Monday, September 25, 2006

The Guermantes Way - post I

Back to the Proust this week and at the rate of pages read today easily right through the weekend no doubt. For those that don't remember the contents of the first two volumes of Remembrance of Things Past the basics are that you are following the memories of Marcel Proust as he recalls his youth with his family and the people they meet. The main characters apart from Marcel are his mother and father, the maid Francoise and the Swanns, who Marcel develops an unsuccessful relationship with their daughter Gilberte.

That is only the briefest of sketches and brief is of course not a word that you would use in connection with anything to do with Proust’s richly dense descriptions but it will hopefully suffice as we embark on Volume III

Bullet points from pages 1 – 60

* The family has moved and the story starts with Francoise the housekeeper trying to get her bearings and a description of the apartment they now inhabit as part of the Hotel de Guermantes

* Through dialogue between Francoise and the footman it is possible to discern the situation of both families – Marcel’s and the de Guermantes - with the later not being in the house for too long but having all the airs and graces of ancient landed gentry

* Marcel is determined to ingratiate himself with the de Guermantes social circle, much in the way that he did with Madame Swann's in Vol II. His apparent breakthrough in his quest comes at a night at the opera where all of the main players in the Guermantes social set are in attendance

“The duchess, goddess turned woman, and appearing in that moment a thousand times more lovely, raised towards me the white-gloved hand which had been resting on the balustrade of the box and waved it in token of friendship, my gaze was caught in the spontaneous incandescence of the flashing eyes of the Princess, who had unwittingly set them ablaze merely by turning her head to see who it might be that her cousin was thus greeting, and the latter, who had recognised me, showered upon me the sparkling and celestial torrent of her smile.”pg 55


* He then tries to catch the eye of the Duchess by hanging around on the route her carriage takes hoping that by looking as if he is deep in thought he might be catch her attention without looking like he was desperate for it

The immediate question that tomorrow's reading might solve is whether or not he manages to break into the Duchess of Guermantes social circle…

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