The 14-Minute Marcel Proust: A Very Short Guide to the Greatest Novel Ever Written by Stephen Fall by Stephen Fall - Read Online
The 14-Minute Marcel Proust
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Summary

Today it's called In Search of Lost Time, though an earlier generation knew it as Remembrance of Things Past. Under whatever title, and whichever translator, Proust's gargantuan novel has challenged English-speaking readers for nearly a century.

Over the course of twelve months, Stephen Fall tackled the recent and lovely Penguin/Viking editions, blogging on the internet as he read. He devotes a short chapter to each of the novel's seven books, introducing it with a two-minute plot synopsis--thus the fourteen minutes of the title. He also ponders some of its highlights and compares the new translations with the classic ones based on the work of Charles Scott Moncrieff.

Three concluding chapters discuss Albertine, the great love of the narrator's life; Proust's service in the French army; and the 'dueling madeleines', which give a snapshot of each translator's version of a notable Proustian passage. About 20,000 words. Revised and updated Octobter 2015 to incorporate the new editions from Yale University Press.

Published: Fallbook Press on
ISBN: 9781502240286
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Contents

Marcel Proust, 1892

A Journey in Time

1 – Swann’s Way

2 – In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

3 – The Guermantes Way

4 – Sodom and Gomorrah

5 – The Prisoner

6 – The Fugitive

7 – Finding Time Again

Dueling Madeleines

The Love of His Life

Private Proust

Copyright - Author

Marcel Proust, 1892

The 14-Minute Marcel Proust

A Very Short Guide to the Greatest Novel Ever Written

STEPHEN FALL

Fallbook Press

Revised and Updated Edition 2015

A Journey in Time

How this journey began

AS A YOUNG MAN, I ventured onto Swann's Way two or three times, only to turn back before the journey was well begun. Then – more years ago than I like to contemplate – a friend challenged me to read the whole of the novel with him. Every Wednesday on his way to the law office where he was an apprentice attorney, he’d stop by my rented room (it had a kitchen and bath but wasn’t really an apartment). We’d drink coffee, smoke, and talk about Proust. Egging each other on in this fashion, we finished the novel before the year was out.

Ten years later, I read the novel again – and aloud – to my wife over the course of two winters. One of the French deconstructionists, arguing that we can’t study a novel by itself, because reading is a collaborative venture between the author and the reader, cinched his case by pointing out: "After all, who has read every word of À la recherche du temps perdu? It pleased me hugely to be able to say, if only silently, I did!"

That was the handsome two-volume Random House edition of 1934, entitled Remembrance of Things Past, the first six books rendered into English by Charles Scott Moncrieff and the seventh by Frederick Blossom. (Scott Moncrieff died in 1926 at the tragically young age of forty, his task still unfinished, which is probably why Penguin decided to employ seven different translators for its 21st Century Proust, as a hedge against their mortality.) When Terence Kilmartin’s reworking came out in 1981, I acquired that, too, but only read pieces of it – notably book seven, The Past Recaptured, greatly improved over the rather lame Blossom translation. (I thought of this gentleman as Uncle Fred, because his niece happened to be my brother’s landlady.)

Mr. Kilmartin harmonized Scott Moncrieff with contemporary scholarship, and this task was further advanced in 1992 by D. J. Enright. One commentator celebrated the result — a revision of a revision! — as buffed, rebuffed, lightened, tightened, and in the abstergent sense, brightened....

Happily, too, the overall title was restored to the Proustian In Search of Lost Time. But not, alas, Scott Moncrieff’s bowdlerized titles for À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs and Sodome et Gomorrhe. And the prose, it seemed to me, was still a bit — musty. Instead of being true to Proust, Messrs Kilmartin and Enright were being true to his first translator, who was born during Victoria’s reign, educated in Edward’s, and went to war to defend George V’s in the trenches of the Western Front. He was, in short, a man who regarded he vouchsafed no answer as a fair translation of il ne me répondit pas (he did not answer me).

Then, in 2002, came the Penguin Proust, the first four volumes of which have been published in the U.S. by Viking. A peculiarity of American copyright law has stalled Viking’s project until 2019, but the British paperbacks and e-books are available in this country.

After reading a rave review of volume two – sensibly titled In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower – I realized that I would have to read it. On second thought, I decided to start from the beginning with the new Swann’s Way, translated by the American short-story writer Lydia Davis. It was a good decision. Davis did a wonderful job with her translation, and by the time Davis and I had lulled Little Marcel to sleep (on page 43 of the Viking edition), I knew that I was once again in for the long haul. So I set out to acquire a complete set of hardcover books – not so easy, as matters turned out! I had to import the last two volumes from London. I read them in sequence, and I blogged about them on the internet as I read.

This little volume came out of that project. I am now revising it to take notice of yet another new edition of À la recherche du temps perdu, starting with Swann’s Way in 2013, edited and annotated by William Carter and published by Yale University Press. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower was added in 2015, with future volumes promised for each year hereafter. They are, essentially, a modernization and Americanization of the Scott Moncrieff translations of 1922-1930. I don’t know how Mr. Carter will handle the final volume, but probably he will work from