Jean Findlay had access to an impressive array of sources when writing this biography of her great-great uncle. She does not always make the best choices in navigating the mass of material: too many pages are cluttered with unsifted detail, and the family history genre often interferes with the biographical project of a significant public figure. However, the multiplicity of authentic documents – letters, poems, notes, diaries – allows Charles Scott Moncrieff to emerge as a vital, brilliant, conflicted whirlwind of a man whose courage in war, devotion to friends and family, and profound religious commitment were accompanied by rampaging sexual promiscuity and a large measure of self-deprecation. He never became the great poet or fiction writer he had dreamed of being in his youth, but his life nonetheless belonged primarily to literature. It was as a translator that he made his lasting contributions, and above all, of course, as the first, and best, English translator of Proust.
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Chasing Lost Time' by Jean Findlay
Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and translator
by Jean Findlay
Chatto & Windus, $59.99 hb, 368 pp, 9780701181079
Colin Nettelbeck is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he held the A.R. Chisholm Chair of French. He taught...
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