The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Did Proust Read Moby-Dick?

One hundred years ago today, on November 16, 1913, the first volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time was published. Like our beloved Moby-Dick, it has since come to be recognized as one-of-those-works-you-should-read-before-you-die.

At seven volumes and about 1.5 million words, it dwarfs M-D (about 209,000 words). Students complain about M-D's Cetology chapter—Temps Perdu seems to carry Melville's "detail-oriented" approach beyond the limits of human endurance! So I have to wonder, did Proust read Moby-Dick? Was Melville an influence on "the major novel of the twentieth century" (Harold Bloom)?

Looks like probably not. According to Critical Synoptics: Menippean Satire and the Analysis of Intellectual Mythology by Carter Kaplan, "The first French translation of Moby-Dick was not published until 1941." That's nineteen years after Proust's death. So unless Proust was an accomplished reader of English, there's no way. Alas, a review of  Proust's English (2005) in the New Yorker states:
Proust did not speak English, and read it only with difficulty (though he translated Ruskin, with much help from others).
It appears (according to Wikipedia) that Proust's influences were of the "old world": Saint-Simon, Montaigne, Stendhal, Flaubert, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy.

Regarding another favorite "detail-oriented" novel, the question arises: Could Joyce's Ulysses have been influenced by Moby-Dick, or by Temps Perdu?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Readers get ready!

Reader sign-up for MDM18 opens in one week.
According to the Marathon page on the Whaling Museum website,
Reader sign-up begins Tuesday, November 12, at 12:01 a.m. Request a 7-10 minute reading slot. Provide preferred time and two alternates. Potential readers who were shut out in 2013 will receive priority for 2014. (508) 717-6851
Lemuel's series, How to Be a Good MDM Reader, might be of interest.