This turn-of-the-century masterpiece, in which the protagonist reconstructs his life from childhood through middle age, is for most readers of serious fiction the ultimate serial work. Six volumes were translated into English by Moncrieff shortly after Proust's death in 1922, the final volume by English novelist Stephen Hudson in 1930 after Moncrieff's death.
Now Terence Kilmartin has used the authoritative French ''Pleide edition'' of 1954 to revise the Moncrieff translation, correcting mistakes, simplifying labyrinthine sentences, and making some passages more sexually explicit. This paperback version is available at half the price of the hard cover. Readers who want to dip into Proust's work may still prefer to sample the smaller, cheaper seven-volume Moncrieff-Hudson edition. And those who anticipate hard wear on the set may choose the hard cover. But for others, this same-size, same-design, same-quality-paper, softbound version is an economical alternative.