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the Complete Review
the complete review - literary

Proust, Blanchot
and a Woman in Red

Lydia Davis

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To purchase Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red

Title: Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red
Author: Lydia Davis
Genre: various
Written: 2007
Length: 44 pages
Availability: Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red - US
Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red - UK
Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : fine pieces -- but more a sampler than full-fledged

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 30/10/2013 Margaret Jull Costa
Translation and Literature . 8/2008 Siân Reynolds

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The complete review's Review:

       Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red, beautifully presented in the Cahiers Series, presents three translation-related pieces by Davis. In 'A Proust Alphabet' she offers several entries from an Alphabet of Proust Translation Problems, which she wrote while working on her translation of Proust's Du Côté de chez Swann. 'The Problem in Summarizing Blanchot' is a brief consideration of the difficulty of summarizing a work by Blanchot (several of whose works she has translated) -- specifically Celui qui ne m'accompagnait pas. And 'Swimming in Egypt: Dreams While Awake and Asleep' collects eleven such dream-accounts; these are also included in her collection, Can't and Won't
       The 'Proust Alphabet' is an interesting glimpse into Davis' work as a translator, as she discusses a few specific translation-problems in the text and how she addressed them while also giving some insight into her general approach to translating this work. She contrasts her translation with Scott Moncrieff's one(s) as well -- a point of reference not available to her in, for example, translating Blanchot -- and discusses some of these points at some length (noting that it: "takes much longer to write out the debates that go on over these translation problems than it does to think them through to oneself"). It's an interesting exercise, offering a neat little look behind the translating-curtain.
       The short piece on Blanchot -- just three pages -- is a different kind of exercise, as she finds that with Blanchot: "The experience of reading had to take place moment by moment", the texts thus largely defying summary -- and yet being forced to summarize one also forces her to look at and consider the text in new ways.
       The sequence of dreams -- a sequence here, unlike in Can't and Won't, where they are scattered -- here comes with an introductory section that helpfully explains why she began recording these, inspired by a book by Michel Leiris (one which Blanchot discussed in an essay as well). The context is helpful (in contrast to the stand-alone presentation in Can't and Won't); the limited number of samples a manageable and not overwhelming amount (dream-pieces can easily get tiresome ...).
       The Cahier-pamphlet is, as always, visually beautiful. This volume comes with several illustrations (full-page photographs), and the simple expedient of printing all the French words and titles (as well as the piece-titles and sub-section titles) in red ink is both attractive and helpful.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 April 2014

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Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red: Reviews: Lydia Davis: Other books by Lydia Davis under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author and translator Lydia Davis was born in 1947.

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© 2014-2022 the complete review

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