Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

Marcel-Valentin-Louis-Eugène-Georges Proust (July 10, 1871 – November 18, 1922) was a French intellectual, novelist, essayist and critic, best known as the author of In Search of Lost Time (in French À la recherche du temps perdu, also translated previously as Remembrance of Things Past), a monumental work of twentieth-century fiction consisting of seven volumes published over 14 years (the last three volumes were published posthumously).

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Marcel Proust Quotes

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments. An artist recreates those aspects of reality which represent his fundamental view of man's nature.

As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.

Every reader finds himself. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.

In theory one is aware that the earth revolves, but in practice one does not perceive it, the ground upon which one treads seems not to move, and one can live undisturbed. So it is with Time in one's life.

It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Like everybody who is not in love, he thought one chose the person to be loved after endless deliberations and on the basis of particular qualities or advantages.

Love is space and time measured by the heart.

People can have many different kinds of pleasure. The real one is that for which they will forsake the others.

People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.

Quotes originally compiled by

Marcel Proust Chronological Biography

1871: The siege of Paris by the Prussians had begun in September of 1870 and was followed by the Paris Commune, which was bloodily repressed in May of 1871. Mme Proust had left the city to escape the turbulence, and at her uncle's home in the Paris suburb of Auteuil gave birth to Marcel Proust on July 10, 1871.

1873: Robert Proust, brother of Marcel, is born in Auteuil on May 24.

1882: Enters the Lycée Condorcet (known until 1883 as the Lycée Fontanes).

1886: Responds to the first "Proust Questionnaire."

1887-88: Collaborates with schoolmates to publish a series of literary and artistic reviews: Le Lundi, the Revue verte, and the Revue lilas.

1889: In November, enlists for a year of military service, and is stationed in the city of Orléans.

1890: Enrolls in the Faculté de droit and the École libre des sciences politiques in a course of study for future French diplomats. Begins writing and editing for Le Mensuel, a resumé of the preceding month's social and political events. Responds to the second "Proust Questionnaire."

1892: Collaborates with former schoolmates from the Lycée Condorcet to publish Le Banquet.

1893: Publishes stories in the literary and artistic journal the Revue blanche. Many of these will later be collected in Les plaisirs et les jours. Pressed by his father to decide on a career, he chooses to study to become a librarian.

1895: Begins working on the episodic, unfinished novel that his posthumous editors will name Jean Santeuil.

1896: Calmann-Lévy publishes Les plaisirs et les jours in June. It has a preface by Anatole France, and while well-reviewed by some, is largely considered a volume of purple-prose by a society dilettante. In July the Revue blanche publishes "Contre l'obscurité," an essay in which Proust criticizes the Symbolist movement.

1897: Discovers the writings of John Ruskin.

1898: The Dreyfus affair escalates. Proust writes: "I was the first dreyfusard."

1899: Gradually abandons working on Jean Santeuil and begins a concentrated study of the works of Ruskin. Begins translating Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens.

1900: Continues to work on Ruskin. Travels to Venice twice.

1903: Robert Proust marries Marthe Dubois-Amiot. La Bible d'Amiens is published. Proust's father dies of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 24.

1904: Begins work on translating Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies.

1905: Publishes his preface to Sésame et les lys, "Sur la lecture." This essay, one of Proust's most important, announces his mature voice as a writer. His mother dies on September 26 of nephritis.

1906: Sésame et les lys is published.

1907: After a friend of the family, Henri van Blarenberghe, kills his own mother, Proust writes an apologia for the murder, "Sentiments filiaux d'un parricide." Begins outlining what will be known as Contre Saint-Beuve.

1908: Begins writing a series of pastiches for the Figaro

1909: Contre Saint-Beuve, a hybrid work that is essay, autobiography, and fiction, solidifies into the first versions of "Combray" and Time Regained.

1910-11: The principle sections of Swann are developed and Proust revises material to be found in Time Regained. Proust envisions the novel as two volumes: Time Lost and Time Regained.

1912: Extracts from Swann are published in the Figaro. Proust now envisions the novel as three volumes. The tentative title for the second volume, A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, is quickly forgotten and replaced by the Côté de Guermantes. The Nouvelle revue française [N.R.F.] declines to publish the novel.

1913:À la recherche du temps perdu, Du côté de chez Swann is published by Grasset on November 14 to a mixed reception.

1914: Works on material that will be found in A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs; Albertine appears in the narrative for the first time. André Gide proposes that the N.R.F. publish rest of the novel. The First World War begins, precipitating the closure of most French publishing houses, including the N.R.F..

1915: The publication of the second volume of the Recherche, Le côté de Guermantes is postponed because of the War.

1916: Grasset releases Proust from any contractual obligations.

1917: Finishes A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs; asks his house-maid, Céleste Albaret, to burn in the kitchen oven thirty-two "black notebooks" containing draft material.

1918: The novel is now conceived of in five volumes.

1919: At the end of June A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, the N.R.F. edition of Swann, and Pastiches et mélanges (a collection of Proust's pastiches and other writings) are published. To some controversy, Proust is awarded the Prix Goncourt in December.

1920: Le côté de Guermantes I is published.

