ICv2 Stars: 3 (out of 5)
Posted by Nick Smith on June 19, 2015 @ 12:49 am CT
Publisher: Liveright Publishing/W. W. Norton
Release Date: July 2015
Creator(s): Stephane Heuet; translated by Arthur Goldhammer
Format: 240 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
Age Ratings: N/A
ICv2 Ratings: 3 Stars out of 5
This is a stunning attempt at a seemingly impossible project. A completely new translation of a graphic work that NBM released back in the 1990s, this book is a graphic adaptation of part of Proust's gigantic novel. The earlier version used the older translation of the name, Remembrances of Things Past.
Heuet's visual adaptation suffers only from the difficulty in translating a very dense, wordy work into graphic form in the first place. Goldhammer's translation is not the problem, and is quite readable. It's Proust's style, dense and verbose, his slow pacing and chosen subjects which do not easily convert to other media than printed prose. A film version with Jeremy Irons met with limited success, probably for the same reason.
Unfortunately, that dense, wordy prose is a major obstacle in graphic form. The translator's notes suggest that this an attempt at a “Proust for Dummies” approach, a simpler and easier way to read a book that is difficult in print. That is not really fair either to the novel or the reader, but it is easy to see why this might seem more approachable. It is, but barely. The text is so detailed that it's like watching still photos while listening to up to 30 seconds of narration for each image. The stilted result takes away from the normal flow of graphic reading.
The artwork, while good, occasionally drifts into being cartoony in distracting ways, especially for a young boy and a servant character, as well as one of Swann’s conversational foils.
The story itself suffers from the age in which it was set, with social manners different from our own. The real difficulty for the reader is that in this abridged form, the characters are mostly difficult to like. Swann and the people he interacts with range from annoying to despicable, by modern standards, and it is thus more difficult to care about the results of their actions.
Admirable for the attempt, in the end this may not satisfy either dedicated fans of Proust or readers totally new to his work. Still, some adult readers will find it appealing.
--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.
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