My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Within a Budding Grove (In Search of Lost Time, Volume II ~ 1919) by Marcel Proust won the Goncourt Prize and was originally set to be published in 1914 (one year after Swann’s Way, Vol. I) but was delayed until 1919 because of World War I.
Within a Budding Grove reads as two different books with a single theme because Part One of the novel takes place in Paris where the unnamed Narrator (a young, male writer) struggles with his friendship/relationship with Gilberte Swann (first introduced as the Narrator’s love interest in Swann’s Way, Vol. I) and later her mother Mme Swann while Part Two takes place in the seaside resort of Balbec, where the Narrator meets and befriends a group of young girls and must finally come to an understanding of what one feels and means by “attraction” and “love.”
Proust (likely the unnamed Narrator of Within a Budding Grove) wanted nothing more than to be a novelist and he eventually went on to achieve world fame and immortal success with In Search of Lost Time (previously translated as Remembrance of Things Past from the French title À la recherche du temps perdu).
In the “Introduction” of In Search of Lost Time, Richard Howard explains of Proust and his un-named protagonist:
“What is narrated is not the Narrator’s life, but his desire to write. Time thwarts this desire, tends it toward a conventional chronology (which must be continually subverted, for what is merely successive is surely lost: only the circle can be retrouvé, a word that means not only regained but rediscovered, recognized, repossessed)—and how many challenges, discouragements, and rivalries must be endured before the desire to write achieves an ultimate triumph” (Vol. I, p xiv).
Proust, himself, would agree with this “other self” who narrates his epic:
“A book is the product of a different self from the one we manifest in our habits, in society, in our vices. If we mean to try to understand this self it is only in our inmost depths, by endeavoring to reconstruct it there, that the quest can be achieved” (Vol. II, p vi).
The Great French Novel (a single novel originally published as separate books), In Search of Lost Time (Volumes I-VI re-published with an updated translation by The Modern Library in 1992) is a major work (and piece of art) in World Literature and without question one of the longest books (excluding Addenda, Notes, Synopsis, etc.) at a total page count of 4,347 pages:
Volume I ~ Swann’s Way (1913) = 606 pages
Volume II ~ Within a Budding Grove (1919) = 730 pages
Volume III ~ The Guermantes Way, Books I & II (1920 & 1921) = 819 pages
Volume IV ~ Sodom and Gomorrah, Books I & II (1921 & 1922) = 724 pages
Volume V* ~ The Captive (1923) & The Fugitive (1925) = 936 pages
Volume VI* ~ Time Regained (1927) = 532 pages
*Note* ~ Proust died on November 22, 1922 before the last two volumes (or the last three books) were originally published
Major Characters in Within a Budding Grove
Narrator ~ officially un-named but interpreted as the author Marcel Proust
Françoise ~ servant to the Narrator’s family (first introduced in Swann’s Way, Vol. I)
Charles Swann, aristocrat, often taking on myth-like status to the Narrator (first introduced in Swann’s Way, Vol. I)
Odette de Crécy (Mme Swann), wife of Charles Swann (first introduced in Swann’s Way, Vol. I)
Gilberte Swann, Charles Swann’s daughter and love interest of the Narrator (first introduced in Swann’s Way, Vol. I)
M. de Norpois, a diplomat and friend to the Narrator’s father
Marquis de Saint-Loup-en-Bray (also known as Robert de Saint-Loup), befriends Narrator in Balbec
Albertine Simonet, a young girl in Balbec who becomes a love interest to the Narrator
Elstir, a celebrated painter and friend to Charles Swann, befriends Narrator in Balbec
Andrée, friend to Albertine and another love interest to the Narrator while in Balbec
Plot Outline in Within a Budding Grove
Part One: Madame Swann at Home (pgs 1-298)
- Narrator attends a play with his Grandmother to see Berma in Phèdre (p 21)
- Narrator with family has dinner with M de Norpois, who speaks of Charles Swann’s marriage with Odette (p 29)
- Narrator contemplates being a novelist (p 73)
- Narrator writes a letter to Charles Swann, who is the father of Gilberte (p 86)
- Narrator playfully wrestles with Gilberte because he’s “irresistibly attracted by her body” (p 90)
- Narrator is bedridden with illness (p 94)
- Gilberte Swann writes a letter with her motto (“Per viam rectam”) to the Narrator, who is still recovering from his illness (p 98)
- Narrator visits Gilberte at her home (p 103)
- Vinteuil’s Sonata (p 140)
- Narrator meets one of his favorite authors, Bergotte, and is disappointed (p 165)
