A very slow translation of Swann’s Way.
For a long time I went to bed early. Sometimes, my candle scarcely extinguished, my eyes would shut so quickly that I would not have time to say, I’m falling asleep. And half an hour later, the thought that it was time to go to sleep would wake me; I would want to put down the volume that I believed was still in my hands and blow out the light; I would not have stopped sleeping to reflect on what I had read, but these reflections would take a peculiar turn; it would seem to me that I myself was what the book was talking about: a church, a quartet, the rivalry of Francois I and Charles Quint. This belief survived a few seconds of wakefulness; it did not disturb my mind but lay like scales on my eyes and stopped them from seeing that the candle was no longer burning. Then it would begin to become unintelligible to me, as when, after metempsychosis, the thoughts of a previous life linger; the subject of the book receded from me, I was free to apply it or not; immediately I recovered my eyesight and I was surprised to find darkness all around me, sweet and refreshing for my eyes, but perhaps even more for my mind, to which it appeared like a thing without cause. Incomprehensible, like a really vague thing. I wondered what time it could be; I heard the whistle of a train that, more or less distant, like the song of a bird in the forest, describes to me the expanse of the empty countryside where the traveler hastens towards the next station; and the little path that he follows will be engraved in his memory by the excitement of new places, the unaccustomed proceedings, the recent talk and goodbyes beneath the foreign lamp that still follows the silence of the night, the impending sweetness of return.
I would lean my cheeks tenderly against the lovely cheeks of the pillow that, full and cool, was like the cheeks of our childhood. I would strike a match to look at my watch. Midnight soon. That is the time when the patient, who was forced to leave on a trip and to lodge in a strange hotel, woken by a fit, delights in noticing under the door a ray of daylight. What luck, it’s already morning! In a moment the servants will be up, I will ring, they will come to my rescue. The hope of being relieved would give me the courage to suffer. I just thought I heard footsteps; they were approaching, then receding. And the ray of daylight that was under the door disappears. It is midnight; they just turned off the gas; the last servant has left and the rest of the night will have to be endured without remedy.
I would return to sleep, and sometimes I would not have more than a short instant of wakefulness, time to hear the creaks of the floorboards, to open my eyes to stare into the kaleidoscope of darkness, to enjoy, thanks to a brief glimmer of consciousness, the sleep in which were immersed furniture, the room, all of which I was a small part of and the numbness of which I quickly rejoined. Or else, sleeping, I had returned without effort to the lost age of my early life, to rediscover my childish fears like when my great uncle would pull me by my curls, a fear that was dispelled on the day–the date for me of a new era–when they were cut. I had forgotten that event during my sleep, I found myself in the memory as soon as I had successfully awakened to escape from my great-uncle’s hands, but with a measure of precaution I would completely surround my head with my pillow before returning to the world of dreams.
Sometimes, like Eve born from one of Adam’s ribs, a woman was born in my sleep from an awkward position of my thigh. Formed of pleasure that I was about to enjoy, she, I imagined, was the one offering it to me. My body felt in hers my own heat returning to me, I was aroused. The rest of humanity appeared to me to be very distant next to this woman I had just a few moments with; my cheek was still warm from her kiss, my body ached from the weight of her size. If, as it happened sometimes, she had the features of a woman I had known in my life, I would devote myself completely to this: finding her again, such as those who depart on a trip to see with their own eyes a longed-for town imagine they can enjoy in reality the charm of the dream. Little by little her memory was fading, I forgot the girl of my dream.
A sleeping man has in a circle about him the passing of the hours, the order of years and worlds. He consults them instinctively upon waking and reads in a second the place on the land he occupies, the hours that elapsed before he woke up; but their ranks become confused, they break. Towards morning after some insomnia, asleep on the way to reading, in a very different posture than his usual one, he simply raises his arms to halt and reverse the sun, and in the first minute of waking, he will know the hour, he will figure he has only just gone to bed. If he is dozing in an especially unusual position, for example after dinner sitting in an armchair, then the upheaval of the world’s order will be complete, the magic armchair will travel with great speed through time and space, and the moment he opens his eyelids he will believe he is sleeping in bed a month earlier in a different land. But it sufficed that, in my bed, my sleep was deep and completely relaxed my mind; then I abandoned the place where I had fallen asleep, and when I woke in the middle of the night, I was unaware of where I would find myself, I would not even know the first moment that I was; I was as simple as a newborn, at bottom a trembling animal: I was more devoid than a cave man; but then the memory–still not of the place where I was, but of some of the places I had inhabited and where I could still be–would come to me like help from above, pulling me out of nothingness where I could not go on alone; I passed in a second above the ages of civilization, and the image dimly seen of kerosene lamps, then shirts with turned-down collars, recomposed little by little the original features of my self.
Perhaps the immobility of the things around us is imposed on them by our certainty that they are themselves and no others, by the immobility of our thinking in front of them. Always it was that, when I woke in this way, my mind agitated to search, without success, to find out where I was, everything revolved around me in the darkness, things, countries, years. My body, too numb to move, searched, according to the form of his fatigue, to locate the position of his limbs in order to determine the orientation of the wall, the location of the furniture, to reconstruct and name the home where I was. My body’s memory, the memory of his ribs, his knees, his shoulders, presented in succession rooms where he had slept, while around him the invisible walls, changing place according to the shape of the room I was imagining, swirled in the darkness. And even before my thought, which hesitated on the threshold of time and forms, could discern in its surroundings its present home, he–my body–recalled for each the sort of bed, the locations of the doors, how the windows captured the light, the existence of a corridor, with the thought that I was sleeping and that I would find myself upon waking. My side stiff, searching to find its orientation, I would imagine myself, for example, to be stretched out before a wall in a grand four-poster bed and immediately I would tell myself, Look here, I have finished sleeping although mother did not come to wish me goodnight, I would be at the country house of my grandfather, dead for many years; and my body, the side on which I was lying, faithful guard of a past that my mind should never forget, recalled to me the flame of the light of the Bohemian lamp, in the form of a vase, suspended from small chains on the ceiling, the marble fireplace, in my bedroom at Combray, at my grandparents’ house, in the distant days that at the moment appeared to me as present though vague and that I would dream all the time when I was fully awake.
Then the memory of a new attitude was reborn; the wall spun in another direction; I was in my room at the house of Mme de Saint-Loup, in the country; my God! It’s been at least ten hours, we should have finished dinner! I have taken too long a nap as I have every evening after my walk with Mme de Saint-Loup, before taking off my coat. As well the years that have passed since Combray, where, in our later returns, it was the red reflections of the setting sun that I saw on the glazing of my window. This is another kind of life that leads to Tansonville, the house of Mme de Saint-Loup, another kind of pleasure that I find emerges only at night, to follow in the clear moonlight the paths where I once played in the sun; and the room where I will be sleeping instead of dressing for dinner, I see it from afar, when we go back, passing through the light of the lamp, the sole beacon in the night.
