The Dave Harris Entry to the Summarize Proust Competition

This is from the Scott-Moncrieff translation, arguably the best

NB written mostly after having read Guattari's commentary
.  I read each night between July and Ocotber 2014 ( with a week off now and then to read some banal crime fiction as Nivea for the mind), then summarized each morning.

A preposterously over -sensitive French bourgeois with too much time and money bangs on endlessly about the beauty of Life, and marvels at his own capacity to develop a superior romantic gaze and to recall minute details of endless romantic love affairs, awful soirees, the Parisian Queer scene,  and the intricate mechanisms of French social distanciation practices. He covers for his role as observer by posing as an invalid and as a budding writer.

A lengthier and straighter (!) summary on Wikipedia here

Now read on...

Volume 1 Swann in Love 1

Well…  In the overture, Proust/Narrator talks about how his memory works.  He suspects that looking at objects can somehow evoke memories which he does not intend and of which he is not immediately conscious, and he struggles to remember the details about the past.  The key is the famous episode when he tastes a bit of petite madeleine, which he describes as a scallop-shaped cake, (cf the modern Viennese whirl) soaked in a spoonful of lime tea.  This immediately recalls his childhood holidays in Combray, because his great aunt used to give him little treats like that. I can see why Deleuze and Guattari rate this bit as a description of non-conscious memory, and you could translate it into Bergson's terms no probs.

Our hero can gradually reconstruct his memories of Combray (in the section entitled Combray) in some detail [!] .  An early one is how he felt having to go to bed early as a child, and having to say goodnight to his mother in a cool way, otherwise his father would have been annoyed.  She would sometimes come up to see him again and kiss him goodnight.  On one particular evening, the family was visited by their neighbour Swann, and his father had dispatched him to bed particularly early so that they could discuss matters.  Swann was by then a rather notorious character having chosen an occupation different from his father's (an art expert then a mere adviser to the rich wishing to purchase paintings) and  had married a dubious lady (Odette) from a lower status, so the family did not really want our hero to meet him.  He went up to bed early, was totally unable to sleep, occupied by childish fears, longings and love for his mother, and eventually decided to write her a note and gave it to the servant to give it to her.  His parents found out, but to his surprise, his father relented and let his mother spend the night in his room, to his great delight. All this looks like classic Freudian material, but Proust resolves it, says Guattari, by seeing it as semiotic material, analyzing what faces mean and how they change (almost the talking cure, still).

Other episodes are related, mostly turning on the French bourgeois and their peculiar customs and habits, especially when dealing with other people.  For example, it becomes important to thank Swann for a gift of wine in a very indirect and elliptical way, by making light remarks about how some bottles have nice contents, or how good neighbours can make all the difference.  The aunts are particularly good at this discourse, and consider it vulgar to do anything more direct.  They are also terribly waspish, especially when it comes to dealing with the lower orders, especially Great Aunt Léonie, and the faithful maidservant Françoise is a particular victim, being alternately accused of deception and praised to the skies as a marvel.  She's also frequently set off against another female visitor, and Léonie is particularly good at slipping small gifts to the visitor, who has to feign surprise each time,  in order to make the domestic servant jealous.  Léonie is an invalid and spends most of her time looking out of the window discussing the affairs of the people who pass by, making all sorts of inferences about their behaviour.

The Vinteuils are so concerned with politeness and etiquette that they hardly dare speak or act for fear of being seen to presume something about the motives of visitors, or to give an impression of vulgarity or self-interest. Thus Papa Vinteuil the musician, who writes the Sonata which includes the ear worm 'little phrase',  tidies up his work before visitors arrive in case they think he left it out deliberately to impress them. Mlle Vinteuil spontaneously asks a friend (a close female friend) to join her in admiring the view through a window then regrets it in case the friend thought it was an excuse to be close to her, although they then fondle each other anyway. They also mock a photo of Papa Vinteuil.  It's a male adolescent observing a lesbian primal scene. It's neurotic 'presentation of self' for French bourgeois.

The Verdurins (whom we meet when Swann's story proper gets going, back in Paris) are even worse, running a nightly provincial soirée with a pretty mixed crowd of regulars (because they are marginal to the proper aristos) . Poor old French bourgeois had nothing else to do in the evenings! They fancy themselves as fun people and cultured. The attenders are mixed -- provincial bourgeois, a young modern painter and musician, Odette (described as a woman of easy virtue, even a courtesan), and she lures in Swann, who constantly has to keep his own aristo circles and tastes quiet. Everyone has to keep quiet in fact -- the lower orders don't really like the unconventional art and have 'popular aesthetic' tastes, so they pretend. The Verdurins are  not in with the real bourgeois so they have to pretend it is because they are more culturally adventurous and they chose their downmarket version. Everyone tries to make the relationship between Swann and Odette into something permanent (contradicted later though) , especially the musician who plays Vinteuil's 'little phrase' every time they arrive: Swann is also 'in love' with another 'plump, rosy' working class girl though (he often 'loves' her in his coach before attending the Verdurins) and is already a bit tired of the 'little phrase', but Odette insists it is their tune.

Proust's narrator's memories are organized and coordinated by various walks ('ways')  around the countryside -- the Méséglises Way and the Guermantes Way. (There is also 'Swann's Way' which involves a walk past his house and 'park' -- could be the Méséglises Way) The whole walk is a submersion in the senses -- sights and smells of flowers and plants (which he knows pretty well), and buildings, sounds, knowledge of the histories of the settlements, occasional observations of his neighbours (especially the Vinteuils). The overall effect is ecstasy, or as modern outdoor educators would call it 'spirituality'.  Returning home would then produce the anxiety about bedtime and his mama. These memories are overwhelmingly realist (and readers are also convinced by the detail, says Guattari's reading) , not like the fantasies he also develops. His project, as a novelist rather than philosopher is to get an organizing theme out of all this, and when he recaptures the past in its fullness he gets dead chuffed. En route, says Guattari, he discovers multiplicities, rhizomes, transverse semtiotization, faciality and refrains.

This sort of indirect discourse and social closure, based on the most imperceptible of discriminations, reminded me of Jane Austen, but is much more perceptive, detailed, and critical.  The descriptions would make an excellent background to Bourdieu on distinction. However, the style is far too florid, descriptive and intricate for my tastes, and goes on for page after page, and I don't like these people or admire them, although it is fun to mock them.  I'm not sure I can struggle through the other 11 volumes (in my Chatto and Windus 1971 edition -- 7 in the original apparently).

Volume 2 Swann in Love 2

It is now clear that Swann and Odette do their courting in Paris -- so the Verdurins must live there too. This volume starts with the bit about Swann seeing bits of famous faces in other people--Odette's eyes(?) are the same as in Botticelli's painting of Ziporah, his coachman's nose reminds him of a statue etc. These are the 'components of faciality' Guattari refers to?  A lengthy extract might be helpful:

On his way to the house, as always when he knew they were to meet, he [Swann] formed a picture of her [Odette] in his mind; and the necessity, if he was to find any beauty in her face, of fixing his eyes on the fresh and rosy protuberance of her cheekbones, and of shutting out all the rest of those cheeks which were so often languorous and sallow, except when they were punctuated with little fiery spots, plunged him in acute depression, as proving that one's ideal is always unattainable, and one's actual  happiness mediocre.... As she stood there beside him... Swann was struck by her resemblance to the figure of Zipporah, Jethro's Daughter, which is to be seen in one of the Sistine frescoes. He had always found a peculiar fascination in tracing in the paintings of the Old Masters, not merely the general characteristics of the people whom he encountered in his daily life, but rather what seems least susceptible of generalization, the individual features of men and women whom he knew, as, for instance, in a bust of the Doge Loredan by Antonio Ritzo, the prominent cheekbones, the slanting eyebrows, in short, a speaking likeness to his own coachman Rémi; in the colouring of a Ghirlandaio, the nose of M. de Palancy; in a portrait by Tintoretto, the invasion of the plumpness of the cheek by an outcrop of whisker, the broken nose, the penetrating stare, the swollen eyelids of Dr de Boulbon. Perhaps because he had always regretted, in his heart, that he confined his attention to the social side of life, had talked, always rather than acted, he felt that he might find a sort of indulgence bestowed upon him by those great artists, in his perception of the fact that they also had regarded with pleasure and had admitted into the canon of their works such types of physiognomy as give those works the strongest possible certificate of reality and trueness to life... Perhaps, also he had so far succumbed to the prevailing frivolity of the world of fashion that he felt the necessity of finding in an old masterpiece some such obvious and refreshing allusion to a person about whom jokes could be made and repeated and enjoyed today. Perhaps, on the other hand, he had retained enough of the artistic temperament to be able to find a genuine satisfaction in watching these individual features take on a more general significance when he saw them, uprooted and disembodied, in the abstract idea of similarity between an historic portrait and a modern original, whom it was not intended to represent. However that might be... It was with an unusual intensity of pleasure, a pleasure destined to have a lasting effect upon his character and conduct, that Swann remarked Odette's resemblance to the Zipporah of that Alessandro de Mariano, to whom one shrinks from giving his more popular surname [Botticelli]. He no longer based his estimate of the merit of Odette's face on the more or less good quality of her cheeks, and the softness and sweetness... which, he supposed, would greet his lips there, should he ever hazard an embrace, but regarded it rather as a skein of subtle and lovely silken threads, which his gazing eyes collected and wound together... as though from a portrait of herself, in which her type was clearly made intelligible.

He stood gazing at her; traces of the old fresco were apparent in her face and limbs, and these he tried incessantly, afterwards, to recapture, both when he was with Odette, and when he was only thinking of her in her absence… His admiration for the Florentine masterpiece was probably based upon his discovery that it had been reproduced in her [but] the similarity enhanced her beauty also, and rendered her more precious in his sight… [He] counted himself fortunate that his pleasure in the contemplation of Odette found the justification in his own system of aesthetic… He was not, as he had until then supposed, falling back, merely, upon an expedient of doubtful and certainly inadequate value, since she contained in herself what satisfied the utmost refinement of his taste in art… [This] enabled him (gave him, as it were, a legal title) to introduce the image of Odette into a world of dreams and fancies which, until then, she had been debarred from entering, and where she assumed a new and nobler form. And whereas the mere sight of her in the flesh, by perpetually reviving his misgivings as to the quality of her face, her figure, the whole of her beauty, used to cool the ardour of his love, those misgivings were swept away and that love confirmed now that he could redirect his estimate of her on the sure foundations of these aesthetic principles…

On his study table, at which he worked, he had placed, as it were a photograph of Odette, a reproduction of Jethro's Daughter. He would gaze in admiration of the large eyes, the delicate features in which the imperfection of her skin might be surmised, the marvellous locks of hair that fell along her tired cheeks; and, adapting what he had already felt to be beautiful, on aesthetic grounds, to the idea of a living woman, he converted it into a series of physical merits which he congratulated himself on finding assembled in the person of one whom he might, ultimately, possess… When he had sat for a long time gazing at the Botticelli, he would think of his own living Botticelli, who seemed all the lovelier in contrast ( Vol.2: pp 6--9).

Swann does this to reconcile his 'love' with his aesthetic principles. She is also hard to locate socially: she lives in a dubious area of Paris in an apartment in a dodgy-looking house but she has money enough to buy flash furniture and employ servants, so she is a serial mistress.
Swann certainly ends up giving her lots of money as well as expensive presents, and begins to realize this could be seen as 'keeping her'.

As well as aestheticizing Odette's face, Swann also copes by getting relativist about the poseurs he meets at the Verdurins, including two new characters, a minor and rather dim aristocrat who knows him (de Fourcheville) , a leading physician (Cottard) and a marvellously pompous pedagogic Parisian professor (Brichot). He sees his own values as relative, and theirs as perfectly sincere after all (common anyway in mature aristocratic circles says Proust).  There is a great deal more on the subtle facial expressions of the participants at the Verdurins, as a series of looks and glances show how the climate is shifting.  The aristocrat starts to reveal something about Swann's other life mixing with Parisian high society, and the Verdurins subsequently see him as traitorously pretending to like them, just as he starts to see them as genuine folk after all.  Worse, the aristocrat fancies Odette and it might be reciprocated.  Swann now starts to veer wildly as a prelude to what Guattari calls his 'semiotic collapse', denouncing the Verdurins loudly to himself as he walks home, then almost immediately trying to work out how he can get back into their favour.  As he no longer gets invited to the Verdurins, this also poses a problem about how he's going to continue to meet Odette.  Certainly, his old established pattern of mixing in several worlds at once is now at an end, because the worlds have started to interpenetrate each other.

For the next few dozen pages, Swann's obsession with Odette is described in horrifying detail.  The mood swings, the paranoia, the obsessive thinking about what she is doing, the endless reinterpretations of her actions, the pathetic attempts to find excuses to meet and pass messages.  Odette all the while is keeping her distance, stringing him along, maybe in a calculating way and maybe in a casual way because she is tiring of him.  It is cruel but also rather comic to see an intelligent man undone like this by amour fou. It is horrible to read, but also a masterpiece of detailed descriptive writing, of course.

We also get a bit more on faciality as Swann meets a number of gentlemen wearing fashionable monocles, and these are of different kinds with different effects on their faces.  One of them is a general whose face has been disfigured by war, which makes him both initially repulsive and hard to read
.There is an undertone of homosexual attraction with these men and with other strapping servants at an aristocratic party.

There is also a grain of hope as Swann begins to realize the power and potential of music to divert him -- and to help him resemiotize (I hope)

There is a welcome interlude when Swann goes to an aristo soiree, and the posing, backbiting and discreet displays of cultural snobbery are very well described.  This is presumably going to be developed later, because we learn that these people are part of the Guermantes set.  Again there is much careful presentation of self and distanciation at the most subtle levels of averted glances, aggressive use of forenames, falsely modest sitting on the periphery, elaborate compliments and banter based on them.  It is at this gathering that Swann also begins to appreciate music, in a rather Deleuzian way, as something concrete and real produced from an almost endless multiplicity of musical notes and turns. He can begin to analyze the musical forms of the little phrase and its combinations of notes and intervals.  He hears the little phrase in its proper context of the whole sonata and this also helps him get a bit more philosophical about his relationship with the Odette [he puts that in context as well?]. 

