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Translation: Les Unes Des Autres

Posted 2/3/2016 5:40am by Eugene Wyatt.

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

The following sentence is difficult to translate; none of the leading translators (listed below) of Marcel Proust's À la recherche... have left the French "...les unes des autres..." or translated it directly. 

Marcel Proust seems to echo this utterance in the beginning of the following sentence, or at least in the broken or repetitive rhythm of its syntax: "Mais j’avais revu tantôt l’une, tantôt l’autre..."

Echoing, along with the use of other poetic devices, helps us understand Marcel Proust's usage ln French: his words are easy, but his style is more difficult to translate.

Ces évocations tournoyantes et confuses ne duraient jamais que quelques secondes ; souvent, ma brève incertitude du lieu où je me trouvais ne distinguait pas mieux les unes des autres les diverses suppositions dont elle était faite, que nous n’isolons, en voyant un cheval courir, les positions successives que nous montre le kinétoscope.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, Loc 255.

These shifting and confused gusts of memory never lasted for more than a few seconds; it often happened that, in my spell of uncertainty as to where I was, I did not distinguish the successive theories of which that uncertainty was composed any more than, when we watch a horse running, we isolate the successive positions of its body as they appear upon a bioscope.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Loc 80.

These shifting and confused gusts of memory never lasted for more than a few seconds; it often happened that, in my brief spell of uncertainty as to where I was, I did not distinguish the various suppositions of which it was composed any more than, when we watch a horse running, we isolate the successive positions of its body as they appear upon a bioscope.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terrence Kilmartin and D. J. Enright 1922-1992, P. 7.

These revolving, confused evocations never lasted for more than a few seconds; often, in my brief uncertainty about where I was, I did not distinguish the various suppositions of which it was composed any better than we isolate, when we see a horse run, the successive positions shown to us by a kinetoscope.

Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 7.

These shifting and confused gusts of memory never lasted for more than a few seconds; often, in my brief spell of uncertainty as to where I was, I did not distinguish the various suppositions of which that uncertainty was composed any more than, when watching a horse run, we isolate the successive positions of its body as they appear in a kinetoscope.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and revised by William C. Carter 2013, Loc 266.