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MARCEL PROUST

1871-1922
French

"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were."

Marcel Proust was born on 10 July 1871 in Auteuil, France. By the age of nine, Proust had his first serious asthma attack, and thereafter, he was considered a sickly child. Proust spent long holidays in the village of Illiers. This village, combined with recollections of his great-uncle's house in Auteuil, became the model for the fictional town of Combray, where some of the most important scenes of Remembrance of Things Past take place.

In 1882, at the age of eleven, Proust became a pupil at the Lycée Condorcet, but his education was disrupted because of his illness. Despite this, he excelled in literature, receiving an award in his final year. It was through his classmates that he was able to gain access to some of the salons of the upper bourgeoisie, providing him with copious material for Remembrance of Things Past.

Despite his poor health, Proust served a year (1889–90) in the French army, stationed at Coligny Barracks in Orléans - an experience that provided a lengthy episode in The Guermantes' Way, part three of his novel.

Proust had a close relationship with his mother. In order to appease his father, who insisted that he pursue a career, Proust obtained a volunteer position at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in the summer of 1896. After exerting considerable effort, he obtained sick leave that extended for several years until he was considered to have resigned. He never worked at his job, and he did not move from his parents' apartment until after both were dead.

Proust was involved in writing and publishing from an early age. In addition to the literary magazines, La Revue Verte and La Revue Lilas with which he was associated, and in which he published, while at school, from 1890 to 1891 Proust published a regular society column in the journal Le Mensuel. In 1892 he was involved in founding a literary review called Le Banquet (also the French title of Plato's Symposium), and throughout the next few years, Proust published small pieces regularly in this journal and in the prestigious La Revue Blanche. In 1896 Les Plaisirs et les Jours, a compendium of many of these early pieces, was published. The book included a foreword by Anatole France, drawings by Mme. Lemaire, and was so sumptuously produced that it cost twice the normal price of a book its size.

That year Proust also began working on a novel, which was eventually published in 1954 and titled Jean Santeuil by his posthumous editors. His life and family circle changed considerably between 1900 and 1905. In February 1903, Proust's brother Robert married and left the family home. His father died in November of the same year. Finally, and most crushingly, Proust's beloved mother died in September 1905, leaving him a considerable inheritance. His health throughout this period continued to deteriorate.

Proust spent the last three years of his life mostly confined to his cork-lined bedroom, sleeping during the day and working at night to complete his novel. He died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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