These swirling and confused evocations lasted no more than a few seconds; often my brief uncertainty about where I was could no better distinguish from each other the various suppositions of which it was made, the way we isolate, seeing a horse run, the successive positions shown by the kinetoscope. But I had reviewed now the one, now the other, of the rooms I had inhabited in my life, and I finally remembered all in long daydreams that followed my waking; winter rooms where when lying down, one huddles one’s head in a nest woven with disparate things: a gold coin, a pile of blankets, a bit of shawl, the edge of the bed, and a number of Debats roses, which eventually cemented together according to the technique of birds pressing them indefinitely; where, by the icy weather the pleasure one enjoys is to feel separate from the outdoors (like the sea swallow who nests underground in the heat of the earth), and where, the fire being kept all night in the fireplace, one sleeps in a great coat of hot and smoky air, through the glow of embers that rekindle, a sort of impalpable alcove, a warm cavern dug within the same room, a zone ardent and mobile in the thermal contours, air of breaths refreshing the shape and span of the angles, of nearby parts of the window or far from the hearth where they cooled;–rooms of summer where we likes to be united with the mild night, where the moonlight supported the half-open shutters, casting as far as the foot of the bed their enchanting ladder, where we sleep almost in the air, balanced like a titmouse on the tip of a beam–; sometimes the Louis the 16th room, so merry that even the first evening I had not been so miserable and where the columns which lightly supported the ceiling parted with grace to reveal and keep the place of the bed; sometimes on the contrary it was that, small and as high as the ceiling, carved in the shape of a pyramid two storeys tall and partially coated with mahogany, where from the first I was intoxicated by the unfamiliar odor of vetiver, convinced of the hostility of the curtains and the insolent indifference of the clock which chattered as if I were not there;–where a strange and pitiless mirror with quadrangular feet, blocking obliquely one of the angles of the room, excavated in the soft plenitude of my usual field of vision an unexpected place;–where my thinking, forced for hours to be dislocated, to stretch out in height in order to fit exactly the shape of the room as if filling up to the top a gigantic funnel, having suffered well the hard nights, while I was stretched out in my bed, my eyes open, my ears anxious, my nostrils restive, my heart beating: until familiarity had changed the color of the curtains, made the clock be quiet, taught pity to the oblique and cruel ice, concealing, or else chasing away completely, the odor of vetiver and notably diminishing the height of the ceiling. Familiarity! developing skillfully but slowly and which leaves minds to their suffering during the weeks spent in a temporary installation; but in spite of everything all turns out fine, because without familiarity and reduced to one’s own resources one would be powerless to create a habitable dwelling.
Of course, I was well awake now, my body had turned one last time and the good angel of certainty had stopped everything around me, I had slept under my blankets, in my room, and had put in their approximate places in the darkness the dresser, bureau, chimney, the window above the street and the two doors. Though I well knew that I was not in the residences which my ignorance of waking up had in an instant presented me with distinct images of, at least I believed their presence possible, their motion was given to my memory; generally I did not try to fall back asleep right away; I passed the greater part of the night recalling our life in the past, in Combray at my great-aunt’s house, in Balbec, in Paris, in Doncieres, in Venice; somewhere else again, recalling the places, the people I had known, who I had seen, what I had said.
At Combray, every day beginning at the end of the afternoon, long before the moment it was necessary to get into bed and rest, without sleep, far from my mother and grandmother, my bedroom became again the fixed and painful point of my preoccupations. They’d had the good idea to distract me from the evenings on which the air of adversity found me, by giving me a magical lantern, which, until dinnertime, [we wore my lamp??]; and, like the first architects and window-glass masters of the gothic age, it substituted for the opacity of the walls the impalpable iridescences, of supernatural multicolored apparitions, where the legends were depicted like in a stained-glass window vacillating and momentary. But my sadness was increased, because nothing of the lighting change destroyed the familiarity of my room thanks to which, except the torture of sleep, was becoming bearable. Now I could not recognize it and I was disturbed, like in a room of a hotel or “chalet,” where I should have arrived for the first time down the railway.
At the jerky pace of his horse, Golo, full of terrible purpose, emerged from the small, triangular forest that velveted in dark green the slope of a hill, and advanced in fits and starts towards the castle of poor Genevieve de Brabant. The castle was cut according to a curved line that was none other than the limit of one of the ovals of glass formed in the frame that glided between the runners of the lantern. It was only a section of the castle and it had in front of it a moor where dreaming Genevieve wore a blue belt. The castle and the moor were yellow and I did not have to wait to see them to know their color because, before the glass of the frame, the bronze-sounding name Brabant had presented me with evidence. Golo stopped for a moment to listen with sadness to the patter read aloud by my great-aunt and had the air of comprehending perfectly, conforming his attitude with a docility that did not exclude a certain majesty, as specified by the text; then he moved off with the same jerky gait. And nothing had the power to stop his slow ride. If one moved the lantern, one could distinguish the horse of Golo who, continuing to advance beneath the curtains, stampeded their folds, descended into their slits. The body of Golo himself, of an essence as supernatural as that of his mount, overcame any material obstacle, any bothersome object he came across, by using it as a spine and by making an interior, be it the doorknob to which was immediately adapted his flowing red robe and pale face still as noble and as melancholy, but which did not let there appear to be any trouble with this transvertebration.
I found the charm in these brilliant projections which seemed to emanate from a merovingian past and promenade about me the reflections of ancient history. But I cannot say which discomfort this intrusion of mystery and beauty into a room caused me so that I ended up filling myself to the point that I could not pay any attention to what wasn’t me. When the anesthetizing influence of habit ceased, I put myself to think, to feel, things so sad. The knob of the door of my room, so different for me from the other doorknobs of the world in that it seemed to open all by itself, without me having to turn it, as the handling had become unconscious, the same power that maintained the astral body of Golo. And when they rang dinner, I had hurriedly to run to the hall and eat, where the gross chandelier, ignorant of Golo and Blue Beard, and which knew my parents and the beef casserole, gave its light to all their evenings; and falling into the arms of mother which the misfortunes of Genevieve de Brabant had made to me more dear, while the crimes of Golo made me examine my own conscience with more scruples.
After dinner, alas, I was soon obliged to leave mother who remained to chat with the others, in the garden if it was nice, in the small salon where all the world retired if the weather was bad. All the world, except my grandmother who found that “it is a pity to remain shut up in the country” and who had incessant discussions with my father, on very rainy days, because he sent me to read in my room instead of remaining outdoors. “This is not how to make him robust and energetic,” she said gloomily, “especially when the young have such a need to build strength and will.” My father shrugged his shoulders and examined the barometer, because he loved meteorology, while my mother, avoiding the argument so as not to disturb him, regarded him with a tender respect, but not so closely as to see through the mystery of his superiority. But my grandmother, she, in all weather, even when the rain was furious and Francoise had hastily taken in the precious wicker chairs out of fear that they would get wet, we saw grandmother in the empty garden lashed by the rain, under the safety of her messy gray hair in order that her forehead better imbibed the vigor of the wind and rain. She said: “At last, one can breathe!” and ran the sodden paths,–all aligned symmetrically by the new gardener who had no feel for nature and who my father had asked that morning if the weather would cooperate,–her small, enthusiastic jerky steps, regulated by the many movements excited in her intoxicated love of the storm, the power of hygiene, the stupidity of my education, the symmetry of the garden, rather than her wish to avoid with her plum skirt the splashes of mud under which she disappeared up to a height that was always for her chambermaid a despair and a problem.