[There is something supernatural about of violin which seems to be capable of generating all sorts of marvelous noises including human voice]. As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear… Swann felt that it was present, like a protective goddess a confidant of his love who, so as to be able to come to him through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound… He felt he was no longer in exile and alone… For he had no longer, as of old, the impression that Odette and he were not known to the little phrase… In that distant time, he had divined an element of suffering in its smile, in its limpid and disillusioned intonation, tonight he found there rather the charm of a resignation that was almost gay. Of those sorrows, of which the little phrase had spoken to him then… Those sorrows which were now become his own… It seemed to say to him, as once it had said of his happiness "What does all that matter; it is all nothing".… Swann found a sweetness in that very wisdom [referring to the 'vanity of his sufferings', which had been much commented upon by others]… The little phrase, unlike them, whatever opinion it might hold on the short duration of the states of the soul, saw in them something not, as everyone else, less serious than the events of everyday life, but, on the contrary, so far superior to everyday life has to be alone worthy of the trouble of expressing it. Those graces of an intimate sorrow… The little phrase had captured, had rendered visible. So much so that it made the value be confessed, the divine sweetness be tasted by all those same onlookers [who could promptly 'disown them in real life']... Swann had regarded musical motifs as actual ideas, of another world, of another order, ideas veiled in shadows, unknown, impenetrable by the human mind… When, after that first evening at the Verdurins', he had had the little phrase played over to him again, and had sought to disentangle from his confused impressions how it was that, like a perfume or a caress, it swept over and enveloped him, he had observed that it was to the closeness of the intervals between the five notes which composed it and to the constant repetition of two of them… But in reality he knew that he was basing this conclusion not upon the phrase itself, but merely upon certain equivalents, substituted (for his mind's convenience) for the mysterious entity of which he had become aware… He knew that his memory of the piano falsified still further the perspective in which he saw the music, that the field open to the musician is not a miserable stave of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard (still, almost all of it, unknown), on which, here and there only, separated by the gross darkness of its unexplored tracts, some few among the millions of keys, keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, of serenity, which compose it… have been discovered by certain great artists who do us the service, when they awaken in us the emotion corresponding to the theme which they found, of showing us what richness, what variety lies hidden unknown to us, in that great black impenetrable night, discouraging exploration, of our soul...The little phrase, albeit it presented to the mind's eye a clouded surface,… contained, one felt, a matter so consistent, so explicit, to which the phrase gave so new, so original force that those who had once heard it preserved the memory of it in the treasure chamber of their mind.… Even when he was not thinking of the little phrase, it existed, latent, in his mind, in the same way as certain other conceptions without material equivalent, such as our notions of light, of sound, of perspective, of bodily desire… Vinteuil's phrase… had espoused our mortal state, had endued a vesture [sic]  of humanity that was affecting enough…

So Swann was not mistaken in believing that the phrase of the sonata did, really, exist. Human as it was from this point of view, it belonged, nonetheless, to an order of supernatural creatures whom we have never seen but whom, in spite of that, we recognize and acclaim with rapture when some explorer of the unseen contrives to coax one forth, to bring it down from that divine world... this is what Vinteuil had done for the little phrase…

The phrase had disappeared. Swann knew that it would come again at the end of the last movement, after a long passage which Mme Verdurin's pianist always skipped. There were in this passage some admirable ideas… Swann listened to all the scattered themes which entered into the composition of the phrase, as its premises enter into the inevitable conclusion of a syllogism; he was assisting at the mystery of its birth. "Audacity," he exclaimed to himself, "as inspired, perhaps as a Lavoisier or an Ampere", the audacity of Vinteuil making experiment, discovering the secret laws that govern an unknown force, driving across a region unexplored towards the one possible goal… Never was spoken language of such inflexible necessity, never had it known question so pertinent, such obvious replies [in the dialogue between piano and violin]… Like a bird deserted by its mate [answered by the violin]… Swann knew that the phrase was going to speak to him once again… The strain of waiting for the imminent moment when he would find himself face-to-face, once more, with the phrase, convulsed him in one of those sobs which a fine line of poetry or a piece of alarming news will wring from us… It reappeared, but this time to remain poised in the air… Its brightness fades, seems to subside, then soars again… So to the two colours which the phrase had hitherto allowed to appear it added others now, chords shot with every hue in the prism, and made them sing…

From that evening, Swan understood that the feeling which Odette had once had for him would never revive… He recorded those apparent and misleading signs of a slight movement on her part towards him [only] with… Tender and sceptical solicitude. (pp180--186)

Then we are back to the detailed description and analysis of the relationship with Odette.  They seem to be meeting more often now, and they even have episodes with the cattleya [Swann first got to grope Odette in his coach by pretending to rearrange the posy of cattleya {orchids} on her bosom, and after that, 'doing the cattleya' became their own private code for what is probably a heavy petting session at least].  However, Swann also receives an anonymous letter telling him about Odette's many affairs, including a couple of lesbian relationships.  He tries to stay casual and discusses all this with her as if it's all perfectly normal, but presses her, and she gradually confesses all, to his secret agony.  She was probably shagging de Fourcheville even at the most romantic and enthusiastic stage of the relationship with Swann, when she was writing him love letters, some of which he had preserved as being particularly meaningful.  She eventually confesses to [pretty quick]  lesbian relationships 'two or three times', one of them possibly with Mme Verdurin, or at least while visiting the Bois with the Verdurins.  As usual, he goes back over little snatches [!] of conversation chez Verdurin and elsewhere, which now assume horrible significance. Knowing all this produces torturing flashbacks, produced by words or places,
as pathological semiotizations.

The section ends with Swann finally resolving that he is over his obsession with Odette.  Her being absent for long periods touring Europe with Verdurins helps.  Apart from music, an important part in his developing understanding is played by a dream.  He sees the characters as representative of the people in his amorous drama—Odette, the Verdurins, de Fourcheville appearing as Napoleon III!  Mme Verdurin's face changes dramatically in the dream, becoming elongated and male with a heavy moustache [sounds a bit like Little Hans's father!], and a young man in a fez seems to be Swann as his younger self,  He parts with Odette in the dream, wakes up realizing that his mind has constructed a plausible dream, and presumably a plausible love for a fantasized object. He realizes that after all, Odette is not really his type.

Then we then have a separate section where the narrator reflects on some visits he has paid to European cities, and how the names of those cities conjure up whole images, connecting landscape, seascape, weather, flora and famous residents.  Then we hear that he was unable to travel one year and so forced to visit only the Champs Elyseées.  While there he encounters a group of other children, including a group of 'little girls' .  One of them is Gilberte, with whom the young narrator falls in love, pretty much in the same obsessive way as Swann [which makes me think that this is an idealized notion of romantic love widely shared by the bourgeoisie, a kind of institutionalized or habitual amour fou. It is not unlike the ways in which strong women in literature or film conventionally have a career and some independence and then, stupidly, throw it all away for love to reassure us all that nature will triumph].  Gilberte is also the daughter of Swann and his wife Odette!  How the two came to be married after all that misery is not discussed here, and it appears as a kind of irony, or perhaps a further comment on amour fou, or perhaps a triumph for social class and respectability after all.  The young narrator persuades his companion to take him for walks where the Swanns live, hoping to meet Gilberte, but also admiring Odette, who still seems to lead the life of a courtesan, parading in an open carriage and promenading with the others in the Bois de Boulogne, still notorious.  This volume ends with him revisiting the Bois after some years, nostalgically regretting those days of elegant women, horsedrawn carriages, the whole setting of sexualized gentility.

It's a class -inspired vision,  regretting mass society
. Oddly the themes of social class and distinction are not discussed in Guattari --he who is so good at spotting them in Freud (Anti-Oedipus). The whole business of semioitized self-torturing love is bourgeois -- they have the cultural capital to add layers of meaning like this to excess. Same with outdoor ecstasy. We all feel these emotions, but the bourgeois can really stoke them up and make them excessively productive. As, indeed, they can with social distinction , although they are socially supported and not likely to lead to semiotic collapse (although maybe the encounters with proles at war time, described in Rancière, can have that effect?).

Volume 3 Within a Budding Grove (yech) 1 (NB originally entitled In The Shadow of Young Girls in Flower)

The narrator's mother and father are giving dinner parties and may have a problem with Swann because of his unsuitable marriage. Mr. Proust (pere) also thinks Swann is a show off and name-dropper, and there is a suggestion that this is a typical characteristic of the socially mobile 'Israelite'.  Mrs Proust (mere) wants to invite him to raise the tone of conversation. The narrator himself thinks it's more likely an indication of how social circumstances affect your social behaviour as you adjust to what is normal in your circle.  We sashay into descriptions of some of the other characters who attend a dinner parties chez Proust, and they include the professor, Brichotte, who we met before at the Verdurins—withdrawn, a bit crusty, but an excellent medic—and a new noble diplomat, Norpois, who is charming and skilled in the old ways,  but  deeply insincere.  Both are described waspishly. The narrator also discovers the marvels of the theatre and of a particular actress, Berma: she is famous but he cannot really see much nerit in her performance, perhaps because he had talked it up so much in his imagination. He comes to see that fame can sometimes have its own force.

It develops as a real rambling stream of consciousness, rhizomatic no doubt, a story leaping from topic to topic.  The links look a bit forced -- for example discussion of the house guests at a dinner party leads back to Swann because one of them knows him, and this enables the narrator to pick up the theme of the relationship with Gilberte.  The narrator becomes real friends with Gilberte and gains entry to the Swann household  so he can do more telling detail about Odette's tastes. The narrator also begins to merge a bit with Swann  (could be developing indirect discourse? Via a bourgeois habitus?). Eg they both (used to) fantasize about living with Odette/Giberte; the narrator adores Odette as much as Gilberte.

We learn a bit more about Swann's notoriety—Odette gave birth to Gilberte before being married, and it seems that it was Odette who decided on marriage and pressured Swann into it, partly by threatening to manipulate contact with Gilberte.  Swann does more adjusting, rationalizing his new limited social circles: one of the way he copes is by calmly checking to see whether Odette is welcome at various dinner parties.   He gets more mature and distant about it all,  knowing he no longer loves her and indeed loving other women. His flashbacks now seem rather cool -- remembering how he used to love and want to live with her and wondering about the emotional states he was in. She is also unfaithful.  Meanwhile, she wants to establish a salon of her own, and Swann helps with contacts in a rather disinterested way.

The subtlety and pervasiveness of distanciation is well developed, with particular zeitgeisty phrases being used to indicate you are fashionable, particular musicians or singers or actresses moving in and out of fashion, including Berma. The Dreyfus case is a background issue that produces some fashionable anti-semitism and the temporary need for salon-runners to replace Jewish acquaintances. This just diffuses without anything explicit being said. The narrator learns from the diplomat house guest (Norpois -- French version of Shitpeas?) how difficult it is to keep your end up, since strong opinions are exchanged on these matters, right down to the detail of how you can display your unsuitability with a particular sentence construction.  The lad is trying to develop his tastes and to manage, for example by concealing his strong passions for the (romantic) real. What a nightmare world!

We seem to have a standard literary device developing here. The hero meets a new dinner guest, describes him or her and his characteristic social distanciating devices, and then rambles off on a more general topic. The lad is able to compare very different opinions though -- Bergotte dislikes Norpois -- and starts to see how it is all windy generalization. Bergotte is a famous writer, whose books were much admired by the narrator as a lad. He turns out to be rather unimpressive in the flesh, (and has a common and ugly face) and his speech is more vulgar and strident than his writing. So why might this be? We think about speech and writing,  local and personal circumstances, including what we inherit from our parents, writing and stylistic devices and the universal mind that literature addresses. You could get all deleuzian and see this as a discussion of semiotic machines, but it seems pretty banal and just like the old cliches about how writers are both particularistic and universal at the same time.

The narrator's love for Gilberte develops along standard lines, just as Swann's did -- he's obsessed, he thinks only of her,  everything he sees reminds him of her, he tries to get her keen by avoiding her, while dreading that she will end it,  and dreams of the letters she will write to him and all that. He calls on Odette instead and that is a pretext for  more stuff on the bitchiness of the salon -- Mme Verdurin now also calls on Odette. The interiors are full of flowers -- a 'winter garden' etc.

Meanwhile our hero is taken to a 'disorderly house' by one of his parents' dinner guests. He visits most nights (and presumably is not constantly reminded of Gilberte?) but says it is only a modest one without a suitable variety of women to keep him amused. Some blokes just talk. One only wants to comb the girls' hair. The madame wants to fix him up with a 'Jewess'. He gives them some furniture his great aunt in Combray has left him but then regrets all the memories it brings back (so there is a bit more on the importance of memory).

It get really tedious with a blow-by-blow of the cooling relationship with Gilberte, the romantic agony this brings, and the failure of his little games to pretend he is going off her, although his family and friends tell Odette he is not unhappy. A dream helps him resolve it all again (repetition of Swann's story, shared habitus, or some sort of free indirect discourse?). Endless descriptions of Odette's clothes as developing a style of her own and as displaying conspicuous consumption. She discusses things in English now and then too. Asides about the class system as the 'shabby genteel' meet the grand ladies on their promenades and have to decide whether or not to greet them openly. Endless philosophizing about romantic love as the pursuit of the unattainable idealized object for men, always ending in disappointment (Deleuze would not support this notion of desire as lack).
We are also warned that the dick is going to fall in love again as he casually mentions Albertine.

As an example of the hopeless mess bourgeois manly love gets you into:

I was constantly writing to Gilberte, and in this correspondence I did not choose the expressions which might, I felt, have won her over, sought only to carve out the easiest channel for the torrent of my tears. For, like desire, regret seeks not to be analysed but to be satisfied… When one abandons love one seeks not to know one's grief but to offer to her who is causing it that expression of it which seems to one the most moving. One says things which one feels the need of saying, and which the other will not understand [he keeps telling her he cannot see her, that it is impossible]… The words, as I wrote them, made me weep because I felt that they expressed not what I should have liked to believe but what was probably going to happen… I should gradually come to the moment when, by virtue of not having seen her again, I should not wish to see her. I wept, but I found courage enough to sacrifice, I tasted the sweets of sacrificing the happiness of being with her to the probability of seeming attractive to her one day, a day when, alas, my seeming attractive to her would be immaterial to me. (266 – 7).

omen seem far more sensible, and less fond of this romantic agony shit, which probably means they are inferior to men in their sensibility or some crap. Odette finds another partner (our narrator finds out as he is returning from flogging off a family heirloom, intending to renew the relationship via expensive gifts -- he spends the money in the whorehouse instead). It is OK to screw whores because they offer comfort and he is not in love with them.

The relationship over, our hero is now free to leave Paris and head off to Balbec on the Normandy coast so we get a re-run of all that stuff about place names as external memory prompts, the role of habit in restricting our romantic excesses but making the world duller more philosophizing about train travel, more emotional scenes as he leaves Mamma.  He is so sensitive about everything, ecstatic about the sea, believing he has grasped eternal truths after listening to music, falling in love with girls selling coffee. It reads like Stendhal Syndrome.

The Grande Hotel at Balbec is a microcosm of French society (no doubt). Lots of appalling stuff about social pretensions and malicious gossip behind the scenes, stifling etiquette, different forms of address. Our hero envies Francoise who rapidly makes friends with all the proles and servants, so much so that she will not  trouble them at unsociable hours even when asked to do so.  This is an example of rigid proletarian protocols for our hero so it is quite normal for all to act in this absurd way.

Jesus, will I ever make it to the end of this stuff?

