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Authors: Marcel Proust

In Search of Lost Time

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PENGUIN BOOKS

The Way by Swann's

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 1899, however, his chronic asthma, the death of his parents and his
growing disillusionment with humanity caused him to lead an increasingly retired
life. From 1907 he rarely emerged from a cork-lined room on the Boulevard Haussmann.
Here he insulated himself against the distractions of city life, as well as the
effect of the trees and flowers – though he loved them they brought on his
attacks of asthma. He slept by day and worked by night, writing letters and devoting
himself to the completion of
In Search of Lost Time
. He died in 1922.

Christopher Prendergast is Professor of French at the University of
Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College.

Lydia Davis is the author of one novel and several collections of
short fiction, the latest of which is
Samuel Johnson is Indignant
. She is
also the translator of numerous works from the French by, among others, Maurice
Blanchot, Pierre Jean Jouve and Michel Leiris, and was recently named a Chevalier of
the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.

MARCEL PROUST

The Way by Swann's

Translated and with an Introduction
and Notes by Lydia Davis

General Editor: Christopher Prendergast

PENGUIN BOOKS

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group
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, England
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London
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, England

www.penguin.com

Du Côté de chez Swann
first published
1913
This translation first published by Allen Lane The Penguin Press
2002
Published in Penguin Classics 2003
1

Translation and editorial matter copyright © Lydia Davis,
2002
General Editor's Preface copyright © Christopher
Prendergast, 2002
All rights reserved

The moral rights of the translator and editor have been
asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold,
hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent
in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without
a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent
purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-191415-2

General Editor's Preface

In undertaking a fresh English rendition of
A la recherche du
temps perdu
, it has not been easy to banish entirely from one's
mind the dispiritingly droll
New Yorker
cartoon which has a peevish
Christmas shopper saying to a salesman in a bookstore: ‘I want something
to get even with him for that new translation of Proust he gave me last
year.' Yet all the evidence suggests that our discontented shopper is
today happily of the minority party. It would seem, from numerous end-of-century
stock-takings of our reading habits and preferences, that Proust's great
novel is alive and well in the public imagination, with followers and friends in
many places, several of them testimony to a distinctly more democratic dissemination
and enjoyment of
A la recherche
. While some of these have proved to be
false friends, intent on packaging and purveying a kind of consumerist postmodern
Proust, the extension of his readership has been an altogether welcome development.
It has not always been thus. For most of the twentieth century Proust was largely
the preserve of the few, often as the cult-object of an elite coterie, for which
reading
A la recherche
has been a kind of sacred rite buttressed by knowing
pilgrimages to Illiers (Combray) in search of madeleines and Cabourg (Balbec) in
search of young girls in flower. For too long Proust has been
‘Proust', held in an image bordering on what Proust himself, in
his reflections on Ruskin, understood as idolatry. The English reception of Proust
has been especially plagued by this tendency to sport acquaintance (often slight)
with his work as a badge of distinction, at once social and spiritual, by construing
it as a storehouse of exquisite epiphanies laced with a strong dose of class-bound
aestheticism. Since Proust's own text offers the best diagnosis of what is
wrong with this construction of him as a purveyor
of high-grade
cultural narcotics, it is as well to have done with it once and for all, in favour
of engaging with what is in fact a far more robustly hewn form of writing.

This naturally has implications for the translation of
A la
recherche du temps perdu
. A test-case might be the spirit in which one
approaches the holy of holies, that canonical incipit of early high modernism,
namely the notorious opening sentence of the work, with its elliptical temporal
adverb, its subject split by a reflexive verb into nominative and accusative and its
grammatically peculiar perfect tense: ‘
Longtemps, je me suis
couché de bonne heure
.' There have been many candidates
for the rendering of this into English (‘For a long time I used to go to
bed early'; ‘For a long time I would go to bed early';
‘Time was when I went to bed early'; ‘Time and again,
I have gone to bed early'). What joy, then, when an invitation (issued on
the Penguin Proust website) to take up once more the challenge of the first sentence
yielded the wonderfully irreverent: ‘For absolutely bloody ages it was
lights out early.' This, of course, is but affectionately demotic
provocation of the rituals of Proust-worship. More seriously, the time has arguably
come to do something about such things as the narrator's
‘
Maman
' and the characters'
‘
prénoms
'.

