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About the book
  • Published: 27 August 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473521902
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

Chasing Lost Time

The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator

The first ever biography of the man who made Proust a legend, his celebrated translator, C.K. Scott Moncrieff

C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s celebrated translation of Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu was first published in 1922 and was a work which would exhaust and consume the translator, leading to his early death at the age of just forty. Joseph Conrad told him, ‘I was more interested and fascinated by your rendering than by Proust’s creation’: some literary figures even felt it was an improvement on the original.

From the outside an enigma, Scott Moncrieff left a trail of writings that describe a man expert at living a paradoxical life: fervent Catholic convert and homosexual, gregarious party-goer and deeply lonely, interwar spy in Mussolini’s Italy and public man of letters – a man for whom honour was the most abiding principle. He was a decorated war hero, and his letters home are an unusually light take on day-to-day life on the front. Described as ‘offensively brave’, he was severely injured in 1917 and, convalescing in London, became a lynchpin of literary society – friends with Robert Graves and Noel Coward, enemies with Siegfried Sassoon and in love with Wilfred Owen.

Written by Scott Moncrieff’s great-great-niece, Jean Findlay, with exclusive access to the family archive, Chasing Lost Time is a portrait of a man hurled into war, through an era when the world was changing fast and forever, who brought us the greatest epic of time and memory that has ever been written.

  • Pub date: 27 August 2015
  • ISBN: 9781473521902
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

About the Author

Jean Findlay

Jean Findlay was born in Edinburgh. She studied Law and French at Edinburgh University and Theatre under Tadeusz Kantor in Kracow, Poland. In 1989, she co-founded an award winning theatre company and wrote and produced plays which toured to London, Berlin, Bonn, Rotterdam, Dublin, Glasgow and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. She spent three years writing drama and book reviews for the Scotsman, and has written for the Independent, Time Out and Performance magazine. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children. She is the great-great-niece of CK Scott Moncrieff.

Praise for Chasing Lost Time

“A first-rate, playful, moving biography”

Roger Lewis, The Times

“Elegant and even-handed biography”

Wall Street Journal

“In a hugely readable and well researched biography, Findlay paints a triple portrait of her ancestor – as a devoted family man, homosexual Catholic and cultivated spy – who turns out to be a far more engaging and fascinating subject than one would ever have imagined”

David Robinson, Scotsman

“The final revelation of Findlay’s book is that Moncrieff was far from the perfect Proustian of our imagination. Moncrieff is a lot more fun to be around than his careful sentences might suggest”

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“A fascinating read”

The Economist

“Passionate, risk-taking, aesthetically conservative: a compendious biography of Proust's great interpreter reveals the paradoxes of his varied career”

DJ Taylor, Guardian

“Jean Findlay... has at last given us a full portrait of this admirable man”

New York Review of Books

“Findlay assembles a fascinating man from a strange collection of fragments with style, fittingly enough, and wit”

Ian Bell, Herald Scotland

“Eager, conscientious, affectionate… Endearingly old-fashioned in its family piety, protective partisanship and unembellished decency… A work that murmurs and sidles in a self-effacing tone… A likeable, informative and poignant book that Findlay is uniquely suited to have written”

Richard Davenport-Hines, Literary Review

“There is a tenderness with which [Findlay] cherishes even the most inconsequential events… Fitting tribute”

Jonathan Beckman, Daily Telegraph


Financial Times

“Findlay’s welcome biography reveals him to be a fascinating character… Admirably and engagingly fulfils its brief”

Peter Parker, Oldie

“A revealing portrait of an extraordinary man”


“Findlay ably amplifies her portrait with family history and evocations of the Edwardian literary scene”

New Yorker

“Respectful and sympathetic”

Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday


Clive Aslet, Country Life

“A colourful treatment of a colourful life”


“Personal and affectionate tribute”

Sally Morris, Daily Mail

“Affectionate, familial tribute to this many-sided man.”

The Catholic Herald

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