Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Otherwise I should have too violent an attack

If you are humor impaired like I am, you may not find much to laugh about in Proust's work. But someone pointed out to me the abundance of humor in the novel, and now I am seeing it everywhere.

Here's an example, M. is on the train to Balbec with his grandmother. The doctor told M. to drink alcohol if he felt an attack of asthma coming on.

"To prevent the suffocating fits which the journey might bring on, the doctor had advised me to take a stiff dose of beer or brandy at the moment of departure, so as to begin the journey in a state of what he called 'euphoria'..."

Once the journey began, the teenage M. was quick to circumvent his grandmother's "air of reproach" by faking illness.

"'What!' I cried, suddenly resolving upon this action of going to get a drink, the performance of which became necessary as a proof of my independence... 'You know how ill I am, you know what the doctor ordered, yet look at the advice you give me!'"

"When I had explained to my grandmother how unwell I felt, her distress, her kindness were so apparent as she replied, 'Run along then, quickly; get yourself some beer or liqueur if it will do you good,' that I flung myself upon her and smothered her with kisses. And if after that I went and drank a great deal too much in the bar of the train it was because I felt that otherwise I should have too violent an attack, which was what would distress her most."

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