This volume sets Marcel Proust's masterwork, Á la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, 1913–27), in its cultural and socio-historical contexts. Essays by the leading scholars in the field attend to Proust's biography, his huge correspondence, and the genesis and protracted evolution of his masterpiece. Light is cast on Proust's relation to thinkers and artists of his time, and to those of the great French and European traditions of which he is now so centrally a part. There is vivid exploration of Proust's reading; his attitudes towards contemporary social and political issues; his relation to journalism, religion, sexuality, science and travel, and how these figure in the Recherche. The volume closes with a comprehensive survey of Proust's critical reception, from reviews during his lifetime to the present day, including assessments of Proust in translation and the broader assimilation of his work into twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture.
Marcel Proust (1871–1922) spent fourteen years creating In Search of Lost Time, his seven-volume magnum opus. He died when it was only half in print, unable to see it become one of the most important literary works of the twentieth century. Over eighty years later, the work still garners extraordinary levels of critical attention, and Proust’s habits, health, and sexual preferences still keep commentators and fans occupied. In this concise biography, Adam Watt explores the life of a writer whose every experience was stored, dissected, and redeployed within a vast fictional work. After considering Proust’s earlier years of personal and aesthetic experiment, Watt provides an engaging account of two intertwined processes taking place against the vibrant backdrop of Belle Époque Paris and World War I: the progress of In Search of Lost Time and the simultaneous decline of its author. He demonstrates how Proust’s own periods of ill health and isolation reflected his narrator’s thoughts on desire, love, and loss, as well as his contemplation of beauty, memory, aging, and the possibility of happiness. Drawing on the author’s immense correspondence, the accounts of his contemporaries, and the insights of recent scholarship, Marcel Proust offers a rewarding new portrait of the novelist once described as “the most complicated man in Paris.”
Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, 1913–27) changed the course of modern narrative fiction. This Introduction provides an account of Proust's life, the socio-historical and cultural contexts of his work and an assessment of his early works. At its core is a volume-by-volume study of In Search of Lost Time, which attends to its remarkable superstructure, as well as to individual images and the intricacies of Proust's finely-stitched prose. The book reaches beyond stale commonplaces of madeleines and memory, alerting readers to Proust's verbal virtuosity, his preoccupations with the fleeting and the unforeseeable, with desire, jealousy and the nature of reality. Lively, informative chapters on Proust criticism and the work's afterlives in contemporary culture provide a multitude of paths to follow. The book charges readers with the energy and confidence to move beyond anecdote and hearsay and to read Proust's novel for themselves.