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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:50 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

It is during the phone call to his grandmother that Marcel has a premonition that all is not well with her health. He is content to talk about the happy times they had together both at Combray and Balbec but when her voice sounds faint over the line due to the distance between Doncieres and Paris it is easy to be apprehensive about her. Despite her plea that he remain where he is and further his writing career he decides to return to Paris where his grandmother's health is, indeed, alarming the family. The doctor advises a little exercise in the Champs-Elysees – joy to her as she had always even from the Combray days advised Marcel to walk in the fresh air – and they visit the little pavilion remembered from the days with Gilberte. It is on the way home that she suffers a stroke and he realises that she is so ill that she will not recover. Her death concludes chapter (or part) one and its 350 pages with these sentences:

As in the far-off days when her parents had chosen for her a bridegroom, she had the features, delicately traced by purity and submission, the cheeks glowing with a chaste expectation, with a dream of happiness, with an innocent gaiety even, which the years had gradually destroyed. Life in withdrawing from her had taken with it the disillusionments of life. A smile seemed to be hovering on my grandmother's lips. On that funeral couch, death, like a sculptor of the Middle Ages, had laid her down in the form of a young girl.

Just prior to his grandmother's last illness there is an indication that Marcel is going to face another very personal emotional challenge.  Mme de Guermantes' brother-in-law and Robert's uncle the disreputable Baron Palamede de Charlus, offers to guide his life by means of daily instruction in the arts of diplomacy. But Marcel already has this knowledge through the position of his father in the civil service. From his writer's point of view Marcel would surely find it more informative to have experience of the working conditions of the artisan or peasant class. An invitation from the waistcoat-maker Jupien to spend days with him for instance. The illness of his grandmother gives Marcel time to decide whether to take up Charlus' offer. However, there is one condition he has to agree to – that he will not tell his family of the offer. Twice Charlus  urges Marcel not to tell anyone, to keep it confidential despite it being a disinterested and charitable proposal he is making. Why the secrecy? Is there is something rather ominous about this condition?

As in previous novels in the series there are the set-pieces where Marcel can observe and record the demeanour of people;  a night at the theatre where the marks of decorum are decided by those in the private boxes; a day, not at the races, but at the bases where Robert and the other officers are on maneuvers with the soldiers followed by dining and revelry at Robert's hotel. All of this puts Marcel in a love happy mood!


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Near the beginning of Cities of the Plain, a more mature Marcel meets Charles Swann on a regular basis and it is during one of those meetings that he recalls how he hated Swann  in the Combray days when he dined with his parents and deprived him of a goodnight kiss from his mother. Now with Swann becoming a sick man Marcel remembers how he felt all those years ago:

Certainly, with that face of his from which, under the influence of his disease, whole segments had vanished, as when a block of ice melts and whole slabs of it fall off, he had of course “changed’. But I could not help being struck by the much greater extent to which he had changed in relation to myself. Admirable and cultured as he was, a man I was anything but bored to meet, I could not for the life of me understand how I had been able to invest him long ago with such mystery that his appearance in the Champs-Elysees in his silk-lined cape would make my heart beat to the point where I was ashamed to approach him, and that at the door of the flat where such a being dwelt I could not ring the bell without being overcome with boundless agitation and alarm. All this had vanished not only from his house but from his person and the idea of talking to him might or might not be agreeable to me, but had no effect whatever upon my nervous system.

Now that Marcel is a man about town it is somewhat surprising that he is unaware of the homosexuality amongst some of the people he knows.
It is the theme of this novel, a theme explained in a long section where Proust describes such males and females as a man-woman in a sympathetic, precise and compassionate way. Another word he uses for them is invert which is a kinder term than any of the ‘popular’ words used today. These descriptions of how inverts are an accident of nature and how they cope with life are so informative that the scientific and clinical explanations centred purely around faulty genes seem inadequate and lacking in humanity when applied to people.



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