In Search of Lost Time

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 known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine." It gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, has gained usage since D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992. Running to nearly 1.5 million words, it is the longest novel in world literature.

The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material, and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages as they existed in draft form 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 had great influence on twentieth-century literature; some writers have sought to emulate it, others to parody it.

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