Marcel Proust (1871--1922) was born in Auteuil, France. In his twenties, following a year in the army, he became a conspicuous society figure, frequenting the most fashionable Paris salons of the day. After 1899, however, his chronic asthma, the death of his parents, and his growing disillusionment with humanity caused him to lead an increasingly retired life. From 1907 on, he rarely emerged from a cork-lined room in his apartment on boulevard Haussmann. There he insulated himself against the distractions of city life and the effects of trees and flowers--though he loved them, they brought on his attacks of asthma. He slept by day and worked by night, writing letters and devoting himself to the completion of In Search of Lost Time. James Grieve, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, has published a translation of Proust's Swann's Way and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, and other novels for young adults. Christopher Prendergast (series editor) is a professor emeritus of French literature at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College.