Posts Tagged ‘In the Shadow of Young Girls in FLower


In Search of Lost Time 5-8-2022

I finished Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (the second volume of In Search of Lost Time) on Saturday, May 7. This seven-long volume continues to be enjoyable, and it might even be getting better despite the lack of relevant plot. There is much I want to write about/explore, especially how the unnamed narrator (M) views women and girls as things to possess and to choose from, as if being in a grocery store and deciding which tomatoes you want to have and use. Instead, I wish to focus on technology, which makes a bigger presence in this volume, because it’s interesting, surprising, and helps me identify the time period when this story is taking place. Too bad it doesn’t really help to identify how old the narrator and his new friends are.

Technologies that I encountered in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower include electricity, the telephone, photography, the automobile, the vacuum tube again (it also appears in Swann’s Way), elevators, and bathing machines. The bathing machines are technically not technology, and it’s probably not what you think it is. A bathing machine is a wooden cart on wheels with doors on two sides that “allowed bathers to change out of their clothes and into their bathing suits without having to be seen by the opposite sex” (

Bathing Machines

Bathing Machines

On page 182, the narrator first introduces and electricity and the telephone. I’ll look at electricity first. On page 182, the Mme Bontemps says:

Speaking of eyesight, have you heard the house that Mme Verdurin has just bought is going to have the electric light in it? . . . And even the bedrooms will have electric lamps, with shades to soften the light. Very nice. Very luxurious! We belong to a generation of ladies for whom everything must be up-to-the-minute, the very latest thing.

In 1878, the first electric lights were installed in Paris as streetlamps, which is two years before they first appeared in the United States in Wabash, Indiana, which claims to be the first electrically lighted city in the world. This electric lighting gives way to “nocturnalization,” “a term coined in 2011 by American Historian Craig Koslofsky, [which] refers to ‘the expansion of social and economic activity into the night and the subsequent spread of illumination” (



Then in 1881, the first International Exhibition of Electricity is held in Paris from August 15 to November 15. After this, electricity spread through France. At first, it was for communications, like the electric telegraph, and then lighting and motors. This hints that this part of Proust’s story is taking place in the 1880s and probably the middle- to late-1880s. What else is interesting is that they are referring to technology as we do today where “everything must be up-to-the-minute.” She’s say’s “minute” and not “up-to-the-times” or “days.” There’s already an urgency to technological developments. In addition, the occupation of an electrician arrives, and the are quickly considered worthy people: “nowadays, electricians, for example, have a rightful place in the ranks of true nobility” (362).

One the same page, appears for the first time the telephone. Continuing from the above speech from Mme Bontemps: “The sister-in-law of a friend of mine has actually got a telephone installed in her house! She can order something from a shopkeeper without stepping out of her own front door!” The first landlines in appear in 1876. It’s not until 1883 when the first telephone arrives to Paris, and by 1884, the telephone becomes more common. So again, the time setting appears to be the late 1880s. What’s interesting is that the first response to the phone is of economic and leisure concern, instead of a communication concern. Already, they are using the phone to go shopping just as many of us today use the phone to shop on Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, or wherever. Mme Bontemps continues:

I must admit I’ve been shamelessly currying favor, so that I’ll be allowed to go and speak into the machine one day. The idea fascinates me–but only in someone else’s hour not my own. I’d don’t think I’d like having a telephone about the house. Once the novelty of it wears off, it must be a definite nuisance. (182-3)

As is often the case with new technological devices, people think it will be a passing fad. But she also says it will be “a definite nuisance.” When people were first thinking about expanding the phone to be in people’s houses, they were also concerned about it being a nuisance. For instance, the considered how telephone polls and lines would disrupt the appearance of nature and how a phone call might interrupt family dinner. Ha ha. They anticipated telemarketers. 😂 Later on, there is the description of how the telephone works: “human speech, having been converted into electricity by the telephone, turns back into speech for the purpose of being understood” (506).

On page 479, the words “car” and “motoring” are used. In 1889, the first car appears in Paris. By the 1890s, France is the biggest producer of cars in Europe, and the United States does not outproduce France until 1907. Already, the term “car” is in vogue. The time setting now seems to be in the 1890s and maybe the early 1900s.

