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Du cote de chez Swann

Posted 2/5/2016 3:59pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Du côté de chez Swann, Volume I of À la recherche du temps perdue Marcel Proust 1913, as it concerns us:

Look at how differently each translator handles the initial part of the sentence, "Mais j’avais beau savoir que je n’étais pas dans les demeures...". It is difficult to agree on the translation because no one agrees on the relationships formed by the following parts of speech; both, the first part of the sentence—as Marcel Proust has written it—and the grammatical contexts, have non-specified or partial meanings in French and the problem continues if not intensifies: avoir beau is considered idiomatic or indeterminate.

Mais j’avais beau savoir que je n’étais pas dans les demeures dont l’ignorance du réveil m’avait en un instant sinon présenté l’image distincte, du moins fait croire la présence possible, le branle était donné à ma mémoire ; généralement je ne cherchais pas à me rendormir tout de suite ; je passais la plus grande partie de la nuit à me rappeler notre vie d’autrefois, à Combray chez ma grand’tante, à Balbec, à Paris, à Doncières, à Venise, ailleurs encore, à me rappeler les lieux, les personnes que j’y avais connues, ce que j’avais vu d’elles, ce qu’on m’en avait raconté.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Humanis Edition Loc 285.

But it was no good my knowing that I was not in any of those houses of which, in the stupid moment of waking, if I had not caught sight exactly, I could still believe in their possible presence; for memory was now set in motion;as a rule I did not attempt to go to sleep again at once, but used to spend the greater part of the night recalling our life in the old days at Combray with my great-aunt, at Balbec, Paris, Doncières, Venice, and the rest; remembering again all the places and people that I had known, what I had actually seen of them, and what others had told me.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922,Loc 107.

But for all that I now knew that I was not in any of the houses of which the ignorance of the waking moment had, in a flash, if not presented me with a distinct picture, at least persuaded me of the possible presence, rule I did not attempt to go to sleep again at once, but used to spend the greater part of the night recalling our life in the old days at Combray with my great-aunt, at Balbec, Paris, Doncières, Venice, and the rest; remembering again all the places and people I had known, what I had actually seen of them, and what others had told me.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terrence Kilmartin and D. J. Enright 1922-1992, P. 9, Loc 606.

But even though I knew I was not in any of the houses of which my ignorance upon waking had instantly, if not presented me with the distinct picture, at least made me believe the presence possible, my memory had been stirred; generally I would not try to go back to sleep right away; I would spend the greater part of the night remembering our life in the old days, in Combray at my great-aunt’s house, in Balbec, in Paris, in Doncières, in Venice, elsewhere still, remembering the places, the people I had known there, what I had seen of them, what I had been told about them.

Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 9, Loc 482.

But it was no good my knowing that I was not in any of those houses of which, in the unknowing moment of waking, if I had not caught sight exactly, I could still believe in their possible presence; for memory was now set in motion; as a rule I did not attempt to go to sleep again at once, but used to spend the greater part of the night recalling our life in the old days at Combray with my great-aunt, at Balbec, Paris, Doncières, Venice, 7 and the rest; remembering again all the places and people that I had known, what I had actually seen of them, and what others had told me. 

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and revised by William C. Carter 2013, Loc 298.