Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vermeer's Yellow Wall

I was reading Gregory Rabassa's ( translator par excellence) "If This Be Treason" and came across this line where he was tearing into reviewers of translations.

"These are people who would improve things by whitewashing Vermeer's yellow wall"

I am not an art connoisseur, yet even I had heard about Johannes Vermeer. I started searching for Vermeer's yellow wall.

The wall in question was from the painting "View of Delft". It had been immortalised by Marcel Proust in his novel "In search of lost time" in this paragraph.

"At last he came to the Vermeer, which he remembered as more striking, more different from anything else he knew, but in which, thanks to the critic's article, he noticed for the first time some small figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and, finally, the precious substance of the tiny patch of yellow wall. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child upon a yellow butterfly that it wants to catch, on the precious little patch of wall. 'That's how I ought to have written,' he said. 'My last books are too dry, I ought to have gone over them with a few layers of colour, made my language precious in itself, like this little patch of yellow wall...' He repeated to himself: 'Little patch of yellow wall, with a sloping roof, little patch of yellow wall...'"

This article explains the context and the importance of the yellow wall for the character.


Pleasures of reading. Where one started with Gregory Rabassa and reached Marcel Proust via Johannes Vermeer.

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