On page 193 is the word “daguerreotype,” which is “the first publicly available photographic process; it was widely in use during the 1840s and 1850s” ( On page 329 the word “stereoscope” appears two times, and of those occurrences, one is in this sentence: “These stereoscope sessions conferred upon those who attended them a sort of distinction, a feeling of being singled out and privileged.” The stereoscope was first created in the 1830s, but Oliver Wendell Holmes made a more economical version in the 1860s. Even those stereoscope is still old at the time of the story, it is still a technological device of the “privileged.”

Holmes Stereoscope

Holmes Stereoscope

Those are precursors to the more common photography we are familiar with. The words “photograph,” “photographs,” photographed,” “photography,” “photo,” and “photos” appear at least 17 times between pages 193 and 469, and 14 of those occurrences appear between pages 404 to 469. On page 365, the word “Kodak” is used: “They’re just snaps I took myself with my Kodak.” The speaker uses “Kodak” as a common word like we use “Kleenex” to “Google” something. According to Independent Photo:

In 1888, Eastman trademarked the name “Kodak”, a meaningless word which would soon develop a definition on its own and rapidly become one of the most recognisable brands in the world. . . . By 1897, the company had patented a pocketable camera. By 1900, they had released the Brownie, a basic cardboard box camera . . . – The Brownie functioned so quickly and easily that the word “snapshot’” was born.

Kodak Brownie

Kodak Brownie

We see the speaker uses the word “snaps,” and on page 454 is the word “snapshot.” Photographic terms have entered the lexicon, and we can also assume that maybe the time setting is now the early 1900s. Also of interest is how photography becomes an artistic topic by comparing paintings to photographs. For instance, according to the narrator, for Elistir (an artist/painter), paintings are uncanny recreations and interpretations, but photographs are uncanny representations. Already the similarities and differences are noted and made. Also, what must be one of the first similes using photography appears on page 451:

Pleasures are like photographs: in the presence of the person we love, we take only negatives, which we develop later, at home, when we have at our disposal once more our inner darkroom, the door of which it is strictly forbidden to open while others are present.

Wow. That’s a devastating simile.

There it is. New technology that enters the story and the narrator’s life, and we get to experience what it was like to be introduced to those technologies in what I assume is the late 1890s or early 1900s.


Words of the Day:

senza rigore (p. 170) – without a strong pulse. Without rigor. A musical term.

habitués (p. 177) – accustomed

jehu (p. 177) – a king of Israel not for his chariot attacks. A fast driver. The driver of a cab or coach.

ne plus ultra (p. 179) – the perfect or most extreme example of its kind, the ultimate.

vexillum (p 211) – a military standard or flag carried by ancient Roman troops. In botany, a large, upper petal of a papilionaceous (Latin – butterfly) flower.



Monésgasque (p. 244) – a resident of Monaco. Relating to Monaco or its residents. The variety of Ligurian spoken in Monaco, where it is considered the national language.

introit (p. 248) – any type of entrance or opening. However, the term often refers to the opening of the vagina, which leads to the vaginal canal.

contretemps (p. 259) – an inopportune occurrence; and embarrassing mischance.

sedulously (p 262) – diligent in application or attention preserving. Persistently or carefully maintained.

obstruberant (p. 285) – “by which he meant they got in everybody’s way and served no useful purpose” (285).

valerianate (p. 363) – a salt of valeric acid; some forms are used as medicine.

titivate (p. 368) – to make smart or spruce.

velodrome (p. 374) – a sports arena equipped with a banked track for cycling.

ataxia (p. 396) – loss of coordination of the muscles, especially in the extremities.

terraqueous (p. 424) – consisting of land and water, as the earth.

zoophytic (p. 435) – any of the various invertebrate animals resembling a plant, as a coral or sea anemone.

Various Examples of Sea Anemone

Various Examples of Sea Anemone.

ne varietur (p. 440) – never varied

poltroonery (p. 501) – a wretched coward, craven.




Happy Hour Food and Drinks

coffee – p. 114, p. 271, p. 390, p. 395

sugar – p. 114

tea – p. 119, p. 189, p. 392 (“Afternoon tea”), p. 395 (“afternoon tea”), p. 530

caviar – p. 124

beer – p. 230 2x, p. 321, p. 391

brandy – p. 230

alcohol – p. 230, p. 396

liqueur – p. 230

lemons – p. 232

trout – p. 269

fish – p. 269

soup – p. 270

tisane – p. 271. An herbal tea, but technically it is not a tea. It’s an infusion “made from leaves, bark, roots, berries, seeds, and/or spices. Common tisanes include mint, chamomile, verbena, and rooibos.” (

fruit – p 275 3x (once as “fine fruit”), p. 276 4x (once as “bad fruit”), p. 277, p. 281, p. 291

oysters – p. 275, p. 449 (“lustral water left in oyster shells”)

plums – p. 277, p. 278 2x

grapes – p. 277 (“translucent grapes), p. 278 (“golden grapes”), p. 291, p. 489

pears – p. 277, p. 278 2x

“rarebits” – p. 278. “Welsh rarebit is a British dish consisting of a hot cheese-based sauce served over slices of toasted bread.[2] The original 18th-century name of the dish was the jocular “Welsh rabbit”, which was later reinterpreted as “rarebit”, as the dish contains no rabbit.” (