When these laps of my grandmother’s of the garden happened after dinner, one thing had the power to bring her in: it was, one of those moments where the revolution of her promenade periodically brought her, like a bug, in front of the lights of the small salon where the liqueurs were being served over the table,–so my great-aunt would cry out to her: “Bathilde! Do come keep your husband from drinking cognac!” To tease, indeed (she had brought into my father’s family a spirit so different that everyone made fun of and tormented her), like the liqueurs that were being forbidden my grandfather, my great-aunt made him drink a few drops. My poor grandmother entered, ardently implored her husband not to have the cognac; he got angry, drank his mouthful anyway, and my grandmother was off again, frustrated, discouraged, yet still smiling, because she was so humble of heart and so sweet that her tenderness for others and the little she thought of herself and her own sufferings would be reconciled in a smile that, contrary to what we see on the faces of many, was not ironic, and for all of us it was like a kiss of eyes that cannot look at loved ones without passionately caressing them with their gaze. The torture inflicted on her, the spectacle of the vain pleas of my grandmother and of her weakness, defeated in advance, trying needlessly to take from my grandfather the glass of liqueur, it was of those things you laugh at in retrospect to get from the persecutor sufficient resolution and cheerfully to persuade yourself that it is no longer a sore spot; they caused me then such horror, I would have liked to beat my great-aunt. As soon that I heard: “Bathilde, do come keep your husband from drinking cognac!” already a cowardly man, I did what we all do, once we are great, when faced with suffering and injustice: I would not see them; I went upstairs sobbing on the way to the study, into a small attic room that smelled of iris, also wild blackcurrant growing outside amongst the stones of the wall that passed by a branch of flowers by the open window. Destined for a use very special and very vulgar, this room, where one saw during the day as far as the dungeon of Roussainville-le-Pin, served for a long time as my refuge, no doubt because it was the only room I was permitted to lock, of all my occupations that required an inviolable solitude: reading, daydreaming, sadness and pleasure. Alas I did not know that, saddened by her husband’s small departures from his diet, my failure of will, my delicate health, the uncertainty that it cast on my future, my grandmother was preoccupied in the course of her incessant strolls, afternoon and evening, we saw her coming and going, turning up towards the sky her lovely face with brown and furrowed cheeks, on the way to becoming in age almost purple like the plowed fields of autumn, barred, if she want out, by a half-raised veil, and on which, brought there by the cold of some sad thought, was always on the way to drying an involuntary tear.
My only consolation, when I went upstairs to bed, was that mother would come to kiss me once I was in my bed. But this satisfaction lasted only a short while, she went back down so quickly, that the moment I heard her coming upstairs, then passing along the corridor through the double door the soft sound of her blue muslin robe from which hung small cords of braided straw, was for me a sad moment. It announced what would follow, when she would have to leave me, when she would go back downstairs. In order to get the sort of goodnight that I loved so much, I wished for her to come as late as possible, that the time of respite in which mother had not yet come would be prolonged. Sometimes when, after she had kissed me, and she had opened the door a crack, I would call her back, saying, “Kiss me again,” but I knew immediately she would look angry, because the concession she had made to my sadness and agitation in coming upstairs to kiss me, in bringing me this kiss of peace, bothered my father who found this ritual absurd, and she wanted to try to break me of this need, this habit, of letting me take what I demanded of her, when she was already on the threshold of the door, another kiss. Seeing her angry destroyed all the calm that she had brought an instant before, when she had leaned her lovely figure towards my bed, and I had strained like a host for a communion of peace where my lips would draw her real presence and the succor of sleep. But these evenings, when mother remained such a brief time in my room, were a luxury compared with those when they were having everyone over for dinner and when, because of this, she did not come up to say goodnight. “Everyone” was usually only M. Swann, who, outside of a few strangers passing through, was more or less the only person who came to our house in Combray, sometimes for dinner (very rarely since he had made the wrong marriage, because my parents would not receive his wife), sometimes after dinner, unexpectedly. The evenings when, sitting in front of the house under the great chestnut tree, around the wrought iron table, we heard at the end of the garden not the loud little bell that doused, that stunned with its ferruginous noise, inexhaustible and icy, any person of the house who triggered it by entering “without sounding,” but the shy double ring, oval and golden, of the bell for strangers, everyone immediately demanded: “A visit, who can it be?” but we knew that it could only be M. Swann; my great-aunt spoke in a loud voice, as if to preach, in a tone that she tried to make sound natural, having been told not to whisper; that nothing is so unpleasant for someone who has just arrived and to whom her whispering suggests that she is saying things that they should not hear; and we sent my grandmother to light the way, who was always happy to have an excuse to take another lap around the garden, and took advantage of the situation to surreptitiously pull out in passing some stakes from the rosebushes to make their shape a little more natural, like a mother who, to make it puff out, passes her fingers through her son’s hair that the barber had flattened.
We all stayed suspended with news my grandmother went to bring us of the enemy, as if hesitating between a great number of possible assailants, and soon my grandfather would say: “I recognize Swann’s voice.” We did not in fact recognize the voice, we distinguished poorly his face with its hooked nose, with green eyes, with a high forehead surrounded by blond nearly red hair, in the style of Bressant, because we kept the least light possible on in the garden so as not to attract mosquitos, and I went, inconspicuously, to tell them to bring the syrups; to this my grandmother attached great importance, finding it very kind, that the syrups not appear to be an exception, for special occasions only. M. Swann, although much younger than him, was very friendly with my grandfather, who had been one of his father’s best friends. His father was a singular man, for whom, it seems, little sufficed to restrain his impulses, to change the course of his thoughts. I heard several times my grandfather relating at dinner the same anecdotes about M. Swann’s father, about the death of his wife for whom he’d kept vigil day and night. My grandfather, who had not seen him in a long time, had hastened to him at the property the Swanns owned near Combray, and had succeeded, [for he had not attended the funeral, to leave for a moment, all in tears, the mortuary room.] They walked a little in the park, where there was a little sun. Suddenly, Swann had taken my grandfather by the arm, and had cried: “Ah! My old friend, what a joy to walk together in this nice weather. Have you ever found a beauty like these trees, these hawthorns and my pond where you never had so much happiness? You look like a night cap. Do you feel a little wind? Ah! No matter what they say, life doesn’t get better than this, my dear Amedee!” Abruptly the memory of his dead wife returned to him, and undoubtedly finding it very complicated that he could have just a moment before expressed joy, he who was so restrained, he made the gesture he made each time a difficult question presented itself, which was to pass his hand across his forehead, to wipe his eyes and the glass of his lorgnon. He could not yet be consoled about the death of his wife, but in the two years that he [survived], he said to my grandfather: “It’s funny, I think so often of my poor wife, but I cannot think much at a time.” “Often, but little at a time, like the poor father Swann,” had become one of the favorite phrases of my grandfather, who delivered it regarding a wide variety of things. I would aver that the father of Swann was a monster, if my grandfather, who I considered a better judge and whose sentence had jurisprudence for me–I have often used the sequel to absolve the faults that I would have been inclined to condemn–had not exclaimed: “But how? He has a heart of gold!”
For many years, especially before my marriage, M. Swann, the son, often came to see us at Combray. My great-aunt and grandparents did not suspect that he no longer lived in the society his family had frequented and that despite the species of incognito the name Swann had obtained in our house, they harbored,–with the perfect innocence of honest hoteliers who have in their house, without knowing, a celebrated bandit,–one of the most vaunted members of the Jockey Club, favorite friend of the count of Paris and the prince of Galles, one of the most cherished men of the high society of Saint-Germain.
