The definitive translation of the greatest French novel of the twentieth century
Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil in 1871. In his twenties he became a conspicuous society figure, frequenting the most fashionable Paris salons of the day. After 1889, however, his suffering from chronic asthma, the death of his parents and his growing disillustionment with humanity caused him to lead an increasingly retired life. He slept by day and worked by night, writing letters and devoting himself to the completion of A la recherche du temps perdu. He died in 1922 before publication of the last three volumes of his great life's work.
Relax: it's fantastic. There's no question that Davis's American English is thinner and more literal than C.K. Scott Montcrieff's archaically inflected turns of phrase and idioms, at least as revised by Terence Kilmartin and later by D.J. Enright. The removal of some of the familiar layers of the past in this all-new translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned: the colors seem sharper and momentarily disorienting. Yet many readers will find it exhilarating, allowing the text to shed slight airs that were not quite Proust's and making many of the jokes much more immediate (as when he implies that sense-organ atrophy in the bourgeois is a defense mechanism and the result of hardening unarticulated feelings). As accomplished translator and novelist Davis (The End of the Story) notes in her foreword, she has followed Proust's sentence structure as closely as possible "in its every aspect," including punctuation, word order and word choice. To take just one case, where Montcrieff/Kilmartin describe Mlle. Vinteuil finding it pleasant to metaphorically "sojourn" in sadism, Davis has the much more definitive "emigrate." Proust's psychological inquiry generally feels much sharper, giving a much more palpable sense of Freud and Bergson-and of the young Marcel's willful (if not malefic) manipulations of those around him. For first-timers who don't have French and are allergic to the slightest whiff of euphemism, this is the best means for traveling the way by Swann's. BOMC, Reader's Subscription and Insightout Book Club; 4-city translator tour. (Sept. 15) Forecast: Look for a fall blitz of Proustiana, reviving everything from the Montcrieff to Alain de Bouton's How Proust Can Change Your Life. Copyright restrictions will keep the last three of the six planned volumes out of American editions until 2019, 2020 and 2022, respectively, but devoted readers will seek them out via British booksellers-and have probably already begun to do so, since they were published there last year. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
My advice is to plunge straight into Volume 1, Swann's Way
there are many who swear the experience has permanently enriched
their lives * Daily Mail *
One of the cornerstones of the Western literary canon * The Times *
Surely the greatest novelist of the 20th century * Sunday Telegraph *
As close to being a definitive English version of the great novel as we are likely to get * Scotsman *
Proust isn't just the most profound of novelists, but the most entertaining, too. No reader ever forgets his most killingly funny scenes... Proust sinks deepest in readers because the book is so exhaustively analytical, so ceaselessly truthful. Not the least of it is the book's heavenly length, so that it inevitably takes over your life for a long stretch... the experience of reading it becomes, in itself, an unforgettable thing * Independent *
Much-honored translator Lydia Davis launches a new rendering of Proust's magisterial A la recherche du temps perdu. Expect the second volume next year. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.