This map plots the settings and references in In Search of Lost Time (Vol I): Swann's Way

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Paris in 1890
Public DomainParis in 1890

Paris was called the 'Capital of the Nineteenth Century'. When Proust was alive, it was one of the most exciting places to live in the world, full of artists, writers, dancers and musicians. This sense of possibility lasted beyond Proust's death, up until the Second World War. One famous night in 1922 Proust went to a dinner party at the Majestic Hotel with Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Joyce, and Picasso (but there were far too many egos at the table for the night to be considered a success). It was the Paris of the Moulin Rouge, the cabarets, arcades and elegant cafés.

Shortly before Proust's birth, Paris was the scene of an uprising known as the Paris Commune. France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and a growing sense of discontent at their conditions led workers in Paris to overthrow the government for several weeks until it was brutally defeated by the regular French army.

In Swann's Way Proust's Paris is mainly seen through the eyes of Charles Swann, habitué of the fashionable, aristocratic world of the Faubourg Saint-Germain on the Left Bank (south of the river) as well as the bourgeois salon of the Verdurins on the Right Bank, around the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The location of Swann's house on the Ile Saint-Louis is apt in many ways: in the middle of the river Seine, his house is mid way between the bourgeois and aristocratic worlds to the Right and Left; it is also a fashionable address in its own right, popular with artists and musicians, and therefore suits this side of Swann's character as well.

In the last part of the volume, Place-Names: The Name, the narrator begins to introduce his own Paris to the reader: the Champs-Elysées, where Françoise warns him of the danger of falling roof slates, and the nearby park where he sees Gilberte again. Unlike the semi-fictional Combray, it is possible to walk down the streets named in Proust's Paris, such as the Rue La Pérouse where Odette lives, or Swann's Quai d'Orléans.

Map of Paris from 1900
Public DomainMap of Paris from 1900

In later volumes of the Search Paris becomes a much larger part of the narrator's world; in fact most of the novel's action takes place here. Proust himself spent most of his life living in the centre of Paris. His apartment at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, where he wrote his novel, is now open to the public on Thursday afternoons.

The Dance at the Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec
Public DomainThe Dance at the Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec
Public DomainParis