Scatology II

Scatology II – The Precious Essence of Asparagus

Patsy, to catch the grammar school tee-hee on the “abbreviated” beginning -“ca”-, I think the solution may be the Spanish for “merde.” Then, if one is into dismal bathroom humor, the fully qualified name of that risible lady would be Mme Cacambremerde.

Then there’s the urine or ordure in Verdurin. “Verdurin! What a name! Oh, one may truly say they are the ultimate, perfect specimens of their kind! Thank God – it was high time I stopped condescending to mix in utter promiscuousness with such infamy, such excrement.” [SW Davis 299]

Verdurin! quel nom! Ah! on peut dire qu’ils sont complets, qu’ils sont beaux dans leur genre! Dieu merci, il n’était que temps de ne plus condescendre à la promiscuité avec cette infamie, avec ces ordures.

But, for some really great scatology, consider how the colors of the asparagus reveal the presence of Shakespeare’s fairies (Midsummer’s Night Dream) – those fairies who transform M’s chamberpot into a vase of perfume. In the French, there is a fabulous philosophical pun on the word “essence” which plays on the double meaning – both perfume and what is fundamental, invariant and necessary. So the transformation into the you-know-what is both metaphysical and olfactory. The precious essence of the colors and nature of the asparagus becomes the quite unprecious essence (smell) of the chamber pot.
(Unfortunately, the Moncrieff English translation does not use “essence”, so the pun is barely recognizable. Davis does it correctly.) [Vol I Combray, 131; Davis 123]

French:
Il me semblait que ces nuances célestes trahissaient les délicieuses créatures qui s’étaient amusées à se métamorphoser en légumes et qui, à travers le déguisement de leur chair comestible et ferme, laissaient apercevoir en ces couleurs naissantes d’aurore, en ces ébauches d’arc-en-ciel, en cette extinction de soirs bleus, cette essence précieuse que je reconnaissais encore quand, toute la nuit qui suivait un dîner où j’en avais mangé, elles jouaient, dans leurs farces poétiques et grossières comme une féerie de Shakespeare, à changer mon pot de chambre en un vase de parfum.

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