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Read an excerpt from
Chasing Lost Time

 

Every Scottish man has his pedigree. It is a national prerogative, as inalienable as his pride and his poverty.


--Walter Scott

 

Charles Scott Moncrieff lay dying in Rome. Through the arched window of the Convent of St Joseph he could see the cypress trees on the Palatine Hill, while a nun in a white wimple and blue veil entered silently to give him Holy Communion.

 

In the first volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in bed at night the boy remembers longing for his mother to come and kiss him goodnight and he compares the apparition of her face to the white, consecrated host.1 Charles, a man of forty, was certain that the consecrated host carried by the nun was the body of Christ. His journey to that point was as absorbing to him as his translation of Proust, through which he had lived much of the past nine years.

 

He knew he was dying. His body was emaciated and his face skull-like. Stomach cancer had been diagnosed only eight weeks before. Morphine muffled his pain. His life lay behind him, coloured and detailed like the view from the window; and beyond that lay his forebears, all gone before him on this final adventure. Except for his mother, still alive and now at his side, visiting, ministering, treating him again like the child he had once been. READ MORE

 


Jean Findlay: Chasing Lost Time

Wednesday June 8, 2016
07:00 pm

Tags: Event

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Since 1922, English-language readers have been transported into the world of Marcel Proust thanks to translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff. For the first time, this enigmatic translator has the spotlight shone on him with this new biography written by his great-great niece, Jean Findlay. We hosted this talk with Findlay where she discussed Moncrieff's impetus for translating À la recherche du temps perdu, and the vivid influence of Proust on his life. “Albertine has been in the room all day and I have only just managed to get her out,” he wrote to his publisher while translating Albertine Disparue.

 

About Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C. K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator

 

The thrilling first-ever biography of Proust translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff, penned by his great-great-niece

"And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me . . ." With these words, Marcel Proust's narrator is plunged back into the past. Since 1922, English-language readers have been able to take this leap with him thanks to translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff, who wrestled with Proust's seven-volume masterpiece—published as Remembrance of Things Past—until his death in 1930.


While Scott Moncrieff's work has shaped our understanding of one of the finest novels of the twentieth century, he has remained hidden behind the genius of the man whose reputation he helped build. Now, in this biography—the first ever of the celebrated translator—Scott Moncrieff's great-great-niece, Jean Findlay, reveals a fascinating, tangled life.


Catholic and homosexual; a partygoer who was lonely deep down; secretly a spy in Mussolini's Italy and publicly a debonair man of letters; a war hero described as "offensively brave," whose letters from the front are remarkably cheerful—Scott Moncrieff was a man of his moment, thriving on paradoxes and extremes. In Chasing Lost Time, Findlay gives us a vibrant, moving portrait of the brilliant Scott Moncrieff, and of the era—changing fast and forever—in which he shone.

 


 

Jean Findlay was born in Edinburgh and studied law and French at Edinburgh University, then theater in Kraków with Tadeusz Kantor. She ran a theater company, writing and producing plays in Berlin, Bonn, Dublin, and Rotterdam, and at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. She has written for The Scotsman, The Independent, Time Out London, and The Guardian, and she lives in Scotland with her husband and three children. She is the great-great-niece of C. K. Scott Moncrieff.