- Narrator analyzes Bergotte’s writing and spoken discourse (p 173)
- Narrator is introduced to the literary scene (p 200)
- Narrator and Bloch visit a brothel (p 206)
- The Narrator’s and Gilberte’s friendship/relationship falls apart (p 216)
- A New Year and the Narrator languishes without Gilberte (p 253)
- Narrator sells his late Aunt Leonie’s Chinese porcelain vase for ten thousand francs, and sees Gilberte walking with a young man (pgs 272-273)
- “For in this respect love is not like war.” (p 275)
- Letters to Gilberte (p 286)
- Narrator visits the Arc-de-Triomphe on Sundays to watch Odette Swann take a stroll (p 290)
Part Two: Place-Names – The Name (pgs 299-730)
- Memories of Love (p 300)
- Narrator prepares for trip to Balbec (p 305)
- Narrator gets drunk on the train to Balbec (p 312)
- Narrator spies a “tall girl” carrying a jar of milk towards the train station at dawn (p 317)
- The Church Virgin of Balbec (pgs 323-324)
- Narrator meets Mlle de Stermaria while in Balbec (p 357)
- Narrator meets the Princesse de Luxembourg on the beach (p 379)
- Narrator meets and later befriends Robert de Saint-Loup, a nephew of Mme de Villeparisis (p 470)
- The anti-Semite (p 433)
- Narrator meets the Baron de Charlus (also known as Baron de Guermantes and Uncle Palamède and Prince des Laumes), uncle to Robert de Saint-Loup (pgs 455-457)
- “an excess of scrupulosity” (p 470)
- A band of girls and Albertine Simonet (p 504)
- Narrator with Robert at Rivebelle (p 530)
- Narrator meets Elstir, a celebrated painter and friend to Charles Swann (p 555)
- Narrator meets Albertine’s friend Andrée (p 631)
- Narrator meets Albertine’s friend Gisèle (p 639)
- The Essay (p 671)
- The Fairy Wood (p 682)
- Albertine and the hotel room (p 699)
- At an end in Balbec (p 728)
Similes and Metaphors Found in Within a Budding Grove
Note: A majority of the similes and metaphors are found at the end of a sentence to close out an idea (see the first five sentences as examples for a solid representative illustration of the sentence-form used throughout the novel ~ understanding the structure of the sentences when a simile or metaphor is used helps to better understand Proust’s ideas, thoughts, reflections and imagery, and further helps to make the reading of the text easier); for most of the list below only the similes and metaphors will be written (since, as you will see in the first five examples, the full sentence is quite long) and what is being illustrated and highlighted (as the purpose of this section) are not the comparisons between two unlike things but the variety of non-cliché, original phrases and the consistency of themes (like the “sea,” “history,” “religion,” “music” and “flowers”) throughout the similes and metaphors:
- “Since she attached the utmost importance to the intrinsic quality of the materials which were to enter into the fabric of her work, she had gone herself to Halles to procure the best cuts of rump-steak, shin of beef, calves’-feet, just as Michelangelo spent eight months in the mountains of Carrara choosing the most perfect blocks of marble for the monument of Julius II” (p 21).
- “Françoise expended on these comings and goings so much ardour that Mamma, at the sight of her flaming cheeks, was alarmed lest our old servant should fall ill from overwork, like the sculptor of the Tombs of the Medici in the quarries of Pietrasanta” (p 21).
- “Since they inclined me towards literature, he did not dissuade me from it: on the contrary, he spoke of it with deference, as some venerable and charming personage whose select circle, in Rome or at Dresden, one remembers with pleasure and regrets only that one’s multifarious duties in life enable one to revisit so seldom” (p 31).
- “While he was uttering these words, and for a few seconds after he had uttered them, M. de Norpois was still in the same position as anyone else who, hearing me speak of Swann as an intelligent man, of his family as respectable stockbrokers, of his house as a fine house, imagined that I would speak just as readily of another man equally intelligent, of other stockbrokers equally respectable, of another house equally fine; it was the moment in which a sane man who is talking to a lunatic has not yet perceived that he is a lunatic” ( 66).
- “Often her laughter, out of harmony with her words, seemed, as music seems, to be tracing an invisible surface on another plane” (p 86).
- “like the native tongue which peoples in captivity endeavor to preserve among themselves so as not to forget the land that they will never see again” (p 97).
- “But this ordered and unalterable design seemed, like Kant’s necessary universe, to depend on a supreme act of free will” (p 107).
