William Carter, in the first volume of his epic ongoing Proust edition for Yale University Press, characterizes Proust’s seven-volume series À la recherche du temps perdu as “considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 20th century and perhaps of all time.” The series — Du cote de chez Swanni (Swann’s Way), A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower), Le Cote de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way), Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah), La Prisoniere (The Captive), Albertine dispartue (The Fugitive), Le Temps retrouve (Time Regained) — was written by Proust between 1913 and 1927 and has been confounding, transporting, and flattening readers ever since.

But it’s not actually À la recherche du temps perdu that sits at the heart of Carter’s work (two volumes of which have appeared so far, Swann’s Way and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower); he’s not, as you might think at first, offering a new translation of Proust’s books. Instead, Carter has embarked on a thorough revision and annotation of an English-language translation. The translation in question is of course the one done by Scottish author and translator C.K. Scott Moncrieff between 1922 and his death in 1930.
More… “Moncrieff Relief”

Steve Donoghue is a reader, editor, and writer living in Boston surrounded by books and dogs. He’s one of the founding editors of the literary journal Open Letters Monthly and the author of one of its book­blogs, Stevereads. HIs work has appeared in The National, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Quarterly Conversation, among others. He tweets as @stdonoghue.


Edith Grossman is one of the finest literary translators working today. She has translated some of the greats of the Spanish language — from Marquez to Llosa, Fuentes to Dorfman. Her translation of Don Quixote was masterful and is widely accepted as the new standard text. She is the perfect complement to these writers, translating not only the language but also the emotion and experience of the original work. Indeed, the essays in the final half of her new book, Why Translation Matters — “Translating Cervantes” and “Translating Poetry” — are interesting and careful; they make a significant contribution to the philosophy and the practice of translation. That’s why the first half of the book is such a shame

Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman. 160 pages. Yale University Press. $24.

The first two pieces in this collection of… More…


At one point on a bus trip in Japan, I heard two foreigners wondering aloud about how best to prepare some Japanese root vegetables they had seen in the supermarket, and it took everything in me not to interject the answer, which I knew. That’s when I realized, to my amazement, that I had somehow become an expert on Japan. I had never met one of those I liked, and had never set out to become one.

I am not sure how it happened. I guess first I learned the language, which I blame on my addiction to the Japanese women’s magazines in the back of my high school classroom. I was a sucker for their elegant craft ideas, crazy fashion photos, and dirty cartoons. But the major appeal of the language was that foreign words written in… More…


Rumi looks pure. Her skin is porcelain-colored from high-end, Japanese-brand foundation and a layer of bone-colored powder. Her eyelashes are curled at 90 degrees, coated with black mascara and lined heavily. Her lips are glossed clear with just a hint of pink pigment.

I have learned to negotiate the labyrinth of her weird papers without ever seriously commenting on content at the drop-in community college center where I tutor, because when I do, it makes her pout and say my name in a high pitched stretched out way. She is always very sure of what she wants to say, and sure it is merely her misunderstanding of English grammar that is getting in the way of perfect communication.

One thesis went something along the lines of no matter how far apart your eyes are, and how small your… More…