Posts Tagged ‘Swann’s Way’
October 15, 2012 | by Anna Wiener
It is, all told, a strange summer. Down the street from my apartment, children play inside of plastic bags. Glaciers shed ice the size of Manhattan. Scientists find that sharks smell in stereo. Horoscopes are cited as primary sources at social gatherings. Restlessness flows. For three consecutive nights I dream exclusively of vacuuming a garden snake.
On a Sunday afternoon I detour from fondling impractical kitchenware at Pearl River Mart and go where I go when I need to stop time: to visit my grandfather at his loft on West Broadway. He is eighty-four, a sculptor, a Southerner, tall and round bellied, deaf in one ear from an adult case of mumps. His face bears an impressive mustache and bifocals as large and wide as safety goggles. Alzheimer’s is smoothing the lines of his memory, a stone turning in water.
He has lived in this apartment since 1970, and from what I can tell it has hardly changed; it could easily be a soundstage from an early Woody Allen film, with its leather seats shaped into dripstones by decades of party guests, its ceramics and abstract art, the copy of Joe Brainard’s I Remember that had taken up permanent residence in the bathroom long before it carried any personal symbolism. The front half of the loft is still a studio, with a meticulously labeled array of tools and materials, despite the fact that these days my grandfather is physically, psychically unable to work. For the last few years I’ve kept keys under a conditionality: just in case. In this case it only means that I let myself in.
“What are you up to today?” I ask my grandfather, to which he replies, “Just trying to have a brilliant idea.”
January 7, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
I am preparing to tackle Marcel Proust’s mammoth, his tomb of involuntary memories and I cannot decide on a translation. Should it be the original English translation by Moncrieff? Or the revision of Moncrieff by Kilmartin? Or the revision of the revision by Enright? Or the new translation that begins with Davis and continuous with six different translators? I prefer a translation that is as close to the original as possible, without the translator attempting to “update” the language for modern readers, without inserting words that the writer would have never originally used. Which translation should be trusted when it comes time to read the mammoth? —Manuel Garcia
For Swann’s Way, you can’t really go wrong. All of those translations are wonderful. My favorite is Lydia Davis’s. It sticks very close to the French, which I think you will like. And I think you will like Davis’s sensibility: she is no vulgar updater. On the other hand, the Scott Moncrieff translation may appeal to you because it’s contemporary with the original. In fact, Proust’s French is often more modern then Scott Moncrieff’s English. The anachronisms are all in the other direction.
I can’t vouch for the new translations of the later volumes. My advice is to read Swann’s Way in the Davis translation, then switch over to Enright. It will also be fun for you to compare Davis to Enright every once in a while. You’ll hear the difference right away.
September 22, 2010 | by Lydia Davis
The existence of another, competing translation is a good thing, in general, and only immediately discouraging to one person—the translator who, after one, two, or three years of more or less careful work, sees another, and perhaps superior, version appear as if overnight.
I’ve been translating from the French for decades (I must enjoy it), and yet, until I translated Proust’s Swann’s Way a few years ago, mine was always the first translation into English of whatever book I was working on, with the predictable advantage and disadvantage that came with that fact: I had no other translation to consult if I was stuck; but no reviewer could compare mine unfavorably to another one.
In the case of Swann’s Way, however, there were two previous translations—one by C. K. Scott Moncrieff done during the 1920s and thirties, and one by an Irish-Australian, James Grieve, published in 1982 in Canberra and not available in the U.S. Few people had seen the Grieve version, but the partisans of the Scott Moncrieff were passionate, and it was no use arguing that his translation was written in a style quite alien to Proust’s and that his text was not nearly as close as it should and could have been (“jaws of Hell” for “entrance to the Underworld”?). To them, the translation simply was Proust.
Madame Bovary is the first book I’ve translated that has already been translated many times into English—as many as nineteen times, by my latest count—so it has been a fascinating experience and nothing like, even, working with one major existing translation, the Scott Moncrieff Proust. Since I have looked again and again at about eleven of the other translations, I’ve come to know them well.
It did occur to me from time to time, as I studied them—as I felt, in effect, surrounded by them as a group—that a group effort might be interesting. This translator is better informed than I am about French history (or rather, I later realized, looking more carefully, she found someone good to do her endnotes); that one is especially clever at dialogue; another seems to have a naturally rich vocabulary; and yet another is a good writer and might give a useful critique of the style of my version. Together we would produce a wonderful translation. Of course, the earliest of us lived in the 1880s, and most of the others, too, have died by now.
I should add, apropos of “one, two, or three years of careful work,” that despite whatever I may say about the shortcomings of the other translations, I believe that each version I looked at was done with a certain amount of diligence—except perhaps for the Paul de Man revision of the Eleanor Marx Aveling. Translating is arduous, frustrating, time-consuming. Even a bad one can’t be dashed off.
Lydia Davis's translation of Madame Bovary comes out on September 23. For the next week she will be writing for TPR Daily about the tasks and sins of the translator. On October 4, she will be speaking at the 92nd Street Y.
See Also: “Survival of the Fittest”
See Also: Lydia Davis in Feed Magazine, from 2000
August 30, 2010 | by Stephanie LaCava
Proust’s Overcoat tells the story of Jacques Guérin, a Parisian perfume magnate, who was obsessed with the works of Marcel Proust. In 1929, through a chance connection, he met Proust's family, only to discover that they intended to destroy the author's notebooks, letters, and manuscripts. Guérin ingratiated himself with Proust's heirs, and through bribery and kindness, amassed a collection of Proust's belongings and manuscripts, saving it from destruction. I recently exchanged e-mails with Lorenza Foschini, an Italian journalist, about her book.
Why was Proust’s overcoat so special?
Proust's contemporaries, like Jean Cocteau, described his style as embodying an old, refined elegance. He was a real dandy, always dressed in large silk shirtfronts by Charvet, a double-breasted waistcoat, very light colored gloves with black points, a flat-brimmed top hat, a rose or an orchid in a buttonhole of his frock coat, and a walking cane. But even on the hottest days, Marcel didn’t remove his heavy fur-lined coat. This became legendary among those who knew him.
How did you discover this story?
Those who love Proust know that such passion often becomes a mania. This was so in my case. When interviewing the well-known Visconti costume designer, Piero Tosi, I could not resist the temptation to ask him if he knew the reason why the great filmmaker (Luchino Visconti) stopped production on his beloved project, bringing In Search of Lost Time to the big screen.
In the early seventies, the American studios allocated a lot of money for this project and there was talk of casting actors like Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, even Greta Garbo. Tosi was invited to Paris to go over production plans. It was there that he met a very special person. My book comes from the extraordinary story that Tosi told me about this man, Jacques Guérin.
I can understand the need to collect the letters, diaries, and notes of a writer. But can you explain our obsessions with a writer's personal objects? Why a bed? A rug? A coat?
It's because of Guérin that a draft of Swann's Way became available to us. The same goes for several versions of the last volume of In Search of Lost Time.
My book is a story about the incredible efforts of a great bibliophile. Guérin was able to save important papers that offended the bourgeois respectability of Proust’s prude sister in law. After Proust’s death, his family began to deliberately destroy and sell his notebooks, letter, manuscripts, furniture, and personal effects.
Proust's homosexuality surrounded him like an invisible and insurmountable wall. His family's unwillingness to understand this led to a history of silence that mutated into rancor. This transformed into acts of vandalism as his papers were destroyed and his furniture abandoned. Finding the coat is only the conclusion of a series of adventures and coup de théâtre that Guérin had to face. I do not want to reveal them now; you have to read the book.
Of all of Proust's objects collected by Guérin, which is your favorite? Read More »