Containing whatever I enthuse over

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Mme de Guermantes

Posted by clissold345 on September 6, 2007

Initially Marcel is fascinated by the character and status of the Duchess. He likens her to an out-of-date and incomplete library in a country house. This library is of no use for giving us a rounded education, but if we read enough of the volumes in it, we are sure to find fine passages, so fine that we will always remember where we first read them.

The passage I’m discussing above is from The Guermantes Way:

Pour toutes ces raisons, les causeries avec la duchesse ressemblaient à ces connaissances qu’on puise dans une bibliothèque de château, surannée, incomplète, incapable de former une intelligence, dépourvue de presque tout ce que nous aimons, mais nous offrant parfois quelque renseignement curieux, voire la citation d’une belle page que nous ne connaissions pas, et dont nous sommes heureux dans la suite de nous rappeler que nous en devons la connaissance à une magnifique demeure seigneuriale. (Page 274 of volume 8 of the Gallimard edition, Paris, 1946-47.)

Moncrieff translates as follows:

For all these reasons, conversations with the Duchess resembled the discoveries that we make in the library of a country house, out of date, incomplete, incapable of forming a mind, lacking in almost everything that we value, but offering us now and then some curious scrap of information, for instance the quotation of a fine passage which we did not know and as to which we are glad to remember in after years that we owe our knowledge of it to a stately mansion of the great.


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