In Search of Lost Time

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In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past (French: À la recherche du temps perdu) is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust. His most prominent work, it is popularly known for its length and the notion of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine". The novel is widely referred to in English as Remembrance of Things Past but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained in usage since D.J. Enright's adopted it in his 1992 revision of the earlier translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin. The complete story contains nearly 1.5 million words and is one of the longest novels in world literature.

The novel as we know it began to take shape in 1909 and work continued for the remainder of Proust's life, broken off only by his final illness and death in the autumn of 1922. The structure was established early on and the novel is complete as a work of art and a literary cosmos but Proust kept adding new material through his final years while editing one time after another for print; the final three volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages which existed in draft at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother Robert.

The work was published in France between 1913 and 1927; Proust paid for the publication of the first volume (by the Grasset publishing house) after it had been turned down by leading editors who had been offered the manuscript in longhand. Many of its ideas, motifs and scenes appear in adumbrated form in Proust's unfinished novel, Jean Santeuil (1896–99), though the perspective and treatment there are different and in his unfinished hybrid of philosophical essay and story, Contre Sainte-Beuve (1908–09). The novel has had great influence on twentieth-century literature, whether because writers have sought to emulate it or attempted to parody and discredit some of its traits. Proust explores the themes of time, space and memory but the novel is above all a condensation of innumerable literary, structural, stylistic and thematic possibilities.


Initial publication

Although different editions divide the work into a varying number of tomes, A la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time is a novel consisting of seven volumes.

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