Here is some of the stuff about the little tune. Swann has by this time dissociated it from his infatuation with Odette:

… He expresses so well in that little phrase, the Bois de Boulogne plunged in a catalytic trance. By the sea it is even more striking, because you have their the faint response of the waves, which, of course, you can hear quite distinctly since nothing else dares to move. In Paris it is the other way; at the most you may notice unfamiliar lights among the old buildings, the sky brightened as though by a colourless and harmless conflagration… But in Vinteuil's little phrase, and in the whole sonata for that matter, it is not like that; the scene is laid in the Bois; in the gruppetto you can distinctly hear a voice saying: 'I can almost see to read the paper!'… In place of the profound significance that he had so often sought in it, what it recalled now to Swann were the leafy boughs, arranged, wreathed, painted round about it… The whole of one spring season which he had not been able to enjoy before… The charm that he had been made to feel by certain evenings in the Bois, a charm of which Vinteuil's Sonata served to remind him, he could not have recaptured by questioning Odette, although she, as well as the little phrase, had been his companion there. But Odette had merely been his companion, by his side, not (as the phrase had been) within him, and so had seen nothing — nor would she, had she been 1000 times as comprehending, have seen anything of that vision… [Swann says] Vinteuil's phrase now shows me only the things to which I paid no attention then. Of my troubles, my loves of those days it recalls nothing, it has altered all my values (148 – 150).

Here is another bit that Deleuze likes about the train journey which offers Proust a machinic view of totality:

In the pale square of the window, over a small black wood I saw some ragged clouds whose fleecy edges were of a fixed, dead pink not liable to change, like the colour that dyes the wing which has grown to wear it, or [a painters sketch]. But I felt that, unlike them, this colour was due neither to inertia nor to caprice but to necessity and life. Presently there gathered behind it reserves of light. It brightened… I felt that it was related somehow to the most intimate life of nature, but, the course of the line altering, the train turned, the morning scene gave place in the frame of the window to a nocturnal village, its roofs still blue with moonlight… And I was lamenting the loss of my strip of pink sky when I caught sight of it afresh, but red this time, in the opposite window which it left at the second bend in the line, so that I spent my time running from one window to the other to reassemble, to collect on a single canvas the intermittent, antipodean fragments of my fine, scarlet, ever-changing morning, and to obtain a comprehensive view of it and a continuous picture (325 – 6).

Here is a bit of writing about the sea:

I asked myself whether [the effect of the sun's rays quoted by Baudelaire] were not different from the evening ray, simple and superficial as the wavering stroke of a golden pencil — just what at that moment was scorching the sea topaz brown, fermenting it, turning it pale and milky like foaming beer, like milk, while now and then there hovered over it great blue shadows which some God seemed, for his pastime, to be shifting to and fro by moving and mirror in the sky (353)

Volume 4 Within a Budding Grove 2

More on life at the Grand Hotel Balbec (these remarks seem to be gathered under sections called 'place names', perhaps to separate them from the individual stories).  It is the usual nightmare of fine social distinctions and point-scoring, and some rather more basic ones as well.  Our hero makes the acquaintance of a French aristocrat, a real 'Fauborg Saint-Germain', Mme Villeparisis and they go for drives in the surrounding countryside in her carriage with his grandmother.  In the process, she gives him the lowdown on famous French figures, including a bunch of novelists she has known— Balzac and Hugo among them.  And Stendhal, whom our hero much admires!  They all have character flaws, mostly appearing as rather vulgar.  Later, back at the hotel, he hears someone delivering anti-semitic sentiments, and finds it is his old contact Bloch, newly arrived, insulting his own family and ethnicity.  This is a kind of authorial ventriloquism, possibly, putting risky prejudices in the mouths of the characters—might try it. Bloch seems to play the part of a bluff rather vulgar outsider dealing with the bodily  necessities, and calling spades bloody shovels. He is unaware of social niceties throughout, unaware, for example, how much Saint-Loup dislikes him.

On the coach trips (!), our hero is his usual romantic knobby self, waxing lyrical and poetic about the landscape, and falling in love with girls that he happens to pass on the road.  He is increasingly aware that real people are far less attractive than fantasies.  I think this is why he likes landscapes which cannot disabuse him of his fantasies (they would if he looked closely, of course). His friend Bloch assures him that the country girls are available, but he only ever gets to meet one village girl, and contents himself with hoping to have impressed her with his aristocratic contacts, saying he is to meet posh people in a coach.  He seems to get genuine pleasure of being able to express these advanced sensibilities, and to store them in his memory, recapturing them later, leading to marvelling at how memory works, that it is better if it is 'real' for example, and stitching them together into whole reveries.  This is at the heart of his subjectivity, and, presumably, his identity as an aspiring author.

The jerk sees that the same thing is happening when he falls in love, as a result of the reflections after meeting the little band (below). He likes all the agonies and turmoil as a sign of his own sensibility. He also sees that it is all really a matter of projecting your own qualities on to women so you can admire yourself. That was what loving Gilberte was all about. It relieves the monotony (aristo boredom I suppose), and he values his imagination to glamorize events like meeting people, just as he does with the romantic gaze directed at landscapes.

There is a hint of a homosexual option after a tragic hetero affair, just as Guattari suggests for Swann. This is much more explicit and prolonged as our hero encounters a beautiful and elegant young man, another real aristo, Robert, Marquis de Saint-Loup-en-Bray. staying at the hotel. After some initial coldness, interpreted even as a prelude to a challenge to a duel,  they become good friends. The bit about duelling (mentioned at least twice before en passant), makes the whole aristo emotional economy  an oddity as far as Eliasan notions of civilization would be concerned: they are overcivilised in thinking fully about avoiding possible embarrassed reactions of others to what they say or do, even if it is carefully stifling any reactions of their own to some faux pas like one of Bloch's mispronunciations, but they are also on some emotional short fuse always ready to duel or shag country girls. They like emotions. [Later, our hero says it was not uncommon for a challenge to a duel to be turned down with a compliment about the honour of the challenger -- relief all round]

The hero gets quite passive and feminized in his status as recovering invalid and gets visited and looked after by S-L, and, later his uncle (De Charlus) who enters his bedroom, talks personally for a while, lends him a book by Bergotte then demands it back next day (oscillation -- see below). We meet more of the families of Bloch and S-L, kept apart at first and then combining at dinner.  Bloch has a rather anxious father, patrolling any sign of Jewishness like using Yiddish phrases,  or any other signs of 'ill breeding'. Bloch has a habit of scattering Homeric phrases through his conversation, largely for comic effect, but, thinks our hero, also as a sign of compensation and status anxiety.  The real aristos have different mannerisms, including disdain for their own position, effortless, perhaps unintended one-upmanship about their pedigree, and being at ease with the lower orders because they are so secure. 

Saint-Loup has an even odder uncle, Baron de Charlus, who is suspiciously macho, walking everywhere through France, and throwing himself into icy streams, and delivering diatribes against social change, including stuff about how Jews are buying up property and displaying poor taste as they alter the places (more bizarre distancing -- English gardens! How frightful!).  He presents an aggressive manner with piercing eyes.  He also has a tender side though, as with the bedroom visit, and virtually fondles our hero's neck while swimming, only to get aggressive and macho again when he pulls himself together.   Classical oscillations of attraction and repulsion.  All this is interspersed with commentary about how easy it is to be misunderstood, and how one's friends sometimes attempt to misunderstand one, or take advantage of their friendship in order to be excessively frank. It also turns out everyone is related again -- the Saint-Loups to Mme Villeparisis by marriage, de Charlus to the Guermantes, including those who live at Combray -- not a terribly subtle way to link all the little stories together.

Guattari says this shows that Proust is using the characters in different assemblages, deterritorializing them,and developing a machinic structure for the novel. If this is so, it is swamped by conventional territorialized bourgeois commentary about character, motives, themes about how unattainable the object of our desire really is, how hypocritical, people are and must be etc. A pretty standard two-faced sort of complexity rather than a multiplicity?

We also learn a bit about Saint-Loup who, although he does not love her any more,  is living with an unsuitable mistress, an actress, (Rachel) and therefore has fallen out with most of his family.  He has learned to hate the aristocracy in return, then to become a republican, to the contempt of Francoise.  In discussing the relationship, Proust talks about how women can reassure men, moralize and encourage them, and also feminize them, because men have to cater to their stupid irrationalities, moods and sentimentalities. S-L has to return to his regiment, at least during the day, and then for a longer period.

Then, the narrator starts to recover his interest in life,and, finally in the thoughts and activities of other people.  He and S-L start to attend a fashionable restaurant near Balbec, Rivebelle, and his interest is drawn to the numbers of pretty girls who dine there.  He also meets the little band of girls that Guattari discusses, drifting unselfconsciously along the promenade at the hour when everyone else is anxiously scanning the other bourgeois, displaying good humour and freedom.  Guattari sees this as the narrator 'becoming-woman', (appreciating female friendship, women as not just objects of the romantic gaze etc. Compare this with the disdain for sentimentality etc above). They are described as 'a band apart', although that phrase is put in quotes in the novel, suggesting that it is really someone else's—must look it up (it has later associations via the Godard film,of course, itself quoted in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction) .  He sees the little band as a collective, first, only made up of parts, often parts of faces of individual girls, even tracing them to portraits as did Swann, but soon resorts to his conventional interest in romantic love and decides that he wants a relationship with one of them (as all young men find, it is hard to approach a collective of girls). He hears the name Simonet and tries to find out which one of them it is -- it will be Albertine. He wastes his time hanging round the beach hoping to bump into them

He discovers the details after finally meeting Elstir, a famous artist, who knows the girl's families as second home neighbours. They are all the daughters of rich businessmen and professionals -- the middle classes for the narrator. They are also striving for distinction, including insisting on spelling Simonet with only one n. While there, he learns a bit about painting as the assemblage of components (of sea and land) -- as metaphor is how he puts it. This turns into a riff about portrait painting as assemblage of facial components, including universal aspects eg of all the women the painter knew. Some flirting with the idea of deeper truths known only to art etc. He talks about Albertine as a combination of components, some he likes (her silhouette) and some he doesn't ( her temple!). NB the components include voices as well as faces.

The painter turns out to be the little knob at the Verdurins (the hero finds this out when he sees a 'realistic' portrait of Odette in the studio). Cue a page or two about how we all have secrets and things we regret, part of a more general and constant  theme about how real people are always more disappointing than the idealizations they have of themselves or others. Albertine looks feisty and gamine in her beach gear or on her bike, but is a bit conventional (including conventionally antisemitic) and not very well-educated (nor are the young men from the same wealthy business set - classic ways for traditional elites to distance themselves via claims of being cultured etc). There is an hilarious scene when our hero gets invited to visit Albertine in bed at his hotel - -he thinks he is gong to seduce her but when he tries she fights him off and rings the bell for help. His subsequent pleading is pathetic -- it would mean so much to him, and it seems to mean only a small cost to her etc

The assemblage theme is continued as our hero gets to know all the girls in the band apart. Bits of their faces and personalities are components of the young girlhood multiplicity -- Andree's eyes and cool manner, Giselle's warmth but shyness etc.
He soliloquizes about very young girls (!) as being plastic, without well-formed features. Eventually he decides to choose Albertine to love (it is obviously a cultural choice).

Then the seasons ends and everyone leaves Balbec to go back to Paris.

There is this bit about faces:

The human faces indeed, like the face of the God of some Oriental theogony, the whole cluster of faces, crowded together but on different surfaces so that one does not see them all at once.

But to a great extent our astonishment springs from the other persons presenting to us also a face that is the same as before. It would require so immense an effort to reconstruct everything that has been imparted to us by things other than our self — were it only the taste of the fruit — that no sooner is the impression received than we begin imperceptibly to descend the slope of memory and, without noticing anything, in a very short time, we have come a long way from what we actually felt… The other person is destroyed when we cease to see him; after which is next appearance means a fresh creation of him, different from that which immediately preceded it, if not from them all. For the minimum variation that is to be found in these creations is duality… It is understood, of course, that this loyalty to the first and purely physical impressions which I formed a fresh and teaching counter with my friends did not involve only their facial appearance, since the reader has seen the site was sensible also of their voices, more disquieting still, perhaps (301 – 304).

Volume 5 The Guermantes Way 1

The artifice to join on to this story is that the narrator's family have moved house and now occupy an apartment in the complex which includes the Hotel De Guermantes, apparently a common pattern of residents, where all sorts of aspirants cluster around a stately home. He barely bothers to explain why. The name Guermantes provokes lengthy reflection about how names help us to connect particular memories—there was a village or estate called Guermantes not far from Combray as we know from vol. one. He also remembers that Saint-Loup disabused him of the view that the family originated from there in the distant past.

Francoise is unhappy about the move, because she has to then reestablish herself in a new pecking order below stairs.  She also has mixed feelings about the noble Guermantes, as do lots of French people, apparently, both admiring them, and also harbouring republican feelings.  Her chats with the servants of the Guermantes is the pretext for telling us about the life of the noble family, and how they spend their evenings visiting other houses, or going to the theatre and opera. 

Our hero goes to the theatre to see another performance by Berma.  This permits him to talk about the obsession with social distinction among the theatre audience, some of whom would go there because they are actually interested in the theatre,  but who are constantly distracted by looking around to see who else  is there, and wondering how to behave.  The aristos appear to be much more relaxed and unpretentious, but they are really only displaying aristocratic distance: Proust tells us that they are relaxed enough to enjoyed the performance because they are so secure in their status, but they do not 'have the mind' to do so, meaning either they are too dim or not particularly interested.

There are reflections interspersed about how the idealized picture we have of people are never matched by the reality, and this applies to the last time our hero saw Berma performing (when he was in love with Gilberte).  He now has a new strategy, however, which is to see the very gap between ideal and reality as some kind of rewarding aesthetic experience.  He still sees his entire life as seeking out intense emotions, so disappointments have to be managed.  In particular, he now sees Berma's performance as conveying some higher truths and higher experiences, uniquely connecting with the text, not employing the vulgar rhetorical tricks of the other actors: what he saw as disappointing is now testament to her great art.  It is the romantic gaze jacked up a notch.

Inevitably, the jerk falls in love with the younger Duchesse de Guermantes, Oriane, encouraged by her smiling at him briefly at the theatre, and is soon up to his usual tricks of pathetically trying to arrange to bump into her on her morning walks so he could exchange formal greetings (he asks a disapproving Francoise to find out the routes).  He occasionally fantasizes about other young women that he encounters by accident as well.  His sensitivity is obviously turned up to maximum, and we get a couple of ecstatic pages on phenomena such as the wonderful shapes and colours that milk makes as it boils over in a pan.  He described Mme as offering a series of faces (and costumes) to the world, some of them quite different for what he saw when she was all dolled up at the theatre , and he speculates about what unites these different faces

He decides to renew his acquaintance with Saint-Loup who might introduce him to his aunt  (the Duchesse de Guermantes of course), and sets off to the garrison town to meet him.  (Apparently, a biography states, Proust really did join the Army as an enlisted man for 1 year). Saint-Loup is on duty however, and our hero is forced to stay in a hotel.  He clearly finds it 'painful', even living for one night in a new town, and persuades Saint-Loup to allow him to sleep in his quarters, and to dine there.  Homoeroticism appears again. Saint-Loup continues to play his role of correcting the false impressions that Knobhead gets of some of his fellow officers.

