Sunday, July 06, 2008

shadowed, agapanthus, Proust,

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Ivy and the shadow of ivy.

I count 18 buds on the potted agapanthus which produced no flowers at all last year. This year's prodigality is due to plentiful feeding, which in my ignorance, I failed to administer last year.

My fellow Proustian, Barrett Bonden is to blame. The search,which he initiated for the motor car in A la recherche du temps perdu, has lured me back into the immense, all-encompassing oeuvre for the third time. As I jumped about more or less at random seeking the car episode, I kept hooking on to passages that I wanted to read again. The number of these siren passages grew and before long I had resolved to read the entire work again from the beginning. Goodby Zola, now, for quite long time! I first read A la recherche in my thirties. I bought the 12 volumes of the original Scott Moncrieff translation one by one over a period of three or four years, and that was the time it took me to read the novel. I won't say I appreciated it to the full. It was something of a chore, but I felt proud of having acomplished it. The second time I read it more quickly, now in the Terence Kilmartin revision of the Scott Moncrieff original, more thoroughly and with much greater enjoyment. But, as my search for the motor car confirmed, there is still so much more to be discovered there, such richness of detail, such deep insights into relationships, such fineness of language reflecting so many shades of feeling, perception and character, that I have still only apprecated the surface of the novel. There is much more to be discovered. Since my second reading I have, as a result of a constant assault on French novels in the language of origin, come to enjoy the process so much that my third reading of Proust has to be in French. And I have to say, now that I have started, that many of my fears of those long, long sentences have proved groundless. Although I still hear, almost feel, as I slowly negotiate the majestic paragraphs, the languid and sinuous English rhythms of Scott Moncrieff, I am now ravished by the more delicate, searching and precise music of the master himself. I find it, although there are problems, reefs where I founder, to be, on the whole, easier to read in French and much more satisfying, if only because, having to concentrate harder, I feel myself grasping the sense better. And of course a translation however good it may be, becomes something other than the original, and usually something less.

4 comments:

Barrett Bonden said...

Far from being an incidental matter the "car" reference turned out to be entirely Proustian, better than I had hoped. For which much thanks. I too am on the verge of re-reading, for the third time. I foresee a protracted exchange of emails.

Lucy said...

The Scott Moncrieff translation came up on 'University Challenge' last night...

Happy reading!

Plutarch said...

I don't doubt it, Barrett. I noticed that, Lucy. It was one of the few questions that I knew the answer too.

Barrett Bonden said...

My God! All three of us were watching University Challenge at the same. Is our world expanding or contracting?