“In search of lost time,” Marcel Proust

Alexandra Matine
15 December 2005


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“In search of lost time”
by Marcel Proust
Penguin | October 2003 | ISBN 0140911162

Recommended by Alexandra Matine:

Is it my French education that drives me to reading famously unreadable classical pieces of literature? Perhaps. Currently I am halfway through Du côté de chez Swann, the first part of Marcel Proust’s seven volume (though sometimes six depending on the edition) novel À la recherche du temps perdu (tr. In search of lost time).

Published between 1913–27, La recherche (as the French like to call it) is a collection of feelings, impressions and sensations. Proust’s achievement is not only to take us to a different world, in which many other French writers such as Gustave Flaubert or Victor Hugo also succeeded (and perhaps better), but his genius lies in putting in front of our blind eyes and coward minds what WE feel.

La recherche is essentially a self-introspection, a journey to one’s inner soul, making us relive our most secret experiences and feelings, and everything that we thought was gone or forgotten. Despite the famously one-page-long sentences, Proust does not isolate the reader, he takes us with him and makes us live his (or his characters’) experiences, lives, loves and of course, grief.

Proust is more than just a storyteller, he is an amazing magician of the human soul. Everything you’ve ever felt, whether it is jealousy, heartache, nostalgia or sudden joy, Proust manages to bring it out through nothing else but words. More than a thousand or so pages to go, I know that I will enjoy and be challenged by every bit of it (though it may take a while).

* * *

About the author: Marcel Proust (1871–1922) was a French novelist and heralded as one of the great literary figures of the “modern age.” As a young man he mingled in high Parisian society, frequenting the most fashionable salons of the day. But, after the death of his parents and serious health problems including chronic asthma, Proust became increasingly reclusive, and after 1907, lived mainly in a cork-lined, sound-proofed room where he began his monumental seven-part novel, À la recherche du temps perdu (tr. In search of lost time or Remembrance of things past). Proust died of pneumonia in 1922 before the publication of the last three volumes of this great work.

  • See the wiki entry for Proust
  • A website dedicated to À la recherche du temps perdu: www.tempsperdu.com
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