Episode 29: “CRITICISMS”

In Mme. de Villeparisis’s salon, the most enjoyable boredom reigns. Throughout the great hall the most prominent members of Parisian high society are distributed in groups. Each group is specialized in criticizing one of the present there. The guests move from one group to another adhering themselves to the corresponding criticism and contributing their arguments. If when accessing a group, its members suddenly stop talking, that means that in that group it is you who is being criticized, and its components will not resume their gossip as long as you are present. Etiquette prohibits criticizing someone in their presence, unless of course they are dead. For example, in the group formed among others by Mme de Caillavet, M de Guermantes and Mme de Cambremer, the embalmed corpse of Baron de Norpois is present, but this does not prevent him from being the center of attention and the object of harsh criticisms. Despite the Rosicrucians’ remonstrance, the members of Parisian high society are reluctant to move on to a better life. In fact, this is not strange given the splendid life they led in this world. The fact is that many aristocrats include in their will a stipulation that they will be embalmed in order to continue attending the salons. In fact, what wouldn’t many members of the Tout-Paris give for listening to the criticisms that they are being targeted? Hence, this curious phenomenon that I have recently detected, whereby some members of high society pretend to be dead and come embalmed to the salons in order to be allowed to listen to the criticisms they are being subject to by their peers.

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