be incapable of nourishing the ideas on which my love for Gilberte had fed in Paris. There are instances, albeit infrequent, in which, the passing days having been immobilized by a sedentary way of life, the best way to gain time is to change place. My journey to Balbec was like the first outing of a convalescent who has not noticed until that moment that he is completely cured.

I enjoyed this more this time around than last time I read it - I think it helps that I now have a better appreciation of the overall shape of the story across the six volumes, and that I’m just more familiar with the Modernists than I was eleven years ago. I particular, I enjoyed much more the narrator’s interaction with art and artists, both in Paris and at the seaside, and could see both how he became attracted to Gilberte and Albertine and also how he makes mistakes in both relationships. I had forgotten the incident of the sofa and the brothel, and his erotic fumbles with the two girls. Sure, the sentences are very long, but I am finding it all pretty digestible.

I see that some Proust scholars see Albertine as a female version of Proust’s lover Albert Agostinelli. I must say that apart from the name, I’m not convinced so far. Albertine is very feminised; the real Agostinelli looks pretty butch in surviving photos. In any case, most fictional characters are an amalgam of the author’s experiences rather than being a direct fictionalisation. It should also be said that both Albertine and Gilberte are so very much framed by the narrator’s attraction to them that they don’t really come across strongly as characters in their own right.

OK, next comes The Guermantes Way. But not until September. You can get In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower here.
Tags: bookblog 2018, writer: proust

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