These pots are boiled for 50 more pages (c 100--150), interspersed with asides about how memory seems to work via prompts and subjective synthesis. Our man discusses military tactics and strategies with Saint-Loup's  comrades and we learn of the various constraints. It pleases matey to acquire this esoteric knowledge unavailable to non-professionals and he says it it is like art. Lots of homo-erotic bits in the mess as S-L and our men declare their love for each other and even get a bit jealous if others attract more attention. More social distinction as traditional aristos socially outrank those created by Napoleon I despite Army ranks (S-L is only a serjeant but has the social bite on Captain de Borodino). The divisions produced by Dreyfus are also emerging, in civil society as well, with anti-semitic undertones for the anti party.

Plonker decides he will return to Paris and try Mme de Guermantes again (on the pretext of wanting to see her Elstir paintings), and S-L gets leave to patch things up with his mistress. Hero gets to meet that lady in Paris and realizes that she is Rachel, a prostitute/actress (the terms are interchangeable throughout all 12 volumes) whom he knew at the low-status brothel. Comments about how S-L is paying 100k francs to maintain her while everyone else could have her for 20.  Rachel is nearly caught out when two common 'tarts' recognize her. S-L is insanely jealous whenever they meet anyone else (Rachel winds him up a bit by flirting) and gets involved in scuffles (one with a dubious male who propositions him). Hero realizes people see the same face quite differently, and he sees the changes Rachel can make in her appearance as she goes on stage -- her face is pleasantly fuzzy at a distance, permitting more fantasy. He rethink his relationship with S-L and recalls seeing S-L drive past greeting him only indifferently -- so more of the themes of disappointment versus idealization, faces as constellations of components (dress and speech too) , ambiguous if not actually misleading, and life as a play.

Idiot gets to meet Mme Villparisis again at home for tea. She is S-L's Aunt and also the Aunt of Mme de Guermantes. Keep up!. Ghastly scenes in the salon ensue -- horrible  point-scoring and gamesmanship between the aristo factions over who is invited and who neglected (divided by age as well), and more on the bizarre manners required -- eg you invite poets to your salon but it is bad manners to talk about their work, so the other guests have to listen to endless prattle about eggs and how to prepare them. An unspeakably vulgar woman - - Mme de Crememer (but see below)  -- is mentioned briefly, as she was in the discussion about life chez Verdurins in Vol. 1.  Other people are refreshed with quick mentions and walk-on parts-- Bergotte the novelist, de Norpois, even de Charlus.

Bloch is there and he is now a successful dramatist. His presence leads to comments about Jews and Dreyfus. Our hero speculates that Jews are fashionable guests because they seem so oriental, while Turks and Egyptians would do as well. The object of his obsession, Mme de G, is described holding court, and is already looking and sounding a bit disappointing --he expects people from Guermantes to remind him of sunny days in the country (through residual rural accents and a sunny healthy appearance). We meet her husband the Duc.

50 pages ensue of the gossip at the salon, the bitchy asides and insults, and major name-dropping. Dreyfus is a constant theme,  with Bloch pro and most of the others anti. De Norpois gives a master class in offering only objective comment (on the role of witnesses etc) to avoid revealing his anti views, although Bloch keeps pressing. Later, we get a reconstructed conversation between de Norpois and another diplomat showing the delicacy of nuance and the strange coded way they talk. We hear the Verdurins are strongly anti-Dreyfus. Mme Villeparisis decides to cut Bloch rudely as he leaves (frosty glance, silence, looking bored and fatigued, lively and animated stuff with the next guest to go) so that he will get the hint and stay away, but he is too gauche to get it. Odette is discussed and linked to S-L's equally unfortunate relationship with a courtesan -- and she finally turns up! Lots of other subtle allusions to status and character that I am sure I missed, and a general insight from Knobhead that in that company you can never be sure what anyone actually thinks of you -- all communication seems strategic.

There is an odd episode with de Charlus again who grabs Our Lad and offers to take him under his wing if he will do exactly what de Charlus asks (!) More than a hint of homosexuality again, including de Charlus's apparent knowledge of the argot of the gay rent scene (just being populist, Hero wonders). De Charlus tells him Mme Villeparisis' husband's title is self-awarded. Meanwhile Gran is ill and after receiving solemn and confident assurances from a society doc (Cottard) that it is all down to her nerves, she suffers a slight stroke in a kharzi off the Champs Elysees run by a lady called 'the Marquise'!
This is preceded by an an odd section in which the human body is seen as a separate animal, operating inside us according to laws of its own [ a form of mockery of social pretences again?]

Volume 6 The Guermantes Way 2

Gran is rediagnosed as terminally ill with 'euremia', [kidney failure] and she soon dies, eased out with morphine and oxygen, but not before we are treated to asides about the creativity of art, the body as an animal, and the stoical practical coping of Francoise that looks so brutal. These asides are delivered on flimsy pretexts -- Bergotte visits the bedside and Knobhead wonders why he is no longer so interested in his writing, which sashays off into some stuff about how great art sees the world differently and this is why it is often rejected at first. I have just read that some people find War and Peace irritating because it is always breaking off to deliver some banal pedagogic insight -- Proust too. Melville, now...

Some asides are not developed. We learn that Matey has fought a duel (one offhand sentence -- what with? Handbags?) and will later join the Army. More developed is Albertine(!) who visits. In some amazing pages, Hero thinks she will do sex with him now because she uses 'adult' language --not explicit language , of course, but terms he feels she would not have encountered at home, such as 'lapse in time'. He finds her vocabulary very 'carnal'. Only possible in a rigid and distanciating society, of course. She also has a distinct face and body now, and has emerged from her original mere silhouette into a proper woman. He doesn't love her but he tries his chances after hours of evasive talk (it's different with servant girls - he just grabbed one and told her to feel in his pocket for some money) . He needs to see (bourgeois) women as symbolizing something -- the beach and the summer at Balbec, the little group and all that -- whereas women one meets in brothels have no interest.  A great technique is to challenge her to tickle him! Francoise interrupts at the crucial moment. He finally gets his evil way, after a lot of stuff about how perspectives change when you close in to kiss a woman's cheek (no doubt a euphemism).

Here is the actual bit, which Deleuze sees as important in the discussion of faciality:

I can think of nothing that can so effectively as a kiss evoke from what we believe to be a thing with one definite aspect, the hundred other things which it may equally well be since each is related to a view of it no less legitimate. In short, just as at Balbec, Albertine had often appeared to me different, so now, as if, wildly accelerating the speed of the changes of aspect and the changes of colouring which a person presents to us in the course of our various encounters, I had sought to contain them all in the space of a few seconds so as to reproduce experimentally the phenomenon which diversifies the individuality of a fellow creature, and to draw out one from another, like a nest of boxes, all the possibilities that it contains, in this brief passage of my lips towards her cheek it was ten Albertines that I saw; the single girl being like a goddess with several heads, that which I had last seen, if I tried to approach it, gave place to another. At least as long as I had not touched it, that head, I could still see it, a faint perfume reached me from it. But alas — for in this matter of kissing our nostrils and eyes are as ill placed as our lips are shaped — suddenly my eyes ceased to see; next, my nose, crushed by the collision, no longer perceived any fragrance, and, without thereby gaining any clearer idea of the taste of the rose of my desire, I learned, from these unpleasant signs, that at last I was in the act of kissing Albertine's cheek (76 – 77).

More women ensue. He arranges a date with a woman of easy virtue (who will readily dine with you in a private room, S-L assures him) but after anticipating the encounter for days and arranging things so there will be the right atmosphere (very important to combine all the pleasures, with asides about how memory connects things to produce pleasure), she cries off  - he is reduced to angry tears.  Meanwhile, Mme de Guermantes is separating from her husband and she suddenly becomes very friendly and pesters him to dine with her. Our Man with Bipolar Disorder doesn't want to now although he  was obsessed with her not long before .  He encounters more backbiting and private dissing. The Princesses of Parma is so terribly friendly to everyone because she is so secure in her social superiority, and all the aristos think it polite and charming to make you feel you are the most important guest in the house.

The whole thing is more testament to the dialectic of gross obsessive desire followed by  inevitable dissatisfaction followed by more obsessive desire, or the Freudian cycle of attraction and repulsion. No wonder there was the dual standard, affaires and many prostitutes!

Little cameos ensue (not that little) about old nobility down on their luck who have to seek out rich women to pay their debts, the clear social division in a restaurant, a clique of rich men who are suspected of being gay, although one of them is S-L. Which is a pretext to get him to re-enter the story: he meets Hero in the restaurant and goes out of his way to make him comfortable and warm, turning down an invitation to join an aristo table to be with Buddy. He is genuinely considerate, and you can tell this from his bearing and his noble features, if you are discerning enough yourself.

Further and increasingly spiky commentary ensues on the social distinctions, like those between rival clans de Guermantes and Courvoisiers. The De Gs pride themselves on their progressive views on equality and the importance of character over breeding -- and Proust says therefore it must be some mischievous spirit that makes them preserve domestic hierarchies, only marry other nobs, and permit inferior women to curtsey before raising them to their feet with a protest. They like intellectuals and artists but only if they are already distinguished. They are also famous for their wit -- eg Mme de G's (Oriane) weak puns retold under the guise of disapproval by her husband. The Cs are old fashioned aristos, with rigid codes of conduct (including a whole choreography of presenting a distinctive silhouette before greeting people in a very stiff manner), and they are suspicious of intellect, seeing it as leading to misrepresentations and lies (their objection to Swann). Royals, including the English ones, are even more ferociously dim. It still bangs on a lot too long for my taste -- could all have been edited down to about 1/3 the size without loss. We get it! Shut up! [NB some people blame the translator for the flowery style].

The style is not only spiky it is increasingly classical realist, as the voice turns into the omniscient narrator, describing events at which the actual hero was not present, as well as linking it all together into one demonstration of hypocrisy, two-facedness, dissimulation, or testament to the powers of aristocratic politeness according to taste. There is the occasional reference to being present, especially in a living time, waiting for another appointment ( with de Charlus!) but also a future Hero speaks, looking back on all this and correcting the impressions made.

He is also increasingly detached socially, as the aristos tell stories about their past and their relatives: it all means something to them but not to him. ( Not much to we readers either).  He realizes they have a whole collective memory with subjective time in it.  It is also used to bond and distance, of course.

Eventually he gets away to his rendezvous with de Charlus.The weirdo is in a towering rage and he denounces our hero as ungrateful, declares he never wants to see him again, and attacks him as ignorant (he failed to interpret the receipt of a book as an invitation to visit, and invited to sit in a Louis XIV chair he picks the wrong one). It all arises from some report that our hero has dissed the old looney behind his back. Our hero denies it, and gets increasingly annoyed. Finding a duel out of the question (no weapons and the Baron is too old) he seizes upon his hat, left upturned on the floor as was fashionable, and tramples and tears it. De Charlus then moodswings back and gets contrite, offers to run Hero home or to spend the night (!). He promises another book as a pretext to meet again after all.

It ends with Swann announcing he is terminally ill.

Volume 7 Cities of the Plain 1 (ie Sodom and Gomorrah -- the original title)

Our man outs de Charlus who is secretly and accidentally observed forming a quick gay liasion with Jupin the tailor. We get an amazing discussion of the whole gay scene in France, based around a particular sector of those who like to be women, often under a fiercely macho facade, and to practise their preferences in a solitary way  rather than in 'innocent' public groups which cover. They learn how to signal their wants to each other really quickly, via glances, gestures or body postures, and form fleeting opportunist couplings, often irrespective of social class. A lot of this consists of detailed examples which are probably found in Proust's personal experience. There are attempts to present the behaviour as natural (running analogies with plant fertilization) or acceptable to ancient Greeks etc.  We learn that some of the 'inverts' are married with kids as well (long before Humphries's famed study). Others liaise with manly women. Some specialize in elderly and/or rich men. Our man now sees de Charlus as acting out sexual attractions and repulsions in his mad mood swings, just as we spotted a few hundred pages ago!

Descriptions of life at parties now have this added dimension of being able to recognize the signals gay men send to each other (early accounts of gaydar), as well as the usual class-based practices of social distanciation. The latter continue to be waspish, with analyses of the double-acts run by the Guermantes -- the Duc (Basin) makes a remark about Oriane so she acts the role for a bit having been cued in. She can be all faux-naive after he has set that up, for example. Everyone is obsessed about who should bow to whom and how to respond if bowed to. A rival party-giver, Mme Saint-Euverte is cruising the Guermantes's do, asking people to attend her soiree: she always asks in person so she can omit people who are unsuitable and, if necessary, explain that she just did not happen to bump into them. Basin complains loudly about her, pretending not to see her in the background; Oriane announces she is away that day,avoiding having to risk being asked, and intending  to make this the kiss of death for the event.  It is all really repetitive, and Proust himself has to intervene as author to explain the one of the endless diversions and asides to an impatient reader (not very persuasively).
The authorial voice appears once or twice more in this volume to explain and apologise to the reader,  to remind them of earlier discussions, to refresh the characters of, say, Francoise and her rural common-sense (and pronunciation and malapropisms)  and disapproval.
I can't see any diagrammatic innovations as in Guattari's comment. More and more people are described with walk-on parts (see the list of characters for hints). Mostly,  the characters who turn up to the party are recirculated to bear the main themes -- Oh look! S-L has just come in! He is now a man of the world, finished with Rachel, and who recommends brothels! Mustn't tell him about the one where Rachel used to work! Oh gosh! Here is Swann! He looks really ill, and his illness has exaggerated the prominence of his nose! -- let's revisit the Dreyfus case and antisemitism!

At the end of this section, we revisit Odette who is by this time a major player, specializing in artistic and intellectual visitors rather than aristo, including Bergotte, by now a famous writer. Her social obscurity helps because the intellectual wing of the aristocracy do not usually appear at the more fashionable soirees: some new visitors make the mistake of thinking she is quite humble and a beginner and are stunned by the  glitter of the house and the visitors.  Her dubious origins seem to have ben forgotten. Her Jewish husband is  no problem because she is so 'sensible': he helps her choose the best people and to avoid the anti-semites. Matey gets friendly with her again and she invites him to contact Gilberte, who is now beautiful and rich: he fears she will see that as instrumental.

Matey copes with  the visits by getting all aesthetic and self-congratulatory, and revelling in the memories induced by statues or staircases that remind him of Combray: his hostesses mistakenly think he is ecstatic to see them.

Then we break off and revisit Balbec. Knobby is placed in the same room in the hotel, mocks the manager who can barely speak French, and gets a sustained flashback about visiting before with his beloved Gran. He recalls life with her, regrets not seeing enough of her etc. This time, he sees his idealized construction of her in memory as the truth of the angelic good lady, not overdone as when falling in love -- she is a nice non-sexual woman of course, and not around to contradict him. (Actually, he gets over it and sees that all that remains of her in his memory is a reflection of his own thoughts). He comforts himself with constructing a romantic gaze towards rows of apple blossom or to the sea (over tens of pages).

