Proust Remembered

Really going to the dogs around here.  I keep seeing fluffy white hounds but they don’t seem to see me so I’m hoping that’s a good thing.  Paranoia strikes deep.  So old school.  So old.  You can’t be concerned.  You just can’t.  You just have to get through the therapy.

Dying time again.  I keep tearing bits off the site before they try to grow back.  It’s slow, painstaking work and like all of you out there I hate pain.  “Take the pain!”  I wish I knew.

Even now, at this late moment, you remember the people that remembered you reading Proust although they can’t remember now because they’re dead.  I remember.  Too bad. Who cares?  Get out.  Bar’s closed.

I wouldn’t have thought to think about it if I hadn’t.  Proust’s first English translator dressed up as a Scottish soldier.  What is this?  How’d he get permission?  For years I knew nothing about this.  I became concerned.  What else didn’t I know?  Royal Scots.  Great War.  Hundred years.  Zzzzz…  Time out.  Remember “quicksand”?  Sinking in quicksand? You never hear about quicksand anymore.  As a young lad I was terrified of quicksand. Never saw it, encountered it.  Saw it in movies and on TV.  Never heard about Scott Moncrieff either.

So I acquired this biography of the guy who translated À la recherche du temps perdu.  It had to happen at some point.  The  cover is the Farrar Strauss and Giroux edition, 2014. Great bunch of guys.

The Marcel Proust I read, for obscure reasons, was translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.  It’s indisputable.  Who turns out to be rather an interesting character for a lot of reasons beside his translation of Marcel’s massive work of art.  Less on him later.

He was also a poet, although he didn’t think much of himself as one, an opinion shared by a smattering few, but others enjoyed it.

I read half the Proust translation in Chatto & Windus paperbacks published in London too many years ago because we don’t have all day.  Farrar, Strauss and Giroux take the field against Chatto & Windus.  That would be a match-up for the ages.  Luv to see that!

The poem prefaced one of the Chatto & Windus volumes.  As I sold off these volumes years ago at a trifling loss and am too lazy to check a library copy and anyway continue with a deep sense of revulsion for libraries generally, I can’t recall which volume it was exactly. Doesn’t matter.  The theme is remembrance.  I think it was the second volume.

How’s the ancient Greek mythology coming along?  Mine’s so-so.  You plant teeth from some dragon and warriors sprout up from the dirt.  Goes on from there.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense but there it is.

“Remembrance Day”. “Remembrance Sunday.” “Veteran’s Day”.    Some people are criticizing the thing saying it promotes war and killing.  All that’s happening there is these folks getting high on the rising tide of ignorance.  It’s either that or they’re communists. Pitiful.  We forgive them.


To K. S. S.

That men in armour may be born
With serpents’ teeth the field is sown;
Rains mould, winds bend, suns gild the corn
Too quickly ripe, too early mown

I scan the quivering heads, behold
The features, catch the whispered breath
Of friends long garnered in the cold
Unopening granaries of death,

Whose names in solemn cadence ring
Across my slow oblivious page.
Their friendship was a finer thing
Than fame, or wealth, or honoured age,

And—while you live and I—shall last
Its tale of seasons with us yet
Who cherish, in the undying past,
The men we never can forget.

There was probably a lot of women he never can forget but they were possibly not uppermost in his mind at the time.  Romantically, certainly, he preferred men.  Interesting guy.

Author: Steven Brown


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