Scott Moncrieff’s English translation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu is widely hailed as a masterpiece in its own right.
However, his rendering of the title as Remembrance of Things Past, which upset Proust was not considered to be a high point of his career and the Shakespearean inspired title missed the mark regarding Proust’s theory of memory.
Portrait of Marcel Proust painted by Jacques-Émile Blanche in 1892, when Proust was 21 years old.
Although Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many to be the best translation of any foreign work into the English language, his choice of Remembrance of Things Past as the general title alarmed the seriously ill Proust and misled generations of readers as to the novelist’s true intent.
It wasn’t until 1992 that the title was finally changed to In Search of Lost Time.
“Remembrance of Things Past” is a beautiful line from William Shakespeare’s sonnet 30, but it conveys an idea that is really the opposite of Proust’s own.
When Scott Moncrieff chose this title, he did not know, of course, where Proust was going with the story and did not correctly interpret the title, which might indeed be taken to indicate a rather passive attempt by an elderly person to recollect days gone by.