Our ignorance of this brilliant society life Swann led was evidently due in part to the privacy and discretion of his character, but also to an idea of society the bourgeoisie at the time had of society that was a little Hindu in that they regarded it as composed of fixed castes wherein everyone, from birth, had a place in the range of their parents, and in no way, save an exceptional career or an unexpected marriage, could one move into a superior caste. M. Swann, the father, was an agent of change; the “son Swann” found himself for all his life of a caste wherein fortunes, like in a category of taxpayers, varied between such and such revenue. We knew what his father’s company had been, so we therefore knew Swann’s, which people he was “in a position” to mix with. If there were others, they were relations of a young man on whom old friends of his family, like my parents, closed their eyes benevolently so that he continued, since he was orphaned, coming faithfully to see us; but there was a strong chance that these people unknown to us whom he saw, were those he would not have dared to greet if, being with us, he had met them. If we had wanted at all costs to apply to Swann a social coefficient that was his own, between the other sons of agents of status equal to that of his parents, the coefficient would be for him a little lower because, very simply, and having always had an “infatuation” with ancient objects of painting, he lived nowadays in an old hotel where he piled up his collections and that my grandmother dreamed of visiting, but which was situated on the quay of Orleans, a district my great-aunt found vile to inhabit. “Are you only a connoisseur? I ask you this in your interest because you must return the crusts to the merchants” my grand-aunt told him; she assumed he had no competence and she did not hold in high esteem the intellectual point of view of a man who in conversation avoided serious subjects and demonstrated a strongly prosaic precision not only when he gave us, in great detail, recipes, but also when my grandmother’s sisters were speaking on artistic subjects. Provoked by them to give his opinion, to express his admiration for a tableau, he kept an almost disagreeable silence and made amends however if he could tell us about the museum where he had found it, or the date when it had been painted, a practical piece of information. But usually he was content just amusing us by relating each time an account of what had happened to him with people selected from among those we knew, with the pharmacist of Combray, with our cook, with our coachman. These accounts made my great-aunt laugh, but without her distinguishing well whether this was because of the ridiculous role she always gave Swann or the good humor he showed when she said: “One can say of you that you are an authentic type, Mr. Swann!” As she was the only person a bit vulgar in our family, she took care to remark to strangers, when speaking of Swann, that he could have, if he had wanted to, lived on the Boulevard Haussman or the Avenue of the Opera, that he was the son of M. Swann who had left him four or five million—but this was her fantasy. When Swann on January 1st brought her a bag of candied chestnuts, she never failed, if there were others around, to tell him, “Well! M. Swann, you always live near the wine warehouse, so as to make sure not to miss the train when you travel to Lyon?” And she regarded out of the corner of her eye, over her lorgnon, the other visitors.
12/8 – 12/21/13
But if we had said to my grandmother that this Swann who, as the son of M. Swann was perfectly “qualified” to be received by all the “belle bourgeoisie,” by the most esteemed notaries and lawyers of Paris (a privilege which he seemed to let fall a little to the side), had, like a secret, a life totally different; that in coming to our place, in Paris, after telling us that he was going home to bed, he turned around and went into the salon that no eye of any of our association had ever contemplated, this would have seemed so extraordinary to my aunt, would have been for a more literate lady thought to be personally associated with Aristeas who could have understood that he would, after he had talked with her, dive within the realms of Thetis, in an empire unseen by the eyes of mortals and where Virgil would receive him with open arms; or, to stick to an image that was more likely to occur to her because it was painted on our petit-four plates at Combray–of having had dinner with Ali Baba, who when he is alone, unlocks the cavern of dazzling unsuspected treasures.
One day when he had come to see us in Paris after dinner apologizing for being dressed formally, Francoise had, after he departed, said to hold the coach, that he had dined “at a princess’s,” — “Yes, at the house of a princess of the demi-monde!” had responded my aunt, shrugging her shoulders without lifting her eyes from her knitting, with a serene irony.
Also, my great-aunt used to deal cavalierly with him. As she understood it, it was his duty to be flattered by our invitations, so she found it totally natural that he did not come to see us in the summer without bringing a bag of peaches or raspberries from his garden and that of each of his trips to Italy he would bring me photographs of masterpieces.
12/26 – 1/2/14
We were not embarrassed to send for him as soon as we needed a recipe for bitch sauce[??] or banana salad for the grand dinners to which we had not invited him, not finding him prestigious enough to offer to strangers who were coming for the first time. If the conversation devolved to the princes of the House of France: “the people who we will never know, neither you nor I nor the two of us together” said my great-aunt to Swann, who had perhaps in his pocket a letter from Twickenham; he she made push the piano and turn the pages the evenings when my grandmother’s sister sang, handling him who was much sought after with the naive brusquery of an infant who chews on a collector’s trinket without a thought to its value. Undoubtedly the Swann who was part of the same epoch as the clubmen was very different than the one who knew my great-aunt, who after having heard the two hesitant strikes of the bell, injected and vivified all that she knew about the Swann family, the obscure and uncertain personage who stood out, regular of my grandmother, against a background of darkness, and who we recognized by his voice. [[But even from the point of view of the most insignificant things in life,]] we are not a whole materially constituted, identical to everything everywhere and legible like a specification or a will; our social personality is a creation of the minds of others. Even the simple act of seeing “a person who we know” is in part an intellectual act. We fill in the physical appearance of the being who we see, of all the notions that we have about him, and in the total appearance that we create, these notions certainly have the greater part. They end by inflating so perfectly the cheeks, by following in an adherence so exact the line of the nose, they blend so well the voice’s nuances as if it were a transparent envelope, that each time we see this face and hear this voice, there are these notions that we return to, that we listen to. Undoubtedly, in the Swann they had made, my parents had omitted out of ignorance a mass of particularities of his daily life because other people, when they were in his presence, saw the elegances reign in his visage and stop at his aquiline nose like it was a natural frontier; but also they could cram in his face empty of his prestige, vacant and spacious, [the bottom of these impaired eyes?], the vague and bland residue,–half memory, half forgotten–of idle hours passed together before our weekly dinners, around the game table or in the garden, during our good country-neighborhood life. The transparent envelope of our friend was so well stuffed, together with a few memories relating to his parents, that this Swann then had become a complete and living being, and I have the impression of leaving one person to go see another who is distinct when, in my memory, I pass the Swann I knew later with exactitude to this first Swann,–to this first Swann wherein I meet again the charming errors of my youth, and who besides resembles less the other Swann than people I knew at the same time, as if it were our life together with a museum where all the portraits of the same era have an air of being family, a same tonality–to this first Swann full of leisure, fragrant with the odor of a large chestnut, of bags of raspberries and of a sprig of tarragon.
One day my grandmother had gone to ask a service of a lady who she knew from Sacred Heart (and with whom, because of our conception of castes, she did not want to maintain relations despite a mutual sympathy), the marquise of Villeparisis, of the celebrated family of Bouillion, who said: “I know that you know well M. Swann, who is a great friend of my Laumes nephews.” My grandmother had returned from her visit enthusiastic about the house overlooking the gardens and which Madame de Villeparisis advised her to rent, and also by a tailor and his girl, who had their boutique in the courtyard and whom she had asked whether they could mend her skirt that she had torn on the stairs. My grandmother had found these people perfect, she declared that the child was a pearl and that the tailor was a most distinguished man, the best she had ever seen. Because for her, distinction was a thing absolutely independent of social rank. She raved about a response that the tailor had made to her, telling mother: “Sevigne would not have said it better!” and on the other hand, of a nephew of Madam of Villeparisis whom she had met at Madam’s house: “Ah! my child, like he is common!”
