André Gide

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André Gide
André Gide.jpg
Born (1869-11-22)22 November 1869
Paris, France
Died 19 February 1951(1951-02-19) (aged 81)
Paris, France
Occupation Novelist, essayist, dramatist
Notable work(s) L'immoraliste (The Immoralist)
La porte étroite (Strait Is the Gate)
Les caves du Vatican (The Vatican Caves)
La Symphonie Pastorale (The Pastoral Symphony)
Les faux-monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters)
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
1947
Spouse(s) Madeleine Rondeaux Gide
Children Catherine Gide

Signature

André Paul Guillaume Gide (French: [ɑ̃dʁe pɔl ɡijom ʒid]; 22 November 1869 – 19 February 1951) was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars.

Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide exposes to public view the conflict and eventual reconciliation between the two sides of his personality, split apart by a straitlaced education and a narrow social moralism. Gide's work can be seen as an investigation of freedom and empowerment in the face of moralistic and puritanical constraints, and gravitates around his continuous effort to achieve intellectual honesty. His self-exploratory texts reflect his search of how to be fully oneself, even to the point of owning one's sexual nature, without at the same time betraying one's values. His political activity is informed by the same ethos, as suggested by his repudiation of communism after his 1936 voyage to the USSR.

Early life[edit]

André Gide in 1893

Gide was born in Paris on 22 November 1869, into a middle-class Protestant family. His father was a Paris University professor of law who died in 1880. His uncle was the political economist Charles Gide.

Gide was brought up in isolated conditions in Normandy and became a prolific writer at an early age, publishing his first novel, The Notebooks of Andre Walter (French: Les Cahiers d'André Walter), in 1891, at the age of twenty-one.

In 1893 and 1894, Gide traveled in Northern Africa, and it was there that he came to accept his attraction to boys.[1]

He befriended Oscar Wilde in Paris, and in 1895 Gide and Wilde met in Algiers. Wilde had the impression that he had introduced Gide to homosexuality, but, in fact, Gide had already discovered this on his own.[2][3]

The middle years[edit]

In 1895, after his mother's death, he married his cousin Madeleine Rondeaux, but the marriage remained unconsummated. In 1896, he became mayor of La Roque-Baignard, a commune in Normandy.

In 1901, Gide rented the property Maderia in St. Brelade's Bay and lived there while residing in Jersey. This period, 1901–07, is commonly seen as a period of apathy and unsettlement in his life.

In 1908, Gide helped found the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française (The New French Review).[4] In 1916, Marc Allégret, only 15 years old, became his lover. Marc was the son of Elie Allégret, best man at Gide's wedding. Of Allégret's five children, André Gide adopted Marc. The two fled to London, in retribution for which his wife burned all his correspondence – "the best part of myself," he later commented. In 1918, he met Dorothy Bussy, who was his friend for over thirty years and translated many of his works into English.

In the 1920s, Gide became an inspiration for writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1923, he published a book on Fyodor Dostoyevsky; however, when he defended pederasty in the public edition of Corydon (1924) he received widespread condemnation. He later considered this his most important work.

In 1923, he sired a daughter, Catherine, by Elisabeth van Rysselberghe, a woman who was much younger than he. He had known her for a long time, as she was the daughter of his closest female friend, Maria Monnom, the wife of his friend the Belgian neo-impressionist painter Théo van Rysselberghe. This would cause the only crisis in the long-standing relationship between Allégret and Gide and damaged the relation with Van Rysselberghe. This was possibly Gide's only sexual liaison with a woman, and it was brief in the extreme; but his daughter Catherine became his only descendant by blood. He liked to call Elisabeth "La Dame Blanche" ("The White Lady"). Elisabeth eventually left her husband to move to Paris and manage the practical aspects of Gide's life (they had adjoining apartments built for each of them on the rue Vavin). She worshipped him, but evidently they no longer had a sexual relationship. Gide's legal wife, Madeleine, died in 1938. Later he used the background of his unconsummated marriage in his novel Et Nunc Manet in Te.

In 1924, he published an autobiography, Unless the seed dies (French: Si le grain ne meurt).

In the same year, he produced the first French language editions of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.

After 1925, he began to demand more humane conditions for criminals.

