Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1995

Department

French

Abstract

Very early in A la recherche du temps perdu, when Oriane is still the Princesse des Laumes and has yet to assume her more imposing role of Duchesse of Guermantes, she engages in one of those tac a tac conversations she so enjoys with Swann. Thinly veiling her dislike of the younger Mms de Cambremer, who has just prevented a candelabra from plummeting to the ground during a piano recital and thus, to Oriane's mind, made a spectacle of herself, the future duchess remarks that this family name is quite astonishing. "Il finit juste a temps, mais il finit mal! (I, 335), she laughs. Swann, for his part, comments that the name does not begin any better than it ends, suggesting that someone quite angry but also very proper did not dare finish the word of the name. Certainly this is a reference to General Cambronne who, according to the famous Waterloo anecdote, rebuffed an English office with the epithet hinted at in the last syllable. Indeed, "le mot de Cambronne" quickly became a euphemism for the scatalogical term merde (Rey, 142). However, "le mot de Cambronne" aside, it seems to me that Proust's use of homophony, documented by several critics, permits an additional interpretation, although admittedly less amusing than the "liftier's" Camembert. Cambremer appears to be a textual echo of the Combray mere.

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