In the socio-lingusitics of French
‘
Maman
' is not marked for class, whereas English
‘Mamma' is. ‘Mamma' makes one wince and
transforms Combray into an upper-class Victorian nursery and the dilemmas of the
neurasthenic boy-hero into the problems of a simpering little Lord Fauntleroy. (To
take an alternative example, could one imagine that great oedipal lover,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who freely addressed Mme de Warens as
‘
Maman
', calling her ‘Mamma'?)
James Grieve proposed, in his own translation of
Du côté de
chez Swann
, the simple but useful expedient of removing an
‘m', thus weakening the unwanted play of social connotation. The
spelling ‘Mama' has also been retained in the present
translation. Presumably something similar needs to be done about the standard
rendering of ‘
prénom
' as ‘Christian
name'. This might just do for ‘Palamède',
Charlus's ‘Christian name' mentioned in connection
with ‘this or that
podestà
or Prince of the
Church'. But to represent ‘Odette' as a
‘Christian name' when it is Jewish Swann uttering it, or Lady
Rufus Israels addressing Swann's daughter Gilberte
by her
‘Christian name', has nothing to do with Proust's own
text and overlooks exactly the sort of thing that enabled Harold Bloom to describe
Proust as ‘our truest modern multiculturalist'. A more informal
and ecumenical representation of Proust in English will surely need to Americanize
here and thus put us on first-name terms with
‘
prénom
'.

These are but two examples of how one might break the grip of outdated
and misleading social assumptions on the transmission of Proust into English. This
should not, however, be taken to mean that the present venture has assigned to
itself the mission of ‘modernizing' Proust, and still less
should it be seen as embodying the hubris of the latecomer vis-à-vis the
predecessor. Readers of Proust in English translation have been well served, above
all by two truly heroic figures: first, C. K. Scott Moncrieff, and subsequently,
Terence Kilmartin. In relation to his own predecessor, Kilmartin sensibly remarked
that ‘it is all too easy for the latecomer to assume the
beau
rôle
' and modestly billed his own effort as a
‘revision' of Scott Moncrieff's majestic, if in
certain respects flawed, production. Revision here meant essentially two things. The
first is strictly textual. The history of Proust in English is inseparable from the
history of Proust in French. Scott Moncrieff worked from the first Gallimard edition
(which, if not actually ‘abominable', as Samuel Beckett put it,
was certainly defective). Kilmartin had the advantage of working from the far more
reliable 1954 Pléiade edition. This in turn was succeeded by the curiously
monstrous 1987 Pléiade edition, which formed the basis of a further
projected revision by Kilmartin, which, owing to ill-health, he passed on to D. J.
Enright (Enright calls it a ‘re-revision').

The present translation is also based on the 1987 Pléiade,
although in a manner that avoids fetishizing it as the
‘definitive' article. Occasionally, where considerations of
intelligibility have arisen, the 1954 Pléiade text has been used. More
importantly, the 1987 Pléiade has the dubious distinction of effectively
drowning Proust's oceanic text in a vast sea of additional material (by
incorporating Proust's voluminous drafts and sketches). Kilmartin/Enright
included samples of this in their re-revision. None of it appears here, on the
grounds that the presentation of a classic should not be confused with the making of
a scholarly
edition (although annotation is supplied in the
interests of clarifying local reference and allusion). In addition, we have also
dropped the indexes of place-names and proper names that accompany both
Pléiade editions and which, in modified form, Kilmartin/Enright also
reproduces along with a thematic index. Their declared purpose is to provide a
‘guide to Proust'. The view taken here is that part of the
experience of reading Proust's novel is co-extensive with the experience
of his narrator-hero
in
the novel, namely the repeated pattern of
forgetting and remembering, getting lost and refinding one's way, and that
detailed ‘guides' sit uneasily with this important dimension of
the work. Conversely, we have retained the practice of the synoptic summary at the
end of each volume.

Finally, in connection with the text itself, there is one respect in
which the present translation remains true to the 1987 Pléiade where
Kilmartin/Enright does not. This concerns an ambiguity over the beginning of the
final volume,
Le Temps retrouvé
. Scott Moncrieff did not live to
complete the final volume, and a translation by Sydney Schiff (under the pseudonym
Stephen Hudson) was used. With the appearance of the 1954 Pléiade, Andreas
Mayor produced a new version, which Kilmartin adopted for his own translation based
on the 1954 Pléiade. The textual tangle arises at this juncture.
Proust's manuscript gives a somewhat uncertain indication of where
La
Fugitive
ends and
Le Temps retrouvé
begins. The original
Gallimard edition and the 1954 Pléiade edition reflect different decisions
as to where the respective endings and beginnings are to be located. The 1954
Pléiade takes the beginning of
Le Temps retrouvé
back
several pages. The 1987 Pléiade, however, overrides the 1954 by restoring
the status quo ante. This significant alteration is not, however, reflected in
Kilmartin/Enright; Mayor's version remains intact. Whatever the merits of
the literary argument as to where properly to begin and end, one thing is clear:
Kilmartin/Enright, in this respect, is not faithful to the 1987 Pléiade,
whereas the present translation is.

