‘On Language’ 1/18: How Proust used English
It means “my snow-boots which I had brought.” You don’t need to know French to see the word “snow-boots” sticking out.
The phrase, from Proust’s masterpiece seven-volume novel, translated into English as “Remembrance of Things Past,” is just one example of an eye-catching English loan word in the midst of Proust’s French prose, says Daniel Karlin, author of “Proust’s English” (Oxford University Press, 229 pages, $45).
Other examples from “Remembrance” include “les films,” “les cocktails,” “le revolver,” “le golf,” and more than a hundred others. One character even says “le five o’clock tea.” That’s a lot of English for a French author who, Karlin writes, “never traveled to England, never learned English, and confessed his inability to either speak the language or understand it when it was spoken.” (“I don’t claim to know English,” Proust once said in French. “I do claim to know Ruskin”—the English writer Proust translated into French.)
But Karlin says Proust’s use of English was no accident.
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