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Marcel Proust

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Valentin-Louis-Georges-Eugne-Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871November 18, 1922) was a French intellectual, novelist, essayist and critic, best known as the author of In Search of Lost Time (in French la recherche du temps perdu, also translated previously as Remembrance of Things Past), a monumental work in twentieth-century fiction.

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Contents

Biography

Proust was born in Auteuil, then just outside of Paris, in 1871, the son of Achille Adrien Proust, a famous doctor and epidemiologist. His mother, Jeanne Clmence Weil was Jewish; his father a Roman Catholic. Marcel was raised within a Catholic culture. Throughout his childhood, he spent every summer in the village of Illiers. Elements of both Auteuil and Illiers would later be fictionalised as "Combray", and the village was renamed Illiers-Combray in his honour on the occasion of the Proust centenary celebrations.

At the age of 9, he suffered his first asthma attack, which nearly killed him. From then onwards, his health started deteriorating and sometimes he was even hypersensitive to light and noise. (Nevertheless, he served a year as an enlisted man in the French army, stationed at Coligny Caserne in Orlans.) He spent most of his life after the death of his mother in 1906 in the bed of his Paris apartment because of asthma and extremely sensitive skin and stomach. Earlier, his curative trips to seaside resorts, most often to Cabourg (Calvados), inspired the fictional town of Balbec in one of Prousts novels.

In Jean Santeuil, an early attempt to write his own life's story, Proust describes his portrait by painter Antonio de La Gandara, whom he much admired.

Proust's In Search of Lost Time ( la recherche du temps perdu, originally translated as Remembrance of Things Past) is one of the greatest achievements of Western imaginative literature. This cycle of seven novels, spanning some 3,200 pages and teeming with more than 2,000 characters, has stirred Graham Greene to say that Proust was the "greatest novelist of the 20th century" and Somerset Maugham to call it the "greatest fiction to date". Proust died before he was able to revise the drafts and proofs of the later books, the last three of which were published posthumously.

Proust's multifaceted vision is enthralling. He was a satirist and a nanoscopic analyst of introspective consciousness, a chronicler and theorist of Eros, exploring nuances of human sexuality, a wise and ethical writer. He was the creator of more than forty unforgettable characters who continue to resonate in the world's literary consciousness. Above all, Proust's central message is the affirmation of life. Contrary to the opinion voiced by some of his contemporaries and critics, Proust's great work teaches that life's "purpose" is not to be sought in artistic artefacts: life is not fulfilled when a painting or a novel is completed, but when it is transmuted, in the very course of quotidian living, into something "artistic" or spiritually mature and wise.

Proust's work shows a heavy influence from Tolstoy, evidenced in the views he gives on art, some of the ways in which he models psychology and social interaction, and in certain episodes such as the trip to Venice (cf. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina). In turn, Proust is often compared with German writer Thomas Mann. Regarding writing style, Proust loved the works of John Ruskin, and translated them into French; he read Ruskin's autobiography Praeterita so many times that he almost memorised it. He claimed, also, that In Search of Lost Time was his attempt at writing a French incarnation of The Thousand and One Nights.

Homosexuality is a major theme, especially in The Guermantes Way and subsequent books. Proust himself was homosexual, and had a long-running affair with pianist and composer Reynaldo Hahn. Indeed, it is often easier to understand his fictional creations if one strips off their feminine endings--Albertine, Gilberte, Andre--and regards these characters instead as young men.

Proust died in 1922 and is buried in the Pre Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

In 1995, Penguin undertook a fresh translation of In Search of Lost Time by editor Charles Prendergast and seven translators in three countries, based on the latest and most authoritative French text. Its six volumes were published in Britain under the Allen Lane imprint in 2002. The first four (those which under American copyright law are in the public domain) have since been published in the U.S. under the Viking imprint and in paperback under the Penguin Clasics imprint.

Bibliography

  • Portraits de femmes
  • 1896 Les plaisirs et les jours
  • 1913-1927 la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time
    • 1913 Du ct de chez Swann (translated as Swann's Way or The Way by Swann's)
    • 1918 l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur (Within a Budding Grove or In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower)
    • 1920 Le ct de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way)
    • 1922 Sodome et Gomorrhe (Cities of the Plain or Sodom and Gomorrah)
    • 1923 La prisonnire (The Captive or The Prisoner)
    • 1925 Albertine disparue (original title: La fugitive) (The Sweet Cheat Gone or The Fugitive)
    • 1927 Le temps retrouv (The Past Recaptured or Finding Time Again)
  • 1919 Pastiches et mlanges
  • 1954 Contre Sainte-Beuve
  • 1954 Jean Santeuil (unfinished)

Online Texts

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cs:Marcel Proust da:Marcel Proust de:Marcel Proust et:Marcel Proust es:Marcel Proust eo:Marcel PROUST fr:Marcel Proust ko:마르셀 프루스트 hr:Marcel Proust it:Marcel Proust nl:Marcel Proust ja:マルセル・プルースト no:Marcel Proust pl:Marcel Proust pt:Marcel Proust fi:Marcel Proust sv:Marcel Proust zh:馬塞爾·普魯斯特

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