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In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

One of the longest novels in world literature, In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust is famous for the notion of involuntary memory. Containing almost 1.5 million words, the remarkable book had a great influence on 20th century literature.

The French author start writing it in 1909 and only death stopped him from writing, in 1922. Even if the structure was established early on, Proust added new parts in his latest years and kept on editing it for print. In fact, the last three volumes include fragmentary passages that were in draft when Proust died.

Plot summary
The massive novel is divided into seven volumes and describes the Narrator`s experiences as he grow up, falls in love, learn about life and art.

Volume one is called “Swann`s Way. The Narrator remembers his thoughts as a boy in his bedroom and how he dreams of wakening. He wonders about time, where it goes while he is sleeping, how sleep influence the person`s surroundings. A Madeleine cake makes him fall into involuntary memory about childhood in Combray and Paris, but it also presents M. Swann`s passion for Odette.

Volume Two, “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, describes the Narattor`s relationship with Gilberte, a great analysis of male and female adolescence combined with memories of Normandy seaside and Paris. The volume is an entire meditation regarding different forms of love.

The third volume is called “The Guermantes Way”. The Narrator is now part of the fashionable Parisian life in late 19th century. The literary and aristocratic salons reunite a shallow world, as the Narrator is being initiated into it.

In volume four, “Sodom and Gomorrah”, the Narrator is on the coastal resort of Balbec and observes the homosexual behavior of his acquaintances. The fifth volume, “The Prisoner” finds the Narrator living with Albertine, while the sixth volume, “The Fugitive” presents Albertine`s absence and departure.

The last volume, “Time regained”, shows the Narrator living with Gilberte near Combray where he discovers that the two ways that defined his childhood, the Mesenglise way and the Guermantes way, were linked. The remembering then goes to different other places and memories. At the end, he realizes that everybody encapsulates the accumulated baggage of the past.

Themes and style

The realistic novel is plot-driven and analyses themes such as time, love, memory, snobbism, jealousy, sufferance, flashbacks, past, experience, initiation, affection, friendship, innocence, homosexuality and death. The style is unique, as In Search of Lost Time is considered the definitive Modern novel.

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