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

creamed eggs – p. 278

sweets – p. 279

cakes – p. 279, p. 314 (“wedding cakes), p. 437, p. 482 3x (once as “chocolate cake” and one with a “cloying creaminess”)

bread – p. 279 (“loaf of rye bread”), p. 352

rolled wafers – p. 279

babas – p. 279. A small, rich sponge cake, typically soaked in rum-flavored syrup.

barley sugars – p. 279

peaches – p. 291

apricots – p. 291

sherbert – p. 320

butter – p. 352

wine – p. 357 (“red wine”), p. 392, p. 358 (“sparkling wine”), p. 401, p. 449

champagne – p. 357, p. 358, p. 391

port – p. 391, p. 393

soufflés – p. 391 (“chocolate soufflés”), p. 478

potatoes – p. 391 (“potatoes à l’anlaise”)

lamb – p. 391 (“Pauillac lamb.” Pauillac Lamb is a lamb whose raising methods have been protected by law in Europe under its PGI status, which was received in 2003. The lambs are supposed to be both born and raised in the Gironde area (“Agneau né et élevé en Gironde”) according to the EU PGI certification. Pauillac is a small village in the Haut-Médoc region in the Gironde département. The lambs are born and raised beside their mothers on the same farm. They are kept with their mothers for 60 days, and consume only their mother’s milk, making them part of the category of lamb called “Suckling Lamb” (or “agneau de lait” in French.),to%20the%20EU%20PGI%20certification.)

Agneau de Pauillac

Agneau de Pauillac

hors d’œuvres – p. 392

tarts – p. 450 (“strawberry tarts”), p. 474, p. 482 2x (once as “apricot tart” and one with “refreshing fruitiness”)

éclair – p. 451 (“coffee éclair”), p. 453 (“coffee éclair”), p. 454

sandwiches – p. 475 (“sandwiches of Cheshire cheese and lettuce”), p. 482 (“sandwiches of Cheshire cheese and lettuce”)

icing – (p. 482)

Périgourdine – p. 488. A dish either whose ingredients include, or that is garnished with, black truffles.



In Search of Lost Time 3-31-2022

So far I am enjoying the In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (the second volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time) more than Swann’s Way (the first volume). In reflection, the first volume seems more like exposition. There are two main stories. The one about Swann and Odette had conflicts and concerns, and in the other not much happens. But it seems like it was necessary to write Swann’s Way for the second volume, which is much more interesting with more conflicts between characters and the narrator falling in love with Gilberte, the young girl of his fantasy. Thinking of which, there is what should have been considered a scandalous scene in literary history, but I don’t think it was perceived that way. When the narrator and Gilberte are playfully wrestling and flirting, the narrator got over excited and “shed my pleasure, before I even had time to be aware of the nature of it” (67). He prematurely ejaculated (as many young boys do), and Gilberte realized it. When Leopold Bloom, from Ulysses, ejaculated in his pants, it led to a court case about pornography in Ulysses, but as far as I’m aware, Proust suffered no such response. Nonetheless, it was a sweet scene as both he and Gilberte tried to pretend neither noticed. Gilberte then asked him if wanted to wrestle again, and he “agreed to wrestle with her again, in case she might think my only purpose, now achieved, had been the pleasure that left me feeling no desire other than to sit quietly beside her” (67).

I’ve gone off track, and there is so much to write about, such as the narrator’s ideas on space, time, and writing, as well as writing and love. Maybe I’ll do that in another post, but I must share the following.

