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A Summer of Proust: Pages 150-200

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The last 46 pages of Combray! I have reached the end of Part One of Book One of In Search of Lost Time! A celebration is in order, I feel; perhaps I will bake a cake.

Our narrator is still on the subject of love. On page 150, we are introduced to M. Vinteuil’s not-so-secret family drama. It would seem that his daughter is one day spotted with a woman who has a bad reputation and then is never seen without her. The daughter’s friend is always at Vinteuil’s house, and one day just moves in. Vinteuil himself only has the nicest things to say about this woman, even though everyone else can tell that the scandal of it all is killing him. After he passes away, the narrator finds himself outside the window of the Vinteuil’s estate, and he witnesses an interaction between the daughter and her lover. He feels like he should move away, but he can’t for fear of be discovered; he was not meaning to spy but if anyone knew he was there that is the only conclusion that they would draw.

In these fifty pages, the narrator describes long walks that he took by himself and imaginary people, especially young peasant girls from the neighboring village, whom he hoped to meet and converse with. He also discusses how he loses faith in his own ability as a writer. He wants to write, but he is unsure of what he will write about and if he possesses the necessary skills.

The Duchess de Guermantes makes her first appearance in these fifty pages. She comes to Combray to attend the wedding of the daughter of Dr. Percepied. The narrator sees her and recognizes her from the descriptions given by the doctor, but he is disappointed in her appearance. His disappointment does not stem from the inaccuracy of the doctor’s descriptions; he is able to recognize her based on them, but from the fact that he had previously always pictured her in the colors of the stained glass and the tapestries he had seem that depicted the deeds of her family and her ancestors.

This part of the book ends with a reminder that all of these recollections swum back to our narrator because of the “fragrance” (as they would say in Combray) of a cup of tea. And, that once he had them, he would lie until morning thinking about them if he woke up during the night. It also ends with a foreshadowing of Part Two, in which the narrator references a love affair that Swann had had before he was born.

The last five pages of this fifty took me into Part Two of Swann’s Way, Swann in Love. It begins with a description of the Verdurins, who seem to bring people to their “little set” and keep them their by demanding loyalty. You must agree with Mme. Verdurin that her pianist friend is the best and that her doctor is the top diagnostician. Also, you had to agree that other people’s soiree’s were boring or you’d find yourself out of the circle.

Swann is introduced to the circle by one of the few female regulars, Odette de Crecy. Odette has met M. Swann and thinks that it would be wonderful to introduce him to the little clan. And, so she does. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this section, although I have to admit that at this point, I’m not a big fan of the Verdurins.

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About Katharine Donelson