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15.9.03

Your Proust Excerpt for Today

So I am reading Marcel Proust's massive novel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and I thought I would share a passage every once in a while as I make my way through the labyrinth of prose. This time I'm reading the old Moncrieff English translation and comparing it with the original from time to time. It's a pretty good translation, I think, although I have felt compelled to make a few changes below. Here is the end of the first volume (Swann's Way in English and Du côté de chez Swann in French), which I found particularly beautiful this time:


The contradiction that it is to seek in reality the paintings in one's memory, which would always lack the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from their not being perceived by the senses. The reality that I had known no longer existed. It sufficed that Mme. Swann did not appear, all the same and at the same moment, for the Avenue to be another. The places that we have known belong now only to the world of space on which we map them for greater convenience. They were only a thin slice in the middle of the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is nothing but the regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are fleeting, alas, as the years. La contradiction que c'est de chercher dans la réalité les tableaux de la mémoire, auxquels manquerait toujours le charme qui leur vient de la mémoire même et de n'être pas perçus par les sens. La réalité que j'avais connue n'existait plus. Il suffisait que Mme Swann n'arrivât pas toute pareille au même moment, pour que l'Avenue fût autre. Les lieux que nous avons connus n'appartiennent pas qu'au monde de l'espace où nous les situons pour plus de facilité. Ils n'étaient qu'une mince tranche au milieu d'impressions contiguës qui formaient notre vie d'alors; le souvenir d'une certaine image n'est que le regret d'un certain instant; et les maisons, les routes, les avenues, sont fugitives, hélas, comme les années.

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