Or Madam’s remark about Swann had as a result not raising Swann in the mind of my grand-aunt, but lowering Madam de Villeparisis. It seemed that, on the faith of my grandmother, our attachments to M. de Villeparisis created a duty to do nothing that would render as less worthy and overlooked in the existence of Swann, in allowing my parents to frequent her. “How she knew Swann? For a person that you claim is the parent of Marshall MacMahon!” The opinions of my parents on the relations of Swann were completely confirmed by his marriage with a woman of the worst society, almost a coquette who, anyway, he never tried to introduce, continuing to come to our house, albeit less and less, but from this they thought they could judge–assuming that this was she whom he had taken–the milieu, unknown to them, that he usually frequented.
But one day, my grandfather read in a journal that M. Swann was one of the most faithful habitues of Sunday lunches at the house of the Duke of X…, where the father and the uncle had been the most visible statesmen during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Now my grandfather was curious about all the small events that might grant access to the private lives of men like Mole, like the Duke Pasquier, like the duke of Broglie. He was enchanted to find out that Swann frequented people who had known these men. My great-aunt on the contrary interpreted this news in a sense unfavorable to Swann: someone who chose his associates outside of the caste in which he was born, outside of his social “class,” incurred in her eyes an unfortunate loss of status. He seemed to her to suddenly to renounce the fruit of all the good relations with these well-positioned people, which had been honourably maintained by the descendants of far-sighted families; (my great-aunt had even stopped seeing the son of a notary of our friends because he had married a Highness and had thereby lowered himself in rank from that of the son of a notary to that of adventurers, former valets or stable boys, to whom it was said the queen sometimes showed kindness.) My great-aunt blamed the project that had my grandfather questioning Swann, the next evening he came to dinner, on the friends we were discovering. On the other hand my grandmother’s two sisters, old maids who had her noble nature but not her spirit, declared they could not comprehend the pleasure that their brother-in-law was able to find in such nonsense. They were people of lofty aspirations and because of this were incapable of interest in gossip and generally anything that was not directly related to an aesthetic object or virtuous. The disinterest of their minds was such, in regard to all appearing closely or indirectly connected to daily life, that their sense of hearing,–their having become useless as soon as the dinner conversation assumed a frivolous tone or only got a little down to earth without these two old ladies being able to bring it back to the subjects that were dear to them,–relaxed its receptor organs and they began to atrophy. If then my grandfather had needed to catch the attention of the two sisters, he had recourse to the physical warnings the medical specialists use with regard to certain manias of distraction: several raps on a glass with the blade of a knife, together with a sudden interpellation of voice and attention, violent means that these psychiatrists often deploy in relations with healthy people, either out of professional habit, or because they believe everyone is a little crazy.
The sisters were very interested when, the day before Swann came to dinner and had personally sent a case of Asti wine, my aunt, holding an issue of Figaro where next to the name of a tableau in an exhibition of Corot, there were these words: “from the collection of M. Charles Swann,” said: “Have you seen that Swann ‘honor’ in Figaro?”–”But I’ve always told you that he has very good taste,” said my grandmother. “Naturally you would, the moment it involves an opinion different from ours,” responded my great-aunt who, knowing that my grandmother was not of the same opinion as she, and not being quite sure that it was herself that we would side with, wanted a blanket condemnation of my grandmother’s opinions against which she tried to get us to side with the force of hers. But we remained silent. My grandmother’s sisters having broached the intention of talking with Swann about Figaro, my great-aunt tried to dissuade them. Each time that she saw in others even a small advantage that she did not have, she convinced herself that it was not an advantage but a fault and she pitied them so that she would not have to envy them. “I think you would not make him happy,” she said to the sisters. “I know well that to me it would seem very disagreeable to see my name printed in some journal for all to see, and I would not be at all flattered that people would talk about me.” But she did not succeed in persuading the sisters; as they out of their terror of the mundane extended so far the art of concealing beneath ingenious paraphrases any personal allusion that it would often pass unnoticed even by the one to whom it was addressed. As for my mother, she thought only to try to get my father to talk with Swann not about his wife but his daughter whom he adored and because of whom they said he had married. “You should not say a word, only ask him how his daughter is. It must be so cruel to him.” But my father was angry: “But no! That would be ridiculous. Your ideas are absurd.”
4/5 – 4/20/16
But the one among them for whom the arrival of Swann became the object of a sad preoccupation, was me. This is because the nights that strangers, or only Swann, were there, mother would not come up to my bedroom. I did not dine at the table, I went after having dinner to the garden, and at nine o’clock I said good evening and went to my bed. I dined before everyone else and then I’d sit down at the table, just until eight o’clock when it was agreed that I should go up; this precious and fragile kiss that mother usually gave me in my bed at the moment I fell asleep I had to carry from the dining room to my bedroom and guard the whole time while I was undressing, without [brisat] its softness, without letting its volatile virtue evaporate, exactly those evening when I would have had need to receive with a lot more caution, I had [le prisse], that she [kissed me?] suddenly, publicly, without even the weather and freedom of spirit necessary to bring to bear the attention of maniacs who strive not to think of anything else while they are closing a door, to be able, when morbid uncertainty returns to them, to oppose it victoriously by remembering the moment when they closed it. We were in the garden when the two hesitant blows of the bell resounded. We knew it was Swann; nevertheless everyone looked around questioningly and we sent my grandmother to investigate. “Thank him intelligibly for his wine, you know it’s delicious and the case is enormous, recommend my grandfather to his two sisters-in-law.” “Do not start whispering,” said my grand-aunt. “How comfortable is it to arrive at a house where everybody is speaking in low voices.” “Ah! Here is M. Swann. We’ll ask him if he thinks it will be fine tomorrow,” said my father. My mother thought that a word of hers would erase all the pain in our family created by Swann’s marriage. She found a way to take him a little ways from the group. But I followed; I could not stop thinking that now I would have to leave the dining room and go up to my bedroom without having like on other nights the consolation that she would come to kiss me. “Come, Mr Swann,” she said, “tell me a little about your girl; I am sure she already has her dad’s taste for fine works.” “But come sit with us on the veranda,” said my grandfather, approaching. My mother was obliged to interrupt, but she drew from this constraint an even more delicate thought, like the good poets that the tyranny of rhyme forces to find their greatest beauties: “We’ll talk to her when we are all together,” she said softly to Swann. There is a mother worthy of understanding you. I’m sure that hers would be my opinion. We all sat down around the iron table. I wanted not to think of the hours of anguish that I spend by myself in the evening in my room unable to sleep; I tried to persuade myself that they had no importance, since I would have forgotten by tomorrow morning, to lay hold of ideas that would lead me like a bridge beyond the next abyss that frightened me. But my spirit, tended by my preoccupation, rendered convex as the look I shot at my mother, did not permit any outside impression. The thoughts easily entered me, but on condition of leaving outside all element of beauty or simply of humor that had touched me or distracted. Like a patient with an anesthetic, who assists with full awareness in his own operation but who feels nothing, I could recite a verse that I love or observe that my grandfather was speaking to Swann of the Duke of Audiffret-Pasquier, without feeling any emotion from the former or any gaiety from the latter. These efforts were unsuccessful. Scarcely had my grandfather posed a question to Swann about this speaker when one of my grandmother’s sisters, to whose ears this question sounded like a profound but untimely silence that was polished to break, called out another: “Imagine, Celine, that I met a young Swedish governess who gave me a most interesting bit of information about cooperatives in Scandinavian countries. She will have to come dine here one evening.” “I think so!” said her sister Flora, “but I have not wasted my time either. I met at M. Vineuil’s an old scholar who knows Maubant well, and to whom Maubant explained in great detail how he goes about composing a part. It is most interesting. He is a neighbor of M Vinteuil, and I didn’t know. And he is most friendly.” “There is no Mr Vinteuil who has kind neighbors,” exclaimed my aunt Celine in a voice timidity rendered strong and premeditation, factitious, while throwing on Swann what she considered a significant glance. At the same time my aunt Flora, who had understood that this was Celine’s way of thanking Swann for the Asti, also looked at Swann with an air of mingled congratulations and irony, whether simply to emphasize the wit of her sister, whether she envied Swann for inspiring [her], whether she could not help but laugh at him because she believed [him to be beneath her?]