Marcel Proust

French novelist, critic, and essayist

The author Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil, close to Paris, France, on July 10, 1871. His seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time (1913–27), also known as ‘Remembrance of Things Past,’ of which ‘Swann’s Way’ is the first volume, is the work for which he is best known. 

Contrary to what many critics have said, Marcel Proust never had writer’s block. He worked alone in his cork-covered room, producing pages with almost fanatical fervor. He frequently canceled plans with friends and family to write. He wrote all night from bed, using his knees as a desk, and slept all day, becoming more and more reclusive. Proust became even more cut off from the outer world as a result of his quickly deteriorating health, spending all of his time alone with his pen, paper, and history. His intense literary productivity was fueled by this debilitation, which also served as a sobering reminder of how quickly time passes.

Life Facts

  • Proust was born on July 10, 1871
  • He was born in Paris, France
  • He died on November 18th, 1922

Interesting Facts

  • Proust was a closet homosexual
  • He was asthmatic
  • He died before he saw the publishing of his novel, ‘In Search of Lost Time’

Famous Books by Marcel Proust

  • ‘Swann’s Way’: ‘Swann’s Way’, the first installment of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, has captivated and charmed readers for the past 100 years. The reader is thrust to soaring heights of rapture while clutching to Proust’s words within moments of pulling back the cover and lowering their eyes into the trenches of text, leaving no space for question that this is well-deserving of its position among the eternal classics. His entire life and recollections dance over the page in twirling passages of poetic rapture, meticulously analyzing the people who surrounded him as a child and illuminating a lively depiction of the times and social mores.
  • ‘Time Regained’: ‘In Search of Lost Time’s’ concluding volume details the years leading up to World War I, when, as M. de Charlus considers during a moonlit stroll, Paris is in danger of turning into another Pompeii. Years later, following the conclusion of the war, Mme. Verdurin has evolved into the Princesse de Guermantes, and Proust’s narrator returns to Paris. He muses about the passage of time, reality, resentment, artistic production, and the source of all literature: his former life. ‘The Guide to Proust’, an index to all six volumes of the book, is also included in this collection.
  • ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’: ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ explores the subject of homosexual love between men and women and focuses on the damaging effects that envy may have on its victims. The debauched high society of Paris and the philistine bourgeoisie that is poised to displace it are both harshly critiqued in Proust’s novel. The narrator’s love interest Albertine and the insanely arrogant Baron de Charlus are two examples of characters who first appeared in earlier chapters but now play larger roles.
  • ‘The Captive and The Fugitive’: ‘The Captive’ (1923) and ‘The Fugitive’ (1925) are both included in the fifth edition of ‘In Search of Lost Time’ by The Modern Library. In ‘The Captive,’ Proust’s narrator discusses living with his girlfriend, Albertine, in his mother’s Paris flat until losing interest in her. The narrator of ‘The Fugitive’ loses Albertine for all time. ‘The Captive and The Fugitive’s’ ironic content inspires reflections on desire, sexual love, music, and the practice of introspection.
  • ‘The Prisoner’: Albertine, the tall, dark orphan whom Marcel had fallen in love with at the conclusion of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, is the titular “prisoner”. Albertine has moved in with Marcel in his family’s apartment in Paris, where the two appear to have an endless amount of money and are solely watched over by Françoise, a critical member of Marcel’s family. Albertine is imprisoned in Marcel’s apartment while he buys her designer clothing, furs, and jewelry in an effort to shield her from herself and the outside world. Marcel, who has an obsession with Albertine’s relationships with other women, becomes increasingly irrational in his control of her.

Early Life

Adrien Proust, a distinguished physician of rural French Catholic ancestry, and his wife Jeanne, née Weil, a descendant of a prosperous Jewish family, were the parents of Marcel. He had asthma, which flared up for the first time in 1880, for the rest of his life. His boyhood summers were spent with his maternal grandmother at seashore resorts in Normandy or at Illiers and Auteuil, which together produced the Combray of his novel. He wrote for the school magazines while attending the Lycée Condorcet (1882–1899), fell in love with Marie de Benardaky, a young girl, on the Champs-Élysées, had friends whose mothers were social hostesses, and was influenced by his philosophy teacher Alphonse Darlu.

He enjoyed the discipline and comradeship of military service at Orléans (1889–90) and studied at the School of Political Sciences, taking licenses in law (1893) and literature (1895). During these student days, his thought was influenced by the philosophers Henri Bergson (his cousin by marriage) and Paul Desjardins and by the historian Albert Sorel.

Literary Career

Proust started submitting short pieces to magazines around the start of the 1890s. ‘Pleasures and Days’ (1896) and a few other collections of these tales, were released. After that, Proust started writing his debut book, the autobiographical ‘Jean Santeuil’. Proust began writing ‘Jean Santeuil’ in 1895 and didn’t finish it until 1899. The work was abandoned in part as a result of Proust’s discovery of English writer and painter John Ruskin’s art critique in 1899.

Proust translated two of Ruskin’s books of criticism into French: ‘Bible of Amiens’ (1884) and ‘Sesame and Lilies'(1894). Proust was greatly influenced by Ruskin’s ideas about the beauty of nature, Gothic architecture, and Venice, Italy. Proust worked on a collection of articles titled “Against Sainte-Beuve” from 1895 until 1900. (published posthumously in 1954). Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, a French literary critic who advocated literary criticism based on a writer’s biography and was active from 1804 until 1869, was challenged by Proust in these articles. Proust supported authors who avoided the “hackneyed flatness” of clichés and wrote in their native tongue as though it were “a sort of foreign tongue” instead.

Marcel Proust started working on his behemoth magnum opus, ‘In Search of Lost Time’ with ‘Swann’s Way’ as its first volume. ‘Swann’s Way’ was completed by Proust in 1912, but he could not sell it. Even French novelist André Gide (1869–1951) declined to have it published in the literary-intellectual newspaper La Nouvelle Revue Française. Finally, Proust self-published ‘Swann’s Way’ through publisher Bernard Grasset in November 1913. The book got favorable reviews.

Proust published several more volumes of ‘In Search of Lost Time’ in his lifetime: ‘The Guermantes Way’ (1920–21), and ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ (1921–22). On November 18, 1922, Proust, who suffered lung ailments throughout his life, died in Paris of pneumonia. Until his last days, he worked on revising ‘In Search of Lost Time’, and after his death, three more volumes were published: ‘The Captive’ (1923), ‘The Fugitive’ (1925), and ‘Time Regained’ (1927).

Literature by Marcel Proust

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