The Fugitive. Mademoiselle De Forcheville. 834-836

[This is where I am in Proust right now.]

But above all we must remember this: on the one hand, lying is often a character trait; on the other hand, in women who would not otherwise be liars, it is a natural defense, improvised at first, then more and more organized, against that sudden danger which would be capable of destroying all life: love. Furthermore, it is not by mere chance that sensitive, intellectual men invariably give themselves to insensitive and inferior women, and moreover remain attached to them, and that the proof that they are not loved does not in the least cure them of the urge to sacrifice everything to keep such women with them. If I say that such men need to suffer, I am saying something that is accurate while suppressing the preliminary truths which make that need–involuntary in a sense–to suffer a perfectly understandable consequence of those truths. Not to mention the fact that, all-round natures being rare, a man who is highly sensitive and highly intellectual will generally have little will-power, will be the plaything of habit and of that fear of suffering in the immediate present which condemns to perpetual suffering–and that in these conditions he will never be prepared to repudiate the woman who does not love him. One may be surprised that he should be content with so little love, but one ought rather to picture to oneself the anguish that may be caused by him by the love which he himself feels. Anguish which one ought not to pity unduly, for those terrible commotions that are caused by an unrequited love, by the departure or the death of a mistress, are like those attacks of paralysis which at first leave us helpless, but after which the muscles tend gradually to recover their vital elasticity and energy. What is more, this anguish does not lack compensation. These sensitive and intellectual persons are as a rule little inclined to falsehood. It takes them all the more unawares in that, however intelligent they may be, they live in the world of the possible, live in the anguish which a woman has just inflicted on them rather than in the clear perception of what she wanted, what she did, what she loved, a perception granted to self-willed natures which need it in order to prepare against the future instead of lamenting the past. And so these persons feel that they are betrayed without quite knowing how. Wherefore the mediocre woman whom we are astonished to see them loving enriches the universe for them far more than an intelligent woman would have done. Behind each of their words, they feel like a lie is lurking, behind each house to which she says that she has gone, another house, behind each action, each person, another action, another person. Of course they do not know what or whom, they do not have the energy, would not perhaps find it possible, to discover. A lying woman, by an extremely simple trick, can beguile, without taking the trouble to change her method, any number of people, and, what is more, the very person who ought to have discovered the trick. All this confronts the sensitive intellectual with a universe full of depths which his jealousy longs to plumb and which are not without interest to his intellect.

[*This is from the Modern Library Classics edition (translated by C.K. Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D. J. Enright*]

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