Monday, November 13, 2006

Proust: "That's her!"

The narrator is in Venice, about to dine with his mother and Mme Sazerat in a private room in a hotel. He has just told the ladies that Mme de Villeparisis is in the hotel restaurant. Mme Sazerat seems about to faint:

"Couldn't I look at her for a moment? I have dreamed of this all my life."

"Yes, but don't take too long, Madam, for she will soon have finished dining. But why should she interest you so?"

"Because it was Mme de Villeparisis, the Duchesse d'Havré by her first marriage, as beautiful as an angel but as wicked as a witch, who drove my father mad, ruined him, then left him forthwith. And yet! Although she acted like a common whore and caused me and my family to live in straitened circumstances in Combray, now that my father is dead, I console myself with the thought that he loved the most beautiful woman of his day, and since I have never seen her, despite everything it will be a relief . . ."

I led Mme Sazerat, who was trembling with emotion, to the restaurant and pointed out Mme de Villeparisis.

But, like the blind, who direct their eyes everywhere but where they should, Mme Sazerat failed to focus her gaze on Mme de Villeparisis's dinner-table, and sought out another corner of the room.

"Well, she must have left, I can't see her where you say."

And she continued to hunt for the detestable, adorable vision that had haunted her imagination for so long.

"No she hasn't, she's at the second table."

"We must be starting our count from different ends. At what I call the second table there's only an old gentleman sitting beside a horrid little old lady with a red face and a hunchback."

"That's her!"
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, translated by Peter Collier (London: Penguin, 2003), 598-599

(415 pages of In Search of Lost Time to go.)

Proust posts, via Pinboard

comments: 1

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael. This is one of those bits of business, that once read, stay in the mind for days, coming to you in the shower or driving to work. Life is just like this, isn't it?