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Marcel Proust (1871-1922): Works in French

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2024 12:43 PM

Tissot L'ambitieuse painting
At the risk of making a gross reduction, it is fair to say that Proust really wrote just one book: A la recherche du temps perdu, a sprawling, gorgeous, baffling, unforgettable novel about childhood and adolescence, travel and high society, sensation and sexuality, sleep and dreams, memory and forgetting, jealousy and art, comprising some 1.3 million words published between 1913 and 1927. Proust sacrificed the last seventeen years of his life as well as the last vestiges of his fragile health to the composition of this book, and still never managed to finish it. Nonetheless, the colossus of the Recherche is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, shoulder-to-shoulder with Joyce's Ulysses, and many readers consider it the greatest novel ever written, period. Everything else Proust wrote - including an early collection of stories and sketches (Les Plaisirs et les jours, or Pleasures and Days), a pair of translations from the work of John Ruskin (La Bible d'Amiens and Sésame et les lys), an abortive first novel (Jean Santeuil), and a collage of essayistic and novelistic notes and sketches on literature (Contre Sainte-Beuve) - is chiefly of interest for the additional perspectives it grants readers of the Recherche on Proust's undeniably central work. Anyone coming to Proust for the first time owes it to herself to begin simply with volume one of the Recherche - a book called Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way), and leave the rest for later.
On this page you can discover the best contemporary editions of Proust's novel and other works in French. Each book listed below is linked to WorldCat, where you can discover library holdings for that item in your region. Resources within each gallery box are generally arranged from the newest to the oldest publications, left to right. To learn more about Proust's work in translation, please visit the companion tab on this page.
Left: Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), L'ambitieuse (A Woman of Ambition) (1883/85).
Image source: Wikiart. Image author: Jacques Joseph Tissot. Image license: Public domain.

Bibliothèque de la Pléiade

The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, founded in Paris in 1931 by the young Azerbaijani immigrant Jacques Schiffrin, has become the preeminent publisher of intellectually authoritative editions of classic authors in France. Pléiade editions offer critical texts, including notes, commentary, and variants assembled by expert scholars, and are published in a compact, attractive, and durable - though astronomically expensive - format. The 1987 Pléiade Proust is the current edition of reference for scholars and students of Proust's text in French. Two complete Pléiade editions of A la Recherche du temps perdu exist, and an additional two volumes contain Proust's published and unpublished work outside the bounds of his novel. All of these are briefly described below. (For more on the Pléiade series, see Wikipedia.)

New Pleiade volume 1 cover artNew Pleiade volume 2 cover artNew Pleiade volume 3 cover artNew Pleiade volume 4 cover art

Other Editions of Proust in French

When the French text of Proust's novel entered the public domain in the late 1980s, French publishers jumped at the opportunity to turn out new paperback editions, and the results predictably vary in quality. Two such editions exist that offer reliable and accurate texts as well as a modest scholarly apparatus. The texts of both of these editions chiefly follow the most recent Pléiade edition, but offer an affordable alternative to the Pléiade's alarming price tag.

Du côté de chez Swann Gallimard ed Cover artÀ l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs Gallimard ed Cover artLe Côté de Guermantes Gallimard ed Cover artSodome et Gomorrhe Gallimard ed Cover artLa Prisonnière Gallimard ed Cover art

Albertine disparue Gallimard ed Cover artLe Temps retrouvé Gallimard ed Cover artLes Plaisirs et les Jours suivi de L'Indifférent et autres textes Cover artCover artJournées de lecture Cover art

Essais et articles Cover artL'affaire Lemoine Cover artContre Sainte-Beuve Cover artUn amour de Swann Cover artVacances de Paques

The Folio Classique series (pictured above), published by Gallimard, offers the complete text of Proust's novel with each volume edited and introduced by an accomplished French scholar of Proust's work. Folio Classique also offers a selection of Proust's earlier minor works in attractive paperbacks, as well as an edition of Un amour de Swann (Swann in Love), the second part of Du côté de chez Swann (Swann's Way), which is often read and taught as an approachable and self-contained unit easily excerpted from Proust's novel. The Garnier Flammarion edition (pictured below) offers the text of Proust's novel at a comparable level of quality, though in slightly greater quantity: ten volumes to Folio's seven. The series as a whole is edited by Jean Milly.

Du côté de chez Swann Cover artÀ l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs I Cover artÀ l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs II Cover artLe Côté de Guermantes I Cover artLe Côté de Guermantes II Cover artSodome et Gomorrhe I Cover artSodome et Gomorrhe II cover artLa Prisonnière Cover artAlbertine disparue Cover artLe Temps retrouvé Cover art

Boldini portrait of Robert de Montesquiou
Above: Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), Portrait of Robert de Montesquiou (1897). Montesquiou, the brilliant and flamboyant king of the snobs of Paris in the Belle Époque, served as the primary model for the character of Baron de Charlus, Proust's notorious creation.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons. Image author: Giovanni Boldini. Image license: Public domain.

Notebooks, Drafts, Translations, Early Works

Carnets Cover art

Florence Callu & Antoine Compagnon, eds., Carnets, 2002

A selection of writings from Proust's notebooks (carnets).

Écrits de jeunesse, 1887-1895 Cover art

Anne Borrel, Écrits de jeunesse, 1887-1895, 1991

A volume collecting Proust's earliest writings, including correspondence.

Bricquebec Cover art

Richard Bales, ed., Bricquebec, 1989

An early version of A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs.

Matinée chez la Princesse de Guermantes: cahiers du Temps retrouvé Cover art

Henri Bonnet & Bernard Brun, eds., Matinée chez la Princesse de Guermantes: cahiers du Temps retrouvé, 1982

An edition of an early version of part of Le Temps retrouvé, with related earlier drafts.

L'Indifférent Cover art

Philip Kolb, L'Indifférent, 1978

An edition of an early story.

Marcel Proust's Grasset Proofs Cover art

Douglas Alden, Marcel Proust's Grasset Proofs, 1978

An edition of the Grasset Proofs, the printer's proofs for the first three volumes of Proust's novel.

Le Carnet de 1908 Cover art

Philip Kolb, ed., Le Carnet de 1908, 1976

An edition of the notebook in which appear the first drafts recognizably belonging to Proust's novel.

Textes retrouvés Cover art

Philip Kolb & Larkin B. Price, eds.,Textes retrouvés, 1971

Previously unpublished early texts by Proust.

Sésame et les lys Cover art

John Ruskin, Sésame et les lys, trans. Marcel Proust, 1906

Proust's translation into French of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies.

La Bible d'Amiens Cover art

John Ruskin, La Bible d'Amiens, trans. Marcel Proust, 1904

Proust's translation into French of John Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens.

Besnard, Morphine Addicts

Above: Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934), Morphine Addicts (1887), etching.
Image source: Wikiart. Image author: Paul-Albert Besnard. Image license: Public domain.