“Young Girls”
by Marcel Proust (1908)
translated from the French by Deborah Treisman
from the July 12 & 19, 2021 issue of The New Yorker

It’s a bit later than usual, but it has arrived: the 2021 New Yorker summer fiction issue! This year we have fiction from Rebecca Curtis, Sally Rooney, and — surprisingly — Marcel Proust!

I missed the news, but this short piece of fiction from Proust comes from a 1908 manuscript (Swann’s Way would be published in 1913) that was recently found and published in France . . . here is how The New Yorker introduces it:

In April, the French publisher Éditions Gallimard released “Les Soixante-quinze Feuillets et Autres Manuscrits Inédits,” by Marcel Proust. The volume contains a seventy-five-page manuscript from 1908, long rumored to exist but discovered only recently, in the private files of the publisher Bernard de Fallois. In those pages — which include the following passage — Proust sketched out many of the themes and scenes he would eventually draw on for his masterpiece, “In Search of Lost Time.”

Presumably more of this will be make its way to us in English, though I’m not sure when. This particular passage was translated by none other than New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman. I think she does a great job! Here is a sample of the first paragraph. It feels suitably Proustian (says the guy who only just started reading Swann’s Way last month):

One day on the beach, I spotted, walking solemnly along the sand, like two seabirds ready to take flight, two young girls, two young women, really, whom, because of their unfamiliar appearance and style, their haughty and deliberate gait, I took for two foreigners I’d never see again; they weren’t looking at anyone and didn’t notice me. I didn’t see them again in the next few days, which confirmed my sense that they were only passing through our little seaside town, where everyone knew everyone else, where everyone led the same life and met up four times a day to play the same innocent beach games. But several days later I saw five or six girls of the same type gathered around a splendid carriage that had stopped beside the beach; the ones in the carriage were saying goodbye to the others, who hurried over to their horses, which were tied up alongside and on which they rode off. I believed that I recognized one of the two girls I’d seen walking on the sand, though I wasn’t sure, but the girl who really stood out for me this time had red hair, light-colored, superior eyes that rested on me, nostrils that quivered in the wind, and a hat that resembled the open wings of a seagull flying in the wind that was ruffling her red curls. They left.

So, this is a nice piece to have in the summer fiction issue! Let me know your thoughts below!

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!