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Lost Time Thursday: The Verdurins

[A joy for ever!]

“ 'Why, it would be a joy. . . ' Swann was beginning to reply, when the doctor broke in derisively. Having once heard it said, and never having forgotten, that in general conversation over-emphasis and the use of formal expressions were out of date, whenever he heard a solemn word used seriously, as the word 'joy” had just been used by Swann, he felt that the speaker had been guilty of pomposity. And if, moreover, the word in question happened to occur also in what he called an old 'tag,' however common it might still be in current usage, the doctor jumped to the conclusion that the remark which was about to be made was ridiculous, and completed it ironically with the cliché he assumed to speaker was about to perpetrate, although in reality it had never entered his mind.

“ 'A joy for ever!' he exclaimed mischievously, throwing up his arms in a grandiloquent gesture.

“ M. Verdurin could not help laughing.

“ 'What are all those good people laughing at over there? There's no sign of brooding melancholy down in your corner,' shouted Mme Verdurin. 'You don't supposed I find it very amusing to be stuck up here by myself on the stool of repentance,' she went on with mock peevishness, in a babyish tone of voice.

“ Mme Verdurin was seated on a high Swedish chair of waxed pinewood, which a violinist from that country had given her, and which she kept in her drawing-room although in appearance it suggested a work-stand and clashed with the really good antique furniture which she had besides; but she made a point of keeping on view the presents which her 'faithful' were in the habit of making her from time to time, so that the donors might have the pleasure of seeing them there when they came to the house. She tried to persuade them to confine their tributes to flowers and sweets, which had at least the merit of mortality; but she never succeeded, and the house was gradually filled with a collection on foot-warmers, cushions, clocks, screens, barometers and vases, a constant repetition and a boundless incongruity of useless but indestructible objects.

[. . .]

“ 'No, no, no, not my sonata!' she screamed, “I don't want to be made to cry until I get a cold in my head, and neuralgia all down my face, like last time. Thanks very much, I don't intend to repeat that performance. You're all so very kind and considerate, it's easy to see that none of you will have to stay in bed for a week.'

“This little scene, which was re-enacted as often as the young pianist sat down to play, never failed to delight her friends as much as if they were witnessing it for the first time, as a proof of the seductive originality of the 'Mistress' and of the acute sensitiveness of her musical ear.

[. . .]

“ 'Well, all right, then,' said M. Verdurin, 'he can play just the andante.'

“ 'Just the andante! That really is a bit rich!' cried his wife. 'As if it weren't precisely the andante that breaks every bone in my body.'”

- Swann's Way, “Swann in Love,” p. 288-291


All of a sudden (250 pages in) there's a brand new chapter, and a new POV character, who is not as vivid and adorable as Little Marcel, but whose problems are entertaining nonetheless (they are not really problems). M. Swann is pursuing Odette, which necessitates making friends with the clingy Verdurins and their "circle." If Proust decides to spend the next hundred pages just describing their exhaustingly repetitive daily "casual evenings," I'll be perfectly content.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
a_phoenixdragon
Feb. 13th, 2016 04:46 am (UTC)
*Drive-by Squishes*
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