The first volume of one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, in Lydia Davis's award-winning translation
Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is one of the most entertaining reading experiences in any language and arguably the finest novel of the twentieth century. But since its original prewar translation there has been no completely new version in English. Now, Penguin Classics brings Proust’s masterpiece to new audiences throughout the world, beginning with Lydia Davis’s internationally acclaimed translation of the first volume, Swann’s Way.
Swann's Way is one of the preeminent novels of childhood: a sensitive boy's impressions of his family and neighbors, all brought dazzlingly back to life years later by the taste of a madeleine. It also enfolds the short novel "Swann in Love," an incomparable study of sexual jealousy that becomes a crucial part of the vast, unfolding structure of In Search of Lost Time. The first volume of the work that established Proust as one of the finest voices of the modern age—satirical, skeptical, confiding, and endlessly varied in his response to the human condition—Swann's Way also stands on its own as a perfect rendering of a life in art, of the past recreated through memory.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Few of us pretend to have read Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, a seven-volume behemoth of a modernist novel that comes in at more than 1.2 million words. But you definitely shouldn’t be scared of Swann’s Way, the masterpiece’s opening volume. Proust’s primary theme—how regret over the passage of time colors even our fondest memories—remains very relatable. We quickly got absorbed in the story of social-climbing Charles Swann and his beautiful daughter, Gilberte.
Relax: it's fantastic. There's no question that Davis's American English is thinner and more literal than C.K. Scott Montcrieff's archaically inflected turns of phrase and idioms, at least as revised by Terence Kilmartin and later by D.J. Enright. The removal of some of the familiar layers of the past in this all-new translation gives one a feeling similar to that of encountering an old master painting that has just been cleaned: the colors seem sharper and momentarily disorienting. Yet many readers will find it exhilarating, allowing the text to shed slight airs that were not quite Proust's and making many of the jokes much more immediate (as when he implies that sense-organ atrophy in the bourgeois is a defense mechanism and the result of hardening unarticulated feelings). As accomplished translator and novelist Davis (The End of the Story) notes in her foreword, she has followed Proust's sentence structure as closely as possible "in its every aspect," including punctuation, word order and word choice. To take just one case, where Montcrieff/Kilmartin describe Mlle. Vinteuil finding it pleasant to metaphorically "sojourn" in sadism, Davis has the much more definitive "emigrate." Proust's psychological inquiry generally feels much sharper, giving a much more palpable sense of Freud and Bergson and of the young Marcel's willful (if not malefic) manipulations of those around him. For first-timers who don't have French and are allergic to the slightest whiff of euphemism, this is the best means for traveling the way by Swann's. BOMC, Reader's Subscription and Insightout Book Club; 4-city translator tour.
Great book but
Really unique and rewarding reading experience. Disappointing the book costs $14 on iBooks and $1.99 on Kindle.
Two masterpieces in one
Proust was a magician. On almost every page, I felt compelled to stop and marvel at an observation or a turn of phrase or a complex sentence. Proust dives into the workings of his mind -- and of your mind, too -- with his miraculous renderings of the ways that thought, emotion, memory collide to produce consciousness. It's a difficult read, and you must have patience as well as peace and quiet. I think it's the greatest novel written.
The other masterpiece is Lydia Davis's translation. It is clear and it sounds natural to my American ears.