Hats off to Marcel

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I’d very often like to take young Marcel aside and give him a good smacking, but every now and then he does something that makes me forgive it all.  Here he is a year after his grandmother’s death, suddenly recalling her loving face:

…that face, moulded and bowed by tenderness. I had once shown a senseless fury in trying to extirpate from it even the smallest pleasures, as on the day when Saint-Loup had taken my grandmother’s photograph and when, finding it hard to conceal from her the almost ridiculously childish coquettishness she was putting into posing with her broad-brimmed hat in a fetching half-light, I had allowed myself to murmur a few impatient and hurtful words, which, I had sensed from the way her face contracted, had struck home, had wounded her; it was me whom they were lacerating now…

But never again would I be able to erase that contraction from her face, or that suffering from her heart, or rather from my own, for since the dead only exist in us, it is ourselves that we strike unrelentingly when we persist in remembering the blows we have dealt them.

Sodom and Gomorrah (John Sturrock’s translation for Penguin, p, 161)

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