Along with "The Wasteland" and "Ulysses," another modernist classic's 100th anniversary is heralded this year: C.K. Scott Moncrieff's pioneering English translation of "Swann's Way," the first volume of Marcel Proust's massive novel "In Search of Lost Time."
Moncrieff's florid translation appeared in September 1922, two months before Proust's death in Paris at age 52. Although he never completed the entire novel, Moncrieff translated several other volumes of Proust's masterpiece under the title"Remembrance of Things Past," taken from Shakespeare's sonnet. Proust before his death expressed his displeasure at the English title.
"Swann's Way," which tells of wealthy Paris financier Charles Swann's disastrous love affair with the lower class courtesan Odette, is the most-read volume of Proust's work, similar to"Inferno" in Dante's "The Divine Comedy." After "Swann's Way," most readers don''t continue with the rest of the book.
Over the years, "Swann's Way" has been translated several times, most recently by Lydia Davis in a critically acclaimed edition.
While Davis and other translators have more accurately rendered Proust's language than Moncrieff's overly emotive style, Moncrieff's translation gives sumptuous reading pleasure. Moncrieff's version of Proust is the last great Victorian novel.