What to Read in 2013: Classics by Marcel Proust and Giorgio Bassani

Adam Watt, Jamie McKendrick


To mark the launch of ongoing book discussions on this website, we dedicate an hour to ideas for neglected classics to read in 2013. Proust scholar Adam Watt makes the case for Swann’s Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time, published 100 years ago in 1913, and poet Jamie McKendrick enthuses about The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles, a too little-known 1958 novella by Italian Giorgio Bassani that he has just translated.

Will you too be daunted by what you have heard about Marcel Proust and never give his seven volume masterpiece a go? Exeter University Associate Professor Adam Watt will argue 2013 is the year for the joy of reading or re-reading Proust, from the character of Swann, to the depiction of the Dreyfus Affair or Proust’s ideas of time, memory and art.

Or will you prefer to travel only a little less far back in time, to 1930s Ferrara, northern Italy, where Giorgio Bassani most famously set his later novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis? Jamie McKendrick will persuade you to try The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles, a gripping and tragic study of the destructive force of anti-Semitism and how lives can be destroyed by those we consider our neighbours.

Adam Watt

Adam Watt is Associate Professor in French at the University of Exeter. Born in Edinburgh, he gained his doctorate at the University of Oxford under the supervision of the late Proust expert Malcolm Bowie. He is author of Reading in Proust’s ‘A la recherche’: ‘le délire de la lecture’ (Oxford University Press, 2009); The Cambridge Introduction to Marcel Proust (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Marcel Proust (Reaktion Books, ‘Critical Lives’, forthcoming April 2013).

Jamie McKendrick

Jamie McKendrick has published six collections of poetry including The Marble Fly (1997), winner of the Forward Prize for best collection, and most recently Out There (Faber, 2012). His selected poems, Sky Nails, was published in 2000. He edited The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems (2004) and has translated Giorgio Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles. His translation of Valerio Magrelli’s poems, The Embrace, were published in 2009 and won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize and the John Florio Prize. Fabrication, his translation of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s verse play Affabulazione was performed and published in 2010.