Proust Book Group : le Côté de Guermantes

Summer is fast disappearing and we have dug out our forgotten copies of Proust and tried to remember what it was all about.
As we have  stalled at different places in the book we decided to go
with our slowest reader from p143 of Volume 2 ( Penguin Kilmartin
edition), in The Guermantes Way.
We have been reading together for about one year now and have agreed that quality, not quantity, works best for us. So we gave ourselves 2 weeks to read about 40 pages to half way down p187. We all managed to achieve this and were happy to take a bit more time to just enjoy it.
This is what we covered:
Page 143. the Elstirs, as an excuse to see Mme de Guermantes. N (the narrator) mocks his younger self while at the same time showing the real importance of art in life.  St Loup promises to write to her, and we and N believe he has done this but only a few pages later it becomes apparent that he has not. We all liked the description of “setting our mental stage with little puppets…”, and felt it applied to all of us.
Jupien is briefly mentioned here, almost as a non-sequitur, but we
think this is part of Proust’s way of weaving stories in and he will
be back.
P.146. We noted that his admiration for Mme De Guermantes is of a
similar pleasure he might  get from a work of art, like “watching the
brush strokes of a great painter.”. We would have liked to have seen
the red dress.We also like the humour of him pretending not to be
interested in her.
p.147 Seems to be about the power of the dream in creativity – the
dream creates something more intensely artisitic than in real life.
The theme of synaethesia.
p.157. The pear trees in blossom. images of virginal beauty and art
with religious overtones which refer to the Jeunes Filles en Fleur of
the previous book, and provide a stark contrast for the introduction
of Rachel, who is immediately recognised as a cheap tart, not worth 20 francs. The story of St Loup’s love for her has clear parallels to
that of Swann and Odette..
St Loup is shown as deluded and tormented. For him she is an ideal,
in contrasted to N’s view of her. But all is much more complex as
usual; the Narrator’s opinion of her slowly rises as his experience
shows him her great talents as an artist. He is learning the truth
through experience.
p.163. Aimé the waiter, is part of the homosexual theme which threads through the novel, clearly there, though obliquely referred to.We felt that St Loup’s unconscious/ suppressed homosexuality is shown, for instance, by the fact he notices that Aimé might be attractive to Rachel.
p170 There is also comedy in the appearance of M de Charlus, clearly interested in Aimé, but this is misinterpreted by St Loup, in a
self-centred way as being about himself. He seems not to recognise his uncle’s homosexuality – (or not to want to).
p174. N’s drunken image in the mirror – the theme of  fractured personality.
p.177 The humiliation of the actress and the theme of sadism. We spent some time discussing the subtleties here of the difference between hatred, (which he attributes to Rachel and her friends here) and sadism (which would just be to take pleasure in cruelty).
p186 Rachel flirting with the dancer to torment St Loup, his suffering and the 2 unexpected outbursts of violence which shockingly rupture his aristocratic civility. We felt they were at the same time painful and comic, and that again there are strong allusions to homosexuality in these scenes.
We all felt that while at times we had to puzzle out what was meant in a long difficult passage (and sometimes fail), that we were finding it was getting a bit easier, that you can develop a bit of an ear for his
style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.