Otherwise, he confines himself to charting the amusing social gaffes and pretensions of the locals, including hotel pages, some of who are really attractive young men. He dallies with Albertine, suspects her of Gomorahn tendencies when she dances bosom to bosom with Andree (confirmed by the famous quack nerve specialist Cottard who misdiagnosed his Gran and who attributes an eye infection of a holidaying Duc to 'toxin' while a local GP removes a speck of dust and cures him. This time he announces that most women receive sexual stimulation through their breasts). Albertine finally goes off with other people as well instead of remaining entirely and inexplicably at Plonker's beck and call -- some of them might be women, he suspects, and he gets quite nasty.

The thought of Albertine being lesbian haunts him and makes him jealous.  He sees lesbians in the hotel (Bloch's cousin and an actress) as well as the gay uncle of Bloch who 'keeps' a male waiter. It might be the atavism of Jews he speculates.

Proles are hypocrites interested only in money and tips, as false as the aristos. It seems he can be relatively tolerant of and apologetic for male gays (but not female ones) but then needs to distance himself from proles and Jews in compensation..

He confronts Albertine and tells her (falsely) he is in love with Andree so as to get on to introduce the topic of lesbianism and whether she is. The whole episode is weird and in the process, he speculates about how the emotions, tensions and the language to express them are always the same in romantic love -- same speeches, same emotions with different personnel etc. The closest to the diagrammatic?

Volume 8 Cities of the Plain 2

Bloch's uncle has an amusing misunderstanding with identical twins, only one of whom is gay. They have faces like tomatoes and this puts him off tomatoes (hilarious!) .
Plonker thrills at the thought that he is in the elect who knows important people, and it comforts him when he is looked down on by a petit bourgeois on the train (mistake - she turns out to be the Russian Princess Sherbatoff who he meets later at the Verdurins. The embarrassment is caused by him groping Albertine in front of her in the carriage. The Princess pretends they have never seen each other). There are a lot of local train journeys with Albertine, one to see S-L although he is busy so nothing happens, except that Albertine flirts with him.  On the way back they see De Charlus chatting up a bandsman.

Mush meets the Cambremers (the Camemberts the page calls them).  He is very cruel about the appearance of the old dowager duchess with her lack of teeth, her drooling and her moustaches. They have rented out one of their stately homes in Balbec to -- the Verdurins who are now in fashion as running an intellectual/artist salon. He gets invited to one of the Wednesday gatherings, and agrees to go because he thinks the maid of Mme Putbus might be accessible (she shags , S-L tells him). He leaves Albertine behind of course.  The invited elect gather on the train to the venue dressed in 'smoking' (a tux, more casual than full evening dress?)

Conversation on the train includes pages and pages of Prof Brichot banging on about the derivation of the placenames in the area (often Norse in origin). He does this partly to diminish the claims of a local vicar who has written a book of place names, much admired by the Cambremers.  He and Prof Cottard are windy bores with high standing but dubious expertise, just as in Bourdieu. Tosher does seem to be genuinely interested in placenames though -- romantic gaze again? He also loves trains -- this could be claimed as a railway novel.

Matey comments on  the hypocrisy of it all again. The Russian princess claims she only goes to 3 soirees because she detests society,  although the (realist) truth is she only has 3 friends. There is compatible contempt -- the Cambremers think the Verdurins are bohemian nobodies, and the Verdurins think the Cambremers are thick aristos but they agree to dine together (mostly to cement the commercial renting relationship).

The musician who played the little phrase in Vol 1, Morel,  reappears and is now more famous as a violinist, although he is actually not very good technically. De Charlus fancies him and is jealous of any rival attention. Vinteuil is mentioned a couple of times. The Verdurins ignore the beautiful views from their windows, which make our man ecstatic. (This romantic sensibility is what helps him distance himself from the knobs again, and gives him his permanent cool superiority even after gaffes). It is another revisit device really. (One bio of Proust says the whole thing was only 3 vols originally and when he had success he expanded it. It looks like it).

By contrast we learn in one sentence that Swann is now dead, and we anticpate further adventures from Odette. The Verdurins claim they have ruined the Swanns' always-unsuitable relationship and the one between Brichot and an unfortunate mistress.

If this is machinic,  Proust could have at least introduced new characters (doubtless there are too many to manage now) and this would have helped make the point that the structural forces persists even though the actual people change? As it is, it all looks like a matter of simple change, ageing or modernising social development, that makes the Verdurins, say, gauche at one time and fashionable at another.  Matey's romantic gaze remains constant throughout, never doubted or extended, and normal realism intrudes quite a lot -- he is all-knowing, always right etc.

Appallingly detailed descriptions of conversations at dinner ensue -- for farkin pages!. Bores bang on about place names (Brichot) and their family trees (de Charlus). Others take the piss behind each other's back. It is awful. No doubt witty, but you have to know a lot about French culture to see quite why liking Debussy is such a gaffe etc. Names are also embarrassingly mispronouced. The main themes were established long ago -- that the aristos and even the Academician profs are poseurs, that they are deeply insincere and hate each other, that they are endlessly scoring points etc. We know Brichot is a bore --why does he get 3 or 4 chances to show it in the same way? 

There is some novelty in comic episodes when de Charlus mishears bits of conversation and thinks he has been exposed -- eg (not exact quotes) :

Mme Verdurin (discussing music at no-one in particular): 'Of course, tastes vary...I hear you have unusual tastes, Baron?' De Charlus: 'What the devil do you mean, Madame?'

Mme Verdurin: 'We have invited several others of our party to join us at another dinner -- are you one of them?' De Charlus: (Splutter...)

We know the aristos are frightful snobs and bullies. Why not extend it a bit to other fractions (eg industrial bourgeoisie) and use different characters to show different sorts of bore etc. Imagination is surely limited by this pretence it is all just recall? Why no self-criticism -- romantic bores always banging on about the beauties of nature?

We have a break then a long aside about memory ensues, prompted by thinking about how dreams can be so realistic and involve memories that affect us even if they are fictionalized. The involuntary nature of memory is discussed (in recall) with the Norwegian philosopher at the Verdurins (previously known to us only for his comically ponderous French), who also mentions one of his colleagues -- M Bergson!

Exciting times! Matey hires a motor car and chauffeur! Originally it was because he wanted to get around the counryside while leaving Albertine to paint a church (in oils, ya prat). He didn't want her romantic gaze contaminating his. They marvel at the motor's range and ability to compress time and distance. On one trip, matey also sees his first aircraft. Albertine loves wearing a toque and veil. Among other things, they call on the Verdurins, but matey likes to squeeze Albertine in the back seat so he has to put off Mme V's insistence she accompany them on the return journey.

We encounter the chauffeur who also services Morel. They are a nasty couple, cheating the company and each other over the rates and mileage. Morel arranges for his existing coachman to leave so chauffeur can get the job -- it's a horrible campaign as bits of kit go missing, gossip is spread, and the coachman is split from his fellow workers. It all ends in a fight among the hired hands and the coachman leaves. We are given two hints that the chauffeur and Morel will cause problems with Albertine in the future.

The 'little clan' around the Verdurins share their suspicions of de C and gossip behind his back. Mme V increasingly introduces double entendres into her conversations with him. Lots of the references to literature, music the proclivities of authors etc go over my head, and there are more and more Latin phrases, all ambiguous no doubt. De C refuses to believe that anything can be known, and introduces 'innocent' remarks of his own about young men, trying to render them as normal if slightly eccentric. Everyone sees through him.

De C's relationship with Morel is bipolar as ever, and he alternately weeps for lost love, and savages Morel for flouting his sponsorship. He invents a story about having challenged some officer to a duel in order to defend his honour (and maybe Morel's).  It works-- Morel runs back to de C imploring him not to fight.  Morel gets savaged by the Narrator as well, pointing out his humble origins (his dad was a valet for Matey's great Uncle). It is all getting very bitchy and camp. De C tries to provide Morel with an insider's guide to the aristocracy (which we hear him expounding again) but it is, of course, a really bizarre one.

More train-inspired stuff as particular stations evoke particular memories (garlanded with more dull and lengthy stuff about place names). Matey meets an elderly and impecunious aristo at one and adopts him, taking him for expensive dinners. The old guy claims a distinguished lineage for his family -- the Crecys -- and matey remembers that Odette called herself Odette de Crecy, which would not have pleased him.

The station at Maineville recalls two farcical episodes involving Morel. The town has a large new brothel. A visiting minor aristo sees the place, thinks it is a nice hotel,  and says he would like to set up there during his stay and invite nobs to call. The passengers try to explain but he will have none of it and alights with his luggage. In the second episode, Morel is picked up by the Duc de Guermantes, de C's brother, who is in Balbec unannounced and unknown to Morel. When they get to the Duc's rented villa, Morel is horrified to see family photos, including one of de C. He flees. The Duc tries again and arranges a tryst at the Mainville brothel. Meanwhile de C has asked Jupien to visit to spy on Morel and J finds out: he asks the madame if he and de C can observe the action. Eventually, after having to pay a lot and buy loads of expensive champagne as well,  they get to peep through the door into the room which contains Morel and three whores. But Morel and the Duc have been tipped off. The Duc has gone and Morel is so terrified at seeing de C spying on him that all he can do is have stilted conversation with the whores.

After that, more pots are boiled. Matey and Albertine are getting really indiscreet on the train going to the Verdurins. More place names are explained.

Matey loves the train journey as offering friendly contacts at each stop. He is cooling towards Albertine again as a result (thinking he has lots of friends so doesn't need her? Maybe realizing there are lots of potentials for gay contacts as well? He is still disillusioned with loving women which is never as good as fantasizing about them, he reminds us pedagogically). At the same time he is insanely jealous of Albertine and will not leave her on the train with S-L for 10 minutes to say hello to Bloch's Dad in a nearby (horse) carriage -- Bloch just thinks he must a be a snob, and Dickhead cannot explain because he does not want to be seen as jealous!

He says he is off on his own again to visit Mme Verdurin, because she can tell him a lot about his favourite musician Vinteuil. Albertine says so can she - -she has been friendly with Vinteuil's daughter for years. Matey has an immediate flashback to observing the lesbian flirting between Mlle Vinteuil and a lady friend on one of his childhood walks around Combray (Vol 1).  A massive paranoid fantasy unwinds as he gains what he calls 'Knowledge' -- there is a widespread lesbian network with Albertine centrally involved. He is cut to the quick, Albertine has got inside his guard (she is inside him is how he puts it). She has an independent life!  He hates being out of emotional control, just like he was as a child waiting for Mama to come up to see him at night. Having told his Mum he is over Albertine and not about to marry her, he now decides to insist she accompany him back to Paris at once where he can supervise her -- and he will indeed now have to marry her. What a control freak!

Volume 9 The Captive 1

Control freakery persists in Paris. Albertine lives in, to Mama's chagrin, and Matey confesses to French kissing at least. However, he thinks of Albertine like his Mama sleeping in his room that magic night in Combray. Albertine has to obey the house rules, though, to her amusement -- eg no entering Matey's bedroom until he rings (he is still lying about ill and fatigued a lot). He often prefers the company of his own 'selves' instead -- including a little mannikin who wakes him up (weirdo). He is still jealous and gets Andree to report on Albertine -- Gomorahns are everywhere! He is not in love with Albertine -- in fact she bores him -- but he is determined to keep her away from lesbians. He now sees love as an effect, like the result of any sort of strong emotion, and/or as the peculiar emtion that brings jealousy. He sees it will all end in tears and death.

He pretends to be ill but rejoices in his ability to reconstruct memories and link them to make aesthetic experiences. It is like a musical refrain. Reality is disappointing, like real women of whom one can get very jealous ( as he does, increasingly). He prefers to peep at women passing in the street, of all kinds.He can then construct a composite fantasy of woman -- a multiplicity no doubt, a stage in becoming-woman,  the clearest hint so far of Guattari's reading.

Then there is more potboiling as he visits Oriane to get advice on what clothes to buy for Albertine (she loves it, we are assured). The Duchesse's rural accent (no RP in France?) and aristocratic idiosyncratic pronunciations share some features with the peasantry and with Francoise. It is another problem for the social climbers who make mistakes like pronouncing the last n in Béarn.

Returning from meeting Oriane (weak) he meets de Charlus and Morel visiting Jupien. Morel is going to marry Jupien's niece.  Everyone is happy at this. De C fancies himself as a kind of father in law, and thinks this new bond will help him keep Morel. Morel has already confessed his fantasy about getting engaged, sleeping with a woman then abandoning her, leaving her ruined. Now he want J's niece because she might help him sleep with some of her (gomorrahn?) girlfriends, and he can prostitute her to his aristo lady contacts (he thought his career as a violinist might be over after developing cramp in his hand) . His only worry is that she might not make many contacts or support his social ambitions as a mere seamstress. At this point Proust addresses the reader directly, apologises for any distress, insists this appalling behaviour is not just confined to aristos, and urges us to see that we can all learn from deviant behaviour --  a kind of Goffman marginal strategy, but mixed with claims about deeper literary truths?

Lots of stuff on Albertine ensues. He is now undoing her chemise and admiring her naked body. However, he seems far happier dealing with abstract women (maybe women as a multiplicity of components of faciality) , the qualities of women in general rather than specific women, the way they endlessly change their appearances and their moods (for me, perform their expected class and gender roles as fickle and superficial) -- is this 'becoming -woman'?  He says men would be repelled if it were not for sexual attraction. He admits he has squashed Albertine's complexity with his possessiveness -- she is his captive. He also has Jupien's niece realize that Morel and De C are just as complex. The clincher is that he prefers  Albertine when she is asleep and he can fantasize and impose meanings (at one stage she is his Mama) without her getting in the way.

He experiences himself as  as several people too -- his Aunt Leonie with her permanent invalidity and her observations of others, his dad with his obsession with the weather. He also tells the reader to think of the Narrator as being Proust the author, and gives him the same first name -- call him Marcel.

More stuff on obsessive jealousy ensues. It is indeed the mirror image of his obsessive love. He now sees that memory can awaken jealous scenes as he reworks what people said about Albertine at Balbec. He realizes that lots of men must marry and keep their wives captive while constantly worrying about casual words, glances, absences -- Gomorrah is everywhere, and obviously more threatening than casual hetero affaires.  Jealousy becomes paranoia, a constant obsession. As asides, Tosspot realizes that threads of memory tie us all together, and act to distribute people well outside their actual bodies -- Albertine appears everywhere in spirit as it were. Mood swings dominate. He uses musical terms to describe his feelings. It is not at all Deleuzian when he claims that love and desire is driven by loss or lack.

He likes taking Albertine to visit aerodromes (like harbours for aircraft he explains to we naifs) and watching people go on pleasure flights. It remind him of the thrill of seeing his first aircraft near Balbec.

Matey also becomes two people -- his normal self and a new stern, controlling, cold man. He channels his father. Then he wonders if his father was like that because he too was worried about control over wayward women. He becomes unable to talk openly to Albertine and unable to tell her how much he wants her to be kind to him, and kiss him goodnight. He has to think of pretexts to get her back into his room so he can rerun the scene. When this fails he cries all night.

