Swann’s Way, paragraph 36, part 2

It should be said the results of this way of viewing the art of gift giving weren’t always exactly brilliant. The idea I got of Venice based on a drawing by Titian with the lagoon supposedly in the background was certainly much less precise than what I’d have gotten from simple photographs. At home we’d lost count (especially when my great aunt wanted to file an “indictment” against my grandmother) of all the chairs she’d offered to young and old alike which, at the first attempt to use them, immediately collapsed under the weight of the sitter.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 36, part 1

In reality she’d never resign herself to buying anything from which we couldn’t turn an intellectual profit, and above all she valued whatever gained us life’s finer things while teaching us to seek our pleasure beyond the satisfactions of leisure and vanity. Even when she needed to give someone a nominally useful gift—to give a chair, some cutlery, a cane—she’d look for “antiques,” as if the items’ long disuse had effaced their utilitarian character, making them more disposed to recount the lives of people of another time than to serve the needs of our own.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 35, part 1

Maman spent that night in my room; at this moment when I’d just committed an offense so grave I was waiting to be forced to leave home, my parents granted me more than I’d ever got from them as reward for good behavior. Even in the hour when it manifested itself so charitably, my father’s conduct toward me retained that something of the arbitrary and unearned that characterized it and that led to what it generally resulted in: the convenience of chance rather than a premeditated plan.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 34

Thanking my father was out of the question; doing so would have aggravated him with what he called sentimentality. I stood there not daring to move; he still loomed before us, in his white nightshirt, under the pink and purple India cashmere he’d wrap around his head since developing neuralgia, making the gesture of Abraham saying to Sarah she must leave Isaac’s side, as in the engraving after Benozzo Gozzoli that Monsieur Swann had given me.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 33

It was not so. My father would constantly deny me permissions granted under broader pacts with my mother and grandmother, because he didn’t trouble himself with “principles” and there were no “human rights” with him. For arbitrary reasons, or even for no reason at all, at the last minute he’d deny me a walk so habitual, so consecrated, that I couldn’t be deprived of it without breach of contract, or, as he’d done again that evening, long before the ritual hour he’d say to me: “Run along, up to bed, no excuses!

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 32

I heard the footsteps of my family, who accompanied Swann; and when the bell at the gate signaled he’d just left, I went to the window. Maman asked my father if he’d thought the lobster was good and if Monsieur Swann had taken second helpings of the coffee-and-pistachio ice. “I found the ice rather lackluster,” said my mother; “I think next time we’d better try a different flavor.” “I cannot get over how much Swann has changed,” said my great aunt; “he’s an old man now!

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Swann's Way, paragraph 31

I knew the situation I’d put myself in could lead my parents to impose the most serious consequences—much more serious, in fact, than outsiders could have supposed, consequences of the sort they’d have thought must follow only truly shameful deeds. But in my upbringing, the system of offenses was not ordered the same as for other children; I was trained to place above all other faults (no doubt because there was nothing I needed to be more carefully guarded against) the ones I now know had this in common: they all fell into the category of “giving in to nervous impulses.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 30

My mother didn’t come, and holding nothing back to spare my feelings (which depended on her not denying the story of the search she was supposed to have asked me to tell her the result of) she had Françoise say to me these words: “There is no response,” which since then I’ve so often heard said by concierges at “luxury hotels” or footmen outside gambling houses, to address some poor girl standing there stunned: “What do you mean he said nothing?

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 29

I thought Swann would have mocked the anguish I’d just gone through if he’d read my letter and guessed its goal; but on the contrary, as I later learned, he’d been tormented long years of his life by a similar anguish, and perhaps no one could have understood me better; for him, this anguish was the sort we feel when it seems the being we love is in a pleasurable place apart from us, where we cannot reach her; it was love that acquainted him with anguish, love somehow predestined for anguish, love that seizes upon anguish and specializes in it.

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Swann’s Way, paragraph 28, part 2

My fear was that Françoise, my aunt’s cook, who was charged with my care when I was at Combray, would refuse to deliver my note. I suspected that for her, to run an errand to my mother when guests were present would seem as impossible as for the usher in a theater to deliver a letter to an actor mid-scene. When it came to things “done” or “not done,” Françoise possessed an imperious, extensive, subtle code, unyielding over elusive or baseless distinctions (which made it seem like those ancient laws that—alongside brutal punishments like the massacre of suckling infants—prohibit with exaggerated delicacy boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk, or eating the tendon from an animal’s thigh).

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