21 May 2009

I am reading more fluently at the moment thank you, my relations with books have always been a little rocky but I have raced through a few things lately and am limbered enough to attempt something that's been on the list for a long time, going at Proust again. It was maybe a decade ago I got halfway through the second volume of what was then a new revision of the Scott Moncrieff-Kilmartin translation, by DJ Enright. At the time, I fail to account for how, I had the six volumes in two different designs, in the Modern Library edition, even numbers had Impressionist reproductions on the cover, and sat easily in my small hands, and they alternated with pink and orange, less compactly formatted odd numbers, and that all seemed just fine back then. Coming back to the shelves after going round the Sun another ten times it seems the height of idiocy and waywardness. So I have set about acquiring the Impressionistic set, and I am much obliged to Abebooks in my search for just the right copies of the 1998 Modern Library Marcel. Except when I took delivery of Volume One yesterday (price £1.00) I saw straight away I had ordered a 1992 where I meant to have a 1998 - the muted silver and gold trim, and the photograph, fine though it is, of a rumpled pillow, could by no means take their place alongside my Volume Two, boasting this as it does


which is almost a discouragement to signing away all those hours and weeks to Proust's prose, when painting can do this for us in a matter of minutes, quarter of an hour tops. But but. There are miracles in great prose aren't there, the mystery and hilarity of communing with a great mind, that has so much to tell us. All six volumes of it.

When I ordered the Volume One, I was assured by the vendor that in spite of its cheapness, its only blemishes were as follows

Cover worn, marked and creased. Inscribed.

If I'd known it had been 'inscribed' with a hand drawn map of Europe, I might have paid a little bit more for it.



McK said...

Hello Stephen, glad to hear you're having fun reading. The readers' muse is a capricious minx, and capable of great indolence. I have recently harnessed her in the following way : I have decided to stop fetishising the physical object of the book. I have stopped buying books. I now only read books from Streatham Library, using the wonderful inter-library loan system to order all manner of out-of-print and arcane wonders for a pound a pop. I abandon books a hundred pages in - frequently - if they're not cooking. And when I have finished a book, instead of interring in on my shelves, I write a few brief notes on it in my notebook. Not literary criticism, or anything clever or funny, just my impressions of the book and my some loose comments on how it seemed. Something to remember it by. Then I return the physical book to the library. I have even started to GET RID OF MY EXISTING BOOK COLLECTION. I have had some hard reading droughts over the years, but for now the rain is falling and the minx is fertile. Anyway, good luck with Marcel. Treat yourself to a Star Trek novelization for each volume completed, I would.

Samantha Ellis said...

You're back (on the blog, I mean)! And reading Proust. I love the map. Especially how spidery the ink is. xx

Lara said...

I love Abe books. I bought the last two editions (on the planet?) of a very important book about Angolan history. They cost me (lie: they cost my fellowship grant) nearly a hundred quid. I love them. When you're done with the volune with the map, sell it again and I'll buy it.

And how weird you have a commentator called McK: happens to be a great Angolan rap musician with the same name. I never knew he also spoke English and hung out in Streatham Library.

belgradequeen said...

I am a huge fan of Proust and to add to the debate I've had with a good number of people over the years - it reads better in certain languages. I think reading it in translation is always hard but English translations are especially challenging: there's something about the language which makes his work harder to read and that's not helpful..