It is grim stuff, enlivened only by recollecting the cries of street sellers outside in the morning -- the grinders and sharpeners, the seafood and snail salesmen, the goatherd (he milks the goats for you there and then). Matey likens their rhythmic cries to music, plainchant, verse or opera. For me, there were unavoidable references to 'Allo 'Allo and the onion-sell-eur. A long parenthesis interrupts (he apologises to the reader) on the reality of dreams before more street sellers give Albertine the idea of cooking a meal (getting Francoise to)  from the list -- little Surrealist. She is also becoming adept at pursuing the similes linking food (especially types of ice-cream)  and buildings and getting all arty. Matey congratulates himself that he is responsible.

We meet again the dastardly chauffeur who is supposed to accompany and chaperone Albertine but is evasive about where she was and whether he did or not shadow her as Mush expects (on the pretext that she is vulnerable to male intrusion): there is a suspicious 7 hour lapse on one occasion. He curses the incompleteness of memory here that throws up suspicious episodes but fails to store enough detail to be able to use them to confront Albertine  with evidence. Generally though,he deploys a musical metaphor,while playing a bit of Vinteuil after lionising Wagner, to describe how themes and refrains recur (very like the bit on refrains in Thousand Plateaus). Music contains many possibilities he says, so how can it be written or interpreted by one person (or something). Albertine remains remarkably tolerant. He say she should go to the theatre instead of visiting the Vedurins. She agrees. Then he sees that the lesbian actress he encountered at Balbec is performing so he sends Francoise to fetch her back on the pretext that he suddenly needs her. She agrees again! Then he thinks he will go to the Verdurins at the next opportunity to see who it was she might have been meeting there.

Meanwhile he returns to fantasising about young girls working in shops and stalls and gets Francoise to call one in as a prelude to seduction -- he is going to ask her to deliver a message and hope things will progress. He is immediately put off from the fantasy when he sees the girl. Her nose is not how he imagined it! It is a real one, not one of many images like he had thought of it before. The tacky seduction is stopped when he sees the name of the actress performing at the Trocadero (Lea the Lez) and moves to get Albertine back. He blames Albertine for restricting his pleasure like this! How will he be able to lech over the midinettes?

There is a weird scene with Morel, heard shouting at his girlfriend with the phrase 'grand pied-a-grue!', literally 'great crane's foot!.Morel seems to have gone mad,matey thinks, or reverted to an animal state. The row was about his girlfriend refusing to procure girls for him. Matey finds him weeping bitterly in the street as he thinks it will now all be over with De C as well now the marriage is off.

Driven by meditating on the complex lies and presentations of self that Albertine offers, Matey gets relativist as he insists that we all perceive the world differently -- each one of us wakes to a different world.

The volume ends with the death of Bergotte (a chance to mock doctors again), some speculations about death and its many meanings, and how some people can retain coherence after death -- if they have a title, for example  as an historical record?). Proust intervenes to tell us Swann will live in his novel, and says some real people will recognize bits of themselves in his character. Otherwise, death means dissolution and fragmentation back into elements.

Volume 10 The Captive 2

Our hero is en route to the Verdurins to spy on Albertine and he meets Brichot and takes his arm (Brichot is nearly blind). They meet de C, which prompts a aside about how male homosexuality used to be tolerated  by the Greeks but has now been driven underground. More on the extraordinary combinations of men and women in that scene.  De C is becoming more outrageous, more camp, using gay talk. He teases Brichot about being gay because he is arm in arm with Matey.  He is followed increasingly by bits of rough trade after  money. He flirts with the footman and openly discusses men with other gays

It is De C's gathering, to puff Morel,  but at Mme Verdurin's house. He annoys Mme Verdurin by vetoing some of her guest list. She needs to rebuild her contacts after the Dreyfus case  (she chose the Dreyfusard set and got to sit with Mme Zola and dine with Piquart), but de C's likes and dislikes are personal  and capricious. She follows fashion in deciding who is in and who is out and which side she will choose now in the endless struggle for differentiation.  Authorial asides fill in the details. NB there is even a translator's aside as he explains that Mme Verdurin used the word 'tapette' to describe de C, meaning 'rattle' (the noun, aka 'chatterbox'), while apparently unaware of its other meaning ('nancy' or 'queer', the online dictionary gives).

Two themes then take up the next 100 pages (50--150).

The first theme is the music. It is the first performance of the whole septet by Vinteuil. Matey is lost at first then recognises the little phrase. He gets into the genius of the piece, following the links internally between phrases, their inversion, calls and responses and silences. He gets external associations too, thinking of romantic landscapes, seeing the parts as offering glimpses of the whole (actualizations as alluding to multiplicities), the sublime. He even sees that his mixed feelings for Albertine,and his previous love affairs all make up some greater love. However, Mr Mood Swing gets back to the mundane during one of the more boring sections, and remembers that Vinteuil had a daughter who batted for the other side and was a rival for Albertine. However, he gets to some detached overview, thinking how this sublime music relied upon the more sordid --  gay de C sponsoring Morel, and the bent friend of Mlle Vinteuil doing the massive labour of translating Vinteuil's notes and jottings to produce the great work. (He can reinterpret the primal scene of Vol 1 now a bit more sympathetically - -they were only mocking Papa in a spirit of childish naughtiness).

The second theme features De C increasingly pissing off Mme Verdurin. His guests are the old guard aristos and they think she is vulgar and they snub or ignore her, laugh at her crockery and her Elstir paintings. They also fail to appreciate the music. She decides to get her revenge, blackening de C's name to Brichot and Our Hero by outing him (some of the stories made up),and vowing to save Morel from him. Really she wants to reclaim control over Morel as one of the 'little clan' -- Morel will have to choose de C or her. Matey and Brichot get roped in to distract the Baron while the Verdurins persuade Morel . Brichot bangs on about life at the Sorbonne. De C tells us lots more about the gay/queer scene, displaying his insider knowedge as he does. He shocks the  other two by announcing only 30% of famous men have never dabbled. He also fills in some background about Swann and Odette from Vol 2 -- Odette was indeed a Crecy because she was married to the unfortunate shabby gentile bloke matey met at a station in Balbec; De C helped her run a string of affairs behind Swann's back; he claimed to have had her himself -- and maybe him too when they were at school. Matey increasingly wants to get away home, partly because his anxieties about Albertine have been raised by the 30% claim.

He casually mentions that he was a very unassuming youth with little sense of his own worth -- but also  a proud young man and this led him to fight lots of duels! Afterwards he made little of them, in order to minimise the sense that they indicated his moral worth. Brichot for his part delivers ludicrous overwordy commentary referring to the classics and to Kantian morality in a totally impenetrable way --classic French academic discourse. Dickhead distracts himself by musing about how he drawing room contains all sorts of elements (furniture, paintings) from other contexts: if you traced their origins you wold get rhizomatic, I expect.

Mme Verdurin does the job on Morel, saying he has become a laughing stock, that de C has been in prison and is bankrupt because he is being blackmailed, that his promises to get Morel a medal are worthless -- and the clincher, that he had been mocking Morel behind his back for being his servant (a dig at Morel's humble origins, of which she was aware). The Baron returns and is publicly renounced by the violinist out of shame at being discovered as much as anything. To matey's surprise de C does not counterattack with anger and bluster, but just caves in and is thoroughly dejected. He is rescued by the (ex) Queen of Naples who has returned to retrieve her fan and who witnesses the wholescene. She marches him out with with aristo dignity, snubbing Morel and Mme Verdurin on the way. De C gains some sympathy from matey and Brichot.

De C thinks the others in the little clan have betrayed him so he writes them furious and sarcastic letters, but generally enters a decline, gets pneumonia and pines for Morel.

Then we return to the bit I dreaded - the break-up with Albertine. The whole thing is very confused emotionally -- the narrator apologizes to the reader at one point and admits his feelings must be very unclear. There are mood swings - he loves the lady on arriving home, but soon gets infuriated by her silly lies, of which there are many, it turns out (she has no chance of maintaining them because he can easily catch her in contradiction with his prodigious memory for detail, and anyway, she told him of her evasions and strategies to conceal her feelings and put people off the scent when they were only friends at Balbec). In order to get her to talk about her own (suspected) yearning for liberation and her gomorrhan episodes, he says they must part, hoping this will induce a final frank discussion (or maybe he really does want to part with her -- anyway she takes him seriously and prepares to depart).  It is the same device he used with Gilberte, with the same unwanted consequences, the jerk! It could be a way of provoking events even if you are not entirely clear that you want them to happen?

She gets frank and admits her lies. She has holidayed with Lea, but she made up the stuff about Mlle Vinteuil and her lesbo friend to impress him with her access to music. She has even kissed Gilberte. She then announces she has indeed felt a desire to break free from his controlling relationship, and to find someone who would 'break my ...' -- she doesn't finish the sentence but blushes furiously. Matey eventually thinks she means 'break my pot', although she denies that: it is apparently a very vulgar expression which even prostitutes do not use,  meaning to have anal intercourse, an online source tells me. He is shocked! They have a particular row about Andree and whether or not she and Albertine did the dirty: he catches her out in a lie about whether they met at Balbec; she gets very cool after that, but they make up and she stays.

He says later he just cannot fathom gomorrahns and relates two stories about their oddity and treachery. In one, two couples are dining and the women grope each other all evening under the table without the blokes noticing. In another, a lesbian couple team up and one takes her young son to be beaten by the other -- I do hope this is not autobiography

It all ends as predicted. Plonker plays at wanting to split up so effectively that he makes himself cry, then they make up, then he is tortured by thoughts that maybe there was some unspoken pressure to split after all, that the scene will now open possibilities in Albertine's mind, that she is still not really happy with life as a captive etc.  He looks at her sleeping body as but a particular (actualized)  case of a whole series of interactions and developments in her life and wonders if there is a 'logarithmic' rule to explain her current state.

He knows only too well how duplicitous people can be from de C's behaviour and from his old gran who used to play passive-aggressive mindgames with Francoise (F arranged a day out for herself, confident that the old lady would never be able to leave her bedroom again, Gran finds out and  promptly asks F to arrange for a full day out for herself on that date, complete with carriage. F complies and then Gran cancels at the last minute claiming she had no idea of F's plans and would not want to spoil them! ). He admits he knows of his own duplicity and current desires to chase women

Poor old Albertine is still very unhappy despite the Fortuny dresses and antique silverware he buys for her - not surprisingly, because they never go out! Idiot entertains her at home by discussing literature (!). In the process we get pedagogic asides about Dostoievski (sic) and others who always write the same novels, says matey, developing the same themes -- this is their coherent view of the universe (cf Deleuze on the universe as meta-cinema). It is almost a machinic analysis, I suppose, to accompany the other hints (A's body, the furniture, the music etc). He also wonders if art depicts some reality (because it is so real and vivid) or whether it is a product of the subjective.

So -- it all swings back and forth from love to paranoid jealousy focusing on Andree, in tremendous detail. What motivates this obsessive relating of minor incidents of lying and secrecy, passing glances and attempts at eye contact? It must be real life, surely? (One online source says Proust had a long affaire with someone called Albert).  He knows Albertine is dying of boredom and getting increasingly depressed and angry -- and so is he. He wants to go to Venice but dare not take A nor leave her in Paris because she will be at it with women. He wants to chase women. He resolves to leave her and gets a ticket to Venice. But that morning he wakes late (he is not to be disturbed until he wakes) and F tells him Albertine has had her baggage ['boxes and trunks'] collected and has gone.

Volume 11 The Sweet Cheat Gone

Nearly there!

No prizes for anticipating the massive mood swings, agonized re-running of events, multiple interpretations of A's rather sensible and mature letter, frenetic formation and abandonment of plans to get A back. Everything he sees reminds him of her so she is still there. Painfully adolescent, very immnature compared to A (which might be the point --more admiration for women, maybe becoming-woman?) and used to justify the limits of intellectual anticipations of emotions compared to the devastation of the real thing.

It goes on for pages ( 1--75 at least). Matey mood swings. He is in hell. He experiences everything from total love to resentment at being so dependent, just as when he waited for Mama to visit him in Vol. 1. He conceives of a stupid plot to get S-L to pretend to return some money (30k francs! S-L is appalled and say he could get a duchess for less!) to Albertine's aunt with some silly story about how it was a loan based on his promise to marry A so now he had to return it, hoping her aunt would intercede on his behalf (she has in the past). S-L imagines A must be some rare beauty to attract such yearning (and money) and is puzzled when he sees her photo: Matey tells us this shows that affection for a person is a compound of accumulated feelings and memories that make them unique to the beholder -- a haecceity we might say?

A sees through the plot and writes to him saying she would come back if he asked. His  sad little heart leaps at first, although he is also realizing that absence will eventually cool down the habit of thinking of her as part of his life. Mood swinging and determined not to look dependent, he writes back and says it is over, although he remembers this backfired badly with Gilberte, and that is a pity because he had some gifts for her, including a yacht and a Rolls Royce but he couldn't even meet her to hand them over.  (At this point I remembered he had inherited a fortune from his Great-Aunt Leonie).  He even says his Ma had given permission to marry A.

He persuades a very young girl to go back home with him to console him. He sits her on his knee for an hour or two then gives her 500 francs and sends her away. The police call him in and he is reprimanded in front of the parents. Afterwards, the police chief tells him he paid too much and warns him to be more discreet! He is then told a neighbour has reported seeing a young woman entering the house -- Albertine -- and he is under surveillance. He insists to us that Albertine is legal but he is afraid he will be reported again if she comes back. He resents the fact that now he can't even console himself with very young girls!

He tries to resemiotize by thinking of the parallels with the performance (Phèdre) he saw with Berma in it and sees some parallels --but little comfort or perspective results. Will it have to be music again like it was with Swann? Guattari suggests as much.  Matey already finds comfort in the street songs, and references to music reoccur -- eg in a gondolier's song (to come). Vinteuil will also play a major part, G says.Sure enough, the bit below at the end of the mourning chapter says preciesly that...

In one of his moodswings he asks F to prepare A's room for a possible return and she finds some rings in a drawer. He did not buy them for A. She told him they were from different people and that she had bought one -- but two are identical. Cynical old F makes it clear A must have  had another lover all along. Paranoid Pierre has to agree the worst. He is heartbroken by A's lies again.

It is a devastating demonstration of the stupidity , pride, self-obsession, self-pity and self-harm of bourgeois male emotions, although he (the narrator that is -- we will reserve judgement about Proust) is far from being able to liberate himself from them to become-woman, even by Vol 11..

Things get worse. Tears are jerked. Idiot writes to A saying he thinks he will take up with Andree. This time it kind of works and A wishes him well but then says she will come back if he asks. Finally he sends her a telegram begging her to come back on any terms and gets a telegram back, crossing in the post,  from Aunty saying A has been killed in a riding accident. He gets the letter and the telegram at the same time. O Romeo...

