100 Heroes: Marcel Proust

The gay man who became a literary powerhouse.

100 Heroes: Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust was a novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his novel À la recherche du temps perdu – In Search of Lost Time – which was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

He is considered to be one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.

Early life

Proust was born in 1871 in Paris.

Growing up in the period just after the Franco-Prussian War, Proust was surrounded by uncertainty and social upheaval.

While his studies were often interrupted with consistent ill-health – he suffered from asthma – Proust particular excelled at literature.

As a young man, Proust was known as a dilettante and a social climber – lacking in self-discipline.


Proust was involved in writing and publishing from an early age.

He published his work in literary magazines and wrote a regular society column for a journal in Paris.

In 1896, Proust published Les plaisirs et les jours – a compendium of his earlier work.

Proust began writing À la recherche du temps perdu in 1909. The finished novel was around 3,200 pages, consisting of seven volumes and featuring more than 2,000 characters.

Personal life

Proust never spoke publicly about his sexuality, but it appears to have been widely known and accepted by his contemporaries and his family that he was a gay man.

Significant relationships included Reynaldo Hahn and Alfred Agostinelli.

In 1918, Proust was among the men arrested during a police raid on a male brothel.

Proust died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922.

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