Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The sweet cheat's new wheels

Alas, this false letter, when I wrote it in order to appear not to be dependent upon her and also to enjoy the pleasure of saying certain things which could arouse emotion only in myself and not in her, I ought to have foreseen from the start that it was possible that it would result in a negative response, that is to say one which confirmed what I had said; that this was indeed probable, for even had Albertine been less intelligent than she was, she would never have doubted for an instant that what I said to her was untrue. Indeed without pausing to consider the intentions that I expressed in this letter, the mere fact of my writing it, even if it had not been preceded by Saint-Loup’s intervention, was enough to prove to her that I desired her return and to prompt her to let me become more and more inextricably ensnared. Then, having foreseen the possibility of a reply in the negative, I ought also to have foreseen that this reply would at once revive in its fullest intensity my love for Albertine. And I ought, still before posting my letter, to have asked myself whether, in the event of Albertine’s replying in the same tone and refusing to return, I should have sufficient control over my grief to force myself to remain silent, not to telegraph to her: "Come back," not to send her some other messenger, which, after I had written to her that we would not meet again, would make it perfectly obvious that I could not get on without her, and would lead to her refusing more emphatically than ever, whereupon I, unable to endure my anguish for another moment, would go down to visit her and might, for all I knew, be refused admission. And, no doubt, this would have been, after three enormous blunders, the worst of all, after which there would be nothing left but to take my life in front of her house.
The Fugitive is, at least in the opening pages, a comedy, a cross between French farce and something by Wodehouse. Marcel runs in circles, flaps his hands, alternates between despair and fury, and simply must have Albertine back, by this very evening! Or tomorrow evening! Or a week from now, or two weeks, at the very latest! But no, he despises her! though he cannot live without her! Etc! It's all very funny. I laughed aloud when I got to the "take my life in front of her house" line above. That conclusion on Marcel's part comes after he writes a long passive-aggressive letter to Albertine, in which he tells her how much better off they are apart, though
I had thought of organising our existence in the most independent manner possible, and, to begin with, I wished you to have that yacht in which you could go cruising while I, not being well enough to accompany you, would wait for you at the port (I had written to Elstir to ask for his advice, since you admire his taste), and on land I wished you to have a motor-car to yourself, for your very own, in which you could go out, could travel wherever you chose. The yacht was almost ready; it is named, after a wish that you expressed at Balbec, le Cygne. And remembering that your favourite make of car was the Rolls, I had ordered one. But now that we are never to meet again, as I have no hope of persuading you to accept either the vessel or the car (to me they would be quite useless), I had thought — as I had ordered them through an agent, but in your name — that you might perhaps by countermanding them, yourself, save me the expense of the yacht and the car which are no longer required. But this, and many other matters, would need to be discussed. Well, I find that so long as I am capable of falling in love with you again, which will not be for long, it would be madness, for the sake of a sailing-vessel and a Rolls-Royce, to meet again and to risk the happiness of your life since you have decided that it lies in your living apart from myself. No, I prefer to keep the Rolls and even the yacht. And as I shall make no use of them and they are likely to remain for ever, one in its dock, dismantled, the other in its garage...
Marcel will keep the yacht and the Rolls Royce, as mementos of his love for Albertine. He has of course purchased neither item. This is all very funny, as his hysteria mounts. Calling the yacht "Swan" is funny. I don't know if it's funny in French. Probably, but in a more direct way. Meanwhile, Marcel is under observation by the French police, who mistakenly (but understandably) suspect him of being a pedophile, and it is also at this time that the Duke and Duchess de Guermantes are trying to arrange a marriage between one of their nieces and Marcel, whom they view as almost suitable for a young girl in whom none of the nobility are interested.

I just remembered the part of Max Frisch's Homo Faber where Walter buys his mistress, Ivy, a sports car in her favorite color. Proust casts a very long shadow.

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