Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 35 (2004) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
Writing to her first French translator, Francois d' Albert-Durade, in 1865, George Eliot remarked on how little known his translations appeared to be in France, since she was always being approached by people who wanted to translate her works into French. After her death d' Albert-Durade's La Famille Tulliver: ou le Moulin sur la Floss did go on to be reprinted several times from the late nineteenth century onwards, but it has now been superseded by a new translation by Alain Jumeau which will have more appeal to modem readers and will certainly reach a far wider audience than d' Albert-Durade's original version, since it appears in Gallimard's popular paperback series 'folio classique'. Professor Jumeau, who teaches at the Sorbonne, presents his translation with the same kind of apparatus as British paperback editions: a succinct introduction; an account of the composition and reception of the novel; notes; bibliography; and a chronology of George Eliot's life. The French student or general reader will be well served by this edition, and those who wish to study the novel in greater depth can turn to Jumeau's monograph, which is primarily aimed at advanced students of English preparing for the Agregation (quotations from the text are thus all in the original without translation). Jumeau presents a lucid survey of the novel and the critical issues that it raises, with a bibliography of modem criticism which is extensive though not comprehensive (some well-known articles, for instance by Nancy Miller and Jules Law, are omitted). He draws interestingly on Bachelard' s L' eau et les reves in his discussion of the symbolic function of water, and, taking his cue from Marcel Proust's affection for the Mill, finds illuminating parallels not in A. la recherche but in the earlier unfinished work Jean Santeuil. Otherwise the terms of his discussion are set by anglophone criticism. It is not surprising that Jumeau exploits Proust's interest in George Eliot (his chapter on the use of the past in the Mill is entitled 'A la recherche du temps perdu'), since it must provide a useful point of entry for a French readership. It is noticeable that the back cover of his new translation features Proust's observations on George Eliot's sense of the mysteriousness of human life and the life of nature, her awareness of the 'mysteres sublimes auxquels nous participons en le sachant aussi peu que la fleur qui pousse'. The eloquent enthusiasm of a great modernist should help this fine new translation find the readers it deserves.