Norpois is a respected diplomat and the narrator looks up to Norpois because he is smart and well read. The narrator gave Norpois something he wrote, and the great diplomat responded to the narrator:

But in the piece you showed me, one can detect Bergotte’s [a factious writer (based on Anatole France) the narrator admires] pernicious influence. Now, clearly, it come as no surprise to you to learn that it contained none of his better qualities, he being a past master in the art of a certain phase-making—though one should add, mind you, that it’s a shallow art—and you being a boy who cannot be expected to have grasped even the rudiments of that. Still, young as you are, it’s exactly the same defect, the aberration of stringing together a few fine-sounding words, and not finding any substance to put into them until afterward. (46-7)

Narpois then goes on to put down the narrator’s favorite writer even more. As a result, the narrator “was devastated by what M. de Norpois had said about the piece I had given him to read. . . . I became once more acutely aware of my own intellectual poverty and of the fact that I had no gift for writing.” (47). What Narpois did was crush the writing spirit and hopes in the young narrator. It’s very mean. I don’t think he was trying to be mean. Instead, I think he was showing off about how smart he is. But he’s one of those people who make themselves look smart by putting others down. In addition, I think he puts down Bergotte’s writing because he doesn’t like Bergotte the person, which, I think, is how literary criticism was often performed . . . and maybe it still is. 😁 However, he’s a diplomat, so you think he’d be better equipped to respond to a child. So if you ever want to ensure your kid never writes again, be sure to follow Norpois’s response. . . . Luckily, the narrator later on still wants to write.


Words of the Day:

sesquipedalianism (p. 30) — given to using long words. Containing many syllables. The word is its definition. 😀

fustian (p. 47) — (as it is used on this page): inflated or turgid language in writing or speaking. Pompous or bombastic, as language.

orbiter dicta (p. 57) — (Latin) passing remark, opinion.

lavabo (p. 65) — a French word that means “wash basin” or “water closet.” The note in the Notes section on page 537 reads: “The OED does not confirm that it has ever been used in English in the modern sense of ‘lavatory’.”

hypogean (p. 66) — underground, subterranean

toque (p. 66) — (pronounced tohk) a brimless and close fitting hat for woman in any of several shapes. Compare with the Canadian “tuque” (pronounced “took” rhymes with “fluke”), which is a knitted hat, traditionally made of wool and worn in the winter. And now I’m thinking about Strange Brew. Take off to the great white north.

porte cochére (p. 70) — a covered carriage entrance leading to a courtyard.

per viam rectam (pp. 73, 78) — by a straight/direct road. “By the right way.” I think this term will become important.

cosa mentale (p. 74) — mental occupation. DaVinci said, “pittura è una cosa mentale,” which translated is  “painting is a mental occupation.”

Reuters news agency (p. 92) — I’m sure we all know what this is, but did you know it was founded in Great Britain in 1851, which is 43 years before this volume is published.


Happy Hour Food and Drinks

This is a list of foods and drinks I have encountered so far in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, the second volume of In Search of Lost Time. I have noticed that foods and drinks occur in clumps, and there are more foods and drinks than in volume I, Swann’s Way.

beef in aspic (p. 17)

finest slabs of rump steak (p. 17)

the best shin of of beef and calf’s foot (p. 17)

a New York ham (p. 17)

York ham (p. 17)

ham (p. 17)

cheap wine (p. 23)

cold beef with carrots (p. 30)

aspic (p. 30, three times)

a dish of braised beef (p. 30)

carrots (p. 30)

beef Stroganoff (p. 30)

pineapple-and-truffle salad (p. 31)

Nesselrode pudding (p. 38). It’s “a Victorian ice-cream-style dessert packed full of chestnuts and fruit.” A recipe is here:

cold beef (p. 57)

soufflés (p. 57 and 58)

beef jelly (p. 58)

jellies (p. 58)

custard (p. 58)

beef (p. 58)

gravy (p. 58)

jelly (p. 58)

cream (p. 58)

marrons glacés (p. 58) — a confection of chestnuts candied in sugar and glazed. Candied chestnuts. Here’s a recipe:

marrons déguisés (p. 58) — (marrons in disguise) sweet chestnuts coated in dark chocolate. Soft bites. Here’s a recipe:

spice cake (p. 59)

appetizing chop (p. 69)

caffeine (p. 69): “the caffeine already prescribed as an aid to my breathing.”

beer (p. 69)

champagne (p. 69)

brandy (p. 69): “I should have a drink of beer, champagne, or brandy each time I feel an attack coming on.” Man, I love this Doctor Cottard’s prescriptions. 😀

milk (p. 71 four times, p. 72 four times)

meat (p. 71)

alcohol (p. 71)

clear soup (p. 72)

broth (p. 72)

olé! au lait! (p. 72) — a delicious pun. 😀

tea (pp. 77, 80 five times, 81 three times, 119

chocolate cake (p. 79)

cake(s) (pp. 80 two times, 81 two times)

chocolate (p. 80)