Anyone who has been bereaved can imagine the next 100 pages of self-torment, regret, anger, disbelief and misery, seeing the loved one everywhere, unable to think of anything else. I skimmed it. I am no grief tourist. Partly because he wants to retain every memory of A, but mostly because he is still consumed by jealousy and wants to see if this is unworthy,  our hero decides to check up once and for all to see if she was a lesbian. He hires Aime (head waiter from Balbec) to revisit off season and ask around in Balbec. He reports that she had frequent liasions in a bath house with various women. Dickhead is still not sure they were not innocent so he gets Aime to visit Touraine as well (where A and Aunty lived). At first nothing, but then Aime meets a shop girl, questions her and takes her to bed, as you would, and she tells all, including lascivious hints of what they did to each other in the woods by the river.

Matey questions Andree who swears her relationship with A was entirely innocent and that A was not that sort of girl.But then says they oftenmet at a particular place near Balbec -- plonker remembers asking A if she had ever visited this place and A denied it so all the doubts and jealousies arise again.

More agonising ensues as he realizes that even A's faults are part of her complex character. He finally comes to realize that he will or is forgetting her -- her memory is more and more internal to him and his mind will forget. He thinks of the components of Vinteuil's little phrase working together and then fading into silence as the music stops. It is not just a reminder of A, as it was for Swann and Odette.The other musical reference is thinking of the occasional involuntary memory of A as now a variation or an echo of the main themes in a minor key -sad but not devastating.

He recovers his interest in women, with sad consequences at first as A's memory remains as a kind of impossible standard. Then three nice young women arrive to visit Mme de Guermantes (I remembered that the narrator lives in an apartment in Hotel Guermantes). One gives him a meaningful look and his desire takes off. He asks the porter who they are and gets the name Mlle d'Orgueville for the saucy one -- this is a person known to S-L who is shaggable so he telegrams S-L for details -- but it is not her. He thinks the name might be different so he tries to track down a Mlle D'Epourcheville. No joy, Finally he bumps into the lady at the Guermantes of all places and knows the truth. She is Mlle de Fourcheville, first name Gilberte.

De Fourcheville (one of Odette's lovers in Vol 2) has married Odette after the death of Swann, mostly because she is rich and he isn't (which wins over the family who doubted her reputation as ever), and also because he wanted to make a gesture towards Jews after the resolution of the Dreyfus affair made the aristos feel guilty about antisemitism. Gilberte has also become very rich, we remember and now has a non-Jewish name as well, so she is much sought after. Even the Guermantes have finally agreed to meet her socially after rationalizing it to themselves. In exchange, G has to deny any Jewish connections and this causes embarrassment as when Mme G remembers that Swann it was who recommended she buy an Elstir. The Gs talk about Swann as if he were a distant contact, or as if they were giving a reference to a gardener, Proust says, even though he was an intimate friend and better connected than they were.

Enjoying going to society gatherings is one way in which he is recovering.  He also tries to partition his life and sees his affair with Albertine as something conducted by another self.  Finally, he thinks that his love for Albertine was really a love for the little band of girls in general: luckily, this permits him to now turn his attentions to Andree.  She might be married by now, but that still does not stop him, of course, and he enjoys 'semi-carnal' relations with the lady.

They discuss Albertine and she tells him a horrible story about how Albertine actually liked young working-class virgins, and had formed a relationship with an attractive young violinist - Morel, of course - to procure them for her.  They would fall in love with him, he would hand them over to her before disappearing.  They even took a young girl to a brothel and had a five part lesbian orgy.  That was Albertine's favourite session, but she began to suffer serious remorse.  That partly informed her interest in our hero: she hoped that he would marry her and keep her well away from any temptation.  However, and on a rather jarring note, I thought, she decided to leave him because she feared the disapproval of the other girls in the little band that she was living with him but not married. Andree tells him the others in the little band were really censorious.

He tries to digest all this, and finally decides that there is no point blaming dead people.  If anything, he is quietly pleased that his intuitions about Albertine proved to be correct, despite her denials and his doubts.  He even manages to get a bit philosophical about it, by remembering that Bloch had once argued that sexual desire was universal, and that even the most respectable people were gagging for it.  It is a strange world, as Sandy confess to her strait-laced granny after her own adult sexual experiences in Blue Velvet.

There are even more accounts of Albertine's conduct from Andree. She was really trying to conduct a relationship with another bloke (one of the sporty idiots at Balbec I think) and her aunt wanted her to marry him: when it was clear matey was not going to marry her she left. By this time, matey realizes how complex human conduct is, how it is produced by many different overlapping or contradicting motives and opportunities, and how people's perceptions are also highly selective. It is another world (he almost says this literally) .

Then he finally gets to Venice. Mama takes him. He gets all delirious about the architecture etc. Inevitably, he meets some of the earlier characters, including Mme de Villparisis in the company of her long-time lover the diplomat de Norpois. We learn a bit more about his diplomatic skills, making himself indispensable to the Italian Government by gently suggesting a possible new prime minister for them, floating the name into an elusive conversation, and regretting that all that skill is now overlooked.  We learn that she was once a dazzling femme fatale, responsible for broken marriages, but is now dumpy, aged and ugly, unrecognizable.

Plonker is about to return with mama when he hears Mme Putbus is about to visit, with her randy maid. He also tells us he has a lovely 17-year old Italienne on the go (she, and a subsequent mistress he is keeping in Paris is not the subject of an intense love affair though, it seems -- none is described anyway) So he stays, in feverish arousal and hope, leaving a chagrined Mama to return to the station alone, but bottles out at the last minute, seeing Venice as now an alienating and charmless place. An overheard  song (is this the gondolier's song Guattari mentions?) -- Sole Mio of course -- begins as charming , symbolising the delights of Venice, but soon turns into  something banal and cliched.  He rushes to board the train after all. It must be anxiety about hetero sex again I think. He tells us below that homosexual men often need to put on a real show of adulterous hetero affairs in order to pass: their hearts might not be in them ( although everyone seems to enjoy a really flexible sex life) .

In the middle of all this, a cheap writer's stunt to keep our interest. He gets a telegram saying: I am not dead as you thought but alive. When do you return? I want to talk to you about marriage. Albertine. He is stunned but soon realizes he has lost interest in the real Albertine (as usual) and thinks of her very unkindly as dumpy and masculine. He decides to ignore the telegram. On the train, Mama hands over more and later letters. One is from Gilberte saying she is going to marry Saint-Loup and had sent him a telegram... In an unlikely get-out he realizes the telegram clerk had misread the writing and written 'Gilberte' as 'Albertine'. There is also a feeble attempt to explain the other bits as mistakes in punctuation -- entirely unconvincing (he had already renewed his acquaintance with Gilberte chez Mme Guermantes -- why would she think herself 'dead' to him?) . The other letter announces the marriage of a minor Cambremer (a member of the Guermantes clan) to the niece of Jupien [apparently called Marie Antoinette, according to a commentary] , formerly destined for Morel, but now the adopted daughter of de C ( who has also awarded her one of the many hereditary titles he claims) . Mama is delighted that a lovely girl from humble origins can marry into the aristocracy, but suspects her ma would have been shocked. There is talk about how Swann would have felt,seeing his daughter marry into the Guermantes clan, they who snubbed him for so long and refused to meet his wife and daughter.

Seeds are clearly being sown for future could be Hollyoaks! We learn lots of details about these marriages. Rival clans are after Gilberte because she is so rich, and as another suitor seems to be gaining an advantage, Mme S-L  denounces Gilberte as the daughter of a courtesan and a Jew. S-L is steered in the direction of another moderately but still adequately rich young woman.However, the rival gets her first, whereupon Gilberte is promptly made an offer by Mama on S-L's behalf and she accepts. More tricks of the minor aristocracy are revealed -- claiming misleading titles, for example styling yourself 'de Méséglises' meaning literally someone from Méséglises, but implying a claim to the ancient title of Duc de Méséglises. (The Guermantes are exposed in this trick too by S-L, earlier).  Rivals are scornful abot the real name and title of the S-Ls too. The Méséglise and Guermantes Ways are increasingly coming to mean  the characteristic trajectories, social, cultural and strategic of the two rival aristo clans.

No heteros are to be happy, though. Robert betrays Gilberte and she finds compromising letters written to him by a certain Bobette. Proust tells us that Bobette is really -- Morel. There are hints that S-L is to die and Gilberte is to become the Duchesse de Guermantes, but the translator says this doesn't make sense because the existing Duchesse is still alive and well long after S-L's death.  Meanwhile,  Jupien is revealed to be a cousin of Odette (no doubt we shall see why) . His niece soon dies of typhoid fever but her husband finds consolation in sharing "certain interests" with de C.

Matey reworks his association with S-L and reworks some suspicious episodes -- fleeting glances with waiters, allegations made by a lift boy at Balbec, the fisticuffs with the journalist (apparently in outrage that S-L had been propositioned) , but not, apparently the homoerotic bits when they stayed together at the barracks in Doncieres. S-L even looks suspiciously like Rachel at times (but matey also says he looked a bit like Albertine before his moustache grew). This is where we are told that homo men need cover with hetero affairs -- otherwise they would make perfect husbands! Of course, marriages were essential for dynastic purposes not romantic ones, so aristos needed to amuse themselves on the side wherever they could. S-L liked Gilberte also because she was also a gomorrhan (the strange attraction between inverts) and he hoped to share her girlfriends in threesomes (or n-somes).

The volume ends with a nice circular narrative revisit to the walks at Combray, staying with S-L but increasingly just with Gilberte (at their place in Tansonville) and in the evening. More background is filled in. G was in love with Tosher when they met as kids, but she was already initiated into sexplay with the local lads and was too forward and vulgar in her attempts to involve him. Later, the young lad she was walking with when he was on his way to meet her with the flowers he had bought from selling his aunts' pottery which led to him not making up with her (keep up!) was Lea in drag. G was not that wealthy after all because de Fourcheville had spent all the dough. Odette was now also skint. S-L supplied her with cash to buy rubies and in exchange she had to keep G sweet while S-L went on holiday with Morel. What an eye-opener!

The Méséglises and Guermantes Ways (as country walks)  in fact were connected by short paths ( so the social trajectories might be). The countryside had lost its charm though and looked provincial. It was all coming into perspective. No music was involved at this stage.

Volume 12 Time Regained

At last! 10 weeks after I started in July  2014 ( a lot to get through here though)

We begin with lots of summary about the S-Ls and their marriage, the gay scene and Albertine and her possible proclivities. S-L turns out to be a real bastard towards Gilberte, telling lies about his assignations. There is some apology for male homosexuality as natural, even genetic, and repetition of the remark that they make excellent husbands, but have to stay furtive, and pursue unsatisfying encounters with women ('beards' in 2014 parlance)  to keep up appearances.

Matey is obviously steeling himself to actually start writing after all, as we know. At Tansonville, he reads a diary by M Goncourt which describes the same salons and gatherings at the Verdurins that Matey himself attended long ago. The diaries are really detailed and descriptive and quoted at some length -- the wonderful crockery, the costumes, the detailed conversations and observations of the personal appearances of the likes of Cottard and Bichot (and Swann). Narrator realizes he really must focus his mind on hese details but that he will never be that sort of descriptive writer -- he is more interested in psychological themes in his characters and how they combine to produce specifics (in other words a machinic approach for Guattari). A bit of metafiction too!

Narrator has to attend a sanatorium for two periods and returns to Paris in 1914 and then 1916 ( this moves things on nicely and prevents him being called up I assume). On his first return he notices first that women's fashions have changed --shorter skirts, simpler but still glamorous as a duty to cheer up the poilus (no longer a contemptuous term).  Faces at the salons are younger and they know less about the backgrounds of the people they meet. The old hands look really ancient.  New words are in fashion, including limogé (could be 'dismissed', one of those words that mark people socially in ways which are entirely mysterious to outsiders). The War hardly affects the aristos (or the Parisian lowlife) except that it provides a new theme for the Verdurins and others. The Bontemps re-enter the scene briefly. Dreyfus has ceased to be a major fault line. Now people come to the Verdurins because they want to discuss the War, as armchair strategists, and some assume they will get inside info there (which the blokes pretend to supply). S-L says he is scared to rejoin his regiment while trying everything he can to do so and stay in it.  Bloch is all gung-ho until he is called up.

S-L and he discuss the War in a light and witty way, resuming their conversations at Doncieres about whether there are general laws or not. Mastery is constantly analogizing with the treachery and lies told by individuals, and he essays a methodological individualism in suggesting that nations are only like assemblages of individuals.  The discussion is referenced this time, with dates of 1918. Paris suffers air-raids from Zeppelins and Gothas, and parts of the city are blacked out at night.  S-L describes aerial combat in musical terms (air raid sirens as Wagnerian,  fighters as valkyries etc --not very extensive).

Matey meets an aged and bloated de C in the backstreets (de C is following two Zouaves). De C prefers mature men but there is getting to be a shortage of those ( which has also affected the Verdurin soirees), so, like those marooned in the colonies, he has to turn to very young boys. However,  de C gets treated much more sympathetically, a trend that began in the last volume. He is seen as really witty and poetic in his attempts to amuse people with his stories and knowledge, but badly misunderstood by the newcomers. He has been constantly rubbished in press articles by Morel among others. Morel's style is based on channeling Bergotte.  Mme Verdurin continues to diss him, now suggesting that he is a German spy! (de C does have mixed ancestry and a couple of hereditary German titles).

We learn, off hand, that M Verdurin and Brichot have died. Mme V carries on the soirees alone.

The posturing of the blokes on war is further discussed (excellent demo of how Proust can write convincingly detailed personal dialogue).  It is very dense at times, referring to figures like Caillaux (who seemed to have had a very exotic time as former Premier of France, accused of appeasing the Germans, then secretly negotiating with them, and having a wife who shoots dead the editor of Figaro when he exposes an affair in a crime passionel -- see Wikipedia]. Brichot is able to sprinkle his growing collection of Figaro articles with his erudition (it is not all windbaggery, which he seem able to moderate), and gains a public audience for the first time, much to Mme Verdurins's chagrin: she retaliates by getting her guests to ridicule his poor style. [NB Matey also got an article printed in Figaro, which served as his way back into salon life after the detah of Albertine]. Norpois also writes a lot and makes absurdly confident claims about what he knows will happen, based, as de C says, simply on what he wishes will happen. De C pursues a strangely feudal commentary on the War, claiming to be personal friends of all the monarchs involved (except the English ones, who he doesn't like), describing their admirable characters, claiming insights to their actions based on their memberships of obscure European orders like the Order of Malta, and  finding character traits in their heredity. He claims the Prussians are so proud and martial that demanding unconditional surrender and punitive reparations(an English demand) is  counterproductive. His admiration is expressed loudly to Matey in a public boulevard and a menacing crowd gathers  He assuages them a bit with a paean of praise about the poilus and even the English Tommy but  says they are especially brave in confronting the heroic martial race of Prussia. Luckil they have been walking and finally shake off the knot of men.

