One Year In Search of Lost Time ~ 2015 discussion

The Guermantes Way > Week II ~ Ending May 9th

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message 1: by Simon (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 176 comments Our reading ends:
"Since this call had come on the very day I had been wanting to telephone my grandmother, I had never for a moment doubted that it was she who was asking for me. it was pure coincidence that both the post-office and the hotel had been jointly mistaken" (~21.81%).

message 2: by Simon (last edited May 11, 2015 06:40AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 176 comments Something right at the beginning of this week's part:
We almost never hear what Marcel answers to the people talking to him, right? We've discussed this before, in some week's thread. We hear what they say, but not Marcel's reply. This is fascinating, as we often see later how sympathetic people find Marcel, he must be a good talker, but we can only induce from the people's reactions what Marcel might have said.
There's a very striking example of this here, when Marcel visits Saint-Loup on the military grounds. Saint-Loup talks a lot, but there is not a line written from Marcel. Here Saint-Loup includes Marcel's negative response ("Nein?" = "No?"):

Und die Arbeit? Haben Sie sich drangemacht? Nein? Na, Sie sind ja gut! Ich glaube, wenn ich Ihre Begabung hätte, dann würde ich von früh bis spät schreiben.

And a reference noone here might know: This is exactly how many video games work, especially action-adventures like the Zelda series, where the character you play never speaks a word, you only ever see what the other characters say to you.

message 3: by Miki (new)

Miki Pfeffer | 6 comments Marcel as observer/listener-cum-author.

message 4: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Simon wrote: "And a reference noone here might know: This is exactly how many video games work, especially the Zelda series, where the character you play never speaks a word, you only ever see what the other characters say to you."

I actually do know this from watching my children (now grown) play RPGs. :) My daughter is still a Zelda fanatic.

A bit later on in this section, our narrator speaks a line and it was so unexpected, I at first thought it was Robert talking so then had to go back and reread it.

message 5: by Jacob (new)

Jacob (jacobvictorfisher) | 112 comments This is especially fascinating considering the fact that this novel is considered a narrative of interiority. It's a novel focused intensely on the narrator. All the while we hear almost only his perspective on others and his explication of things that are exterior to him. That's why I also think that the times we here him speak are so striking and important.

message 6: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Just started reading this week's section. I love when Proust describes bedrooms, particularly those that aren't yet made familiar to him by habit, animating the furniture, fire, corridors and other bedrooms as if they had minds or souls of their own. Delicious pages.

message 7: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments In the midst of his musings on noises in unfamiliar rooms, he slips:

Et à ce propos on peut se demander si pour l'Amour (...) on ne devrait pas agir comme ceux qui, contre le bruit, au lieu d'implorer qu'il cesse, se bouchent les oreilles; et, à leur imitation, reporter notre attention, notre défensive, en nous-même, leur donner comme objet à réduire, non pas l'être extérieur que nous aimons, mais notre capacité de souffrir par lui.

And in this connexion we may ask ourselves whether, in the case of love (...), we ought not to act like those who, when a noise disturbs them, instead of praying that it may cease, stop their ears; and, with them for our pattern, bring our attention, our defensive strength to bear on ourselves, give ourselves as an objective to capture not the ‘other person’ with whom we are in love but our capacity for suffering at that person’s hands.

Suffering for love is a real preoccupation for him (don't we know it by now! ^.^) but it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to embrace this epiphany and learn to suffer less when in love... *not optimistic*

message 8: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Proust and rats! {a Freudian dream/nightmare?}

Au delà encore sont les cauchemars dont les médecins prétendent stupidement qu'ils fatiguent plus que l'insomnie, alors qu'ils permettent au contraire au penseur de s'évader de l'attention; les cauchemars avec leurs albums fantaisistes, où nos parents qui sont morts viennent de subir un grave accident qui n'exclut pas une guérison prochaine. En attendant nous les tenons dans une petite cage à rats, où ils sont plus petits que des souris blanches et, couverts de gros boutons rouges, plantés chacun d'une plume, nous tiennent des discours cicéroniens.

Beyond this, again, are the nightmares of which the doctors foolishly assert that they tire us more than does insomnia, whereas on the contrary they enable the thinker to escape from the strain of thought; those nightmares with their fantastic picture-books in which our relatives who are dead are shewn meeting with a serious accident which at the same time does not preclude their speedy recovery. Until then we keep them in a little rat-cage, in which they are smaller than white mice and, covered with big red spots, out of each of which a feather sprouts, engage us in Ciceronian dialogues.