- “Thus the Swann’s drawing-room was reminiscent of a seaside hotel where telegrams are posted up on a board” (p 117).
- “At half-past twelve I would finally make up my mind to enter the house which, like an immense Christmas stocking, seemed ready to bestow upon me supernatural delights” (p 136).
- “Of a truth, I should have been less ill at ease in a magician’s cave than in this little waiting-room where the fire appeared to me to be performing alchemical transmutations as in Klingsor’s laboratory” (p 137).
- “as though for the celebration of some strange and secret rite” (p 138).
- “Obliged myself to remain in the drawing-room, like a man in love with an actress who is confined to his stall and wonders anxiously what is going on behind the scenes, in the green-room” (p 139)
- “like every great work of art” (pgs 142-143)
- “Faced with the thoughts, the actions of a woman whom we love, we are as completely at a loss as the world’s first natural philosophers must have been, face to face with the phenomena of nature, before their science had been elaborated and had cast a ray of light over the unknown” (p 220).
- “For regret, like desire, seeks not to analyse but to gratify itself” (p 259).
- “One felt that she did not dress simply for the comfort or the adornment of her body; she was surrounded by her garments as by the delicate and spiritualised machinery of a whole civilisation” (p 267).
- “like those mutilated saints in cathedrals which ignorant archaeologists have restored, fitting the head of one to the body of another and jumbling all their attributes and names” (p 281).
- “like the apparition of a creature of a different species, of an unknown race, and of almost martial power, by virtue of which she seemed by herself a match for all her multiple escort” (p 291).
- “as of profane visitors to a shrine, an admission of their own ignorance” (p 292).
- “like the stroll one takes up and down one’s own garden” (p 292).
- “like those parts of an orchestral score to which the composer has devoted infinite labour although they may never reach the ears of the public” (p 293).
- “like those Gothic carvings on a cathedral, hidden on the inside of a balustrade eighty feet from the ground, as perfect as the bas-reliefs over the main porch, and yet never seen by any living man until, happening to pass that way upon his travels, an artist obtains leave to climb up there among them, to stroll in the open air, overlooking the whole town, between the soaring towers” (pgs 293-294).
- “like a goddess” (p 294)
- “like those crowned heads who, without consulting anyone, accompanied by the slightly scandalised admiration of a suite which dares not venture any criticism, step out of their boxes during a gala performance and visit the lobby of the theatre, mingling for a moment or two with the rest of the audience” (p 294).
- “like Hypatia” (p 296)
- “from seeing myself once again strolling and talking thus with Mme Swann, beneath her parasol, as though in the coloured shade of a wistaria bower” (p 298).
- “like a person trying to make himself perform some exercise that hurts him in order to get into the habit” (pgs 312-313).
- “like a sun which it was somehow possible to stare at and which was coming nearer and nearer, letting itself be seen at close quarters, dazzling you with its blaze of red and gold” (p 320).
- “when they rise like a gaseous bubble from the depths of my memory” (pgs 326-327)
- “like a man who tries to fasten his tie in front of a glass and forgets that the end which he sees reflected is not on the side to which he raises his hand, or like a dog that chases along the ground the dancing shadow of an insect in the air” (p 335)
- “like the glaciers that one sees in the backgrounds of the Tuscan Primitives” (p 342).
- “like a giant who may at any moment come leaping gaily down their craggy sides” (p 342)
- “just what at that moment was scorching the sea topaz-yellow, fermenting it, turning it pale and milky like beer, frothy like milk” (p 344)
- “they were scattered like snipers on a battlefield or draughtsmen upon a board, concentrated their forces in this hotel” (p 345).
- “like one’s first header into the sea” (p 350)
- “as a corporal takes a squad of recruits to the master-tailor to have them fitted” (p 351)
- “like a shipwrecked mariner who has seen a vessel apparently approaching, which has then vanished under the horizon” (p 361).
- “like that Jupiter to whom Gustave Moreau, when he portrayed him by the side of a weak mortal, gave a superhuman stature” (p 382).
- “like those that occur in the second act of a farce to be cleared up before the final curtain” (p 384).
- “warmed like a bath a square of provincial carpet before the window overlooking the courtyard which the sun festooned and patterned like a climbing vine” (p 386)
- “like a Nereid” (p 387)
- “like those goddesses whom the sculptor carves in relief upon a block of marble the rest of which he leaves unchiselled” (p 387).
