Marcel Proust—perhaps France’s most famous literary writer—died 100 years ago. The politics of his time—the criminalization of homosexuality, the Dreyfus Affair, the lead up to World War I—shaped his life and his work. So, it’s reasonable to ask, what does Proust have to say about our lives in 2022? Proust’s 3,000-page magnum opus In Search of Lost Time continues to speak through time, largely not for the answers it provides but for the questions it asks. Proust’s novel is in part about memory, love, virtue, vice, prejudice, and folly—but the core of the book is a set of big, wonderful, difficult questions about life.
Thinking about these questions today won’t help us stop climate change or rising authoritarianism—but it will help us lead a richer inner life while we do so. And the experience of reading this amazing novel—the months or years we put into reading 3,000 pages, as difficult as delightful—does important things for us too. It shows us one shape a story of a life can take. It helps us understand ourselves, nudging us to ask ourselves questions we’d never even thought about before.
Begin that journey today with this exploration of the philosophical questions Proust asks us.