In Search of Lost Time, Volume IV : Sodom and Gomorrah (A Modern Library E-Book)
'Flower and plant have no conscious will. They are shameless, exposing their genitals. And so in a sense are Proust's men and women . . . shameless. There is no question of right and wrong. Homosexuality . . . is as devoid of moral implications as the mode of fecundation of the Primula veris or the Lythrum salicoria.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------SAMUEL BECKETT The theme of Sodom and Gomorrah is sexual ambiguity. In the opening scene, the narrator secretly observes a sexual encounter between two men that is played out 'as though in obedience to the laws of an occult art' The book unfolds on matters of 'vice,' 'inversion,' mystery, desire, love, longing, and illusion. The final volume of a new, definitive text of A la recherche du temps perdu was published by the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade in 1989. For this authoritative English-language edition, D. J. Enright has revised the late Terence Kilmartin's acclaimed reworking of C. K. Scott Moncrieff's translation to take into account the new French editions.
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June 01, 2003
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Excerpt from In Search of Lost Time, Volume IV by Marcel Proust
The reader will remember that, well before going that day (the day on which the Princesse de Guermantes's reception was to be held) to pay the Duke and Duchess the visit I have just described, I had kept watch for their return and in the course of my vigil had made a discovery which concerned M. de Charlus in particular but was in itself so important that I have until now, until the moment when I could give it the prominence and treat it with the fullness that it demanded, postponed giving an account of it. I had, as I have said, left the marvellous point of vantage, so snugly contrived at the top of the house, commanding the hilly slopes which led up to the Hotel de Brequigny, and which were gaily decorated in the Italian manner by the rose-pink campanile of the Marquis de Frecourt's coach-house. I had thought it more practical, when I suspected that the Duke and Duchess were on the point of returning, to post myself on the staircase. I rather missed my Alpine eyrie. But at that time of day, namely the hour immediately after lunch, I had less cause for regret, for I should not then have seen, as in the morning, the footmen of the Brequigny household, converted by distance into minute figures in a picture, make their leisurely ascent of the steep hillside, feather-brush in hand, behind the large, transparent flakes of mica which stood out so pleasingly upon its ruddy bastions. Failing the geologist's field of contemplation, I had at least that of the botanist, and was peering through the shutters of the staircase window at the Duchess's little shrub and at the precious plant, exposed in the courtyard with that assertiveness with which mothers 'bring out' their marriageable offspring, and asking myself whether the unlikely insect would come, by a providential hazard, to visit the offered and neglected pistil. My curiosity emboldening me by degrees, I went down to the ground-floor window, which also stood open with its shutters ajar. I could distinctly hear Jupien getting ready to go out, but he could not detect me behind my blind, where I stood perfectly still until the moment when I drew quickly aside in order not to be seen by M. de Charlus, who, on his way to call upon Mme de Villeparisis, was slowly crossing the courtyard, corpulent, greying, aged by the strong light. Nothing short of an indisposition from which Mme de Villeparisis might be suffering (consequent on the illness of the Marquis de Fierbois, with whom he personally was at daggers drawn) could have made M. de Charlus pay a call, perhaps for the first time in his life, at that hour of the day. For with that eccentricity of the Guermantes, who, instead of conforming to the ways of society, tended to modify them to suit their own personal habits (habits not, they thought, social, and deserving in consequence the abasement before them of that worthless thing, society life&mdashthus it was that Mme de Marsantes had no regular 'day,' but was at home to her friends every morning between ten o'clock and noon), the Baron, reserving those hours for reading, hunting for old curios and so forth, paid calls only between four and six in the evening. At six o'clock he went to the Jockey Club, or took a stroll in the Bois. A moment later, I again recoiled, in order not to be seen by Jupien. It was nearly time for him to set out for the office, from which he would return only for dinner, and not always even then during the last week since his niece and her apprentices had gone to the country to finish a dress for a customer. Then, realising that no one could see me, I decided not to let myself be disturbed again for fear of missing, should the miracle be fated to occur, the arrival, almost beyond the possibility of hope (across so many obstacles of distance, of adverse risks, of dangers), of the insect sent from so far away as ambassador to the virgin who had been waiting for so long.