- “rather than stay at home all day like children in disgrace” (p 388)
- “like some shrub of a rare species” (p 388)
- “But in the afternoon they stood there only like a chorus who, even where there is nothing for them to do, remain upon the stage in order to strengthen the representation” (pgs 388-399).
- “like those pupils of Mme de Maintenon who, in the garb of young Israelites, carry on the action whenever Esther or Joad ‘goes off’” (p 389).
- “like the ceremonial carpet spread for a wedding that was now over, had been only recently swept by the white satin train of their blushing flowers” (p 390).
- “spread like those of a picture between the leaves” (p 391)
- “like those learned people who hold us spellbound when we get them on to Egyptian painting and Etruscan inscriptions, and yet talk so tritely about modern work that we wonder whether we have not overestimated the interest of the sciences in which they are versed since they do not betray therein the mediocrity of mind which they must have brought to those studies just as much as to their fatuous essays on Baudelaire” (p 394)
- “a few hesitant cornflowers, like those of Combray, would follow in our wake” (p 49).
- “which was traversed by eddies flickering and spreading like light” (p 402).
- “like the pages which, with a sudden thrill, we recognise in a book that we imagined we had never read, they alone survived from the forgotten book of my earliest childhood” (p 406)
- “Like ghosts they seemed to be appealing to me to take them with me, to bring them back to life” (p 407).
- “which would have marked him out in a crowd like a precious vein of opal, azure-shot and luminous, embedded in a mass of coarser substance, must correspond to a life different from that led by other men” (p 421).
- “like the act of warding off a blow or of shutting one’s eyes to avoid a stream of boiling water, without the protection of which it would have been dangerous to remain a moment longer” (p 425).
- “as a cantankerous fairy discards her preliminary guise and assumes all the most enchanting graces” (p 425)
- “like misers who decide to discharge their debts but cannot bring themselves to pay more than half of them” (p 446).
- “like the people who acquire violas da gamba and violas d’amore to perform the music of the past on old instruments” (p 449).
- “like a last shot which one fires at an enemy as one turns to flee” (p 452)
- “like the neutral look which feigns to see nothing without and is incapable of reporting anything to the mind within, the look which expresses merely the satisfaction of feeling round it the eyelids which it keeps apart with its beatific roundness, the devout and sanctimonious look that we see on the faces of certain hypocrites, the smug look on those of certain fools” (p 454).
- “like a liberty which one dares not take” (p 455).
- “like a sounding-lead at insignificant people of the most humble extraction who happened to pass” (p 455)
- “like some eighteenth-century façade supported on its flat columns of pink marble, in which the passage of time has wrought no change” (p 461).
- “like diplomats or like young men after a misunderstanding who endeavor, with untiring and unrewarded zeal, to obtain an explanation which their adversary is determined not to give them” (p 464).
- “like certain contralto voices in which the middle register has not been sufficiently cultivated, so that when they sing it sounds like an alternating duet between a young man and a woman” (p 469)
- “like the woman who was living with him” (p 494)
- “like her actor friends” (p 496)
- “like the Arabian king in a Renaissance picture of the Epiphany” (p 505)
- “like statues exposed to the sunlight on a Grecian shore” (p 506).
- “like a luminous comet” (p 506)
- “like an assembly of birds before taking flight” (p 508)
- “like a chicken’s beak” (p 508)
- “like a single warm shadow, a single atmosphere” (p 510)
- “my comprehensive study had impregnated and transformed like a natural history specimen” (p 517).
- “like a script which one can read” (p 517)
- “which, hollowed out inside like a toy” (p 519)
- “reigns over a court like any young Prince of Wales” (p 520).
- “like those of a shrine” (p 522)
- “like a piece of stained glass in its leads” (p 522)
- “like the representation of some miraculous sign, of some mystical apparition” (p 523)
- “like a sacred picture over a high altar” (p 523)
- “like those different scenes executed long ago for a confraternity by some old master on a reliquary” (p 523)
- “like a grey-mullet” (p 523)
- “receding like a nocturnal traveller” (p 523)
- “like shadowy and silent but unsleeping swans” (p 524)
- “like a playing fountain, like living fireworks, joining the intervals between their soaring rockets with the motionless white streaming lines of long horizontal wakes” (p 524)
- “like the trees upon its shore” (p 525)
- “like a river on either bank of which boats seemed to be waiting high and dry for someone to push them down and set them afloat” (p 525).
- “like those arctic days which night interrupts for a few minutes only” (p 526).
- “looked like the arborescence that one sees at the heart of an onyx” (p 529).
