Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dueling madeleines

One of my hobbies is Marcel Proust’s gargantuan novel, A la recherche du temps perdu—or more accurately, since I only know it in English, In Search of Lost Time. I first read it in the musty 1920s version by Charles Scott Moncrieff, which he oddly called Remembrance of Things Past. More recently and more joyously, I read the new ‘Penguin Proust’, the work of seven translators on three continents. And again, because I just couldn’t let it go, I read another version of Scott Moncrieff, as tweaked and corrected by two scholar-translators toward the end of the 20th century.

Now, from a bookseller in Australia, I’ve acquired yet another translation, by James Grieve in 1982, of the first volume of the novel. So I’m happily ensconced for the fifth time (I read that 1920s translation twice) with Swann’s Way. The differences between translations are slight but pleasurable, as for example when Young Marcel dips his petite madeleine into a cup of tea and is suffused with joy, for reasons he doesn’t understand but still manages to express beautifully. I’ve posted the dueling madeleines—Scott Moncrieff vs. Lydia Davis vs. James Grieve—on the little website/blog I maintain for my encounters with Proust. (Can there be a duel with three participants?) Blue skies! – Dan Ford

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