Introduction to Bricquebec

   Proust submitted his original typescript for the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu to Bernard Grasset's publishing house in 1913. When it became apparent that the first volume, Du côté de chez Swann, would run to over 700 pages Proust agreed to cut out 200 pages, rewrite the ending of the first volume, and move them to the second volume which he was proposing to call Le côté de Guermantes. This episode relates the Narrator's first visit to Balbec/Bricquebec with his grandmother. Publication was interrupted after the printing of Du côté de chez Swann by the First World War and the second volume, À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, was eventually published in 1919.
   The text we have here is the original corrected, but not proof-read, typescript of what was later to become Noms de pays: le pays. In this original incarnation there was as yet no mention of Albertine and the jeunes filles en fleurs - what was to become one of the most significant themes of the whole novel. During the years between 1914 and 1919 this episode was rewritten and extended almost beyond recognition. There are numerous textual inconsistencies within this early draft, names of people and places have yet to be definitively decided upon: Balbec is called Bricquebec, but also in places Cricquebec; Robert de Saint Loup is first called Beauvais then Montargis; Baron de Charlus is called M. de Fleurus (and at one point, intriguingly, Charlus); Mlle de Stermaria is called variously Sclaria, Silaria, Silariat.
   In 1989 Richard Bales published a remarkable piece of scholarship Bricquebec: Prototype d'À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs in which he has deciphered and reproduced the typescript including all of Proust's extensive handwritten additions, paperoles, changes and crossings out. I have translated this text incorporating all the corrections. Many passages remain unaltered in the final published version, some are moved, some are juxtaposed or reworked but still recognizable. In these cases I have taken Terence Kilmartin's translation and incorporated it into my own. My intention was never to produce a "new" translation or cover ground that had already been well covered already, simply to produce a cohesive translation of the whole. It stands as a fascinating glimpse into the etymology of the novel and Proust's working methods.

Chris Taylor, 2003.


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