For eight years I carefully disinterred his life : visiting the battlefields of Flanders and Picardie, finding
his flat in Rome, flying to New York to read his letters in the NYPL, tracing his steps up and down the mediterranean coast of Italy. Like Scott Moncrieff’s translation of Proust itself, it seemed a never ending task, but it was worth the wait.
As they say on the Tour de France: chapeau!
Sam Lieth Spectator
Chasing Lost Time conveys this largely forgotten literary figure with great perspicacity and affection. Much more monumentally, it evokes deep thoughts about the nature of translation. Whether Conrad was right, and Scott Moncrieff is better than Proust, his book is one of those translations, such as the Authorised Version of the Bible itself, which can never be displaced.
A N Wilson Times Literary Supplement
Elegant and even-handed biography Joseph Epstein Wall Street Journal
a fascinating read The Economist
Biographies like Findlay’s are crisp air in cramped and stuffy literary rooms of ideology. Findlay paints an honest picture of a complex man without a hint of political agenda or polemic—a temptation that, given Charles’s sexuality and religion and the battles raging today concerning the relation between the two, could have easily spawned an ideologically freighted biography. Happily, we are given a portrait of a man rather than a marionette of ideas. Trevor Logan Curator Magazine
Sam Taylor Financial Times
The story of Proust’s first English translator is revealed to be as remarkable as his great work
David Mills Sunday Times
‘Passionate, risk-taking, aesthetically conservative: a compendious biography of Proust’s great interpreter reveals the paradoxes of his varied career’ DJ Taylor Guardian
Jean Findlay assembles a fascinating man from a strange collection of fragments with style, fittingly enough, and wit. Ian Bell The Herald
A hugely readable and well-researched biography.
David Robinson The Scotsman.
‘. . . first-rate, playful, moving biography . .
‘Likeable, informative and poignant’
Richard Davenport Hines Literary Review
a compelling book
Clive Aslet Country Life
He had a thoroughly lively time in life, in that British way that is still surprising to our more earnest American minds—he has rough sex on the streets of Venice, spies for the secret service, translates his Proust and Pirandello, goes to Catholic mass, and works for the government, in one big, happy entanglement of sodomy, spirituality, spying, and sociability. Far from being a Proustian acolyte perfuming the altar, he refused to be remotely pious about the great book he had brought into English literature—if anything, he seems to have generally preferred Pirandello. Proust attracts, perhaps, too much piety; certainly the Proust cult is always an enemy of Proust the writer. By humanizing the priest, we re-enliven the god.
Adam Gopnik The New Yorker
C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s celebrated translation of Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu was first published in 1922 and was a work which would exhaust and consume the translator, leading to his early death at the age of just forty. Joseph Conrad told him, ‘I was more interested and fascinated by your rendering than by Proust’s creation’: some literary figures even felt it was an improvement on the original.
From the outside an enigma, Scott Moncrieff left a trail of writings that describe a man expert at living a paradoxical life: fervent Catholic convert and homosexual, gregarious party-goer and deeply lonely, interwar spy in Mussolini’s Italy and public man of letters – a man for whom honour was the most abiding principle. He was a decorated war hero, and his letters home are an unusually light take on day-to-day life on the front. Described as ‘offensively brave’, he was severely injured in 1917 and, convalescing in London, became a lynchpin of literary society – friends with Robert Graves and Noel Coward, enemies with Siegfried Sassoon and in love with Wilfred Owen.
Written by Scott Moncrieff’s great-great-niece, Jean Findlay, with exclusive access to the family archive, Chasing Lost Time is a portrait of a man hurled into war, through an era when the world was changing fast and forever, who brought us the greatest epic of time and memory that has ever been written.