Time slips away in the brief moment between sleep and wake up. For a few seconds, the narrator Marcel feels as if he has turned into what he read about the day before. The mind tries to locate the sleeping room. Is this really grandfather's house in Comber, and Marcel fell asleep without waiting for his mother to come to say goodbye to him? Or is it Madame de Saint-Loup's estate in Tansonville? It means that Marcel slept too long after a day's walk: the eleventh hour - everyone had supper! Then habit comes into its own and, with skillful slowness, begins to fill the habitable space. But the memory has already awakened: this night Marcel will not fall asleep - he will remember Combray, Balbec, Paris, Donsier and Venice.

In Combre, little Marcel was sent to bed right after supper, And mom came in for a minute to kiss him goodnight. But when guests came, my mother did not go up to the bedroom. Usually Charles Swann, the son of a grandfather's friend, came to see them. The relatives of Marcel had no idea that the "young" Swann was leading a brilliant social life, because his father was just a stockbroker. The inhabitants of that time did not differ too much from the Hindus in their views: each had to revolve in his own circle, and the transition to a higher caste was even considered indecent. It was only by chance that Marcel's grandmother learned about Swann's aristocratic acquaintances from her friend at the boarding house, the Marquise de Villeparisis, with whom she did not want to maintain friendly relations because of her firm belief in the good inviolability of castes.

After an unsuccessful marriage to a woman from a bad society, Swann visited Combra less and less, but each of his visits was a torment for the boy, for he had to take his mother's farewell kiss with him from the dining room to the bedroom. The greatest event in Marcel's life happened when he was sent to bed earlier than ever. He did not have time to say goodbye to his mother and tried to summon her with a note transmitted through the cook to Françoise, but this maneuver failed. Deciding to get a kiss at any cost, Marcel waited for Swann to leave and went out into the stairs in his nightgown. This was an unheard-of violation of routine, but the father, who was annoyed by the "sentiments", suddenly realized the state of his son. Mom spent the whole night in sobbing Marcel's room. When the boy calmed down a little, she began to read him a novel by George Sand, lovingly chosen for her grandson by his grandmother. This victory turned out to be bitter: my mother seemed to have renounced her wholesome toughness.

For a long time, Marcel, waking up at night, remembered the past fragmentarily: he saw only the scenery of his departure to sleep - the stairs, which were so hard to climb, and the bedroom with a glass door to the corridor from where my mother appeared. In fact, the rest of Combre died for him, for no matter how strong the desire to resurrect the past, it always slips away. But when Marseille tasted the biscuit soaked in linden tea, flowers in the garden suddenly floated out of the cup, the hawthorn in the Swann Park, Vivona's water lilies, the good inhabitants of Combre and the bell tower of the Church of St. Hilarius.

This biscuit was treated to Marseille by Aunt Leonia at the time when the family spent their Easter and summer holidays in Combra. Auntie convinced herself that she was terminally ill: after the death of her husband, she did not rise from the bed, which stood by the window. Her favorite pastime was to follow the passers-by and discuss the events of local life with the cook Françoise - a woman of the kindest soul, who at the same time knew how to coolly break the neck of a chicken and survive the dishwasher she did not like from the house.

Marseille loved summer walks in the Combre neighborhood. The family had two favorite routes: one was called "the direction to Mezegliz" (or "to Swann", since the road passed by his estate), and the second - "the direction of the Germans," the descendants of the famous Genevieve of Brabant. Childhood impressions remained in the soul forever: many times Marcel was convinced that only those people and those objects that he encountered in Combra really delighted him. The direction to Mezegliz with its lilacs, hawthorn and cornflowers, the direction to Guermantes with the river, water lilies and buttercups created an eternal image of a country of fabulous bliss. Undoubtedly, this was the reason for many mistakes and disappointments: sometimes Marcel dreamed of seeing someone just because this person reminded him of a flowering hawthorn bush in Swann Park.

