‘Zut, Zut, Zut, Zut’

Lydia Davis’s mawkish idea of translation
by
July 2022, no. 444
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Essays Two: On Proust, translation, foreign languages, and the City of Arles by Lydia Davis

Hamish Hamilton, $45 hb, 587 pp

‘Zut, Zut, Zut, Zut’

Lydia Davis’s mawkish idea of translation
by
July 2022, no. 444
American writer Lydia Davis (photograph by Gary Doak/Alamy)
American writer Lydia Davis (photograph by Gary Doak/Alamy)

Lydia Davis writes long essays and short stories; some of them, like this one of six words, very short indeed: ‘INDEX ENTRY: Christian, I’m not a’. Influenced by Kafka and Beckett, she is drawn to Anglo-Saxon words, complex sentences, and literary forms which are hard to define. In the United States she has been awarded Guggenheim and MacArthur Genius Grants; in France she is a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters; in the United Kingdom she won the 2013 Man Booker International Prize for what Christopher Ricks, chair of the judges, called her ‘vigilance … to the very word or syllable’. Rick Moody calls her ‘the best prose stylist in America’, The New York Times compares her precision to that of Vermeer, while for her publisher she is simply ‘beyond compare’. Claire Messud, looking for fresh adulatory epithets, says that Lydia Davis ‘has the gift of making us feel alive’. What, then, am I missing?

Frances Wilson reviews 'Essays Two: On Proust, translation, foreign languages, and the City of Arles' by Lydia Davis

Essays Two: On Proust, translation, foreign languages, and the City of Arles

by Lydia Davis

Hamish Hamilton, $45 hb, 587 pp

Buy this book

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