The passages about Vinteuil’s sonata selected for translation were distributed amongst pairs of students, one second-year and one finalist. We wanted the students to enjoy working together on this task.
The translation side of this project has been marvellously led by Madeleine Chalmers. She put her experience and expertise to good use in helping students to refine their first drafts and ensuring consistency across translations.
I’m Max, a second-year from Exeter College doing Philosophy and French. I really enjoy Proust’s thoughtful introspection and his ability to convey a sense of magic, making everyday life seem exciting and fresh. He does this particularly well when it comes to music. The descriptions of Vinteuil’s (fictional) Sonata make me think of it as if it were a song I know I’ve heard before but can’t quite remember the melody to. I’m looking forward to seeing how it is interpreted!
My name is Emma Beddall and I’m a 3rd year student of French and German at Somerville College, although I’m currently based in Tübingen in Germany. While I mostly study Medieval literature, I really enjoy translation which led me to become involved in this project. I studied ‘Combray’ back in first year and, due to the complexity of his writing, Proust is one of my favourite authors to translate, as well as being among the most challenging. I have limited musical experience, although I am an enthusiastic ukulele player!
Brasenose College, second year. What I like about Proust – his ability to find a metaphor which is totally original, but also provokes a wonderful shock of recognition. Musical interests/experience – I have been singing in choirs and individual lessons since the age of five, and am currently a member of the Brasenose chapel choir. I have learnt and forgotten how to play the clarinet, the piano, the violin, and the drums.
(2nd year, Balliol) I have especially enjoyed studying Proust for a number of reasons, the most relevant of which being my prior study of classical singing. Despite deciding against attending conservatory, I am always looking for opportunities to engage with the intersection of music and language/literature. This project seemed to me to be an intuitive response to the inherent musicality of Proust’s prose which ultimately gives his meandering (but extremely insightful) musings a sort of synesthetic unity.
Hi, my name’s Dannie and I’m a second year student studying Philosophy and French and St John’s College. I love to explore the philosophical dimension of Proust’s work and the way in which, as a reader, you can get lost in the depths of his creative description and imagination. I love singing and listening to music, as, just like Swann, I feel that it can take you places you might not be able to visit otherwise.
I’m a fourth year reading French and German at Exeter College. Music is a constant and important presence in my life: I balance my degree with a busy choral scholarship, and turn to an instrument – piano, violin, or saxophone – when in need of a calming break! I remember excitedly underlining Proust’s musical passages when I first read him. They seemed to describe music exactly as I experience it. I’ve often looked for ways to bring music and languages together, and this project has been it. Translating Proust is as joyful as reading him. I can’t wait to hear what the pieces sound like!
Joelle (Seung Won) Jung
(Christ Church, 2nd year) I fell in love with Proust when I read it for the first time at around 11-12 years old, partly because of the fluidity and melody of his prose but also because the events he described struck me as especially relatable, and seemed to provide a fresh perspective on experiences we take for granted. I studied piano sporadically when I was younger (7-14), and still have a deep love for it now. My favorite composers are Chopin and Debussy, their piano pieces always thrill me.
My name is Oliver and I’m a fourth year student in French and Italian at Worcester College. I’ve really enjoyed being part of this collaborative project, as I find Proust’s writing so rich and detailed, making translating his work challenging and hugely rewarding. There is so much to be read into each word, clause and minutely crafted sentence he has written, and it has been a pleasure to work on rendering segments of his work into English.
As a lover of music and a lover of literature, I was really interested in this project. It was incredibly enjoyable translating the passages. I feel Proust really captures the universality of music.
I’m a second year doing French and German at Wadham. My mother is French and loves Proust, so I grew up with anecdotes about reading him. In my teens, I read the first two books our of curiosity (though probably didn’t understand most of it at the time). Going back to him now, Proust for me is like a mixture of discovering his beautiful and mysterious world, whilst feeling like it’s something I’ve known for a very long time. As to music, it was a constant in most of childhood life: I played the violin and the piano for 6 years each, and sang in a choir for a very long time. I suppose doing this translation, especially my passage as it was about listening to music, slightly felt like going back in time.
I am a fourth-year French and Russianist at St Edmund Hall. In 2012 I completed my diploma in piano performance and since then I have played occasionally in concerts and often for pleasure. I especially love playing Mozart and Gershwin. I think that Proust’s prose itself has a compelling musicality. The text mimics music’s dynamic, all-encompassing, self-contained force, its access to the Schopenhaurean ‘essence’, as it veers away from verbal figuration toward melodic abstraction. In the passages evoking Vinteuil’s Sonata, style and content are intertwined in a harmonious embrace. I think this is what makes reading Proust a unique experience and, indeed, such a supremely enjoyable one.
I’m in the 2nd year of my French and Italian degree at Oriel college. I first read Proust in the long summer before I arrived at Oxford and I was already in awe of the majesty of his writing by the time I’d finished the famous first sentence of ‘Combray.’ As well as reading and thinking about books, I am also interested in music. I have played the piano and violin since I was small (not at the same time of course…) and I also strum away rather terribly at the guitar! This translation project has been a very rewarding experience as it has encouraged me to consider the similarities between our sensory appreciation of music and our experience of the process of reading. Thank you very much for such a wonderfully enriching opportunity!