A serious account of the English translation of Proust does not,
however, turn solely on the history of text and publication in France.
Kilmartin's version is offered not just as a series of changes and
additions in the light of textual information unavailable to Scott
Moncrieff but also as a ‘revision' of Scott Moncrieff in the
sense of correcting errors, inaccuracies and infelicities in the latter's
handling of the same French text. There was indeed much to be corrected in Scott
Moncrieff, on a scale from the trivial to the egregious (perhaps the worst howler,
in this novel about Time, is the confusion between
‘
temps
' and ‘
fois
' whereby
Swann's ‘
il y a combien de temps
?' in his
questioning of Odette about her lesbian past comes out, incredibly, as
‘how many times?'). Yet here Kilmartin's own lesson
about the latecomer needs to be kept firmly in view. No one has monopoly powers over
the ‘correct'. For example, Kilmartin criticizes Scott
Moncrieff's way with syntax (‘he wrenches his syntax into oddly
unEnglish shapes'). How to manage Proust's extraordinary
syntactic structures in English is a very difficult issue. They are often strange
even to French ears, and there may well be a respectable argument to the effect that
oddly unEnglish shapes are sometimes the best way of preserving their estranging
force. There is also the case of the pot calling the kettle black. On matters of
syntax, Kilmartin, too, can slip. Modern English usage (unlike French) permits a
certain laxness with the placing of ‘only', but even the most
liberal of readers might object to Kilmartin's rendering of a sentence
that gets it right in one clause and wrong in the next (‘We can only be
faithful to what we remember and we remember only what we have known').
Proust's maxims are not divine script but their assumed authority demands
that a certain rhythm and emphasis be respected.

These, however, are points of detail; cataloguing them can go on for
ever. Beyond the detail, there is the much larger and intractable question of the
kinds of assumptions the translator makes about Proust's
‘style' and corresponding judgements as to the sorts of English
most appropriate to that style. This is where the Pandora's box opens
wide. In these terms, Kilmartin's description of his project as a
‘revision' was excessively modest. It is in fact in very many
ways a rewriting based on a quite different conception of the language and style of
the novel as a whole. Scott Moncrieff was of his time, above all by virtue of a
tendency to shower Proust's text with cascades of Edwardian purple prose.
This partially obscured what Kilmartin sought to highlight: a less ornately
garlanded, more direct mode of writing. Yet once
again the story
is a chequered one. On the one hand, Scott Moncrieff was quite capable of delivering
some of those moments of shock and scandal that suddenly erupt from the stately flow
of Proustian discourse, while, on the other hand, Kilmartin at times returns us to
the language of the Victorian nursery. For example, when the narrator's
mother, in the famous goodnight kiss scene, reads George Sand's
François le Champi
to her agitated son, the latter is calmed
by the presence in Sand's text of ‘
des expressions
tombées en désuétude et redevenues
imagées
'. The phrase ‘
redevenues
imagées
' connotes both visual and rhetorical meanings
(something like ‘metaphorical colour'). Scott
Moncrieff's translation is uselessly but harmlessly literal
(‘returned as imagery'). Kilmartin goes for meaning but in the
wrong register, rendering it as ‘quaint and picturesque' (a bit
rich, then, for Enright to accuse Scott Moncrieff of being
‘quaint'). Nor do we really need the lamentably sentimental
‘damsel' for Proust's
‘
fillette
' designating the Parisian laundry girl the
narrator fancies (Scott Moncrieff simply has ‘girl').

And what of the question of titles? There will always be fans of Scott
Moncrieff's prettily Shakespearean
Remembrance of Things Past
.
But we also know that Proust took vigorous exception to Scott Moncrieff's
title, and for good reason. It removes virtually everything expressed or implied by
the original, most notably the double connotations of the adjective
‘
perdu
' (which signifies both
‘lost' and ‘wasted') and hence the sense of
Proust's narrative as a tale of false turns as well as retrospective ones.
‘Remembrance' smacks too much of the nostalgia-laden, rarely far
from the cakes-and-strawberries version of Proust that, for the English, is the
equivalent of the tea-party image of Jane Austen's world favoured by a
certain class of Janeites. It has nothing in common with the more strenuously
analytical sense of ‘
recherche
', implying the
consciously ‘experimental' in the work of the search. It seems
that Kilmartin wanted to use the far more exact
In Search of Lost Time
for
his first revision but was overruled by his publishers. Fortunately, he succeeded in
having his way for the subsequent revision and here we have followed in his
footsteps.

BOOK: In Search of Lost Time
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