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The Plunge

I have at long last taken the Proust plunge. I began the Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation about six years ago, but stalled out. I tried picking it up again this spring, and faltered once again. Then, on a whim a month or so ago, I poked around online trying to tease out what had always struck me as its bewildering history of translations in English. I found that there are essentially only two. The first is the Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation. Moncrieff died before finishing, so Kilmartin rounded out Time Regained. Later, D.J. Enright worked his way through M/K, revising it considerably.

And the only other English translation, it turns out, is the one instigated by Penguin a few years ago, where each of the seven volumes has been assigned a different translator. Lydia Davis takes on Swann’s Way, and it is this volume that I bought, and am surging through on the train each day. I cannot speak yet to any qualitative difference between this and the M/K, since I’d rather not get distracted (and, frankly, I don’t remember much from my previous two incomplete passes), but suffice it to say, I have found myself completely enthralled, which is not how I would have described my previous attempts. Thankfully, I ride to the terminus of each of my commuter lines (at least on the way home), so I have not missed my stops.

One unpleasant side effect has been that I’ve been incessantly singing and humming, “Proust in his first book, wrote about, wrote about”… This will pass, I hope, once I move beyond the first book.

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