Issue 160, Winter 2001
FROM: Joan Able, Downtown Literary Agency
September 6, 2000
I enclose Sally Drummond's proposal that we talked about on the telephone. You will remember that her third book of poetry won the Callister Prize. She has also done a lot of literary translation from French and Spanish for good publishers.
Sally is excited about this project, and so am I. She has a good hundred pages of it drafted. I know your admiration for Proust. Since Knoll Books already has a collection of his writings on its list, I'm sending the proposal to you first. Let me hear from you soon.
Book Proposal by Sally Drummond
Marcel Proust, the most rewarding novelist of the twentieth century, goes relatively unread. Potential readers are scared away by 3,000 pages and by what looks like forbidding prose. Yet everyone knows of Proust and talks about him as if he discovered deja vu. Some dedicated souls have read through Combray and Swann in Love and were converted. But the further reaches of Proust's novel remain a cross between Outer Mongolia and outer space.
My proposal is to produce in English a combined translation and condensation running to about 700 pages instead of 3,000. This new version will contain the essence of Proust's novel in one manageable volume. Crucial scenes and passages will appear as written. Other sections will be shortened by abridgment and paraphrase. The resulting book will read as a continuous story, faithful to Proust's overall narrative structure and to the powerful flow of his prose.
Some Proust scholars and devotees will challenge the intellectual and literary integrity of such a project. They have a case—but a weak case. A compact edition of Proust will not replace the complete work he wrote and published. On the contrary, the shortened version will bring new admirers and explorers to the uncut version.
I enclose twenty sample pages. For the opening, I keep just about everything. The extract from The Captive will show you how I combine condensation and resume without mangling the original. At least, that's my goal.
There's no problem of rights. À la recherche du temps perdu has been in public domain for over ten years. I see my role as that of both adapter and translator.
In a comfortable office at Knoll Books, five people are sitting
around a conference table:
MONA ALLENBACH, sixty, vice-president for trade hooks
HARRY SULTAN, forty-five, senior trade editor
CRAIG YOUNG, twenty-five, assistant editor
JOSEPH POLTI, fifty, novelist and prominent literary journalist,
chief book reviewer for Globe Magazine
SIMONE PLANTE, thirty-five, associate professor of French,