. “I think we can succeed in having this gentleman to dinner,” continued Flora; “When placed on the topics of Maubant or Mrs. Materna, [he] speaks for hours without stopping.” “It must be delightful,” sighed my grandfather in the spirit of whom nature had completely failed to include the possibility of passionate interest in Swedish cooperatives or the composition of roles in Maubant, she had forgotten to provide one of my grandmother’s sisters the small grain of salt that you must add yourself to find some flavor, to a story on the private life of Molé or the Count of Paris. “Here you are,” said Swann to my grandfather, “I’ll tell you more of relations than what you’ve asked me, because in some areas things have not changed very much. I read this morning something in Saint-Simon that you will find amusing. It’s in the volume on the Spanish embassy; it is not one of the best, it is hardly a newspaper, but at the very least it is a wonderfully written diary, which makes a big difference with the boring journals we believe we are obligated to read morning and evening.” “I am not of your opinion, there are days when reading newspapers seems very nice…” interrupted my aunt Flora, to show that she had read Swann’s bit on le Corot in The Figaro. “When they talk about things or people who interest us!” said my aunt Celine. “I did not say otherwise,” said Swann, surprised. “What I reproach the newspapers for is that they make us pay attention to insignificant things while we read three or four times in our lives the books where there are essential things. As long as we are going to feverishly tear each morning the band of the newspaper, then we should change things and put in the paper, I don’t know, the Pascal’s Pensees! (he delivered this last line with an ironic tone so as not to have the air of a pedant). “And in the gilt-edged volume that we open only once every ten years,” he added, testifying for worldly things that distain that some men of the world have, “that we would read that the queen of Greece went to Cannes or that the princess of Leon has given a costume ball. As the right proportion would be restored.”But regretting that he had been led to speak even a little of serious things: “We have a very nice conversation,” he said ironically, “I do not know why we approach these ‘summits,'” and turning to my grandfather: “Thus Saint-Simon tells how Maulevrier had the audacity to reach out to his son. You know, this is the Maulevrier who said: ‘Never have I seen in this thick bottle that mood, the coarseness and stupidity.” “Thick or not, I know of bottles where there is any other thing,” Aunt Flora said brightly, wanting to thank Swann also, because the Asti was addressed to them both. Celine began to laugh. Swann was taken aback: “I do not know if it was ignorance or [a sign??], wrote Saint-Simon, he wanted to shake hands with my children. I noticed early enough to prevent it.” My grandfather was in ecstasy over “ignorance or a sign”, but Ms. Celine, for whom the name Saint Simon — a literary man — had completely anesthetized her faculty for hearing, already indignant: “What? You admire that? Ah well! That’s fine! But what can it mean; is it that one man is not as advanced as another? What difference does it make whether one is a duke or a coachman if he has intelligence and heart? He has a nice way of raising children, your Saint-Simon, if he did not tell them to offer a hand to all honest people. But it is abominable, simply. And you dare to quote him?” And my heartbroken grandfather, sensing the impossibility, before this obstruction, to try to find a way to tell Swann, the stories which would have amused him, said in a low voice to mother: “Remind me of the verse you have taught me that relieves me so much in these moments. Oh! Yes: ‘Lord, what virtues you make us hate!’ Ah! That is good!”
4/21 – 5/3/16
I would not leave my mother’s eyes, I knew that when we were at the table, they would not allow me to stay for the duration of dinner and not to annoy my father, mother would not let me kiss her repeatedly in front of everybody, as if she were in my room. So I would promise myself, in the dining room, while we began to dine and I felt the time approaching, to make in advance of her kiss which would be so brief and furtive, the only thing I could do, to choose the place on my cheek where she would kiss me, to devote all of my mind to being in harmony with the kiss for the minute mother would give me to feel her cheek against my lips, like a painter who can only get short sittings prepares his palette in advance, and looks at what he has done before by memory, according to his notes, all so that he will have the discipline to do without the presence of his model. But now before dinner was over my grandfather had the temerity to say: “The little one looks tired, he should go up to bed. We dine later than usual tonight.” And my father, who did not maintain as scrupulously as my grandmother and my mother a belief in pacts, said: “Yes, come, go to bed.” I wanted to kiss mother, at that moment we heard the dinner bell. “But no, look, let go of your mother, you have said goodnight to her like this enough, these displays are ridiculous. Come, up!” And I had to leave without Viaticum; I had to go up each stair, as in the popular expression, “against my will,” going against my heart which wanted to return to my mother because she had not, in kissing me, given me permission [de me suivre — to follow?]. This detested staircase where I was always so sad, exhaled a smell of lacquer that had somehow absorbed, fixed, this particular kind of grief that I felt every night and perhaps made it even crueler for my sensibility because under this olfactory form my intelligence could no longer assume its part. When we sleep and a toothache is perceived by us as a young girl who we [[endeavor]] two hundred times in a row to draw water for us or like a verse of Moliere that we repeat without stopping, it is a great relief to wake up and that our intelligence is able to rid the idea of the toothache of any heroic guise or cadence. This is the opposite of the relief I experienced when my grief over going up to my room arose in a manner infinitely more rapid, almost instantly, at the same time insidious and sudden, by the inhalation, — much more toxic than the moral invasion, — in response to the particular varnish smell on the stairs. Once in my room, I had to block all the doors, close all the shutters, dig my own grave, [en défaisant] my blankets, put on the shroud of my nightshirt. But before burying myself in the iron bed that had been placed in my room because I was too hot under the [de reps?] curtains of the large bed, I revolted, I wanted to try a trick of the condemned. I wrote to my mother begging her to come up because of a serious matter I could not tell her in my letter. My fear was that Francoise, my aunt’s cook who was responsible for taking care of me when I was at Combray, would refuse to deliver my note. I suspected that for her, an errand to my mother while everyone was there would seem as impossible as the porter of a theater delivering a message to an actor on stage. Regarding things that may or may not be done she possessed an impervious code, abundant, subtle, and intransigent toward imperceptible or idle distinctions (which gave her the appearance of these ancient laws that, alongside fierce prescriptions like murdering infants at the breast, defend with exaggerated delicacy preparing kid boiled in its mother’s milk, or eating the nerve of an animal’s thigh). This code, if we judge it by the sudden stubbornness with which she refused to make certain things that we asked her to, seemed to have anticipated social complexities and worldly refinements like nothing in Francoise’s circle or in the domestic life of the village had been able to suggest; and one is obliged to say that there was within it a very old French past, noble and misunderstood, as in these manufacturing cities where the