- “like so many planets, as the latter are represented in old allegorical pictures” (p 532).
- “two horrible cashiers, busy with endless calculations, seemed two witches occupied in forecasting by astrological signs the disasters that might from time to time occur in this celestial vault fashioned according to the scientific conceptions of the Middle Ages” (p 533).
- “like one of those chemical industries by means of which compounds are produced in large quantities which in a stare of nature are encountered only by accident and very rarely” (p 534).
- “was itself like an ethereal pleasure-dome superimposed upon the other and more intoxicating still. For these tunes, each as individual as a woman” (p 534)
- “it resembled a giant fish-tank or bow-net in which a fisherman has collected all his glittering catch, which, half out of water and bathed in sunlight, coruscate before one’s eyes in an ever-changing iridescence” (p 536).
- “summer-houses glimmering in the twilight like pale spectres of evening” (p 536)
- “I was enclosed in the present, like heroes and drunkards” (p 539)
- “a bee drugged with tobacco smoke that had ceased to take any thought for the preserving the accumulation of its labours and the hopes of its hive” (p 540).
- “The people who were no longer of any importance, whom we scattered with our breath like soap-bubbles, will tomorrow resume their density” (p 541).
- “She’s got feet like boats, whiskers like an American, and her undies are filthy” (p 542).
- “like those that painters, to deceive the bulk of their visitors, drape with a decent covering” (p 543).
- “His head reminded one of those old castle keeps on which the disused battlements are still to be seen, although inside they have been converted into libraries” (p 544).
- “like a sculptor” (p 545)
- “like the drop lowered right at the front of the stage before which, while the scene shifters are busy behind, actors appear in an interim turn” (p 546).
- “like a powerful cook” (p 547)
- “Like a sailor who sees plainly the quay where he can moor his boat, still tossed by the waves” (p 547)
- “like the architect in the fable” (p 548).
- “but the mission of a particular memory, like that of part of a sentence when we are reading, leads sometimes not to uncertainty but to the birth of a premature certainty” (p 553).
- “like an animal that is being driven reluctant to its stall” (p 557)
- “And Elstir’s studio appeared to me like the laboratory of a sort of new creation of the world in which, from the chaos that is everything we see, he had extracted, by painting them on various rectangles of canvas that were placed at all angles, here a sea-wave angrily crashing its lilac foam on to the sand, there a young man in white linen leaning on the rail of a ship” (p 565).
- “like a lump of rock crystal of which one surface, already cut and polished, gleams here and there like a mirror with iridescent rays” (p 565).
- “like a jaunting-car on a rough road” (p 569).
- “the lilliputian grace of white sails on the blue mirror on whose surface they looked like sleeping butterflies” (p 571)
- “like a tributary to swell the flood of joy that had surged in me at the sight of Elstir’s Carquethuit Harbour” (p 576).
- “like ill-adjusted stage lighting” (p 581)
- “with its gay pleats gathered into little bells like lilies of the valley” (p 584)
- “I turned my back like a bather preparing to meet the shock of a wave” (p 593).
- “would come to strike me like an expected and innocuous bullet” (p 594).
- “reminded me of a cake on the top of which a place has been kept for a morsel of blue sky” (p 595).
- “like those travelling skies on stormy days which approach a slower cloud, touch it, overtake it, pass it. But they do not know one another, and are soon driven far apart” (p 595).
- “like Swann’s favorite photograph” (p 601)
- “it was like one of those visitors who wait before letting us know that they are in the room until everyone else has gone and we are by ourselves” (p 607).
- “like the sleeper awakened” (p 608)
- “Pleasure in this respect is like photography” (p 616).
- “that sacramental moment, as when in a fairy tale the magician commands a person suddenly to become someone else” (p 617)
- “like an overwrought philosopher” (p 627).
- “Like many intellectuals, he was incapable of saying a simple thing in a simple way” (p 629).
- “So that trying to make friends with Albertine seemed to me like entering into contact with the unknown, if not the impossible, an occupation as arduous as breaking in a horse, as restful as keeping bees or growing roses” (p 630).
- “I wavered like a schoolboy faced by the difficulties of a piece of Greek prose” (p 631).
- “like a glimpse, through an open door in a dark house, of a room into which the sun is shining with a greenish reflexion from the glittering sea” (p 631).
- “like a village notary” (p 633).
- “like a strange and fascinating plant, lay over her brow, displaying all the delicate tracery of its foliation” (p 637).
- “it was like the still roseate morning sky which sparkles everywhere with dazzling points of gold” (p 638).
