The good son and the best of fathers (A l’Ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs – Marcel Proust)

Marcel Proust’sÀ la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time) is an extraordinary repository of reflections on family ties, on emotional relationships, and on society in general, as we pointed out in a previous article on the bonds of affection between mother and child.

The second volume, A l’Ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, is no exception to the rule.

We propose to you a passage which is situated at the beginning of the Part 3 of the book. It is about the admiration that the children can feel for their parents, or on the contrary of the opposition. In this case, the children admire their father, Mr. Bloch.

“This illusory importance of Mr. Bloch Sr. was, moreover, extended somewhat beyond the circle of his own perception. At first his children regarded him as a superior man. Children always have a tendency either to depreciate or to exalt their parents, and for a good son, his father is always the best of fathers, even apart from any objective reasons to admire him. But there was no lack of such reasons for Mr. Bloch, who was educated, fine, and affectionate towards his family. In the closest family, they liked him all the more because if in ‘society’, people are judged according to a standard, absurd by the way, and according to false but fixed rules, by comparison with the totality of other elegant people, on the other hand, in the fragmentation of bourgeois life, dinners, family evenings revolve around people who are declared to be pleasant, amusing, and who in the world would not hold the bill for two nights. Finally, in this environment where the false grandeur of the aristocracy does not exist, it is replaced by even crazier distinctions. Thus, for his family and up to a very distant degree of kinship, an alleged resemblance in the way of wearing the mustache and in the top of the nose made Mr. Bloch be called a ‘false duke of Aumale’.

—Marcel Proust

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