Marcel Proust

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Related to Marcel Proust: Ernest Hemingway
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust
BirthplaceAuteuil, France
Novelist, essayist, critic

Proust, Marcel

(märsĕl` pro͞ost), 1871–1922, French novelist, b. Paris. He is one of the great literary figures of the modern age. Born to wealthy bourgeois parents, he suffered delicate health as a child and was carefully ministered to by his mother. As a young man he ambitiously mingled in high Parisian society and wrote his rather unpromising first work, Les Plaisirs et les jours (1896; tr. Pleasures and Regrets, 1948; new tr. Pleasures and Days, 1957). Troubled by asthma and neuroses, as well as by the deaths of his parents, he increasingly withdrew from external life and after 1907 lived mainly in a cork-lined room, working at night on his monumental cyclic novel, À la recherche du temps perdu (16 vol., 1913–27; tr. Remembrance of Things Past, 1922–32, rev. tr. In Search of Lost Time, 1992; new tr. 2002).

The first of the novel cycle, Du côté de chez Swann (1913, tr. Swann's Way, 1928) went unnoticed, but the second, À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (1919, tr. Within a Budding Grove, 1919), was awarded the Goncourt Prize. Proust's semiautobiographical novel cycle is superficially concerned with its hero's development through childhood and through youthful love affairs to the point of commitment to literary endeavor. It is less a story than an interior monologue. Discursive, but alive with brilliant metaphor and sense imagery, the work is rich in psychological, philosophical, and sociological understanding. A vital theme is the link between external and internal reality found in time and memory, to which Proust sees humanity's strivings subjugated—time mocks the individual's intelligence and endeavors; memory synthesizes yet distorts past experience. Most experience causes inner pain, and the objects of human desires are the chief causes of their suffering.

In Proust's scheme the individual is isolated, society is false and ruled by snobbery, and artistic endeavor is raised to a religion and is superior to nature. Only through the vision gained in works of art can the individual see beyond his or her subjective experience. Proust's ability to interpret innermost experience in terms of such eternal forces as time and death created a profound and protean world view and his work has influenced generations of novelists and thinkers. His vision and technique have come to be seen as vital to the development of modernism. Most of his correspondence has been published (21 vol., P. Kolb, ed., 1970–93), as has his draft of an early novel, Jean Santeuil (1952, tr. 1955), and Contre Sainte-Beuve (1954, tr. On Art and Literature, 1896–1919, 1958).


See biographies by A. Maurois (1950, repr. 1984), R. H. Barker (1958), G. D. Painter (2 vol., 1959–65), L. Bersani (1965), G. Brée (1966), R. Hayman (1990), J.-Y. Tadié (1996, tr. 2000), E. White (1998), and W. C. Carter (2000); studies by W. S. Bell (1962), P. Quennell (1971), S. L. Wolitz (1971), G. Deleuze (1972), J. M. Cocking (1982), B. J. Bucknall, ed. (1987), A. Compagnon (1992), J. Kristeva (1996), R. Shattuck (2000), and A. Muhlstein (2012).

Proust, Marcel


Born July 10, 1871, in Paris; died there Nov. 18, 1922. French writer.

The son of a physician, Proust studied at the law faculty of the Sorbonne. In 1896 he published the collection of short stories Pleasures and Regrets. From 1900 to 1913 he was in charge of the society section of the newspaper Le Figaro.

Proust’s chief work is the cycle Remembrance of Things Past (vols. 1–16, 1913–27; last six volumes published posthumously), consisting of seven novels. The narrator of the cycle is the sickly and idle scion of a rich bourgeois family who from youth had been received in aristocratic circles. The worst ordeal he undergoes is his tormented love for Albertine, who arouses in him a jealous passion. The narrator is genuinely interested in literature and art, but his own prolonged creative efforts are fruitless. Only in the last novel of the cycle—Time Recaptured— does he begin writing a novel about his own life, for he is convinced that only creative work based on intuition can give meaning to human existence and to “lost time.” Many episodes in Proust’s novels concentrate on subjective perception of space and time and especially on involuntary memory; the narrator’s inner life is conveyed as a stream of consciousness.