1921: Le côté de Guermantes II and Sodome et Gomorrhe I are published.

1922: In early spring, Proust writes the word "fin." In May Sodome et Gomorrhe II is published. In the same month he attends the premiere of Stravinsky's Rénard and afterwards dines with the composer, Diaghilev, Picasso, and Joyce. In September Swann's Way is published in England, translated by Charles Scott Moncrieff, under the general title, Remembrance of Things Past, a phrase taken from the second line of Shakespeare's Sonnet XXX. Proust dies of pneumonia on November 18, and is buried in Père Lachaise on November 22.

1923: La Prisonnière is published.

1925: Albertine disparue is published. This was not Proust's title for the volume; La fugitive was replaced to avoid confusion with a work of the same name by Rabindranath Tagore.

1927: Le temps retrouvé is published on September 22.

Original chronology compiled by Temps

Marcel Proust Biography

French novelist. Marcel Proust was born into an upper middle class family in Auteuil, near Paris, in 1871, that had strong scientific and artistic interests. His father, Adrien was an eminent Catholic doctor and professor of the Faculty of Medicine, but Proust had a more intense relationship with his witty and cultured Jewish-born mother, whom he adored and depended upon.

He grew up in Paris near the Champs-Elysées and from 1882 to 1889 Proust attended the Lycée Condorcet. He seldom left Paris except for childhood holidays with relatives at Illiers, near Chartres or, later, for holidays at the Normandy seaside.

Proust did his military service 1889-90 and from 1891-93 studied law the famous Sorbonne at the École des Sciences Politiques. He wrote for the Symbolist magazines and frequented the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the wealthy and aristocratic area of Paris. During the late summer of 1895 he started to write Jean Santeuil, which he lated abandoned.

In 1896, he published his first work, an elegantly presented collection of short stories Pleasures and Regrets (Les Plaisirs et les Jours). He also contributed to Le Figaro and in 1892 had co-founded Le Banquet.

His life was that of a socialite. Charming people with his wit and wealth, he gained access to salon society, which he was to use as a setting for his book.

Proust was plagued with ill health, having asthma from the age of nine. He had his first asthma attack at the age of nine and subsequently suffered badly from it. He was a neurotic, a condition aggravated by his homosexual tendencies and his efforts to conceal them.

His father died in 1903 and his mother in 1905. After the deaths of his parents he increasingly withdrew from social life and he became a virtual recluse, spending most of his time in bed writing, in a room lined with cork to exclude noise, with all the windows shut and the air thick with inhalents. His friends were usually summoned to visit him at night. After 1907 he lived mainly in a cork-lined room in his apartment on the Boulevard Haussmann, writing mostly at night. His last public appearance was at the New Year's Eve ball given by the discreetly homosexual Comte de Beaumont in 1921.

From 1904-06 he began to translate Ruskin, whose ideas on art and architecture influenced his own.

His monumental work, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, (usually translated to Remembrance of Things Past, but more literally In Search of Lost Time), was influenced by the autobiographies of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and François Chateaubriand and was not completed, but was published in 16 volumes between 1913 and 1927.

He began writing it when he was in his late 30s and was still engaged upon it at the time of his death. The work is in seven sections and collected pieces from Proust's childhood, observations of high class life-style, gossips, recollections of the closed world, where the author never found his place. The key scene is when a madeleine cake (a small, rich cookie-like pastry) enables the narrator to experience the past completely as a simultaneous part of his present existence: "And suddenly the memory revealed itself: The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane".

The first volume, Du Cote de Chez Swann (Swann's Way) was published at his own expense in 1913, after Andre Gide advised the Gallimard publishing house to reject it. Gide expressed the view that a socialite like Proust could have nothing valuable to contribute to literature. Proust's housekeeper, Celeste Albaret, thought that the manuscript had not been unwrapped, let alone read. The book was, however, well received, although it did not make him famous. Gide was later to apologise, praising the book fulsomely.

The second volume A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (1919, Within a Budding Grove) won the Goncourt Prize in 1920, marking him as an outstanding novelist.

His fame was assured and he gained an international readership. The translation into English by Scott Moncrieff was severely bowdlerised to protect sensibilities. In the later translation by Terence Kilmartin, Proust's homosexual themes are more apparent.

Proust is generally regarded, on the basis of Remembrance of Things Past, as the greatest French novelist of the 20th century and pioneer of the modern novel. His work influenced widely authors in different countries, among them Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. His style, long sentences, some of which extend to several pages in length, paved way to Claude Simon's narrative inventions. Proust has later told that he had from the beginning a fixed structure for the whole novel.

His fame and influence have grown since his death in 1922. His Remembrance of Things Past was number 4 of the list of the top 100 gay books compiled in the USA in 1999. In 1999 the first volume, Swann's Way was 13th. on the list of sales by, as reported by John Ezard in The Guardian, 23rd. October, 1999, page 3.

In 1999 the last part of Remembrance of Things Past was made into the film Time Regained, directed by Raúl Ruiz. This seemed to be at least partly responsible for a revived interest in Proust and his main novel which shot up the book sales lists.

Original biography compiled by Books

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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