Ninevite cake-castle (p. 80) — I’m not sure what it is, but someone decided to invent what it is here:

scarlet fruit (p. 80)

toast (p. 81 two times)

eggs Béchamel (p. 100)

icy pink glaze (p. 100)

le pudding de Christmas (p. 101) — Christmas pudding

lobster à l’américaine (p. 112) — here’s a recipe:

orangeade (p. 113)



In Search of Lost Time 3-19-2022

I finished the first volume of In Search of Lost TimeSwann’s Way, the other day, and then I began the second volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. The writing style is still similar with long sentences interrupted by appositives and asides. (And as I finished that sentence I thought of Charles Olson’s poetry and remembered how he would move on a tangent and start the new thought with open an parenthesis to indicate a side thought or association and just keep on writing without every arriving closed parenthesis. And of course the next aside started with another open parenthesis. The difference is that Proust returns to the original subject/verb of the sentence . . . no matter how long the sentence is, and they quite often long.)

The opening of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower acts as a reminder of and an introduction to characters, who are described for a few pages each, including Swann, Professor (sometimes Dr.) Cottard, Marquis de Norpois, the narrator’s mother and father, and a long passage on the actress La Berma, who, apparently, is based on the great French actress of the late 19th and early 20th century — Sarah Bernhardt. With La Berma, the narrator’s imagination delivers a portrait of her that reality can’t match. Again, his imagination bests reality. His imagination of expectations, again, leads to a let down. This experience of seeing her perform led me to wonder about media and how it affects perception. I mean, it does, but let me explain what I was thinking.

What led me to this was when the narrator finally decides, which wasn’t an easy decision, to see La Berma perform in one of his favorite plays Phèdre by Racine. The narrator’s whole day was delightful until he saw her perform. He was actively watching La Berma and the other actors act, but he was not pleased with La Berma’s performance. He then borrowed his grandmother’s opera glasses to see if that would change anything, and here’s what happens:

But when you believe in the reality of things, using an artificial means [opera glasses] to see them better is not quite the same as feeling closer to them. I felt it was not La Berma that I was seeing, only an enlarged picture of her. I put the glasses down — but what if the image received by the naked eye was no more accurate, given that it was an image reduced by distance? Which was the true Berma? (21)

The medium of opera glasses did alter his perception of her but not his experience of her acting, and it did make him concerned that he wasn’t sure which reality was the true one. Later, his interpretation of her acting changes as the crowd applauds certain acting moments by La Berma. The medium of the audience changes his perception of the acting. Even the medium of play reviews changes his perception days later. But then he realizes the he “let the cheap wine of this popular enthusiasm go to my head” (23). I love that arrogant and pompous line. 😀

All of this led me to what I want to get to: is imagination a medium? His imagination created an experience of her acting that he could perceive just as the medium of the opera glasses and the crowd and the review altered his perceptions. Or is the imagination embedded automatically within any medium of experience. I had to write all this to discover that imagination is enmeshed within each medium or lack of medium. My conclusion: imagination is a medium on its own, and imagination is also ingrained within each medium of experience.

Thank you, Writing, for helping me think that out.


Diva Actors:

I have heard of actors requiring certain things to be available behind stage, on set, or in the trailers, such as a certain type of water, donuts, soda, liquor, flowers, etc. I thought that was a modern thing, but it’s not as I learned from Proust. La Berma required that “hired clappers must never applaud her” (18). I assume she wanted the aura of genuine pleasure. (I was also surprised to learn such a thing existed. I assume this is the predecessor to canned laughter.) She also required “that windows had to stay open till she was onstage, but every single door must then be closed, that a pitcher of hot water must be concealed near her, so as to keep down the dust” and to ensure “the house temperature was right” (18).


Words of the Day:

plenipotentiary (p. 6) — a person, especially a diplomatic agent, invested with full power or authority to transact business on behalf of another.

nugatory (p. 14) — of no real value, trifling, worthless. Vain. Not valid.


Exclamation Points:

I won’t be counting exclamation points anymore, but they are occurring as frequently in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower as in Swann’s Way. The final count of exclamation points in Swann’s Way is 72! 72 exclamation points over 444 pages, which is 0.162 exclamation points per page or one every 6.166666667 pages. . . . I think that math is correct. 😀


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