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Swann's Way. In search of lost time

About Proust:
Proust was born in Auteuil (the southern sector of Paris's then-rustic
16th arrondissement) at the home of his great-uncle, two months after
the Treaty of Frankfurt formally ended the Franco-Prussian War. His
birth took place during the violence that surrounded the suppression of
the Paris Commune, and his childhood corresponds with the consolida-
tion of the French Third Republic. Much of Remembrance of Things Past
concerns the vast changes, most particularly the decline of the aristo-
cracy and the rise of the middle classes, that occurred in France during
the Third Republic and the fin de siècle. Proust's father, Achille Adrien
Proust, was a famous doctor and epidemiologist, responsible for study-
ing and attempting to remedy the causes and movements of cholera
through Europe and Asia; he was the author of many articles and books
on medicine and hygiene. Proust's mother, Jeanne Clémence Weil, was
the daughter of a rich and cultured Jewish family. Her father was a
banker. She was highly literate and well-read. Her letters demonstrate a
well-developed sense of humour, and her command of English was suf-
ficient for her to provide the necessary impetus to her son's later at-
tempts to translate John Ruskin. By the age of nine, Proust had had his
first serious asthma attack, and thereafter he was considered by himself,
his family and his friends as a sickly child. Proust spent long holidays in
the village of Illiers. This village, combined with aspects of the time he
spent at his great-uncle's house in Auteuil became the model for the fic-
tional town of Combray, where some of the most important scenes of Re-
membrance of Things Past take place. (Illiers was renamed Illiers-Com-
bray on the occasion of the Proust centenary celebrations). Despite his
poor health, Proust served a year (1889–90) as an enlisted man in the
French army, stationed at Coligny Caserne in Orléans, an experience that
provided a lengthy episode in The Guermantes Way, volume three of his
novel. As a young man Proust was a dilettante and a successful social
climber, whose aspirations as a writer were hampered by his lack of ap-
plication to work. His reputation from this period, as a snob and an aes-
thete, contributed to his later troubles with getting Swann's Way, the first
volume of his huge novel, published in 1913. Proust was quite close to
his mother, despite her wishes that he apply himself to some sort of use-
ful work. In order to appease his father, who insisted that he pursue a ca-
reer, Proust obtained a volunteer position at the Bibliothèque Mazarine
in the summer of 1896. After exerting considerable effort, he obtained a
sick leave which was to extend for several years until he was considered
to have resigned. He never worked at his job, and he did not move from
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