Time runs, the century winds to its close, and the great narrative works of the European imagination it gave birth to—the great works of Proust, Mann, Kafka—which one grew up with, and grew up on, in the familiar language of their first translations have now been appearing in new English dress. In Proust’s case the dress is only partly new. Scott Moncrieff’s celebrated translation of Remembrance of Things Past was revised, not redone, by Terence Kilmartin, who approached his task with uncommon wisdom and accomplished it with fine literary judgment.

The need to revise the existing translation in the light of the Pléiade edition . . .  also provided an opportunity of correcting mistakes and misinterpretations in Scott Moncrieff’s version. Translation, almost by definition, is imperfect . . . I have refrained from officious tinkering for its own sake, but a translator’s...

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