From Edmund White's short biography of Marcel Proust, I recall the mention of rats in a cage in the section dedicated to Marcel's sexual life and perversions. This NYT review of Carter's book on Marcel's love life says this:

Like Mr. Carter, Mr. Tadié delves into the complexity of Proust's sex life. "He was half sadist, half masochist," said Mr. Tadié, referring to incidents in which Proust had rats killed in front of him so that he could achieve sexual gratification. "His attempts always to go deeper and deeper in his work," he said, "could be related to his sadism."

The masochist part is probably not a surprise... ^^

message 9: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Another wonderful tangent on sleeping and awakening:

On appelle cela un sommeil de plomb; il semble qu'on soit devenu soi-même, pendant quelques instants après qu'un tel sommeil a cessé, un simple bonhomme de plomb. On n'est plus personne. Comment, alors, cherchant sa pensée, sa personnalité comme on cherche un objet perdu, finit-on par retrouver son propre moi plutôt que tout autre?

That kind of sleep is called ‘sleeping like lead,’ and it seems as though one has become, oneself, and remains for a few moments after such a sleep is ended, simply a leaden image. One is no longer a person. How then, seeking for one’s mind, one’s personality, as one seeks for a thing that is lost, does one recover one’s own self rather than any other?

message 10: by Book Portrait (last edited May 08, 2015 03:52AM) (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Marcel Proust during his military service in Orléans (1889-1990):

Doncières is probably partly based on Orléans (in French; don't know how to use Google translate):

The article says that Proust, despite his asthma, joined the army ahead of the draft to take advantage of a law that allowed young men with a baccalauréat and 1,500 francs to do only 1 year of military service instead of FIVE.

Proust stayed 92 rue du faubourg Bannier. A commemorative plaque can be glimpsed on the house via Google Maps:

message 12: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments More on Proust as a private in the 76th Infantry Regiment in Orléans (in English):

message 13: by Book Portrait (last edited May 08, 2015 04:45AM) (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments A restaurant in the same neighbourhood as Proust's housing:


This little article in French explains how Orléans became a major military town after the 1870 defeat until the first world war:

For those interested, some old postcards of Orléans:

And the Wikipedia page:

message 14: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Possible models for Saint-Loup:

Boni de Castellane:

Bertrand de Fénelon

Louis Joseph Suchet d'Albufera

Armand de Gramont, Duc de Guiche

Robert d'Humières

And also: Clément de Maugny, Robert Proust (brother of Marcel), Henri de Réveillon, Léon Radziwill, Gaston Arman de Caillavet

message 15: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Book Portrait wrote: "Marcel Proust during his military service in Orléans (1889-1990):"

I didn't know Proust served in the military. I wondered how he knew so much about maneuvers and their theory. I figured he just did some research. ;) Thanks, BP.

message 16: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Teresa wrote: "I didn't know Proust served in the military. I wondered how he knew so much about maneuvers and their theor..."

I read somewhere (Marcelita would know more about it...) that he actually really enjoyed his stint in the military, even though it was not the easiest for him (asthma and all...).

I did go a leetle bit overboard with the research and comments yesterday. I'll see if I can settle down... ^.^

message 17: by Simon (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 176 comments That was also news to me, never mentioned in How Proust can change your life!

message 18: by Marcelita (last edited May 09, 2015 09:09AM) (new)

Marcelita Swann | 74 comments Book Portrait wrote: "Teresa wrote: "I didn't know Proust served in the military. I wondered how he knew so much about maneuvers and their theor..."

I read somewhere (Marcelita would know more about it...) that he actu..."

From Carter's biography:

At the end of Proust’s year in the military, Lieutenant Cholet presented him with a signed photograph: “To Marcel Proust, volunteer cadet, from one of his torturers.” 48 In the end the torture had been delicious. Contrary to tradition and expectations for most young men—above all, for one with his constitution, tastes, and personality—Proust had enjoyed his military year. His letters and writings never veer from depicting life in the service in the most positive, enthusiastic, and at times nearly lyrical terms. “It’s curious,” Proust wrote to a friend some fifteen years later, that we “should have seen the army, you as a prison, I as a paradise.” 49 Once his year was up, Proust believed that he had ingratiated himself to the point where all the officers liked him and he had learned to make himself “so useful!” He attempted to reenlist, but the army turned him down. 50

Discharged on November 14, Proust remained on the military roster as an active sous-officier or noncommissioned officer in the army reserve, for his training, though marginal, had been satisfactory. 51

