Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Marcel the joker

In search of lost laughs
I have just finished reading Proust’s “In search of lost time”, in the translation by CK Scott Moncrieff (vol 1-6) and Sydney Schiff (vol 7), Centaur Editions, available on Kindle.

Literary types argue over the merits of this translation, and it has been contended that it is better than the original French – a mischievous wit suggested that, if so, it should be translated back into French.

Proust could have fun:

... he began once more to cough and expectorate over me. “Don’t tire yourself by trying to speak,” I said to him with an air of kindly interest, which was feigned.

... he said of one of M. Verdurin’s footmen: “Isn’t he the Baron’s mistress?”

“... You must know far more than I do, M. de Charlus, about getting hold of sailors.”

... his stock of Latin quotations was extremely limited, albeit sufficient to astound his pupils.

... he had that detailed knowledge of Paris only to be found in people who seldom go there.

She looked like an exhausted swimmer far from shore who painfully manages to keep her head above the waves of time which were submerging her.

... the Duchesse de Guermantes’ cheeks which had remained remarkably unchanged though they now seemed compounded of nougat ...

His formerly brick-red skin had become gravely pale; silver hair, slight stoutness, Doge-like dignity and a chronic fatigue which gave him a constant longing for sleep, combined to produce a new and impressive majesty.

Somebody mentioned a name and I was stupefied to know it applied at one and the same time to my former blonde dance-partner and to the stout elderly lady who moved ponderously past me.

... the Princesse de Guermantes’ locks, when they were grey, had the brilliance of silvery silk round her protuberant brow but now having determined to become white seemed to be made of wool and stuffing and resembled soiled snow.

He declared that I had not changed by which I grasped that he did not think he had.

... for three years she had been taking cocaine and other drugs. Her eyes deeply and darkly rimmed were haggard, her mouth had a strange twitch.

“You took me for my mother,” Gilberte had said and it was true. For that matter it was a compliment to the daughter.

For this American woman, dinner-parties and social functions were a sort of Berlitz school. She repeated names she heard without any knowledge of their significance.

So people said: “You’ve forgotten. So and so is dead,” as they might have said: “He’s decorated, he’s a member of the Academy,” or — which came to the same thing as it prevented his coming to parties — “he has gone to spend the winter in the south ” ...

Hearing that Mme d’Arpajon was really dead, the old maid cast an alarmed glance at her mother fearing that the news of the death of one of her contemporaries might be a shock to her; she imagined in anticipation people alluding to her own mother’s death by explaining that “she died as the result of a shock through the death of Mme d’Arpajon.” But on the contrary, her mother’s expression was that of having won a competition against formidable rivals whenever anyone of her own age passed away.