Translations of In Search of Lost Time by Proust into English
April 13, 2022 10:21 PM   Subscribe

I purchased Lydia Davis' translation of Swann's Way not too long ago and I'm curious, if I enjoy Swann's Way and want to continue reading In Search of Lost Time... which translations should I go with?

I picked up the Lydia Davis translation because I've heard it's the best one. It's part of the Penguin re-issuing of In Search of Lost Time and each book seems to have a different translator. If I end up enjoying Davis' translation of Swann's Way, should I continue with the new translations in the Penguin editions?

There's also the Modern Library Classics editions translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin. Does anyone know how those compare to the Penguin translations?
posted by VirginiaPlain to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I loved the Lydia Davis one but then the next one in the series threw me for a loop because I remember the translation feeling very different.
posted by johngoren at 2:17 AM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I read through all the newer translations (they are from 2002) and loved them. Some people recommend just reading Lydia Davis's translation of that first volume and then switching to Moncrieff-Kilmartin (or Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Mayor-Enright, to complicate things). There is no consensus and the best choice is probably to just try out both for yourself!
posted by RGD at 7:10 AM on April 14, 2022

Best answer: Just switch to (the most recent) M-K afterwards. It's going to be discordant, but it would also be discordant to read each successive volume translated by a different author. FWIW, on my half-re-read (full first read was M-K) I did this, just to broaden my understanding. It was instructive. ("Half" because I stopped at the Duchess's red shoes incident, preferring to end on a highlight rather than trudging through a dreary stretch coming up.)
posted by praemunire at 7:37 AM on April 14, 2022

Best answer: I don't speak French so I can't speak to the fidelity of the style, and the Recherche has a complicated textual history that may be addressed in a more scholarly way in the newer translations, but I've read Moncrieff-Kilmartin through twice (once in the lovely Vintage paperbacks and once in the Penguin paperbacks of that translation) and I recommend it. Moncrieff was basically the Scottish version of Proust/the narrator: upper-class, gay, military-adjacent. Honestly I think that part of Proust's enduring stature and popularity in the English-speaking world comes from having lucked into such a fine translator.
posted by sy at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback! I'm very intrigued about the Moncrieff-Kilmartin translation now, sy, thanks for adding some context to it. Reading a different translation by a different translator for each volume does seem like it'd be a bit... much, so thanks for pointing that out praemunire.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 6:02 PM on April 14, 2022

Best answer: I just finished all of R of TP. I don't believe there could be a better translator than Scott-Moncrieff. He was a contemporary of Proust, gay, upper class and a wonderful stylist in his own right.
posted by canoehead at 7:30 AM on April 15, 2022

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