William C. Carter
Marcel Proust: A Life

message 19: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Thanks Marcelita! I knew you'd know. You know everything about our dear Marcel. :)

message 20: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Les Demoiselles du téléphone

Aspect d'un bureau téléphonique parisien, 1904

Nous n'avons, pour que ce miracle s'accomplisse, qu'à approcher nos lèvres de la planchette magique et à appeler—quelquefois un peu trop longtemps, je le veux bien—les Vierges Vigilantes dont nous entendons chaque jour la voix sans jamais connaître le visage, et qui sont nos Anges gardiens dans les ténèbres vertigineuses dont elles surveillent jalousement les portes; les Toutes-Puissantes par qui les absents surgissent à notre côté, sans qu'il soit permis de les apercevoir: les Danaïdes de l'invisible qui sans cesse vident, remplissent, se transmettent les urnes des sons; les ironiques Furies qui, au moment que nous murmurions une confidence à une amie, avec l'espoir que personne ne nous entendait, nous crient cruellement: «J'écoute»; les servantes toujours irritées du Mystère, les ombrageuses prêtresses de l'Invisible, les Demoiselles du téléphone!

We need only, so that the miracle may be accomplished, apply our lips to the magic orifice and invoke — occasionally for rather longer than seems to us necessary, I admit — the Vigilant Virgins to whose voices we listen every day without ever coming to know their faces, and who are our Guardian Angels in the dizzy realm of darkness whose portals they so jealously keep; the All Powerful by whose intervention the absent rise up at our side, without our being permitted to set eyes on them; the Danaids of the Unseen who without ceasing empty, fill, transmit the urns of sound; the ironic Furies who, just as we were murmuring a confidence to a friend, in the hope that no one was listening, cry brutally: “I hear you!”; the ever infuriated servants of the Mystery, the umbrageous priestesses of the Invisible, the Young Ladies of the Telephone.

message 21: by Simon (last edited May 21, 2015 02:16PM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 176 comments i like this point, which sent me on quite a tangent here:

"so that, when you know how to read military history, that which for an average reader is a confusing report, for you makes for a coherence as rational as a painting for an art lover." (translated from german, couldn't find the english counterpart.)
german quote:
(view spoiler)

This point was illustrated over this rather long section, where Saint-Loup and the others from the military camp explained military history and what was so great about the great generals and their strategies to Marcel.

To me, this shows a great and inexhaustible source of beauty and interest in the world, logical and creative interconnections as well as performances in systems such as military history, literature or music. However dreary your topic, as soon as you learn about coherent systems, you can make beautiful connections or see the exhilariting greatness of a performance in context to what was before.
The sad thing is that for others, these connections are sometimes hard to see without knowledge of these systems, like a detail in a painting that correlates to another painting that a non-art afficionade like me probably wouldn't get, or an elegant mathematical transformation, or a japanese traditional theater performance.
And one of the most amazing performances i can think of, which you may dismiss even assuming you learned more about the system, is one in competitive electronic sport, a so-called beat-em up, the legendary (among gamers) Daigo Parry.
To support my point, i invite you to watch this without reading my explanation below first:
(volume warning!)

Let me explain:
In this competitive game (Street Fighter III: Third Strike), you try to reduce your opponent's lifebar to zero while keeping up your own (top of the screen) by hitting him with various move combinations and predicting and blocking or dodging your opponent's, a dynamic system.
At 21 seconds, Daigo playing Ken has only a mere slip of lifebar left. Any hit to him would be fatal. He cannot even block a single hit, which would still do minor damage, and dodging is out of the question because of the close proximity.
However there is a parry mechanic in this game, which allows you to completely nullify an attack's damage, if you press the forward button (instead of backward for blocking) at the exact moment an attack hits, which is very hard to execute.
Now Daigo's opponent starts a special attack that does multiple hits in quick succession. Again, any hit would be fatal, his position is practically unwinnable. Then in a way noone ever saw before, Daigo parries each and every attack of his opponent, even jumps to parry the last attack in mid-air, to instantly strike back with his own combinatorial attack for the win. You can see in the audience reaction how mindblowing this performance was, and the intensity of it goes way beyond the usual electronic sports crowd reaction. Even with the video recording we fortunately have, this is a moment of legends in esports, and likely incomprehensible to people unfamiliar with competitive video games on first sight.

message 22: by Book Portrait (new)

Book Portrait | 44 comments Simon wrote: "i like this point, which sent me on quite a tangent here:

"so that, when you know how to read military history, that which for an average reader is a confusing report, for you makes for a coherenc..."

