Saturday, February 21, 2015

Albertine Asleep

For a short time, I stayed up most of the night. In the long summer months between years at school – my guess is 1978 – there was no all-night radio let alone all-night television. Instead I would listen to the BBC World Service on unreliable Medium Wave reception. One night around two in the morning, an actor with a mellifluous voice read an extract from what I now know as Swann's Way. This was before Terence Kilmartin had updated Scott Moncrieff's original translation.

Next day, as I played football in the local park, I told my friends of this book that spent half an hour to describe someone (Swann) ringing a doorbell. Inside, however, my amused tone was tempered. Secretly, I was impressed. The following week there was an extract from another part of the novel, of which I have no memory, and in the third and final week, he read the section known as Albertine Asleep (which Anne Carson has had some fun with recently). And I taped it. The tape still exists.


  1. I delight in the antigraphic pastiche that is your first sentence, and I thank you for posting this clip, which reminds me of my own sweet (if regrettably Proust-free) late-night sessions with the World Service.

  2. Thanks Douglas. It was your own Tumblr post that inspired this. I had to join Soundcloud to post it, but worth the trouble I think. As John Peel said about scratches on vinyl, the interference gives it a spiritual quality.

  3. How wonderful: these words you've managed to preserve through their myriad distortions (language, medium, time, technology): 'like giants plunged into the years, they touch the distant epochs through which they have lived...'



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