- “like certain roses whose petals have a waxy gloss” (p 639).
- “Like a wet hen” (p 641)
- “Our memory is like one of those shops in the window of which is exposed now one, now another photograph of the same person” (p 642).
- “the latest was like one of those new varieties of rose which gardeners get by using first a rose of another species” (p 643).
- “The eye follows with delight a nose like a wavelet that deliciously ripples the surface of the water at daybreak, and seems motionless, capturable by the pencil, because the sea is so calm that one does not notice its tidal flow” (p 643).
- “like some cryptogamous plant” (p 644)
- “though they remained as indistinct as those characters in a play whose opening lines are spoken in the wings, before they appear on the stage” (p 650).
- “The ships were massive, built like pieces of architecture, and seemed almost amphibious, like lesser Venices set in the heart of the greater, when, moored to the banks by gangways decked with crimson satin and Persian carpets, they bore their freight of ladies in cerise brocade and green damask close under the balconies incrusted with multi-colored marble from which other ladies leaned to gaze at them, in gowns with black sleeves slashed with white, stitched with pearls or bordered with lace” (p 653).
- “like a Chinese parasol” (p 655)
- “like dolphins” (p 656)
- “like the people who sat musing on board those vessels drowsy with the heat” (p 657)
- “dazzling sails that were like seaside costumes” (p 658)
- “when the fact is that we are not like buildings to which stones can be added from without, but like trees which draw from their own sap the next knot that will appear on their trunks, the spreading roof of their foliage” (p 665).
- “Just as infants have a gland the secretion of which enables them to digest milk, a gland which is not found in adults, so there were in the twitterings of these girls notes which women’s voices no longer contain” (p 666).
- “like the strophes of antiquity when poetry, still hardly differentiated from music, was declaimed on different notes” (p 667).
- “Nature, like the destruction of Pompeii, like the metamorphosis of a nymph, has arrested us in an accustomed movement” (p 667).
- “The human face is indeed, like the face of the God of some oriental theogony, a whole cluster of faces juxtaposed on different planes so that one does not see them all at once” (p 678).
- “buzzing like a bee-hive” (p 678)
- “like thoroughbred greyhounds” (p 680)
- “they had, with the light behind them, the golden diaphanousness of two autumn leaves” (p 681).
- “like the ringing sound of her laughter, indecent in the way that the cooing of doves or certain animal cries can be” (p 681).
- “like those people who cannot visit Trianon without getting up a party in Louis XVI costume, or think it amusing to have a song sung to its original setting” (p 682).
- “those hawthorn flowers that were like merry little girls, headstrong, provocative, pious” (p 685).
- “like a marble basin in which, half-way up its polished sides, they mirrored an azure surface steeped in light over which glided for an instant, impalpable and white as a wave of heat, the fleeting reflexion of a cloud” (p 690).
- “like waves” (p 695)
- “swinging her diabolo like a nun her rosary” (p 695).
- “and her voice was like what we are promised in the photo-telephone of the future: the visual image was clearly outlined in the sound” (p 696).
- “when the stones catching the sun seem blocks of pink granite and radiate joy” (p 697).
- “like those Michelangelo figures which are being swept away in a stationary and vertiginous whirlwind” (p 701).
- “like a man sometimes who has been so kind to a woman, in the hope of winning her favours, that he refrains from declaring his passion in order not to deprive his kindness of its appearance of nobility” (p 708).
- “like good pals” (p 712)
- “was left embedded in my soul like a stepping-stone in a stream” (p 713).
- “It dwelt in me like one of those foreign bodies which it would be wiser when all is said to expel, but which we leave where they are without disturbing them, so harmless for the present does their weakness, their isolation amid a strange environment render them” (p 713).
- “as pliant and as deep as the line with which the wind furrows the sand” (p 717).
- “like a snowdrift that rises or sinks according to the irregularities of the land” (p 717).
- “like a high tower resting upon massive foundations” (p 717).
- “like those properties used in the Russian ballet, consisting sometimes, when they are seen in the light of the day, of a mere paper disc, out of which the genius of a Bakst, according to the blood-red or moonlit lighting in which he plunges his stage, makes a hard incrustation, like a turquoise on a palace wall, or something softly blooming, like a Bengal rose in an eastern garden” (p 718).
- “like white wax on the surface” (p 718)
- “it was as though one were looking at a goldfinch’s egg, or perhaps at an opalescent agate cut and polished in two places only, where, at the heart of the brown stone, there shone, like the transparent wings of a sky-blue butterfly, the eyes, those features in which the flesh becomes a mirror and gives us the illusion of enabling us, more than through the other parts of the body, to approach the soul” (p 719).
