Proust in The Life Aquatic

In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Ned (Owen Wilson) comes across Jane (Cate Blanchett) in her berth, reading aloud to her unborn child, and asks her if she’s reading poetry. “No,” she says, “it’s a six-volume novel.”

Even if you haven’t read it, and even if you can’t make out Swann’s Way on the cover of the book she’s holding, you’ll probably recognize the reference to Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. I was thrilled to see the book in the movie, but I was a little confused about the number of volumes she claimed made up the novel, especially since her count differs from the actual number of books she has lined up (click on the still from the film to see a larger version, in which I’ve helpfully numbered the books).

I know that Proust actually conceived of the novel in seven volumes:

  1. Du cote de chez Swann
    (English: Swann’s Way, The Way by Swann’s)
  2. A l’ombre de jeunes filles en fleurs
    (English: Within a Budding Grove, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower)
  3. Le Cote de Guermantes
    (English: The Guermantes Way)
  4. Sodome et Gomorrhe
    (English: Sodom and Gomorrah, Cities of the Plain)
  5. La Prisonniere
    (English: The Prisoner, The Captive)
  6. Albertine disparue or La Fugitive
    (English: The Fugitive, The Sweet Cheat Gone)
  7. Le Temps retrouve
    (English: Time Regained, The Past Recaptured, Finding Time Again)

But because it was released serially, and printing costs were incredibly high at the time (I think I have this combination of factors right, but somebody please do correct me if I’m wrong), the original novel had to be published in many more books. I remember seeing a complete collection of these thin tomes at an antique book fair, and each volume spanned several books.

That said, since she’s reading the novel in an English translation, Jane’s assessment of the number of books the novel spans certainly meshes with my memory. The editions I read (translated as In Search of Lost Time) did fit into six books (The Captive and The Fugitive were squeezed into one book). I’m pretty sure that the first English translation was Rememberance of Things Past, and that edition collected the whole novel into three heavy books. Aside from the new translations that are in process (which haven’t yet gone beyond Swann’s Way and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower), I’m not aware of any other English translations, so I’m wondering about that stack of seven books she refers to as “a six-volume novel.”

So, after a fashion, my question is this: does anyone know of a hardcover, English version of In Search of Lost Time/Rememberance of Things Past published in seven volumes (that is, books)? Or is this something I need to send to Movie Mistakes?

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