"the friend was invariably a Jew"
Alfred Dreyfus
Public DomainAlfred Dreyfus
The role of Jews in French society at this time is a theme which runs throughout In Search of Lost Time. Proust had a Jewish mother, and he made Swann a Jewish character, but although Proust never denied his heritage, neither did he embrace a Jewish identity. He was, however, sympathetic to the problems of the Jews.

In the 1890s and 1900s France was torn apart by the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal in which a Jewish officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly accused of treason. During the trial the French army fabricated evidence in order to prosecute him. The affair divided French society into those who supported the army and those, like Émile Zola in his famous article J'accuse! who condemned its actions. Proust, like Swann and the narrator in the Search, was a 'Dreyfusard', a supporter of Dreyfus. The Affair, and its influence on French society, is addressed in later volumes of In Search of Lost Time.