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Lost Time Thursday: A Malignant Laughter

[The least sensitive nose must turn away in horror from such stale exhalations!]

"He could hear the jokes that Mme Verdurin would make after dinner, jokes which, whoever the 'bore' might be at whom they were aimed, had always amused him because he could watch Odette laughing with them, laughing with him, her laughter almost a part of his. Now he felt that it was possibly at him that they would make Odette laugh. 'What fetid humour!' he exclaimed, twisting his mouth into an expression of disgust so violent that he could feel the muscles of his throat stiffen against his collar. 'How in God's name can a creature made in his image find anything to laugh at in those nauseating witticisms? The least sensitive nose must turn away in horror from such stale exhalations. It's really impossible to believe that a human being can fail to understand that, in allowing herself to smile at the expense of a fellow-creature who has loyally held out his hand to her, she is sinking into a mire from which it will be impossible, with the best will in the world, ever to rescue her. I inhabit a plane so infinitely far above the sewers in which these filthy vermin sprawl and crawl and bawl their cheap obscenities that I cannot possibly be spattered by the witticisms of a Verdurin!' he shouted, tossing up his head and proudly throwing back his shoulders. 'God knows I've honestly tried to pull Odette out of that quagmire, and to teach her to breathe a nobler and a purer air. But human patience has its limits, and mine is at an end,' he concluded, as though this sacred mission to tear Odette away from an atmosphere of sarcasms dated from longer than a few minutes ago, as though he had not undertaken it only since it had occurred to him that those sarcasms might perhaps be directed at himself, and might have the effect of detaching Odette from him."
- Swann's Way, "Swann in Love," p. 406-407


OH SWANN. I could have told you myself that this day was going to come, if you weren't so far away and (semi?)fictional. The Verdurins and their friends are not really very funny, it's true, but M. Swann's soul-eating jealousy has also made him a little hyperbolic. Time to take refuge in snobbery, I guess!

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Feb. 19th, 2016 01:42 pm (UTC)
Ha, of course the woman Swann loves is named Odette. Is there a Swan Lake motif going on here?

I am envisioning Swann loftily complaining about the Verdurins at a party years from now, only for someone who was also there to point out that Swann laughed as loud as anyone. Swann slinks off to lick his wounds in silence.
evelyn_b
Feb. 20th, 2016 02:48 am (UTC)
I actually don't know enough about Swan Lake to be able to detect a motif! But that's a ballet, right? Ballets seem like the sort of thing Proust would like, so maybe!

What will probably prevent Swann from complaining too volubly about the Verdurins is his embarrassment at having spent so much time there in the first place. (He will forget about the time ten minutes ago when they were a shining light of sincerity and warmth in a world of brittle pretentiousness.).

By the time he has enough distance/self-awareness to see Odette, the Verdurins, and himself more or less as they are, he will probably not feel like talking about them much at all. It could be months, or even years, who knows?
a_phoenixdragon
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:16 am (UTC)
*Drive-by squish*
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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