Essays Two: On Proust, Translation, Foreign Languages, and the City of Arles

Lydia Davis. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-0-374-14886-7
In this riveting and erudite collection (after Essays One), Davis documents the adventures and challenges of her work as a translator, moving with ease between the technical challenges posed by a complex text and her personal relationship with literature. Several pieces describe her process of translating Proust’s Swann’s Way into English: “The Child as Writer” provides critical and biographical insight as Davis diagrams the syntax of Proust’s “sophisticated and polished” sentences, while in “Proust in His Bedroom,” she reads his correspondence and pays a visit to his apartment in Paris. Sections are dedicated to her experience learning Spanish, Dutch, and Norwegian, often through context and logic: In “Learning Bokmal” (an older form of Norwegian), Davis explains how she is exhilarated by “the fact of doing it by myself.” In “Translating ‘Bob, Son of Battle: The Last Gray Dog of Kenmuir’,” Davis describes her desire to keep a book from her childhood from being forgotten, and her project of modernizing the book’s language, while “Buzzing, Humming, or Droning” considers the many Madame Bovary translations. Thorough, idiosyncratic, and inimitable, Davis is the kind of intelligent and attentive reader a book is lucky to find. Readers, in turn, are lucky to have this collection, a worthy addition to the Davis canon. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 07/20/2021
Release date: 11/17/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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