Tuesday, December 03, 2013

More Proust, Joe Biden Memorial Edition:
"If She Knew Me, She Would Like Me"

I seem to be yielding to the lazy temptation to clog the blog with gobs of Proust.  I will try to avoid the standard stuff (petites madeleines the steeples at Martinville) and choose pieces for which I can find a reason.  

So for today.  My good buddy Joel once said that the mark of success for a celebrity is to convince the Mugginses that "if he knew me, he would like me."  So Franklin D. Roosevelt saying "and you are my friends."  So Ronald Reagan saying--oh, whatever it was that Ronald Reagan said. And here, in Swann's Way, young Marcel gazing for the first time on Mme. de Guermantes, living avatar of a clan that can trace its lineage back to Gilbert the Bad, in whose chapel she now appears.  This being Proust, we are not surprised to learn that our narrator encounters a confused mismatch between reality and expectation. Still, much of the aura remains.

[I] can still see her, especially at the moment when the procession entered the sacristy, which was lit by the hot and intermittent sun of a day of wind and storm, and in which Mme. de Guermantes found herself surrounded by all those people of Combray whose names she did not even know, but whose inferiority too loudly proclaimed her supremacy for her not to feel a sincere benevolence toward them, and whom, besides, she hoped to impress even more by her good grace and simplicity. Thus, not being able to bestow those deliberate gazes charged with specific meaning which we address to someone we know, but only to allow her distracted thoughts to break free incessantly before her in a wave of blue light which she could not contain, she did not want that wave to disturb or appear to disdain those common people whom it encountered in passing, whom it touched again and again. I can still see, above her silky, swelling mauve tie, the gentle surprise in her eyes, to which she had added, without daring to intend it for anyone but so that all might take their share of it, the slightly shy smile of a sovereign who looks as though she is apologizing to her vassals and loves them. That smile fell on me, who had not taken my eyes off her. Recalling, then, the gaze she had rested on me during the Mass, as blue as a ray of sunlight passing through Gilbert the Bad’s window, I said to myself: “Why, she’s actually paying attention to me.” I believed that she liked me, that she would still be thinking of me after she had left the church, that because of me perhaps she would be sad that evening at Guermantes. And immediately I loved her, because if it may sometimes be enough for us to fall in love with a woman if she looks at us with contempt, as I had thought Mlle. Swann had done, and if we think she will never belong to us, sometimes, too, it may be enough if she looks at us with kindness, as Mme. de Guermantes was doing, and if we think she may someday belong to us.

Proust, Marcel (2004-11-30). Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (pp. 181-182). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. 

No comments: