The fashionables


A.N. Wilson on the new biography, Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake

Bohemianism is inherently snobbish, because its practitioners believe they are more interesting than the conventional majority. Whistler made it his creed, to scandalise the middlebrow and middle-minded. His famous “aesthetic” lecture, “The Ten O’Clock”, claimed that art itself was a science. The lecture had a huge influenced [sic] on Marcel Proust, whose friend Robert de Montesquiou (model of the Baron de Charlus in In Search of Lost Time) was one of Whistler’s best subjects – Sutherland detects Whistler in Proust’s fictitious painter, Elstir.

Writer as translator, translator as writer


3 Quarks Daily on Lydia Davis‘ Proust.

Regarding her reasons for re-translating Proust, Davis herself has commented in the McBride Interview, “it is an ideal of mine to stay as close as I can to the original while still producing a living, breathing text in English. . . . In fact, imposing my own style would take away some of the enjoyment of translating for me—which is to leave my own style and my own sensibility behind and enter fully into the sensibility and style of another writer, to be able, in a sense, to take a vacation from my own writing, while still writing” and her discussion of her essay on her “close translation” reveals her desire to stay as close to Proust’s language in terms of etymologies of words, sounds, sentence length, tone, etc. Nevertheless, the critic André Aciman takes Davis’s translation to task in his December 2005 review, “Proust’s Way?” which appeared in the New York Review of Books.

Proust on film


Peter Bradshaw on the cinematic outings of À La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

In the 1970s, it was the turn of Losey, who in a similar way had to drop his plans for the whole thing when funds dried up. But his À La Recherche du Temps Perdu (1972) is a great lost film, or ghost film, or imaginary film, because in 1978 Harold Pinter published the screenplay Losey commissioned from him, and it is fascinating to read this while attempting to “play” the movie in your head. The running time was estimated at just under four hours, which is about the reading time. Perhaps all directors should create an unproduced project like the Losey/Pinter Proust, a DIY film that viewers must conjure up for themselves.

Pinter’s Proust screenplay is a bold, radical compression or distillation: all the textual richness and amplitude is boiled away, and we are left with an audacious repatterning, a series of stark, fragmentary glimpses. It is a brilliant and very Pinteresque reading of Proust, with a real passion for the work. David Caute’s biography of Losey amusingly quotes one derisive non-backer: “This is the age of Gene Hackman and Barbra Streisand. There are no roles for them here.” Actually, given John Malkovich’s great success in Ruiz’s Time Regained as the cantankerous sensualist and snob Baron de Charlus, I’m not so sure; Hackman might have made a good, fussy Dr Cottard.