Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Verdurins: we're all good pals

Proust casts the Verdurins as a counterbalance to the aristocracy in Paris. The Verdurins have money but they have no title. Instead, with their "little clan," they create their own wealthy aristocracy, and have appointed themselves king and queen. They've turned their drawing room into a Bohemian hangout for painters, pianists, professors and gentlemen of the Belle Epoque who gather under the patronage of Mme Verdurin and rail against the "bores" who would never stoop so low as to attend one of her parties.

Mme Verdurin has no first name in the novel, and she is a major character through the last volume, Time Regained.

Proust writes the Verdurins as self-loving egotists.

"Each 'new recruit' that the Verdurins failed to persuade that the evenings spent by other people, in other houses than theirs, were as dull as ditch-water, saw himself banished forthwith."

"...the Verdurins, who were not in the least afraid of a woman's having a lover, provided she had him in their company, loved him in their company and did not prefer him to their company, would say, 'Very well, then, bring your friend along.' And he would be engaged on probation, to see whether he was willing to have no secrets from Mme Verdurin, whether he was susceptible of being enrolled in the "little clan.'"

"Evening dress was barred, because you were all 'good pals' and didn't want to look like the 'boring people' who were to be avoided like the plague and only asked to the big evenings, which were given as seldom as possible and then only if it would amuse the painter or make the musician better known."

Swann, one of the "boring" aristocrats, penetrates the Verdurin empire to court Odette, who Proust calls a "demi-mondaine," a woman supported by a wealthy lover.

1 comment:

  1. As is usual with the internet I stumbled upon your blog and just as I last evening had read Swann's introduction into the "little clan". many thanks for your Blog!