In the opening volume of Proust's great novel, the narrator travels backwards in time in order to tell the story of a love affair that had taken place before his own birth. Swann's jealous love for Odette provides a prophetic model of the narrator's own relationships. All Proust's great themes - time and memory, love and loss, art and the artistic vocation - are here in kernel form.
Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil in 1871. In his twenties he became a conspicuous society figure, frequenting the most fashionable Paris salons of the day. After 1899, however, his suffering from chronic asthma, the death of his parents and his growing disillusionment with humanity caused him to lead an increasingly retired life. He slept by day and worked by night, writing letters and devoting himself to the completion of A la recherche du temps perdu. He died in 1922 before publication of the last three volumes of his great work.