Citation Frustration in Gilles Deleuze’s Proust and Signs

[EDIT (18 April 2020): Looking back at the copyright page for Howard’s translation of Proust and Signs, I see that the English translation is quite a bit older than I thought it was when first composing this piece yesterday. The Regents of the U of Minnesota took over the copyright of Proust and Signs in 2000, but the translation was first published in 1972. I’m sure the 3-volume edition A la recherche that Deleuze used was still widely used at this time.]

I really love Gilles Deleuze’s Proust and Signs (translated into English by Richard Howard twenty years ago), but the English edition does not make it easy to track down the passages Deleuze quotes and cites. Howard does the work of translating the quotations, but he retains the citation information from Proust et les signes.

For instance:

I don’t mean to undervalue the labor of translation, but it doesn’t take much time to see that a reader who would need an English translation of Proust et les signes would have little-to-no use for Deleuze’s original citations (at least by themselves). Even if these English language readers had on hand the correct French edition of A la recherche (which, by the way, was long out-of-print by 2000), these same English language readers would have to retranslate the quotations back into French in order to locate the original passages.

The edition Deleuze quotes from and cites in Proust et les signes.

Recently, I located the correct Proust edition in the University of South Dakota’s library, and the library staff were kind enough to ship them to my home. Here’s where “material explanation” (see image above) appears on the 375th page of v. III of the French edition as “explication matérielle.”

P2 [La prisonnière, 2], vol. III, pg. 357

That’s a LOT of text to dig through if you don’t know French. Even so, if an English language reader didn’t have much experience with the language, they probably could still track this quotation down. There’s not much visual difference, after all, between “a ‘material explanation'” and “une explication matérielle.”

But what about this citation below, where no quotation appears? How would a reader go about tracking down the passage Deleuze references?

The original citation in Proust et les signes (“CG3, II, 547–552”) clarifies that the intended passage or scene appears in the third section/volume of La côté de Guermantes (“CG3”). But we don’t have that information in Proust and Signs. The citation “II, 547–52” does not clarify which of Proust’s seven books the passage is in. English language readers have no way of knowing that they should look in The Guermantes Way, unless they owned Proust et les signes or the French editions Deleuze cited in his study. Some familiarity with French would also help.

Luckily, once one has a copy of the correct French editions, the Résume / Synopsis at the end of each volume makes it pretty easy to track down the corresponding page numbers in the six-volume Modern Library edition of In Search of Lost Time (the Moncrieff–Kilmartin–Enright translation).

I wonder if University of Minnesota Press would be interested in reissuing Howard’s English translation with updated citations that refer to an English edition of In Search of Lost Time that would be accessible to students and researchers in the 21st-century. Maybe? Probably wouldn’t hurt to update the original citations to more recent French editions of Proust’s novel as well.

Anyway. Hope everyone’s okay.

Reading on . . .

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