Remembrance of Things Past

Which book holds the Guinness World Record as the longest novel in history?

And the answer: Remembrance of Things Past.

Photo courtesy: Amazon.com

Also known in English as In Search of Lost Time, the book was written by French author Marcel Proust over 14 years, and contains a record 9,609,000 characters, including letters and spaces. Loosely autobiographical, the novel spans seven volumes and, depending on the publisher, between 3,000 and 4,000 pages.

Published in 7 installments, Proust’s magnum opus is defined as the author’s search for truth after an epiphanous moment with a madeleine cookie. Later referred to as a madeleine moment, Proust’s bite of cookie dipped in tea strongly recalled a sense of nostalgia, so intense a sensory cue that it triggered a memory of his childhood. A "madeleine moment" is a term used today to refer to when a cue from the present invokes a memory of the past.

By the time Proust had finished the first volume of his work, he had only planned to write two more installments. Then, during the war years, he instead revised the novel to add detail, flourish and other enhancements, in effect more than tripling its length. He began releasing the remaining installments in 1919, and by June of that year had won the Prix Goncourt. Suddenly vaulted into fame, Proust’s works in the project continued to publish until 1927, until the 7th and final part was produced. Unfortunately, the author passed away in 1922, leaving the last 3 installments to be considered "unfinished." Proust’s brother oversaw publication after his death.

Fun fact!

Not only did Proust create what is now classified as the longest novel in history, he also wrote what’s considered to be the longest sentence ever published. Clocking in at around 847 words, this sentence worries not about run-ons or too many commas (we’d need a breather after a sentence like that!).


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