The whole further life of Marcel was connected with what he learned or saw in Combra. Communication with the engineer Legrandin gave the boy the first concept of snobbery: this pleasant, kind man did not want to greet Marcel's family in public, since he became related to aristocrats. The music teacher Venteuil stopped visiting the house so as not to meet with Swann, whom he despised for marrying a cocotte. Venteuil doted on his only daughter. When a friend came to see this somewhat masculine-looking girl, they openly talked in Combre about their strange relationship. Venteuil suffered unspeakably - perhaps his daughter's bad reputation brought him to the grave before the deadline. In the autumn of that year, when Aunt Leonia finally died, Marcel witnessed a hideous scene in Montjuven: Mademoiselle Ventheuil's friend spat on a photograph of the late musician. The year was marked by another important event: Françoise, at first angry at the "heartlessness" of Marseille's family, agreed to go into their service.

Of all his schoolmates, Marcel preferred Blok, who was welcomed in the house, despite the obvious pretentiousness of manners. True, the grandfather laughed at his grandson's sympathy for the Jews. Blok recommended Marcel to read Bergot, and this writer made such an impression on the boy that his cherished dream was to get to know him. When Swann announced that Bergot was friendly with his daughter, Marcel's heart sank - only an extraordinary girl could deserve such happiness. At the first meeting in the park of Tansonville, Gilberte looked at Marseille with an unseeing gaze - obviously, this was a completely inaccessible creature. The boy's relatives paid attention only to the fact that Madame Swann, in the absence of her husband, shamelessly accepts the Baron de Charlus.

But the greatest shock was experienced by Marseille in the Church of Combera on the day when the Duchess of Guermantes deigned to attend the service. Outwardly, this lady with a large nose and blue eyes hardly differed from other women, but she was surrounded by a mythical halo - one of the legendary Guermantes appeared before Marseilles. Passionately falling in love with the duchess, the boy pondered how to win her favor. It was then that dreams of a literary career were born.

Only many years after his separation from Combre, Marcel learned about Swann's love. Odette de Crécy was the only woman in the Verdurin salon, where only the "faithful" were admitted - those who considered Dr. Cotard a beacon of wisdom and admired the playing of the pianist, who was currently under the patronage of Madame Verdurin. The artist, nicknamed "Maestro Bish", was supposed to be pitied for his crude and vulgar writing style. Swann was considered an inveterate heartthrob, but Odette was not at all his type. However, he was pleased to think that she was in love with him. Odette introduced him to the "clan" of the Verdurins, and gradually he got used to seeing her every day. Once he thought it resembled a painting by Botticelli, and with the sounds of Venteuil's sonata, real passion flared up. Having abandoned his previous occupations (in particular, an essay about Vermeer), Swann ceased to be in the world - now all his thoughts were absorbed by Odette. The first intimacy came after he straightened the orchid on her bodice - from that moment they had the expression "orchid". The tuning fork of their love was Venteuil's marvelous musical phrase, which, according to Swann, could not have belonged to the "old fool" from Combra. Soon Swann began to be madly jealous of Odette. Comte de Forschville, who was in love with her, mentioned Swann's aristocratic acquaintances, and this overflowed the patience of Madame Verdurin, who always suspected that Swann was ready to "pull" from her salon. After his "disgrace" Swann lost the opportunity to see Odette at the Verdurins. He was jealous of her for all men and calmed down only when she was in the company of Baron de Charlus. Hearing Venteuil's sonata again, Swann could hardly restrain a cry of pain: it is impossible to return to that wonderful time when Odette was madly in love with him. The glamor passed gradually. The beautiful face of the Marquise de Gaugojo, née Legrandin, reminded Swann of the saving Combra, and he suddenly saw Odette as she is - not like a Botticelli painting. How could it happen that he killed several years of his life for a woman who, in fact, did not even like him?

Marseilles would never have gone to Balbec if Swann had not praised the "Persian" style church there. And in Paris, Swann became the "father of Gilberte" for the boy. Françoise took her pet for a walk to the Champs Elysees, where a girl's "flock" played, led by Gilbert. Marcel was accepted into the company, and he fell in love with Gilberte even more. He admired the beauty of Madame Swann, and the rumors about her aroused curiosity. This woman was once called Odette de Crécy.