Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871, at 96, Rue La Fontaine in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris (Auteuil district) and died at the age of 51 on November 18, 1922, at 44, Rue Hamelin, Paris XVI. His family belonged to the wealthy upper middle class. His father, Adrien Proust, was a respected physician and professor of medicine and inspector general of international health. Marcel began frequenting aristocratic salons at a young age and led the life of a society dilettante, in the course of which he met numerous artists and writers.
He wrote articles, poems, and short stories (collected as Les Plaisirs et les Jours), as well as pastiches and essays (collected as Pastiches et Mélanges) and translated John Ruskin’s Bible of Amiens. In 1895 he began a first novel, Jean Santeuil, which he abandoned and which was not published until 1952. Then, in 1907, he began writing In Search of Lost Time, of which seven volumes appeared between 1913 and 1927.
The first of these volumes, Swann’s Way, is composed of three parts: “Combray”, “Swann in Love”, and “Place Names: The Name”.
The second volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, won the Prix Goncourt in 1919, and the final three volumes were published posthumously.
All of the Search is told in the first person, except for “Swann in Love”, which takes place in the Paris of the 1880s, before the narrator is born.
Of fragile health, Proust suffered all his life from severe asthma. In October 1922, on his way to visit Comte Etienne de Beaumont, he developed a chill and died of poorly-treated bronchitis on November 18. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (Division 85).
Marcel Proust © Stéphane Heuet