I should walk back (but only slightly) what I wrote in the last post about M. Vinteuil. Proust does not write that he wrote in code, but rather in an undecipherable scribble. Maybe it was something sort of like what Penderecki indulges in?
However, I had the opportunity to listen to a Penderecki composition and watch it unfold (this was at the Kronos Quartet concert in LA). Basically, I didn't find it at all satisfying, and it really defies belief that something akin to this could be translated by his daughter's partner into something that is as meaningful and subtle as the Schubert Octet or Beethoven Septet. It just beggars believe that you can get meaningful harmonization and so forth across the parts without writing this out carefully in a proper score. So the core of my objection remains the same.
One marginally interesting note is that while M. de Charlus can convince people to turn up at a party where his protégé will play this piece, and even compel them to be silent, most of them wouldn't dream of actually listening to it.
Again, this really makes me wonder about the Narrator. He is versed in art and takes music seriously, and found the Vinteuil septet sublime. So why does he spend all his free time attending these shallow people who don't value what he cares about? He even cuts off a few of his real artistic friends in favor of going to these silly salons and parties. I suppose this is a "real thing," acting in a way that seems contradictory to one's core interests and values. And maybe Proust is making a statement of some sort about how commonly one does sacrifice one's self to be part of society.
Certainly some people looking to become part of society are well aware of putting on a social "face" that may be quite different from their real self, and they do it because the trade off is worth it. But the Narrator doesn't really seem to seek to join society for some ulterior motive (well, except at some points where he was chasing one or another unobtainable woman) but certainly not out of any careerism, so I find it hard to fathom and it is a decision quite alien to me. If it were up to me, essentially all my free time would be spent around people very well versed in the arts/theatre scene and/or the branch of the intelligentsia that concerns itself with cultural studies and the humanities more generally. Actually, these last few days hanging out in Baltimore with the best travel demand modellers in North America was good too, as they have wide-ranging interests and can sometimes get out of that engineering "box."
Anyway, I am always finding myself out of sympathy for the Narrator, and at the end of Vol. 2, he went in a direction that I found truly irredeemable. I just don't like him or anything he stands for. Which just makes this such a slog...
In my next and probably last post on Proust, I will reveal exactly what it is that bugs me so much about the Narrator. Until then...