Considered by critics to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (1871–1922), French novelist, critic, and essayist, wrote the monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, earlier rendered as Remembrance of Things Past).
By the age of nine, Proust had had his first serious asthma attack and spent long holidays in the village of Illiers. This village, combined with recollections of his great-uncle’s house in Auteuil, became the model for the fictional town of Combray, where some of the most important scenes in his novel take place.
Begun in 1909, À la recherche du temps perdu consists of seven volumes totalling around 3,200 pages and featuring more than 2,000 characters. The first volume was refused by the publisher Gallimard on André Gide’s advice, who later wrote to Proust apologizing for his part in the refusal and calling it one of the most serious mistakes of his life.
Proust died before he was able to complete his revision of the drafts and proofs of the final volumes, the last three of which were published posthumously and edited by his brother, Robert.