Marcel Proust

(1871—1922) French novelist, essayist, and critic

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French novelist, essayist, and critic, author of À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922–31). In the 1890s Proust moved in the most fashionable Parisian circles, but later became a virtual recluse, dedicating himself to the completion of À la recherche. Published in sections, À la recherche is of circular construction: it ends with the narrator Marcel's discovery of his artistic vocation, a discovery which will lead him to the writing of the book the reader has just experienced. The narrator's progress is characterized by a sustained analysis of a wide range of subjects: the psychology of family relationships and of sexual relations, both homosexual and heterosexual, the aesthetics of the novel, of music, and of painting, and the fluidity of contemporary French society. His other works include Les Plaisirs et les jours (1896; Pleasures and Regrets, 1948; essays, poems, and stories); an early version of À la recherche published posthumously as Jean Santeuil (1952; English trans., 1955); and Pastiches et mélanges (1919), a collection of literary parodies. Around 1899 he discovered Ruskin's art criticism, and subsequently translated Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies into French. Proust explored his own literary aesthetic in Contre Sainte‐Beuve (1954; By Way of Sainte‐Beuve, 1958), where he defines the artist's task as the releasing of the creative energies of past experience from the hidden store of the unconscious, an aesthetic which found its most developed literary expression in À la recherche.

Subjects: Literature.

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