Marcel Proust and the 4th Dimension

(actualisé le ) by Ray

While the concept of a fourth dimension of "space-time" is generally associated with the theory of General Relativity developed by Albert Einstein between 1907 and 1915 and published in 1916, we would like to point out in ths anniversary year of the publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust’s monumental A la Recherche du Temps Perdu ("In Search of Time Gone By") that the concept of time as a fourth dimension of space had already been explicitely and most effectively evoked in the following passage in Du côté de chez Swann ("On Swann’s Side"), written between 1908 and 1912 and published [1] in 1913 :

...; un édifice occupant, si l’on peut dire, un espace à quatre dimensions - la quatrième étant celle du Temps -, déployant à travers les siècles son vaisseau qui, de travée en travée, de chapelle en chapelle, semblait vaincre et franchir non seulement quelques mètres, mais des époques successives d’où il sortait victorieux; ...  [2]

which can be translated as:

...; an edifice [3] occupying, so to speak, a four-dimensional space - the fourth being Time - deploying itself throughout the centuries and seeming to dominate, span by span and chapel by chapel, not only a few meters but historical period after historical period; ...


[1at the author’s expense, after being refused by all the leading Paris publishers of the time.

[2A la recherche du temps perdu, ed. Jean-Yves Tadié, Gallimard, Edition de la Pléiade, 1988, p. 60.

[3the church at Combray, near Chartres.