The 14-Minute Marcel Proust


Why didn't Viking publish the rest of them?

That the "Penguin Proust" translations aren't all available from Viking is thanks to the manic American copyright law, as mucked up by Sonny Bono at the behest of the Walt Disney Studios. For fear that Disney's odious mouse would fall into the public domain, the term of copyright was extended in a way that would keep Mickey the property of the company for the foreseeable future. Naturally, this had consequences undreamed-of by the singer turned California congressman.

Bono's legislation effectively froze the date at which works go into the public domain at 1923, instead of marching forward twelve months with each passing year. In Search of Lost Time was caught in this web, because only the first four volumes were published before 1923. The Prisoner, The Fugitive, and Finding Time Again were still protected under U.S. copyright law, so Viking couldn't publish them, even though the British paperbacks were freely imported into this country. (Similarly, the Scott Moncrieff translations aren't available on the U.S. website of the Gutenberg Project: you must go to the University of Adelaide in Australia to download them. Remember when America called itself the Land of the Free? The title has now moved Down Under!)

Of course, Viking could have contacted all of Proust's likely heirs, but its legal department probably advised against taking this step on the grounds that someone might be missed, only to turn up later accompanied by a lawyer. Or perhaps the cost was simply thought prohibitive — what if the final heir held out for millions of dollars? In any event, Viking decided to wait until 2018, when the U.S. copyright on The Prisoner would finally expire, 95 years after publication. But its companion volume would have another two years to run! In the end, the US arm of the Penguin group published The Prisoner as a stand-alone paperback. It's expensive, though, and it doesn't solve the problem of completing the volume with The Fugitive. The better solution is to buy the British paperback, imported to the US under the Penguin Classics imprint.

It remains to be seen whether Viking will still be interested a hardcover when The Fugitive becomes available next year, never mind Finding Time Again in 2022.

(Yale University Press seems to be neatly side-stepping this problem with its leisurely publication of the Scott Moncrieff translation. At the rate of a volume every two or three years, the two "Albertine" books and Finding Time Again will easily slip past the Sonny Bono foolishness.... Or perhaps, given that the new editions are billed as just a freshening of the already existing Scott Moncrieff translation, it has decided to ignore Mr Bono altogether.)

Question? Comment? Send us an email. — Fallbook Press

Flying Tigers

1. Swann's Way | 2. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower | 3. The Guermantes Way | 4. Sodom and Gomorrah | 5. The Prisoner | 6. The Fugitive | 7. Finding Time Again

Front page | Penguins v. Enright v. Yale | translating Proust | Madeleines | growth of a novel | Proust & Joyce | Viking | Wilson | Movies | Biographies | Proustiana | Comix | Private Proust | Albertine | Digital editions | and in French

Other sites: Raintree County | Piper Cub Forum | Warbird's Forum | Daniel Ford's Books | Facebook | Expedition Yacht Seal

Posted October 2019. © 2006-2019 Fallbook Press; all rights reserved.