Summarize Proust

Monty Python paid hommage to Proust's novel in a sketch first broadcast on November 16th, 1972, called The All-England Summarize Proust Competition. The winner was the contestant who could best summarize A la recherche du temps perdu in fifteen seconds, "once in a swimsuit and once in evening dress."

Other more "academic" attempts have been made to summarize the novel in as few words as possible. Here are the winners (thus far):

  • Gérard Genette in Figures III: "Marcel devient écrivain" ["Marcel becomes a writer"] (3 words).
  • Vincent Descombes in Proust: philosophie du roman: "Marcel devient un grand écrivain" ["Marcel becomes a great writer"] (5 words).
  • Gérard Genette, again, in Palimpsestes: "Marcel finit par devenir écrivain" ["Marcel ends up becoming a writer"] (5 words).
Visitors to this site from 2000 to 2006 submitted the following summaries of their own:
  • "Marcel" — Thomas Morton, Jose Fernandes
  • "Devenir écrivain" — Nicole Hanset
  • "Goodnight Mama" — Scott Daniels
  • "Life ends" — Robert Bhisitkul
  • "Making Art" — Daniel Tarte
  • "Marcel remembers" — Andrew Dehany, John Hoyland, Dave Kovacs, G. Gardner, Steve Francis
  • "Marcel reminisces" — Alan Gary Hodgkinson
  • "Marcel's Léoniezation" — David Addyman
  • "Marcel's memoirs" — William Styles
  • "Marcel's brilliant" — Shelley Wilson-Morgan
  • "Marcel thinks" — Fabian Wolff
  • "Marcel writes" — Jonathan Munves
  • "Mmmm...cookies" — Doug Hill
  • "Poetic diary" — Colm O'Connor
  • "Proust lives" — Breandan O Ruaidh
  • "Proust wrote" — Dr. Charles A. Escoffery
  • "Rambling? Art!" — Jon Monsarrat
  • "Society sucks" — Craig Scheidecker
  • "Tea time" — Patrick Alexander
  • "Thinking revisited" — Hans van der Gugten
  • "Time flies" — Larry Ball
  • "Time passes" — Kirk McElhearn
  • "Becoming a writer" — Nicole Hanset
  • "Cookies and lust" — Jim Paris
  • "Cookies make memories" — Andrew Watts
  • "Is se trouve" — John Hall
  • "Is Marcel Proust?" — Andrew Coleman
  • "Madeleine, Marcel, Masterpiece!" — Michael Grimes
  • "Making the Artwork" — Daniel Tarte
  • "Marcel conquers Times" — Tom Moral
  • "Marcel's guilty remembrances" — Laurence Perlman
  • "Marcel's not gay" — Martin Dawson
  • "Marcel captures time" — Paul Silverman
  • "Marcel contemplates perception" — Barbara Lysaker
  • "Marcel recaptures time" — Paul Silverman
  • "Marcel remembers everything" — Robert J. Avrech
  • "Marcel senses Time" — Jeremy Denk
  • "Marcel v. Time" — Paul Silverman
  • "The Narrator remembers" — Allan Price
  • "Proust wrote well" — Dr. Charles A. Escoffery
  • "Writer becomes himself" — Jonathan Fowler
  • "Writer finds voice" — David Beveridge
  • "L'écrivain trouve Marcel lui-même" — Ian Davies
  • "Life its own self" — Harmon Dow
  • "Marcel Proust finally gets it" — J. O'Donnell
  • "Marcel free associates" — Kevin Walker
  • "Narrator struggles with Time" — James Roque
  • "A novel of involuntary memory" — Elatia Harris
  • "An artist discovers his vocation" — Brian Colleary
  • "Becoming a writer becomes Marcel" — Michael Strong
  • "Find yourself in the book" — Andy Reti
  • "Little rounded sleepy French life" — M. Buckley
  • "Madeleines and tea are nice!" — Loz
  • "The madeleine becomes Marcel's muse" — John Halsey
  • "Marcel abandons life for art" — Simon Hard
  • "Marcel eats, thinks and writes" — Phil Murray
  • "Marcel redeems living through art" — Brian Colleary
  • "Marcel should eat more cake" — Kristin
  • "Marcel's friends all get old" — Kirk McElhearn
  • "Proust begets Marcel begets Proust... " — Colin Campbell
  • "Proust gives us his time" — Christopher Brinson
  • "Reality is in your memory" — Stephen
  • "Seek Timelessness to feel Proustian" — F. Joseph Routman
  • "Society and love are illusory" — Teresa Shouvlin
  • "Marcel discovers he is a writer" — Pamela Stone, James Wills
  • "Marcel never actually finishes the biscuit" — Liesbeth Broekhuyse
  • "Marcel remembers experiencing, and experiences memories" — George Arnold
  • "Marcel writes about becoming a writer" — Harmon Dow
  • "Time tugs at it's own tail" — Marty
  • "In looking back one learns to see" — Len Bowers
  • "Multi-hued sentiment passing through flowers and decay" — Adam Goodell
  • "The bell, is the alpha and the omega" — Marjorie Forsyth
  • "Marcel finally gets to grips with middle age" — Liz McSkeane
  • "How I justified wasting my life in empty socializing" — Christopher Belitz
  • "Marcel remembers what it felt like to become a writer" — Phil McCray
  • "Picking up an ale cake and reminiscing in a stream of consciousness" — George Soscia
  • "Proust gives birth to himself as writer by re-membering, and thus transforming, his lived, experiential self" — Lori Walters
  • "Marcel goes to bed early. He can't sleep, he remembers a lot of stuff, grows old and plans to write about it" — Patrick Alexander
  • "The courage to sift the sand of a beach (with the ambition of sifting the sand of all seas) in hopes of discovering something which has never been obtained previously, but finding that after years of tedious labour, one's hand has become more supple, more refined" — Guylene Dumoulin
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Mark Calkins © 2009
Page last updated: June 6, 2009