Sunday, 7 December 2008

Did Proust write a PhD?

Because one of his psychopathologies of Swann sounds awfully like a description of the writing-up year...

But most of all, - since in every one of his actions and thoughts which had reference to Odette, Swann was constantly obsessed and influenced by the unavowed feeling that he was, perhaps not less dear, but less welcome to her than anyone, even the most tedious of the Verdurin 'faithful,' - when he betook himself to a world in which he was the paragon of taste, a man whom no pains were spared to attract, whom people were genuinely sorry not to see, he began once again to believe in the existence of a happier life, almost to feel an appetite for it, as an invalid may feel who has been bedridden for months, on a strict diet, when he picks up a newspaper and reads the account of an official banquet or an advertisement for a cruise round Sicily.

That sounds remarkably like me over the summer!

Re-reading Proust has venn-diagrammed with my viva preparation: it seems to be teaching me the value of patience, and helping me to become reconciled with the idea of potential rewrites (obviously I'd rather not). I genuinely think A la Recherche should be on the secondary school literature syllabus and, if I ever get to write my dream undergraduate unit about the inherent strangeness of literature, Swann's Way would be the Week One text.

4 comments:

Jon said...

Swann ended up married to Odette, though, and sacrificing his aristocratic connections, and the dream of the happier life... While still having intermittent contact with it.

I'm struggling through "À l'ombre de jeunes filles en fleurs". Only 2400 pages left to go... (I have to read it for work)

Joe said...

Yes. This is true.

I'm just about to land in the Budding Grove. Marcel is thinking longingly about Swann's daughter at the moment. Done fifty pages so far today!

Jon said...

Are you reading the new Penguin translation, by the way? I'm interested in whether it fits together or not. Or are you reading the Montcrieff/Kilmartin?

I'm grappling with the 1954 Pléiade edition, as Portsmouth university doesn't think it's necessary to buy the newer one (from 1988 or so). The 1954 is better than the NRF editions, which Beckett criticised, but is still riddled with errors, which is odd for the Pléiade...

Joe said...

Kilmartin, but I've read Swann's Way in the Moncrieff before. I hadn't thought to compare them yet, however. Moreover, as my French is a little 'Del Boy', I can't compare them to the original.

Kilmartin reads a little like Henry Green, who of course was not averse to sounding like Proust, if that makes sense. Given that he produced his own translation of Sevigny's Souvenirs - part of which I believe you have, in that Surviving collection - I wonder if Green didn't work on some private translations of Proust. He certainly read the whole thing, and liked telling his friends that he considered himself to be like Swann.