Proust

Proust

[proost; Fr. proost]
Proust, Joseph Louis, 1754-1826, French chemist. He was professor of chemistry at the artillery school in Segovia, Spain, and director of the laboratory of Charles IV at Madrid from 1789. He returned to France c.1806. He discovered grape sugar and established the law of definite proportions (sometimes known as Proust's law), which states that in any compound the elements are present in a fixed proportion by weight.
Proust, Marcel, 1871-1922, French novelist, b. Paris. He is one of the great literary figures of the modern age. Born to wealthy bourgeois parents, he suffered delicate health as a child and was carefully ministered to by his mother. As a young man he ambitiously mingled in high Parisian society and wrote his rather unpromising first work, Les Plaisirs et les jours (1896; tr. Pleasures and Regrets, 1948; new tr. Pleasures and Days, 1957). Troubled by asthma and neuroses, as well as by the deaths of his parents, he increasingly withdrew from external life and after 1907 lived mainly in a cork-lined room, working at night on his monumental cyclic novel, À la recherche du temps perdu (16 vol., 1913-27; tr. Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-32, rev. tr. In Search of Lost Time, 1992; new tr. 2002).

The first of the novel cycle, Du côté de chez Swann (1913, tr. Swann's Way, 1928) went unnoticed, but the second, À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (1919, tr. Within a Budding Grove, 1919), was awarded the Goncourt Prize. Proust's semiautobiographical novel cycle is superficially concerned with its hero's development through childhood and through youthful love affairs to the point of commitment to literary endeavor. It is less a story than an interior monologue. Discursive, but alive with brilliant metaphor and sense imagery, the work is rich in psychological, philosophical, and sociological understanding. A vital theme is the link between external and internal reality found in time and memory, to which Proust sees humanity's strivings subjugated—time mocks the individual's intelligence and endeavors; memory synthesizes yet distorts past experience. Most experience causes inner pain, and the objects of human desires are the chief causes of their suffering.

In Proust's scheme the individual is isolated, society is false and ruled by snobbery, and artistic endeavor is raised to a religion and is superior to nature. Only through the vision gained in works of art can the individual see beyond his or her subjective experience. Proust's ability to interpret innermost experience in terms of such eternal forces as time and death created a profound and protean world view and his work has influenced generations of novelists and thinkers. His vision and technique have come to be seen as vital to the development of modernism. Most of his correspondence has been published (21 vol., P. Kolb, ed., 1970-93), as has his draft of an early novel, Jean Santeuil (1952, tr. 1955), and Contre Sainte-Beuve (1954, tr. On Art and Literature, 1896-1919, 1958).

See biographies by A. Maurois (1950, repr. 1984), R. H. Barker (1958), G. D. Painter (2 vol., 1959-65), L. Bersani (1965), G. Brée (1966), R. Hayman (1990), J.-Y. Tadié (1996, tr. 2000), E. White (1998), and W. C. Carter (2000); studies by W. S. Bell (1962), P. Quennell (1971), S. L. Wolitz (1971), G. Deleuze (1972), J. M. Cocking (1982), B. J. Bucknall, ed. (1987), L. Hodgon (1989), A. Compagnon (1992), J. Kristeva (1996), and R. Shattuck (2000).

Marcel Proust, oil painting by Jacques-Émile Blanche; in a private collection.

(born July 10, 1871, Auteuil, near Paris, France—died Nov. 18, 1922, Paris) French novelist. Born to a wealthy family, he studied law and literature. His social connections allowed him to become an observant habitué of the most exclusive drawing rooms of the nobility, and he wrote social pieces for Parisian journals. He published essays and stories, including the story collection Pleasures and Days (1896). He had suffered from asthma since childhood, and circa 1897 he began to disengage from social life as his health declined. Half-Jewish himself, he became a major supporter of Alfred Dreyfus in the affair that made French anti-Semitism into a national issue. Deeply affected by his mother's death in 1905, he withdrew further from society. An incident of involuntary revival of childhood memory in 1909 led him to retire almost totally into an eccentric seclusion in his cork-lined bedroom to write À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27; In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past). The vast seven-part novel is at once a kind of autobiography, a vast social panorama of France in the years just before and during World War I, and an immense meditation on love and jealousy and on art and its relation to reality. One of the supreme achievements in fiction of all time, it brought him worldwide fame and affected the entire climate of the 20th-century novel.

Learn more about Proust, Marcel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Marcel Proust, oil painting by Jacques-Émile Blanche; in a private collection.

(born July 10, 1871, Auteuil, near Paris, France—died Nov. 18, 1922, Paris) French novelist. Born to a wealthy family, he studied law and literature. His social connections allowed him to become an observant habitué of the most exclusive drawing rooms of the nobility, and he wrote social pieces for Parisian journals. He published essays and stories, including the story collection Pleasures and Days (1896). He had suffered from asthma since childhood, and circa 1897 he began to disengage from social life as his health declined. Half-Jewish himself, he became a major supporter of Alfred Dreyfus in the affair that made French anti-Semitism into a national issue. Deeply affected by his mother's death in 1905, he withdrew further from society. An incident of involuntary revival of childhood memory in 1909 led him to retire almost totally into an eccentric seclusion in his cork-lined bedroom to write À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27; In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past). The vast seven-part novel is at once a kind of autobiography, a vast social panorama of France in the years just before and during World War I, and an immense meditation on love and jealousy and on art and its relation to reality. One of the supreme achievements in fiction of all time, it brought him worldwide fame and affected the entire climate of the 20th-century novel.

Learn more about Proust, Marcel with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Search another word or see Prouston Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature