Slow Proust: End of Book 2

Last night our slow Proust club — 50 pages a month — finished book 2. Naturally, we focused on the last sentence. Here it is:

Et tandis que Françoise ôtait les épingles des impostes, détachait les étoffes, tirait les rideaux, le jour d’été qu’elle découvrait semblait aussi mort, aussi immémorial qu’une somptueuse et millénaire momie que votre vieille servante n’eût fait que précautionneusement désemmailloter de tous ses linges, avant de la faire apparaître, embaumée dans sa robe d’or.

Here’s Moncrieff:

And after Françoise had removed her pins from the mouldings of the window-frame, taken down her various cloths, and drawn back the curtains, the summer day which she disclosed seemed as dead, as immemorially ancient as would have been a sumptuously attired dynastic mummy from which our old servant had done no more than precautionally unwind the linen wrappings before displaying it to my gaze, embalmed in its vesture of gold.

And here’s a bit of Grieve, for Penguin:

the summer’s day that she uncovered seemed as dead and immemorial as a mummy, magnificent and millennial, carefully divested by our old servant of all its wrappings and laid bare, embalmed in its vestments of gold.

“désemmailloter” was a new word for me. What Moncrieff does as “unwind,” and Grieve as “divested” — both good choices — I prefer to render as “unswaddle.” One can “emmaillote” a corpse by winding it in linens. One can also “emmaillote” a baby, that is, it can be swaddled. If drawing back the curtains to reveal the preserved glow of the summer’s day is like unwinding the linens from a mummy, the day is also, in some way, unswaddled, and if so, then it necessarily calls to mind Marcel himself, in bedsheets at noon, waiting, as always, for Françoise to come and free him.