In the spring of 1920 Marcel Proust was fretting because the good 'Gaston' (Gallimard, his post-war publisher) had been unforgivably slow in arranging for translations of his now successful novel to be started. In the past 12 months Du Côté de chez Swann had been published for a second time (the little-noticed earlier edition was in 1913) and A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs for the first time; and Proust had, strangely, won the Prix Goncourt, a corrupt award which he had wanted but which generally goes to works of uncomplicated mediocrity. There should, he thought, have been foreign editions pending of these first instalments of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and an English edition mattered most of all. English was a language which Proust knew and had read in; with help, he had translated his dear Ruskin into French. His sense of symmetry, if not of justice, called now for his own deeply Ruskinian work to be turned into English, and if nothing had so far been done the fault must be Gaston's because the English themselves were hugely enthusiastic about it: there had, he promised Jacques Rivière, been 'eight or nine articles in the Times alone'.
LRB 19 March 1981 | PDF Download