Interesting lil' video! I love how we all find something that speaks to us in Proust... Not too difficult given how much he put in his writing but still wonderful that he really captured so much that is personal and universal at the same time...

message 23: by Jacob (last edited Jun 02, 2015 07:10AM) (new)

Jacob (jacobvictorfisher) | 112 comments Returning to this, the dialogue that you mentioned at the beginning of this tread, Simon, was very striking as I read it. I think this is also the time when the narrator is talking with Saint-Loup's group of friends and we're told that everyone thinks the narrator's witty but we don't here any of his wit. It's very unique and puzzling.

On another topic, I'm not one to try to interpret every relationship in sexual terms and I don't want to be overly-influenced by what I know are some of the major themes in ISOLT, but does anyone else look at the friendship between the narrator and Saint-Loup with - what shall I call it - curious interest or suspicion? Here's a brief example:
he [Saint-Loup] knew better than anyone my bedtime anxieties, which he had often noticed and soothed at Balbec, he broke off his complaint to turn and look at me, to give me little smiles, tender but lopsided glances, some of them coming directly from his eyes and the rest through his monocle...

Of course, nothing is explicitly mentioned here, right? And all of Saint-Loup's friends and his commanding officers seem to have no problem with their friendship (in their day an intimate relationship between men would not be so accepted). But the description is so intimate! I'm not saying that two men who are "just friends" can't have this kind of affectionate relationship, I'm just saying that I've never seen one so I suspect there may be something left unsaid by our narrator. My question is, if we hardly ever hear what the narrator says in a dialogue, what else does he leave unsaid but only suggested? What does he leave unrevealed in his relationships? Even if we don't jump to any conclusions regarding the nature of their friendship, at the very lease I think it's a a possibility we should be aware of while we progress through the novel.

A little later we read, "I looked longingly at the characteristic features he shaded with the Guermantes." Longingly? The narrator's passions seem all intermingled, including those he has for Mme Guermantes and his friendship with Robert.

message 24: by Jacob (last edited Jun 02, 2015 07:23AM) (new)

Jacob (jacobvictorfisher) | 112 comments Then there's this interesting tidbit in the context of seeing Mme Guermantes: " far veiled from me by the rapidity of her passage, the dizzy nature of my impressions, the unreliability of memory..." An odd way of looking at impressions and memory from a narrator who's giving us 4000 pages of impressions and memory. It seems to me that as a narrator he's self-consciously unreliable although I wouldn't characterize his unreliability as either deception or delusion (as is often the case with modern narrators). We don't have to worry about trusting the narrator because he's not presenting his reflections and memory as fact (in the same way that journalists and historians do). We're told that this story is a presentation of his memory and that memory is by its very nature unreliable. As I read further, my working hypothesis is that in Proust's opinion memory is unreliable by virtue of the fact that it is always constructive rather than representational. (I probably latch on to this because it's one of my primary philosophical interests.) I saw hints of this view of memory earlier when I broached this theme (I think in the context of Swann in Love), and I'll admit, I may hope it's the case more than I can prove it right now. Even so, quotes like this support my hypothesis.

message 25: by Simon (last edited Jun 02, 2015 08:11AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 176 comments I didn't see a sexual subtext between Saint-Loup and Marcel, though what you quoted now actually strikes me that way, especially the "longingly". It's well possible the narrator is hiding something here. Interesting stuff!
On the other hand, i don't find tenderness, smiles and soothing between two artistically minded people unexpected. It's indeed rare nowadays, but I've seen it. I guess this sensibility is stronger with people with homoerotic awareness (not necessarily homo- or bisexual), and it seems like a feminine quality (women are often good at this).

message 26: by Marcelita (new)

Marcelita Swann | 74 comments Simon wrote: "I didn't see a sexual subtext between Saint-Loup and Marcel, though what you quoted now actually strikes me that way, especially the "longingly". It's well possible the narrator is hiding something..."

Keep an eye out for the passage about Saint-Loup and the Prince de Foix...and the vicuña cloak.

message 27: by Steph (new)

Steph Thanks for mentioning the relationship between Saint-Loup and our narrator, Jacob. I did notice that it seemed very intimate too and thought maybe I was just reading too much into it. And not being super familiar with the time period or what France was like then I just wasn't sure how to take it. I'm curious to see how this plays out as we go along... Or maybe it doesn't.

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One Year In Search of Lost Time ~ 2015

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