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Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French writer, creator of the 16-volume " la recherche du temps perdu" (1913-27), the lengthy cyclic novel known in English as "Remembrance of Things Past" (1922-31) and regarded as one of the greatest achievements in world literature.

Proust was born July 10

Proust was born July 10, 1871, in Paris, of a well-to-do family and educated at the Lycee Condorcet. As a young man he studied law, but gave it up after a brief time to mingle with Parisian fashionable society and to write. His first work, a collection of essays and stories titled " Pleasures and Regrets" (1896; trans. 1948), was not notable, but the impressions he gathered in salons provided the material for this book and were used to greater effect in his later work. At the age of 35, Proust, a victim of asthma since childhood, became a chronic invalid. He spent the rest of his life as a recluse, almost never leaving his cork-lined room, and worked on his masterpiece, the vast " la recherche du temps perdu." Proust died November 18, 1922, before the final three volumes of the novel, which comprises seven related books, had been published. In Proust`s novel the physical life and, more particularly, the life of the mind of a man of leisure moving in elegant society are described in minute detail. The entire work is written as an interior monologue in the first person and is in many respects autobiographical. The first part, "Swann`s Way" (1913; trans. 1928), published initially at Proust`s own expense, failed to attract attention. Five years later the second part, " Within a Budding Grove" (1919; trans. 1922), was a great success and won the prestigious Prix Goncourt. The third and fourth parts, "The Guermantes Way" (2 volumes, 1920-21; trans. 1925) and "Cities of the Plain" (2 volumes, 1921-22; trans. 1927), were also well received. The three final parts, left in manuscript form at Proust`s death, were published posthumously: "The Captive" (1923; trans. 1929), "The Sweet Cheat Gone" (2 volumes, 1925; trans. 1930), and "Time Regained" (2 volumes, 1927; trans. 1932).

The importance of Proust`s novel lies

The importance of Proust`s novel lies not so much in his descriptions of changing French society as in the psychological development of characters and in his philosophical preoccupation with time. As Proust traced the path of his hero from happy childhood through romantic attachment to self-awareness as a writer, he was also concerned with seeking eternal truths in the changing world. He treated time both as a destroyer and as a positive element that can be grasped only by intuitive memory. The sequence of time is perceived in the light of the theories of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, whom Proust admired. Time is in constant flux, moments of the past and the present having equal reality. Proust also boldly explored the depths of the human psyche, subconscious motivations, and the irrationality of human behavior, particularly in relation to love. The work, translated into many languages, established Proust`s reputation throughout the world, and his method of writing, which entailed analyzing his characters` development in minute detail, had an important influence on 20th-century literature. Another Proust novel, discovered and published after his death, is "Jean Santeuil" (3 volumes, 1952; trans. 1956).

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