De C throws out hints that he would like to meet Morel again. An intreresting commentary ensues. Matey says Morel would insist that any future relations would only be chaste. This happens with women in hetero relations, Dickhead says: they see a man is desperately in love with them, string them along, and then agree to resume meeting only on a non-sexual basis, having skilfully calculated the moment when the bloke will agree. They do this knowing they will get as many gifts and presents without having to put out for them. This is an odd bit for Guattari's thesis that the novel is all about becoming-woman. It is clearly insightful, but could be read as matter-of-fact/uncritical or as  hostile to women. I must say that since reading Freud, it has dawned on me that sexual intercourse itself must have been full of terrors for women even with husbands -- pregnancies with all the serious pain and risk of childbirth, the risk of STDs, and not even much chance of orgasms. Hero did mention once mention the douche as a form of birth control but no doubt the Catholic church would forbid even that. So it might be a more sympathetic insight to explain how  women steered away from full sex ( although there are also many mentions of 'caresses'). It also implies a female interest in the double standard -- men could get full sex from prostitutes  and not risk their wives or mistresses (although we know many did) .

A running theme about class returns, with Francoise being wound up by the butler's blood-curdling exaggerations about the War. She is superstitious and peasant-like. He and she comically mispronounce words, even when corrected:  they think they have some sort of democratic right to do so.

Then an amazing episode. Matey wanders in the partially lit suburbs and finds himself tired and unable to find a cab (he is cruising in other words). Only one hotel is open but it looks dubious, with lots of men and soldiers of different nationalities wandering in and out. One might even be S-L. He is forced to go in (yeah, right!)  thinking it might be a place full of spies, and the inmates are pretty dodgy looking too. He asks for a room for a couple of hours (others have been refused -- not gays?) and a drink. He hears the men talking about someone being in chains and being whipped and thinks it must be a prison with a torture cell, so he sneaks upstairs to find out. Whipping and groaning is coming from a room so he goes next door and looks through a peephole (purely to find out what is happening of course, not for any voyeuristic pleasure, dear me no). Inside is de C being whipped, evidently for pleasure -- but not hard enough for his liking. Quelle surprise! ( These coincidences are really wearing thin by now. I have tried to go along with it, suspending disbelief as one does, but these encounters have  obviously all been prearranged. Of course, if they were real, they would have to be fictionalized to prevent prosecution).  The patron comes in to suggest replacement whippers, telling stories of having found murderers and slaughtermen who will be cruel, and bringing some nice new chains. 

In fact, the whippers are nice normal people who are kind to everyone and spend their ill-gotten gains on supporting aged relatives and their brothers at the Front, to the chagrin of de C. Plonker speculates how it is they have become involved in this degrading activity and concludes it is anomie exaggerated by the War. De C is different. He is on the slide towards degradation due to age and ugliness, but he also relishes masochism for its theatricality/poetry and its medieval connotations in his case ( old fashioned chains and whips).  However, the other working class inverts have degenerated physically, they show the signs on their faces and bodies -- ugly disfigurements, or an inability tomatch facial expression with words. De C has already shown himself to still be poetic, by imagining the air raids as burying Paris under rubble, to be excavated in the future to form a modern Pompeii (Sodom is also connected). 

Matey dodges out and meets on the stairs -- Jupien. J is the manager of this brothel, and de C  is the owner. Matey hides next door again as de C re-enters the room,having paid his 50 francs, and much flirting ensues with the dodgy clientele. Matey learns that servicement are especially welcome, including Scots in their kilts,  and Canadians with their old-fashioned French: Scots are described as offering 'lacustrine' pleasures ( something to do with lakes?). Groping in subways is also now very popular, taking advantage of the blackouts: the gays like it because there is no need for speech and you can claim it is all a mistake if anyone objects.

S-L dies heroically leading his men. We discover it is he who has left his Croix de Guerre in Jupien's brothel (I guessed as soon as one of the blokes announced he had found one). Narrator gives him a kind of standard obituary (reminiscent of the typical ones in Bourdieu), and noting how S-L had been significant at differnt stages of the story, threaded through hismemories . S-L's final legacy is to posthumously rescue Morel, who has been arrested as a deserter and in his defence is threatening to spill the beans about de C and another aristo. N says both were horrified to hear of the other. The Army decides to cover up, unwilling to risk dragging in S-L , and just send Morel back to the Front -- where he performs bravely and earns his own Croix de Guerre. N. offers asides on heroes who did not that well after the War in politics though, which was promptly dominated by the old politicos again.

Then another bit of metafiction. Proust himself intervenes to tell us that everything so far has been fictitious, devised to suit his presentation, this is not even a  roman a clef (p. 149 if you need to check). But there really was a heroic family who rallied round to run a shop after a son was killed in the War, even though they had made their money and retired -- the Larivières -- and he wants to give them a mention. A realist device? All legally necessary by this time?

Matey return to Paris after another long spell in the sanatorium, admires the countryside but not in that old ecstatic way. He broods about having lost any pretension to be a writer as a result. He sees it as a pose after all and decides to give up altogether and just enjoy the simple pleasures which he had denied himself before ( or combined with a sense of guilt that he was not writing). He sets off to an afternoon with the Guermantes, determined just to enjoy it. En route -- he meets de C and Jupien. De C is really old and decrepit, losing his ability to use the right words and pronunciations, which horrifies his acquaintances, but Matey finds him still sharp under the crumbling facade, and able to pass by pretending he meant (wrong) words poetically. Jupien tells him de C went blind once but recovered, and, in the process, found himself groping a young man -- who turned out to be 10 years old.

Then -- the miracle, induced no doubt (in my view anyway) by the pressure to write being lifted. Matey gets able to deploy his romantic gaze again. The streets en route remind him of visiting the Champs Elysées with Francoise. He feels he is moving back, lifted, towards the peaks of memory. He descends from the carriage and steps on some uneven stones (much made of this in Guattari), which prompts a memory in the recesses of his mind. He captures it -- uneven stones in Venice with all the memories of that day. He thinks of other prompts -- the madeleine, the trees in Balbec, the sound of the spoon on the cup of tea, and hammer blows (maybe the wheeltapper checking the train on one of his journeys who is mentioned somewhere?) . Ecstatic pleasure ensues as he revels in these pleasurable and subjective experiences. Memory does not just record or get meaning from current interests: events in memories have lives and significance of their own. He could write about that!

We enter a long pedagogic section in which Proust (who has probably taken over now)  seems to be working towards Husserl and phenomenology.  Items in the past are connected with items in the present in subjective time (Time itself according to matey) . The connection reveals something essential about them, something transcending everyday life. The empirical is a realm of what he calls symbols (which assumes shared meanings?) that points to these essentials (no systematic method to infer esences though, no programme of systematic noetic and noematic variation as in Husserl, only artistic intuition, inevitably elitist). Empirical forms of understanding (rational and intellectual ones)  are therefore limited (and,naturally, it is all individual, although Proust/Narrator can see the social origins of everyone else's beliefs) . There is even a transcendental ego emerging, commenting on the empirical ego and its experiences, and soaring ecstatically above it. Why fear death any more (merely empirical) ? Why not relish the past as immeasurably enriching current experience? (A claim for artistic distinction and bourgeois sensibility , as in Bourdieu?). He tends to see this other level as real (unlike Husserl who says we cannot know), and no doubt Deleuze liked that choice too, despite hints of transcendentalism ( which Deleuze opposes in favour of the notion of virtual reality ). This is what Proust/Narrator will now write about, using his own past, to tell readers of these philsosophical and moral insights (fantasies of the public role of the writer?)

These phenomenological insights are pursued, and rendered as a a description of the artistic process.  We are told that the artist goes inside (reminiscent of the last motto of Cartesian Meditations [that truth lies in the inner man]) , discovering the relations between things that seem unrelated, in order to generate some insight about connections and thus essences.  [Bugger! Someone else has noticed this too -- Morrison and Stack (1968) [!] 'Proust and Phenomenology', Man and World 1: 604--17. Others have claimed that Proust had read Bergson).  Artists have to do this by treating things as signs (not symbols this time), and becoming a creative artist is to undergo an apprenticeship in reading the signs (a phrase that Deleuze particularly likes).  Experience is to be seen as providing the raw material.  Proust sounds a bit like Durkheim in arguing that most ordinary people are quite capable of seeing these connections,  but they stick with the limits of the empirical and the immediate, whereas it takes a more abstract mission to thoroughly explore them (I think it is not just artists who do this of course but so do systematic social theorists, including Durkheim or Marx, or any of the heroes operating with the notion of an immanent structure or base to social life).  Proust makes another favourite Deleuzian point (mentioned also in Guattari) by saying that artists are as interested in this underlying structural dimension as scientists, although they might have a different motivation: they are driven by passion, including emotional suffering, to explore the deeper dimensions of love affairs or social relations.  The hints already offered about moving through a sequence of specific loves -- Gilberte, Mme de Guermantes, Albertine -- in order to understand love itself are mentioned again.  Maybe this is becoming-woman again? The Narrator seems back in control with these examples from the earlier stories, not the omniscient philsosophical Proust. This is why artists have to 'regain time', release the synthesising powers of subjective time to deepen the present.

There is a consolatory tone in all this though.  All the passions and suffering of the past can be seen as leading to this great insight after all, and nothing human is alien either, so that the rather predatory and sordid gays described at length earlier can also be seen as exploring human relationships, as showing signs of real understanding and real emotion underneath what looks like rather vulgar interactions.  Again, though, you have to be an artist to see the genuine affection and the real humanity in gay quickies. I still think there is more than a hint that only some of us can be artists, and not only because only some of us have the financial and cultural security to devote ourselves to art: the long apprenticehip is really a lengthy development of the bourgeois habitus.

The discourse used to organize these reflections is one that turns on painting rather than music, however.  Painters, we are told, do not just copy reality, but paint combinations of what they see now with what they have seen or felt before, not just the colour of the leaf in front of them, but memories of other colours and other leaves that combine in subjective time, and add in all sorts of emotional contexts.  Realistic forms of depiction, whether it is 'cinematographic' visuals, or the sort of realistic and literal descriptive writing in Goncourt's diaries is inadequate in still operating at the empirical level, as is empirical science (and there is a hint of a Deleuzian criticism of the everyday pragmatic reality that most of us inhabit).  Artists have to make long and arduous efforts to break with these limits to choose a suitable project (heroes!) . In a similar argument, painters assemble their work from components, including components of faces but also components of bodies like the arms, which are derived from a number of sources, and which are united together on the canvas through a kind of emotional, passionate even, subjective synthesis as with landscapes or still lives.

After speculating about dreams and their reality, he can't decide on the issue of the reality of his waking mental life so he settles for persepctivalism and reminds us that Swann seemed very different to different characters, as did Rachel or Albertine. He says that doubtless, Germany and France look different at different times, denying any essentialism. This helps him see the power and dangers of stereotyping and represents the most insightful, 'philosophical' point of the meditation.

Then he gets an unsettling shock on actually entering the drawing room: it is full of strange old ugly people. Everyone he knew has aged considerably and in some cases unrecognisably. He tries to unify older kinder perceptions with current ones, having just discovered the power to do so -- but can't with this material (why not -- one day he might discover intentionality? Perhaps it is the intrusion of objective Time as a rebuke to his earlier speculations?  It is also, doubtless, bourgeois horror of the body). He remains horrified at the changes in their bodies and faces (more faciality stuff, noticing particular features like bloated noses and cheeks, and especially hair colour; bodies are also coarsened, fattened, disabled). Other changes are also apparent -- Bloch, who now, ironically,  looks like the very Jewish Bloch Snr, has become fully integrated/Frenchified and changed his name. Finally it dawns on Doughnut himself -- he has aged as well in the eyes of others (we get close to the notion of a looking-glass self)  and is also less recognizable even though he has kept his dark hair. This is the negative and objective effect of Time, and it nearly puts him off writing again (Get over it! Get back to thinking machinic, ya prick!).

The ravaging effects of age are disgusting, especially in close-up -- patches of oily skin! There are some anomalies. Some have lasted better than others if they have avoided alcohol --and salt. Gilberte is now stout and matronly, but Odette has lasted well (but is to succumb to mental fraility we are told). Old emnities are forgotten -- kindness comes with maturity. Morel has just been congratulated by a judge in a court action for his moral stance. New marriages have occurred --Mme Verdurin has got through a remarriage to a minor duke and is now married to a major one -- the Prince of Guermantes. There are newcomers, including some who would never have been admitted before. They display  a lack of knowledge about the intricate social connections among the elderly (funny -- I was just reading Bourdieu about how people misrecognise the effects of kinship among social elites because only common surnames are visible while links with step-kin, cousins, nephews etc are concealed). Thus (one of many examples)  people think Gilberte was introduced to the fauborg St-Germain through her husband de Fourcheville, not her dad Swann (who has now been largely forgotten despite his early importance). Matey and Gilberte discuss memories of S-L -- rather polite ones.

There is a general catching up, all around the same theme of comparing deep undertsandings basedon elapsed shared time (shared duree as Schutz calls it) with the impressions of newcomers. Rachel appears (as a hideous old woman) at the soiree reciting some verses, for example, now a famous actress, but some in the audience know she was once a cheap whore -- including matey and Gilberte. Gilberte gets in a dig, reminiscent of her father,  about the exaggerated performance of Rachel's recitation. We catch up with Berma, isolated and shunned by contrast, terminally ill, who had a rival event chez elle but no-one turned up and even her daughter and son-in-law left to go to the Verdurin do instead -- so Rachel was able to score lots of points by making them wait outside for a bit before admitting them with deep apologies. Oriane is a shadow of her former self and her attempts at Guermantes wit fall flat or are unrecognised.  Her husband the Duc is keeping Odette.  Albertine is as forgotten as Swann, and Tosser reminisces about the contingent nature of all the meetings and partings that weave all the participants together.

He mentions a novel François le Champi as having had an influence,and it later becomes oneof those contingencies that guide him through networks ( as below -- he sees it in the Duc de Guermantes' library while waiting to attend the recital). It is a novel by George Sands. It is only mentioned briefly in this volume, and, I am reminded by the excellent series of notes on Proust that it appeared in Vol 1 as well as one of the things Mama read to him in bed. The compiler of the notes says it is a novel about country life and incest, so we can now see the point. The same commentary also points out that the petit madeleine was probably actually a rusk, but Kristeva (no less) asks '
what lurks behind the transformation of the prosaic biscuit into a name possessed by a female sinner, then by a saint, and finally by a common sweetmeat' .

He develops this idea as a series of networks of roads ending in a crossroad which is one individual . It happens to be Gilberte's duaghter, a nice young girl (oh no -- she is described as the new Albertine). She unites the Méséglise Way (Swann) and the Guermantes Way (S-L via Gilberte). Many things connect the ways, including Vinteuil's music, but it is not prominent as a metaphor here and others include Francoise's beef terrine with lots of other meats, and painting again. And the George Sands novel. A final try-out for faciality occurs in the middle of a final speculation about whether emotions are real or not -- sometimes faces are just blank screens on to which we project components .

There is an aside about death and how works survive people, while different selves die ( the theme of multiple selvces has arisne now and then before): it gets to worry Matey about his own  developing feebleness and loss of memory, and whether he will now live long enough to complete the Great Work.

It all ends with a Bergson-like insight into Time. Matey sees himself as perched at the apex of a great duration (he does use that term but not quite in that context). Time not space is the great dimension which people occupy.

And then -- it is over, mes amis...