Suzanne Delage

Publication(s)

  • First publication
    • Edges, eds. Ursula K. LeGuin and Virginia Kidd, 1980
  • Wolfe collection(s)

Summary

A dull man ponders over a mystery in his life, a woman he believes he never saw but who would have had a profound effect on him if he had.

Analysis

  • Proust, The Guermantes Way, Chapter 2, pp. 381-382:
    She spoke to me of myself, my family, my social background. She said: "Oh, I know your parents know some very nice people. You're a friend of Robert Forestier and Suzanne Delage." For a moment these names conveyed absolutely nothing to me. But suddenly I remembered that I had indeed played as a child in the Champs-Elysees with Robert Forestier, whom I had never seen since. As for Suzanne Delage, she was the great-niece of Mme Blandais, and I had once been due to go to a dancing lesson, and even to take a small part in a play at her parents' house. But the fear of getting a fit of giggles and a nose-bleed had at the last moment prevented me, so that I had never set eyes on her. I had at the most a vague idea that I had once heard that the Swanns' feather-hatted governess had at one time been with the Delages, but perhaps it was only a sister of this governess, or a friend. I protested to Albertine that Robert Forestier and Suzanne Delage occupied a very small place in my life. "That may be; but your mothers are friends, I can place you by that. I often pass Suzanne Delage in the Avenue de Messine. I admire her style." Our mothers were acquainted only in the imagination of Mme Bontemps, who having heard that I had at one time played with Robert Forestier, to whom, it appeared, I used to recite poetry, had concluded from that that we were bound by family ties. She could never, I gathered, hear my mother's name mentioned without observing: "Oh yes, she belongs to the Delage-Forestier set," giving my parents a good mark which they had done nothing to deserve.
(This Proust link is thought to have been first identified by Michael Andre-Driussi; subsequently referenced in essays by Damien Broderick in the New York Review of Science Fiction, and Robert Borski in The Long and the Short of It.
  • In the very next page Proust writes "If someone has our same last name, without being of our family, is a good enough reason to despise him." and "If we read our name brought by them in the newspaper we feel like they had usurped it." (my translation from the Italian translation I read). Sounds interesting, considering how important is the theme of identity in Wolfe's writing.
  • Some have suggested that Suzanne Delage is a vampire, on the strength of the "could not be photographed" line, as well as the date of the school yearbooks being "decades ago." On this theory, the daughter at the end is actually the unaging Suzanne herself. The narrator may have been bitten by Suzanne and had his mind clouded to forget it ever happened. The reference to spanish influenza dates the narrator's high-school days to 1918.
  • There may be a connection to Henry James' The Friends of the Friends. This is a ghost story and a love story between two people who never meet, in life at least.
  • Gwern Branwen has a detailed discussion and analysis of this story, bringing together the above and other theories.

Unresolved Questions


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