Here’s an excerpt from "The Architecture of Thought" by one Lydia Davis:
“Please break up these long sentences” is the plaintive request that a translator of Proust hears at least once. No, the book is really more about thought than plot. And in any case, in Swann’s Way at least, there is a nice balance. Eighty percent of the sentences are not excessively long. The sentences must be kept intact, long and short, and they must retain as many elements of their complexity as possible, the parallel structures, the pairs of phrases, the triplets, the alliteration and assonance, the meter. But above all the intricate architecture of syntax by which Proust inserts his parenthetical remarks and digressions, delaying as long as possible the outcome of the sentence. So this means in the end trying to preserve not only the ease of a sentence when it is easy, but also the difficulty of a sentence when it is difficult, and it means asking oneself the same question with each sentence, though with a different problem in each: If I can’t produce, for example, the hexameter which Proust has so beautifully embedded in this phrase, by just how much will I have changed his thought?
Great piece. What’s that? You want more? Via This Space:
…The Cahiers Series from Sylph Editions. Details of the fifth, due next month, have just been released, and it looks particularly desirable:
The cahier comprises three linked pieces by the translator and short story writer, Lydia Davis. First is ‘A Proust Alphabet’, which gives an account of several words and issues of particular interest, encountered during the author’s recent translating of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way. There follows a short article on the French thinker and novelist Maurice Blanchot, entitled ‘The Problem in Summarising Blanchot’. Finally comes a series of dreams and dreamlike moments, recounted in ‘Swimming in Egypt: Dreams while Awake and Asleep’. The cahier is accompanied by photographs by Ornan Rotem.