Proust attempted to depict the unreliability and relativeness of a person’s concepts of himself, the world, and society and to reveal the instability of society itself. His creative method is that of impressionism, within whose boundaries he engages in social criticism and creates realistic and authentic human figures. Among such figures are remarkable aristocratic and bourgeois types: the Baron de Charlus, the Guermantes, Swann, and the Verdurins. Proust’s works have influenced many 20th-century Western European writers.


In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch.: V poiskakh za utrachennym vremenem. Foreword by A. V. Lunacharskii [vol. 1]. Introductory article by N. Rykova [vol. 3], vols. 1–4. Leningrad, 1934–38.
Po napravleniiu k Svanu. [Translated by N. Liubimov; foreword by B. Suchkov.] Moscow, 1973.


Reikh, B. “Marsel’ Prust.” Pechat’i revoliutsiia, 1927, no. 8.
Voronskii, A. “Marsel’ Prust.” In Pereval. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928, collection 6.
Tolmachev, M. V. “Marsel’ Prust: V poiskakh utrachennogo vremeni.” VIMK, 1961 [no.] 6 (30).
Andreev, L. G. M. Prust. Moscow, 1968.
Dneprov, V. “Iskusstvo M. Prusta.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1973, no. 4.
Bonnet, H. Le Progrès spirituel dans l’oeuvre de M. Proust [vols. 1–2]. Paris, 1946–49. (Contains bibliography.)
Picon, G. Lecture de Proust. [Paris, 1968.]
Kopp, R. L. Marcel Proust as a Social Critic. Rutherford, N. J. [1971].
Marcel Proust: 1871–1922. A Centennial Volume. Edited by P. Quennell. New York[1971].
Tadié, J.-Y. Proust et le roman. [Paris, 1971.]
Vial, A. Proust. Paris, 1971.
Borel, J. M. Proust. [Paris, 1972.] (Contains bibliography.)
Marcel Proust: A Critical Panorama. Urbana, III. [1973].


References in periodicals archive ?
L'importance des pastiches liee au style perfectionniste de la Recherche realise par Marcel Proust n'est pas a negliger : l'ceuvre de Pastiches et Melanges comporte << quantite de brouillons, de redactions suivies manuscrites, de coupures corrigees de la premiere publication dans Le Figaro et d'epreuves d'imprimerie corrigees.
La Peinture ou les legons esthetiques chez Marcel Proust.
In Marcel Proust In Taos, a Los Alamos physicist, Christopher, retires to Taos, New Mexico, with his cat Marcel Proust, to write a novel about nuclear terrorism.
Had Jeanne Weil not been the mother of Marcel Proust, no one would ever have been interested in her uneventful life, especially as it is a difficult life to recapture: There are no diaries or letters to and from her husband or her large family that would allow a portrait of any psychological depth.
In the universe of the arts, gay men keep some impressive company: Marcel Proust, Michelangelo, Lord Byron, Tchaikovsky, Tennessee Williams, Montgomery Clift, and Leonard Bernstein are only a few of history's homosexuals who have made their indelible mark.
Marcel Proust Letters, translated by Mina Curtiss, with an introduction by Adam Gopnik.
Every day I set less store on intellect," writes Marcel Proust in the essay "Against Sainte-Beuve," privileging instinct and sensorial experience instead.
In The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust, Howard Moss offers a useful
The Gardens of Desire: Marcel Proust and the Fugitive Sublime.
Proust would not have considered himself a symbolist, but it was fashionable by the 1930s to include him in the school: see Valery Larbaud's preface to Emeric Figer's L'esthetique de Marcel Proust (Paris, 1933).
Died on this day 1922: Marcel Proust, French author.
Time Regained (Le Temps Retrouve) * Written by Raoul Ruiz and Gilles Taurand, from the novel by Marcel Proust * Directed by Raoul Ruiz * Starring Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Beart, Vincent Perez, John Malkovich * Sundance Channel; premieres May 3, 9 P.