1871 - 1922

"Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees."

 - Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust was born into upper middle class Paris society. A sickly child, he was prone to severe asthma attacks. In school he studied philosophy and law and was a voracious reader. His social connections and skills as a conversationalist gained him entry into some of Paris’s most exclusive drawing rooms during the fin de siècle, earning him the reputation as a bit of a dilettante and social climber. In 1896 he published his first work, the collection of short stories Pleasures and Days. Previously he’d been working on the novel Jean Santeuil, but his doomed affair with composer Reynaldo Hahn caused him to scrap the project. Following the death of his parents and with his own health rapidly declining, Proust retreated to his cork lined bedroom and worked the remaining 13 years of his life writing, revising, reworking, and correcting his masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past – a seven volume 3,200 page novel/autobiography that features over 2,000 characters. It is not only a brilliant rumination on creativity and reality, but a fine rendering of France in the years prior to and during WWI all told through the eyes of narrator ‘Marcel.’ It’s often called the greatest novel of all time, and with it Proust became one of the first major European novelists to describe in detail what it was like to be gay in a prejudiced society. The first volume Swann’s Way was published in 1913, war suspended subsequent publications until 1919. The final three books in the set were released posthumously. He died in 1922 of bronchitis and pneumonia, still in the midst of his never-ending revisions.  


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Atheist

Nations Affiliated France

Era/Epoch Progressive Era (1890-1920)

Field(s) of Contribution



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Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell