Marcel Proust (1871-1922): Works in Translation
At the risk of making a gross reduction, it is fair to say that Proust really wrote just one book: A la recherche du temps perdu, a sprawling, gorgeous, baffling, unforgettable novel about childhood and adolescence, travel and high society, sensation and sexuality, sleep and dreams, memory and forgetting, jealousy and art, comprising some 1.3 million words published between 1913 and 1927. Proust sacrificed the last seventeen years of his life as well as the last vestiges of his fragile health to the composition of this book, and still never managed to finish it. Nonetheless, the colossus of the Recherche is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, shoulder-to-shoulder with Joyce's Ulysses, and many readers consider it the greatest novel ever written, period. Everything else Proust wrote - including an early collection of stories and sketches (Les Plaisirs et les jours, or Pleasures and Days), a pair of translations from the work of John Ruskin (La Bible d'Amiens and Sésame et les lys), an abortive first novel (Jean Santeuil), and a collage of essayistic and novelistic notes and sketches on literature (Contre Sainte-Beuve) - is chiefly of interest for the additional perspectives it grants readers of the Recherche on Proust's undeniably central work. Anyone coming to Proust for the first time owes it to herself to begin simply with volume one of the Recherche - a book called Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way), and leave the rest for later.
On this page you can discover the best contemporary editions of Proust's novel and other works in translation. Each book listed below is linked to WorldCat, where you can discover library holdings for that item in your region. Resources within each gallery box are generally arranged from the newest to the oldest publications, left to right. To learn more about Proust's work in French, please visit the companion tab on this page.
Left: Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), Croquet (1878).
The Modern Library Proust
There have been understandably few attempts to translate the complete text of Proust's novel into English - indeed, like Proust himself, most translators who have made the attempt have died before finishing the job. For the serious study of Proust in English, only two English translations merit mention: one currently published by the Modern Library, and the other commissioned and published by Viking Penguin. The first of these, the epochal rendering of C.K. Scott Moncrieff (pictured to the left in uniform) as completed and corrected by Terence Kilmartin and further revised by D.J. Enright, currently serves as the standard English translation of Proust's novel. It is the edition most frequently cited by scholars and commentators and stands as a classic of English translation in the 20th century in its own right. Published in the United States by the Modern Library and in the UK by Vintage/Chatto & Windus, this text has long been hailed as the most precise and faithful rendering of Proust's French, taking as its foundation the complete and authoritative French text as published in the most recent Pléiade edition. Each volume includes notes, significant unpublished addenda or variants from the Pléiade text, and a useful synopsis. Furthermore, the Modern Library's six-volume paperback edition of this translation, also available as an unusually lush and inviting boxed set (see below), bears the practical advantage of eminent affordability for the ordinary reader. Every serious Proustian, even those lucky enough to read Proust in French the first time around, should acquaint herself with the Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright translation.
Left: Edward Stanley Mercer (1889-1932), Portrait of Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff, date unknown.
The Penguin Proust
Volumes of an entirely new English translation of Proust's Search began to appear from Viking Penguin in 2005. Unlike the Modern Library version, the Penguin Proust puts a different translator to the job for each volume: Lydia Davis for Swann's Way, James Grieve for In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Mark Treharne for The Guermantes Way, John Sturrock for Sodom and Gomorrah, Carol Clark for The Prisoner & The Fugitive, and Ian Patterson for Finding Time Again. Lydia Davis' contribution in particular has won praise for its faithfulness to the clean, concise, and frank qualities of Proust's prose - characteristics occasionally obscured or distorted by the intrusion of Victorianism into Scott Moncrieff's style. Although the Penguin version is not likely to dethrone Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright as the translation of reference, the quality of work is very high and the list of translators impressive. The first five volumes are currently available in paperback in the United States. In the United Kingdom, The Fugitive and Finding Time Again are already available in paperback, and can be acquired in the United States from online suppliers with relative ease - for those unwilling to apply Proustian patience and wait until their official appearance in North America.
The Annotated Yale Proust
The most recent noteworthy edition of Proust in English comes in the shape of William C. Carter's revised and annotated edition of the original C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation, published in a handsome large format, with concise and illuminating footnotes running alongside the text in wide margins. Carter gives Moncrieff a thorough revision in the light of the latest textual evidence and often arrives at different conclusions from the Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright edition (see above). This edition will be of interest to readers seeking more insight into the multitude of Proust's references - which range over the whole of Western history, culture, and politics - than is offered by the minimal commentary in the Modern Library edition, readers seeking a plush but inexpensive reading copy with plenty of room to add annotations of one's own, or readers desirous of yet another perspective on Proust's text in translation. The first two volumes of Carter's edition have already appeared in Yale University Press, with more to come.
Other Works by Proust in English Translation
Before embarking on his novel, Proust wrote in a considerable variety of genres: short stories, some of which were lengthy enough to be considered novellas; essays, articles, and reviews; character and landscape sketches; pastiches; poems; and translations. Proust's first published book, Les plaisirs et les jours (Pleasures and Days), was a collection of stories and sketches dealing in passion, betrayal, and disillusionment, composed very much in the decadent, fin-de-siècle manner in vogue among his then-contemporaries, but bearing subtle signs of the brilliant masterpiece he would eventually create. Fascinated for several years by the style and thought of the English artist, historian, and theorist John Ruskin (pictured at left), Proust translated two of the latter's works into French - The Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies - composing copious prefaces, notes, and commentaries to accompany the translated texts. The fragmentary novel Jean Santeuil, which Proust wrote - but never published - in the years of his writerly apprenticeship prior to beginning the Recherche, recounts the artistic and sentimental education of a young aspiring writer, not unlike the later masterpiece. Proust also composed a number of famous pastiches - brilliant stylistic exercises imitating the writings of classic and contemporary authors - as well as a considerable number of occasional essays, articles, and columns, which were brought out in literary reviews, magazines, and Parisian newspapers and treated various topics in art, literature, politics, and society. The fragmentary texts collected and published under the title Contre Sainte-Beuve (Against Sainte-Beuve) represent Proust's first efforts towards defining the form and content of his future novel. As the title suggests, they receive their initial impetus from efforts Proust made to counter certain ideas in the widely influential literary criticism of Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, initially expressed in essayistic and argumentative form. As Proust worked on his fragments and drafts, however, he gradually discovered the expansiveness of his vision required the supporting framework of a novelistic narrative, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Left: William Downey (1829-1915), photographic portrait of John Ruskin (1863). Carte-de-visite.