old hotels testify that there was once a court life, and where workers at a chemical factory labor in the midst of delicate sculptures that represent the miracle of Saint Theophile or his fourth son Aymon. In this particular case, the section of the code due to which it was not very likely, except in the case of fire, that Francoise would disturb mother in the presence of M. Swann for such a small personage as myself, showed simply the respect that she professed not only for kin, –like for the dead, the clergy, and the kings,–but also for the stranger to whom we had given our hospitality, respect that perhaps would have touched me in a book but which always irritated me when it came from her mouth, because of the serious and softened tone she assumed, and further this evening where the sanctity she conferred on the dinner had for its effect that she would refuse to disturb the ceremony. But to put chance on my side, I would not hesitate to lie and tell her that it was not I who had wanted to write to mom, but that it was mom who, while I was leaving, told me not to forget to send a response regarding an item she had asked me to look for; and she would certainly be very angry if we did not deliver my note. I think Francoise did not believe me, because, like primitive men whose sense was much stronger than ours, she would immediately discern, from signs elusive to us, all of the truth that we want to hide from her; she looked at the envelope for five minutes as if examining the paper and the appearance of the handwriting was going to inform her of the nature of the content or let her know to which article of her code she had to refer. Then she left with a resigned air that seemed to mean: “Is it not unfortunate for parents to have such a child!” She returned after a time to tell me that they were still on the ice, it was impossible for the butler to deliver the letter right now in front of everyone, but that once they were on the rince-bouche [mouthwash?], they would find a way to pass it to mom. Immediately my anxiety dropped away; now it was not like earlier for I would not have to leave my mother until tomorrow, as my small word went, infuriating her no doubt (and doubly since this merry-go-round would make me ridiculous in Swann’s eyes), let me at least enter invisible and delighted in the same room as her, she would come talk to me in my ear; but this forbidden dining room, hostile, where there was yet another course, the ice itself — the “granite” — and the rince-bouche [mouth wash] seemed to me to conceal evil pleasures and mortal sadness because mom tasted them far from me, opened up to me and, like a ripe fruit that breaks its flesh, would shoot forth, throw my drunk heart to mom’s attention while she read my lines. Now I was not separated from her; the barriers had fallen, a lovely line reunited us. And that was not all: mother would no doubt come!
5/4 – 6/5/16
[lots of pronoun confusion in this one! is he talking about her, or it, or love??]
The anguish that I had just experienced, I thought Swann would mock me if he had read my letter and guessed the purpose; [or, rather, as I learned later, a similar anguish was the torment of many years of his life and person, as good as he perhaps was, he could not have understood me;] it, this anguish we feel when the being we love is in a place of pleasure where we are not, where we cannot join them, it is the love to which he is introduced, the love that is somehow predestined, whereby she[?] will be accepted, [monopolized]; but when, like for me, she/it enters into us before [he] even appeared in our life, she floats in the meantime, vague and free, without specific destination [unearmarked?], at the service one day of one feeling, the next day another, with tenderness as if for a child or friendship for a comrade. And the joy with which I made my first [apprenticeship?] when Francoise returned to tell me that my letter would be handed over, Swann had also known well this deceptive joy that gives us some friend, some relative of the woman we love, when arriving at the hotel or the theater where she is, for some ball, dreads, that before he runs into her, that a friend sees him wandering outside, desperately awaiting some opportunity to communicate with her. He recognizes us, addresses us familiarly, asks us what we are doing there. And as we fabricate that we have something urgent to say to this relative or friend, he assures us that nothing is more simple, and he takes us into the hall and promises that he will send her to us within five minutes. Whom we love–as in that moment I loved Francoise–, through the well-intentioned which a word reaches us renders bearable, human, and almost auspicious the inconceivable party, infernal, in the heart of which we believe our enemies swirl, dragging away from us, making us laugh, that which we love. If we judge by him, the relative who has accosted us and who is also one of the initiates in these cruel mysteries, the other party guests have to be nothing but demoniac as well. These inaccessible hours where she was going to taste unknown pleasures, [here that by an unexpected break we penetrate ??]; here are the moments whose sequence would have composed, a moment as real as the others, perhaps even more important for us, because our mistress is more mixed [mêlée], we imagine, we possess [it], we intervene, we created it almost: the moment when we will say that we are here, downstairs. And undoubtedly the other moments of the party should not be any different from that one, should not be more delicious and make us suffer so much as our benevolent friend said to us: “But she will be delighted to come down! It will be much more fun for her to chat with you than to remain bored up there.” Alas! Swann had experienced it, the good intentions of a third party are powerless over a woman who chafes to feel pursued into a party by someone she dislikes. Often, the friend comes back down alone.
6/5 – 9/5/16
My mother did not come, and without sparing my pride (fully committed to the fiction of the pursuit I had prayed that the result would not be denied me [(engagé à ce que la fable de la recherche dont elle était censée m’avoir prié de lui dire le résultat ne fût pas démentie)?]) I made myself say these words to Francoise: “There is no answer” since I have so often heard caretakers of “palaces” or the valets at gambling dens, report back to some poor girl who is astonished: “What, he did not say anything, but that’s impossible! Yet you delivered my letter. Fine, I’ll keep waiting.” And–as she invariably assures the concierge that she does not need the additional lamp that he wants to turn on for her, and remains there, not hearing more than a few remarks about the weather that are exchanged between the concierge and a bellboy whom he dispatches in a flash on realizing the time, to refresh the ice in a customer’s drink,–having declined Francoise’s offer to make me some tea or to wait with me, I let her return to the pantry, I lay down and closed my eyes, trying not to hear the voices of my parents who were having coffee in the garden. But after a few seconds, I felt that by writing this note to mother, approaching her, at the risk of angering her, so close that I had almost touched the moment of seeing her again, I had blocked the possibility of sleep without having seen her again, and the beating of my heart, every minute became more painful because I increased my agitation by preaching to myself a calm that was the acceptance of my misfortune. Suddenly my anxiety fell, a happiness invaded me as when a powerful drug begins to act and removes a pain: I resolved not to try to sleep without having seen mother again, kiss her at any cost, although it was with the certainty that I would be angry with her for a long time after she went back to bed. The calm that followed my agonies made me giddy, no less than the wait had, the thirst and the fear of danger. I opened the window noiselessly and sat at the foot of my bed; I made almost no movement so that they would not hear me below. Outside, things also seemed frozen in mute attention so as not to disturb the light of the moon, which doubled each thing by extending before it its reflection, which seemed more dense and concrete than the thing itself, shrinking and expanding the landscape like a folded map. What needed to move, some chestnut leaves, moved. But their minute shivering, total, executed down to the smallest nuances and final delicacies, did not blend with the rest, nor did it merge with them, but remained circumscribed. Exposed upon this silence that did not absorb anything, the most distant sounds, those that had come from gardens at the other end of town, are perceived detailed with a “finish” that seems not to have this distant/faraway effect of their pianissimo, like those muted motifs so well executed by the Conservatory orchestra that although they do not lose a note one can hear them however far away the concert hall and all the old subscribers, — my grandmother’s sisters when Swann gave them his seats, — strained their ears as if they were listening to the distant advances of an army on the march that has not yet turned onto la rue de Trévise.
