"What very choice seconds." is a line that occurs in Marcel Proust's work Remembrance of Things Past, specifically in the third book of the seven book work. The seconds in question are not of the culinary variety, but refer to the seconds of a duel. The entire line is:

Speaking of a duel I had fought, she said: "What very choice seconds"

Now, those passingly familiar with Mr. Proust's work know that since Remembrance of Things Past came to over 3000 pages, singling out a single line might seem senseless. Why them, did I pick this line? Why, when trying to slog my way through this monumental work out of something between pride and masochism, did this line jump out at me?

Remembrance of Things Past was one of the books that popularized "stream of consciousness", which is an exacting way of saying that it contains every. single. thing. that happened to Proust/the authorial avatar. Earlier on, the book contained a 100+ page description of a dinner party where all that happened was people made oblique insults of each other, as if they were Larpers playing Vampire the Masquerade. When this duel is mentioned, it is because Albertine, one of the author's many love/lust interests, is brought back into the story. The entire point of this duel, and seconds involved, being brought up is that Albertine uses the word "choice", to show us, who are presumably familiar with the shades of fashionableness and class standing that trendy French slang implies, that Albertine is somehow hip and fashionable. We are informed, instead of shown, Albertine's importance as a love interest in a way that would make Stephanie Meyer deafen people a hundred feet away with the sound of her eyes rolling.

So apparently, at some spot, in between going to parties and the opera, our narrator, whose age and demeanor are not really described, has been in a duel. With swords? With pistols? Was someone hurt? Over what? In a Turn of the Century France where one actress being snotty to another was a great social scandal, and worthy of pages of comment, a perhaps bloody, even deadly duel, and its causes and its outcome, are so blase and commonplace, that the only reason our narrator stoops to mention it is to show off the trendy vocabulary of one of the fashionable girls he hangs out with? Am I totally missing something here? Is this part of the genius of alternating focal length that Proust is such a genius for? Did I go into a lull and miss a 30 page description of what Proust/narrator wore on the day of the duel? Or, more likely, is this, much like The Glass Bead Game, just a literary peak into why a decrepit European culture's major strengths seem to be prejudice, silliness, and losing wars?

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