- “as delicate as that of a mischievous kitten with which one would have liked to play” (p 719).
- “like those seas—called by me simply and for the sake of convenience ‘the sea’” (p 720)
- “like Virgil’s Leucothea” (p 721)
- “like an experimenter who seeks by corroborative proofs to establish the truth of his theory” (p 721).
- “like rays from another universe” (p 724)
- “like those painters who, seeking to match the grandeurs of antiquity in modern life, give to a woman cutting her toe-nail the nobility of the Thorn Puller, or, like Rubens, make goddesses out of women they know to people some mythological scene” (p 724)
- “like young Hercules or Telemachus, I had been playing amid a band of nymphs” (p 724).
- “not all at once, like the swallows” (p 724)
- “walked like the ghost of a monarch who returns to haunt the ruins of what was once his palace” (p 725)
- “like those lessons which one learns by heart while one is asleep” (p 727).
- “and they spilled over the carpet as it were a scarlet shower of anemone-petals” (p 728).
- “like the pillar of fire which went before the Hebrews in the desert” (p 728).
- “like a machine set going at full speed but fixed to the ground, which can spend its energy only by turning over on itself” (p 729).
- “like an Italian citadel” (p 729)
- “like the laughter of the Nereids in the soft surge of sound that rose to my ears” (p 729).
- “the summer day which she disclosed seemed as dead, as immemorial, as a sumptuous millenary mummy from which our old servant had done no more than cautiously unwind the linen wrappings before displaying it, embalmed in its vesture of gold” (p 730).
Thoughts on Themes Found in Within a Budding Grove
Within a Budding Grove has often been translated (with a more provocative title) as In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (“in Flower” meaning figuratively: a period of time for a young girl who is a virgin and maturing; also, conversely, see: “Deflower”: often meaning to take a young girl’s virginity). Within a Budding Grove is a more applicable title because the “young girls” in the alternative title don’t show up until page 504 in Part Two (thereby remaining the focus of the rest of the novel), and the “budding grove” of the newer title further implies and includes Gilberte Swann and Mme Swann and their home in Part One as much as it does the “Fairy Wood” in Part Two.
In coming to terms with what the young writer-Narrator feels is impressed upon him by the terms “attraction” and “love,” he must first better understand what is meant, and what he deeply feels to be true, when one thinks of “beauty.” In his attempt, “Art” in the forms of theatre, literature, music, and painting is analyzed and reflected upon throughout the novel, and by doing so he sets upon the ending scenes in Part Two where he meets a band of young girls (p 504) and the attraction he feels for Albertine as she waits for him in bed at the end of the book; at first he is incapable of differentiating between the girls to recognize them as individuals, but as he gets to know each of the girls he starts to assess physical characteristics and personality traits which assist him in reaching an impression of what a person means by the terms and notions of “beautiful,” “attractive,” “desire,” “seductive,” “provocative,” and “appealing.”
In Part One, the Narrator attends a play with his Grandmother to see Berma in Phèdre (p 21) for a second time (the first time being in Swann’s Way, Vol. I) and contemplates “beauty” through “works of art” (note: the use of “coasts” hints at Part Two when the Narrator visits the coast at Balbec and where he meets the band of girls):
“The recollection that I was to be taken to see Berma alone distracted me from my grief. But just as I wished to see storms only on those coasts where they raged with most violence, so I should not have cared to see the great actress except in one of those classic parts in which Swann had told me that she touched the sublime. For when it is in the hope of making a priceless discovery that we desire to receive certain impressions from nature or from works of art, we have qualms lest our soul imbibe inferior impressions which might lead us to form a false estimate of the value of Beauty” (p 14).
This “false estimate” remerges by the end of the novel in the coastal city of Balbec where the Narrator struggles between his attraction and love for Albertine and Andrée.