10/1/2016 – 10/9/2016
I knew that the circumstance in which I put myself was that which would have for me, on behalf of my parents, grave consequences, much more serious in reality than a stranger could have imagined. But in the education they gave me, the order of faults was not the same as it was in the education of other children and we had gotten used to placing before all others (because without doubt there were none against which I would need to be more carefully guarded) those whose common characteristic I now understand is to cause one to yield to a nervous impulse. But then we do not pronounce this word, we do not declare this source which made me believe that I was excusable in succumbing or perhaps incapable of resisting. But I recognized well the agony that preceded them[?] like the severity of the punishment that followed them; and I knew that that which I had just committed was of the same family as the others for which I would be serverely punished, though infinitely more serious. When I would put myself on the road to my mother the moment she started up to bed, and when she saw that I had stayed up to say goodnight to her again in the hallway, they would not let me stay in the house, they would send me away to school the next day, it was certain. Fine! Even if I throw myself out the window five minutes later, I wanted it even more. What I wanted was mother, that she would say goodnight, I had come too far in the realization of this desire to be able to turn back.
12/30/16 – 3/13/17
I heard my parents’ footsteps as they accompanied Swann; and when the bell on the door told me that he had just left, I went to the window. Mother would ask my father if he had found the lobster good and if M. Swann had taken more of the coffee-pistachio ice cream. “I found it very unusual,” said my mother. “I think that next time we’ll have to try a different flavor.” “I can’t say how changed I find Swann,” said my great aunt, “he’s an old man!”. My great-aunt was so used to always seeing in Swann the same adolescent that she was astonished to find him suddenly less young. And my parents were beginning to find this old age abnormal, excessive, shameful and deserved by bachelors, by all those for whom it seems the big day which has no tomorrow is longer than for others, because for them it is empty and because starting each morning their hours accumulate without being divided by children. “I think that he has a lot of worries with his naughty woman who everyone in Combray knows lives with a certain Monsieur de Charlus. It is the talk of the town.” My mother pointed out that he looked much less sad than he used to. “He also makes this gesture less often that his father would make of wiping his eyes and passing his hand across his forehead. I believe that he does not like this woman anymore.” “But naturally he no longer loves her,” replied my grandfather. “I received a letter from him a long time ago on this subject, to which I hastened not to reply[?], and which left me with no doubt about his feelings at least in love for his wife. Well! Look, you have not thanked him for the Asti,” added my grandfather, turning to his two sisters-in-law. “What do you mean we didn’t thank him? Just between us, I think I even put a rather delicate spin on it,” responded my aunt Flora. “Yes, you put it very well, I admire you,” said my aunt Celine. “But you were very good too.” “Yes I was quite proud of my phrase about friendly neighbors.” “Hah, that’s what you call thanks!” exclaimed my grandfather. “I heard you say that, but the devil take me if I thought it was for Swann. You can be sure he did not understand.” “But look, Swann is not idiotic, I am certain he appreciated it. I could not however tell him the number of bottles and the price of the wine!” My father and my mother kept to themselves, and sat down for a moment; then my father said: “Well! If it’s alright with you, we’ll go up to bed.” “If you like, my dear, although I do not feel the slightest bit sleepy; this coffee ice cream has me wide awake; but I see light in the office and since poor Françoise waited for me, I will ask her to unfasten my bodice while you undress.” And my mother opened the latticed door of the vestibule which led to the staircase. Soon, I heard her shut their window. I went silently along the hallway; my heart beat so hard that I could barely move, but at least it wasn’t beating out of anxiety, but out of terror and joy. I saw in the cage of the stairs the light projected by Mother’s candle. Then I saw she herself; I rushed forward. For a second she regarded me with astonishment, not comprehending what had happened. But then her face got a look of anger, she did not say even a word to me, and, in fact, for many days after I was not spoken to. If mother had said a word to me, it would have been admitting that they could all talk to me again, and besides, it might have seemed even more terrible to me, like a sign that because of the gravity of the punishment that was being prepared, both silence and argument would have been childish. A word would have been the calm with which a servant one has just decided to fire is answered; a kiss the one given to a son who is being sent away to enlist [when he would have been refused if we had been satisfied to be angry with him for two days???]. But she heard my father coming up from the dressing room where he had gone to undress, and to avoid the scene he would make, she told me in a voice intersected by anger: “Save yourself, save yourself, at least your father hasn’t seen you waiting here like a fool!” But I repeated to her: “Come and say goodnight,” terrified to see that the reflection from my father’s candle was already on the wall, but also using his approach as a means of blackmail and hoping that Mom, to prevent my father from finding me there if she continued to refuse, would say to me: “Go back to your room, I’ll come.” It was too late, my father was in front of us. Without wanting to, I murmured these words that no one heard: “I am lost!”
3/13/17 – 4/3/17
It was not so. My father constantly refused me the permissions that had been granted me in broader pacts with my mother and my grandmother because he did not care about “principles” and because with him there was no “human rights”. For a reason abundantly contingent, or even for no reason, he stopped me at the last moment from my habitual, consecrated walk, that I could not be deprived of without perjury, or, as he had done this evening, long before the ritual hour, he said to me, “Come, go to bed, no explanation!” But here, because he had no principles (in the sense of my grandmother), he did not properly speak of intransigence. He looked at me for a moment with anger and surprise, then, as soon as mama had explained to him in a few embarrassed words what had happened, he said: “But go with him, since you were just saying you’re not ready to sleep, stay a little in his room, I do not need anything.” “But, my friend,” my mother responded timidly, “whether or not I want to sleep does not change anything, we cannot accustom this child…” “But it is not a question of habituating,” said my father, shrugging his shoulders, “you see that this little one is suffering, he looks desolate, this child; look, we are not executioners! When you have [made him?] sick, you will be well advanced![?] Since there are two beds in his room, tell Françoise to prepare the double bed and stay with him tonight. Come, goodnight, I who am not as nervous as you am going to bed.
4/3/17 – 5/1/17
You could not thank my father; he would have been annoyed by what he called sentimentality. I remained without daring to make a movement; he was again [still?] before us, tall, in his white night-dress below the purple and pink Indian cashmere he knotted around his head since had neuralgia, with Abraham’s gesture in the engraving after Benozzo Gozzoli that M. Swann had given me, telling Sarah that she has to part from Isaac. That was a long time ago. The wall of the staircase, where I saw the reflection of his candle rise, has long since ceased to exist. In me too things have been destroyed which I thought would last forever and new things have been built giving rise to new sorrows and joys that I could not have foreseen at the time, just as the old ones have become difficult for me to understand. It was a long time ago also that my father stopped being able to say to mother: “Go with the little one.” The possibility of such hours will never be reborn for me. But for a little while, I begin again to perceive very clearly if I lend an ear, the sobs which I had the force to contain before my father and only burst out when I found myself alone with Mama. In reality they have never ceased; and it is only because life is now more hushed around me that I hear them again, like those bells of convents that are so well covered by the sounds of the city during the day that we think they have stopped but they are recovering to ring in the evening silence.