Regular readers know I've been listening over the past few months to the unabridged audiobook of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. (I've posted comments on the first five volumes. Two still to come.) In the November 24 issue of The Spectator, Rachel Redford offers a marvelous and apt appreciation of the volumes' reader, Neville Jason.
Between 1991 and 2000 Jason, who was awarded the Diction Prize at RADA by Sir John Gielgud, and appeared on stage with Olivier and Leigh, not only already narrated an abridged Proust for Naxos but actually abridged it himself. He worked with the translations by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, most of which appeared before Proust died in 1922, but Moncrieff never translated the final volume, Time Regained. Undaunted, Jason translated that himself too — which he then abridged. After 10 years, he has now completed the final step, of recording the whole work uncut.
Clearly, Jason is special: how could any ordinary mortal consider tackling those 3,000 pages of labyrinthine sentences weaving their sinuous way along 30 or 40 lines? His special skill — and here his training as a singer shows — is to recognise the music of each sentence, and phrase it through to the end. The result is a magical capturing of Proust’s melodious cadences, the syntactical wavelets linking his many clauses, which is so mesmerising and seductive for the listener.