Of course Proust isn't alone in that. I think many of the great classic writers succeeded in doing this to some extent. I'm not as well-read as I could be, but I think Marquez, Woolf, Nabokov, Hemingway, Faulkner, Yoshimoto, Updike, Kawabata, and Shakespeare (though not a novelist) have all succeeded in making me think completely differently of what a novel could be.
I think what led these brilliant writers down this past of reinventing the novel form wasn't necessarily the drive to be new. In thinking about Proust, it seems like he HAD to reinvent the form to make it fit the story he was trying to tell. He reinvented out of necessity.
It all makes me wonder if contemporary writers are pushing themselves as hard to find a novel form that best fits their needs.
A few months ago, I went to a seminar that talked about the use of story as a framework. The idea was that the story wasn't the main thing a writer was striving to create. The story was more of the vessel that held the thing the writer was trying to create. I really liked that. It rang true for me somehow and managed to ease the process of writing for me. Now, I'm more excited to get in touch with a deeper material I've been trying to share and then develop a form around that material.
Do you feel like you reinvent things as you write? If so, what?