Shortly after the play, however, the Narrator continues to contemplate the themes in literature and the books by his idol Bergotte (which first appeared in Swann’s Way, Vol. I) and who is supposedly based on the French novelist Anatole France (1844-1924), through the dialogue of M de Norpois, a diplomat and friend to the Narrator’s father, while attending dinner one night:
“His books fail at the foundation, or rather they have no foundation at all. At a time like the present, when the ever-increasing complexity of life leaves one scarcely a moment for reading, when the map of Europe has undergone radical alterations and is on the eve, perhaps, of undergoing others more drastic still, when so many new and threatening problems are arising on every side, you will allow me to suggest that one is entitled to ask that a writer should be something more than a clever fellow who lulls us into forgetting, amid otiose and byzantine discussions of the merits of pure form, that we may be overwhelmed at any moment by a double tide of barbarians, those from without and those from within our borders. I am aware that this is to blaspheme against the sacrosanct school of what these gentlemen term ‘Art for Art’s sake,’ but at this period of history there are tasks more urgent than the manipulation of words in a harmonious manner. I don’t deny that Bergotte’s manner can be quite seductive at times, but taken as a whole, it is all very precious, very thin, and altogether lacking in virility” (p 61).
“Virility,” or the idea thereof, also remerges a few pages later when the Narrator “wrestles” with Gilberte and he feels as though “a few drops of sweat wrung from” his body (p 90) and also by the end of the book when the Narrator meets Albertine in the hotel room in Balbec (p 699).
The Narrator furthers and deepens the understanding of these recurring themes (as well as how “memory” affects these notions of beauty and love, etc.) while contemplating music (specifically Vinteuil’s sonata, which also first appeared in Swann’s Way, Vol. I):
“It was on one of those days that she [Mme Swann] happened to play for me the passage in Vinteuil’s sonata that contained the little phrase of which [Charles] Swann had been so fond… Probably what is wanting, the first time, is not comprehension but memory…
“Hence the melancholy inseparable from one’s knowledge of such works, as of everything that takes place in time. When the least obvious beauties of Vinteuil’s sonata were revealed to me, already, borne by the force of habit beyond the grasp of my sensibility, those that I had from the first distinguished and preferred in it were beginning to escape, to elude me. Since I was able to enjoy everything that this sonata had to give me only in a succession of hearings, I never possessed it in its entirety: it was like life itself. But, less disappointing than life, great works of art do not begin by giving us the best of themselves…
“The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. It is his work itself that, by fertilising the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply. It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it. What is called posterity is the posterity of the work of art… And so it is essential that the artist (and this is what Vinteuil had done), if he wishes his work to be free to follow its own course, should launch it, there where there is sufficient depth, boldly into the distant future” (pgs 139-143).
Thus, by the time the reader gets to the penultimate scene by novel’s end, the reader has a better (if not clearer) understanding of the immediacy and the importance of what the young Narrator is experiencing and feeling (regarding the themes discussed above) when he enters the hotel room of Albertine Simonet and finds her alone in bed:
“I found Albertine in bed. Leaving her throat bare, her white nightdress altered the proportions of her face, which, flushed by being in bed or by her cold or by dinner, seemed pinker; I thought of the colours I had had beside me a few hours earlier on the front, the savour of which I was now at last to taste; her cheek was traversed by one of those long, dark, curling tresses which, to please me, she had undone altogether. She looked at me and smiled. Beyond her, through the window, the valley lay bright beneath the moon. The sight of Albertine’s bare throat, of those flushed cheeks, had so intoxicated me (that is to say had so shifted the reality of the world for me away from nature into the torrent of my sensations which I could scarcely contain), that it had destroyed the equilibrium between the immense and indestructible life which circulated in my being and the life of the universe, so puny in comparison. The sea, which was visible through the window as well as the valley, the swelling breasts of the first of the Maineville cliffs, the sky in which the moon had not yet climbed to the zenith—all this seemed less than a featherweight on my eyeballs, which between their lids I could feel dilated, resistant, ready to bear far greater burdens, all the mountains of the world, upon their fragile surface…
“I bent over Albertine to kiss her. Death might have struck me down in that moment and it would have seemed to me trivial, or rather an impossible thing, for life was not outside me but in me; I should have smiled pityingly had a philosopher then expressed the idea that some day, even some distant day, I should have to die, that the eternal forces of nature would survive me, the forces of that nature beneath whose godlike feet I was no more than a grain of dust; that, after me, there would still remain those rounded, swelling cliffs, that sea, that moonlight and that sky! How could it have been possible; how could the world have lasted longer than myself, since I was not lost in its vastness, since it was the world that was enclosed in me, in me whom it fell far short of filling, in me who, feeling that there was room to store so many other treasures, flung sky and sea and cliffs contemptuously into a corner” (pgs 699-701).
Now the reader has to ask: How much of the novel Within a Budding Grove is real? Imagined? Legend?
Now on to Proust’s Volume III, The Guermantes Way, Books I & II (1920 & 1921).
CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy). He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 320,000+ followers