Marcel Proust was a French intellectual, author and critic, best known for his seven-volume fiction 'In search of Lost Time'. He coined the term "involuntary memory", which became also known as "Proust effect" in modern psychology.
He was born Valentin Louis Georges Eugéne Marcel Proust, on July 10, 1871, in Paris, France. His father, Achille Proust, was a famous doctor. His mother, Jeanne Weil, was from a rich and cultured Jewish family. Proust's interests in art and literature were encouraged by his mother, who read and spoke English. He was fond of Carlyle, Emerson and John Ruskin, whose two works he also translated into French. From age 9 Proust suffered from severe allergy and asthma attacks, and eventually developed a chronic lung disease which caused his disability and affected his career and mobility. He was lucky to survive such a life threatening condition due to professional help from his doctor father. Proust's physical disability imposed serious restrictions on his lifestyle, and he expressed himself in writing. He was blessed with talent and imagination and also with a very large inheritance, that allowed him to write without any pressure. During the most years of his adult life Proust was confined to his cork-wood paneled bedroom, where he was attended mostly by his close friend, pianist and composer Reynaldo Hahn.
Proust's main work, 'A la recherche du temps perdu' was begun in 1909 and finished in 1922, just before the author's death. It also became known in English as 'In Search of Lost Time' (aka.. Remembrance of Things Past). The novel's life-like complexity and delicate fabric of language is influenced by his reading of Lev Tolstoy, especially by 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina', and it bears some structural and contentual resemblance of Tolstoy's major novels. It is spanning over 3000 pages in seven volumes and teeming with more than 2000 names. Proust's novel is set in the fictional town of Combray, near Paris, and covers all aspects of life of the upper class; nobility, sexuality, women, men, art and culture. It was praised from Graham Greene, W. Somerset Maugham and Ernest Hemingway, as being the greatest fiction of their time.
Marcel Proust died at age 51, of complications related to pneumonia and his chronic health condition, on November 18, 1922, and was laid to rest in Cimetiére du Pére-Lachaise, Paris, France. The town of Illiers, which became the model for imaginary town of Combray in the novel, was renamed Illiers-Combray in commemoration of the Proust's masterpiece.