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Proust, Marcel (1871-1922) | University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Name: Proust, Marcel (1871-1922)


Historical Note:

Born July 10, 1871 in Auteuil, France, a suburb of Paris, to wealthy parents Dr. Adrien Proust and Jeanne Weil. A nervous and frail child, he suffered from severe asthma.  He completed one year of military service, then studied law and philosophy.  He published his first works, Portraits de Peintres and Plaisirs et les Jours, in 1896. Proust's unpublished works from this period, Jean Santeuil and Contre Sainte-Beuve, were discovered in the 1950s.

His earliest love affairs, which had been heterosexual, changed later into homosexual affairs.  To the age of 35 Proust lived the life of a social climber in the Paris salons, although he worked for a short time as a lawyer and was also active in the Dreyfuss affair.

During 1899 he became interested in the works of the English critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), and after Ruskin's death the next year, Proust published an article that established him as a Ruskin scholar. Proust wrote several more articles on Ruskin, and with the help of an English-speaking friend, Marie Nordlinger, and his mother, Proust translated into French Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens (1904) and Sesame and Lilies (1906).

When Proust's father died in 1903 and his mother in 1905, he withdrew gradually from society, living in a sound-proof apartment and devoting himself chiefly to writing and introspection. In 1913 Proust published the first of his seven part major work, A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past). The second volume appeared in 1919 and won the Goncourt Prize, and the next parts made him internationally famous.  He worked on his novel from 1909 until the end of life.

Died November 18, 1922 in Paris, France of bronchitis and pneumonia, contracted after a series of asthma attacks.  The final volumes of his novel appeared under the direction of his brother Robert.

In his own lifetime, the merit of Proust's novel was debated by those who perceived its brilliance and those who claimed it was unreadable. Today it is recognized as one of the major literary works of the Western canon.

Sources:

http://www.notablebiographies.com/Pe-Pu/Proust-Marcel.html, accessed 10/12/06.

V. Greene for the Kolb-Proust Archives, http://www.studiocleo.com/librarie/proust/text.html, accessed 10/12/06.

Note Author: Lesley Purnell





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