Begun in 1909, when Proust was 38 years old, À la recherche du temps perdu consists of seven volumes totaling around 3,200 pages (about 4,300 in The Modern Library's translation) and featuring more than 2,000 characters. Graham Greene called Proust the "greatest novelist of the 20th century", [ citation needed ] and W. Somerset Maugham called the novel the "greatest fiction to date". [ citation needed ] André Gide was initially not so taken with his work. The first volume was refused by the publisher Gallimard on Gide's advice. He later wrote to Proust apologizing for his part in the refusal and calling it one of the most serious mistakes of his life. 
Friedrich Nietzsche , actually an avowed opponent of Sainte-Beuve, prompted in 1880 the wife of his friend Franz Overbeck , Ida Overbeck, to translate the Causeries du lundi into German. Until then, Sainte-Beuve was never published in German despite his great importance in France, since it was considered representative of a French way of thinking detested in Germany. Ida Overbeck's translation appeared in 1880 under the title Die Menschen des XVIII. Jahrhunderts ( Men of the 18th Century ). Nietzsche wrote to Ida Overbeck on August 18, 1880: "An hour ago I received the Die Menschen des XVIII. Jahrhunderts , [...] It is just a marvellous book. I think I've cried." Ida Overbeck's translation is an important document of the cultural transfer between Germany and France in a period of strong tension, but it was largely ignored. It was not until 2014 that a critical and annotated edition of this translation appeared in print.