Africa[edit]

From July 1926 to May 1927, he travelled through the French Equatorial Africa colony with his lover Marc Allégret. Gide went successively to Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo), Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic), briefly to Chad and then to Cameroun before returning to France. He related his peregrinations in a journal called Travels in the Congo (French: Voyage au Congo) and Return from Chad (French: Retour du Tchad). In this published journal, he criticized the behavior of French business interests in the Congo and inspired reform. In particular, he strongly criticized the Large Concessions regime (French: régime des Grandes Concessions), i.e., a regime according to which part of the colony was conceded to French companies and where these companies could exploit all of the area's natural resources, in particular rubber. He related, for instance, how natives were forced to leave their village for several weeks to collect rubber in the forest, and went as far as comparing their exploitation to slavery. The book had important influence on anti-colonialism movements in France and helped re-evaluate the impact of colonialism.[5]

Russia[edit]

During the 1930s, he briefly became a communist, or more precisely, a fellow traveler (he never formally joined the Communist Party). As a distinguished writer sympathizing with the cause of communism, he was invited to tour the Soviet Union as a guest of the Soviet Union of Writers. The tour disillusioned him and he subsequently became quite critical of Soviet Communism. This criticism of Communism caused him to lose socialist friends, especially when he made a clean break with it in Retour de L'U.R.S.S. in 1936. He was also a contributor to The God That Failed.

My faith in communism is like my faith in religion: it is a promise of salvation for mankind. If I have to lay my life down that it may succeed, I would do so without hesitation

—André Gide, The God That Failed

...and after his visit to the Soviet Union:[6]

It is impermissible under any circumstances for morals to sink as low as communism has done. No one can begin to imagine the tragedy of humanity, of morality, of religion and of freedoms in the land of communism, where man has been debased beyond belief

—André Gide, quoted in Culture, Civilization, and Humanity

1940s[edit]

In 1939, he become the first living author to be published in the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

Gide left France for Africa in 1942 and lived in Tunis until the end of World War II. In 1947, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He devoted much of his last years to publishing his Journal.[7] Gide died in Paris on 19 February 1951. The Roman Catholic Church placed his works on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952.[8]

Definitive biography by Alan Sheridan[edit]

In 1998, Alan Sheridan published the definitive English-language biography of André Gide entitled André Gide: A Life in the Present (Harvard University Press). From the back cover: "One of the most important writers of the twentieth century, André Gide also led what was probably one of the most interesting lives the century has seen. Following Gide from his first forays among the Symbolists through his sexual and political awakenings to his worldwide fame as a writer, sage, and commentator on his age, Alan Sheridan richly conveys the drama of a remarkable life; the depth, breadth, and vitality of an incomparable oeuvre; and the spirit of a time that both so aptly expressed."[9]

Partial list of works[edit]

[10][11]

André Gide by Paul Albert Laurens (1924)

Novels and novellas

  • Les cahiers d'André Walter(The Notebooks of André Walter) - 1891 - A semi-autobiographical novel that explores Gide's teen years and his relationships with his cousin Madeleine ("Emmanuèle" in the novel) and his mother.
  • Le voyage d'Urien1893 - A Symbolist novella - Urien and his companions set sail on the fabulous ship Orion to mythological lands, to the stagnant sea of boredom, and to the icy sea.
  • Paludes(Marshlands) - 1895 - "A satire of literary Paris in general, the world of the salons and cénacles, and, in particular, of the group of more-or-less Symbolist young writers who frequented Mallarmé's salon."[12]
  • El Hadj - 1896 - A tale of nineteen pages in the French edition and subtitled "The Treatise of the False Prophet," the narrator (El Hadj) tells of a prince who sets out on a journey with the men of his city. After the prince dies, El Hadj conceals the truth and, forced to become a prophet, he leads the men home.
  • Le Prométhée mal enchaîné(Prometheus Ill-Bound) - 1899 - A light-hearted novella in which Prometheus leaves his mountain, enters a Paris cafe, converses with the waiter and customers, and shows them the eagle eating his liver.
  • L'immoraliste(The Immoralist) - 1902
  • La porte étroite – 1909 (translated as Strait Is the Gate)
  • Isabelle – 1911
  • Les caves du Vatican – 1914 (translated as Lafcadio's Adventures and The Vatican Cellars)
  • La Symphonie Pastorale – 1919 (translated as The Pastoral Symphony)
  • Les faux-monnayeurs – 1925 (translated as The Counterfeiters – 1927)
  • L'école des femmes – 1929
  • Robert – 1930
  • Geneviève – 1936
  • Thésée – 1946

Poetical and lyrical works

  • Le traité du Narcisse – 1891
  • Les poésies d'André Walter – 1892
  • La tentative amoureuse – 1893
  • Les nourritures terrestres – 1897 (translated as The Fruits of the Earth)
  • L'offrande lyrique – 1913 (translation from Tagore)
  • Corydon – 1920
  • Les nouvelles nourritures – 1935

Plays

  • Philoctète – 1899
  • Le roi Candaule – 1901
  • Saül – 1903
  • Le retour de l'enfant prodigue – 1907 (The Return of the Prodigal Infant)
  • Bethsabé – 1912
  • Œdipe – 1931
  • Perséphone – 1934
  • Le retour – 1946 (The Return)
  • Le procès – 1947

Autobiographical works

  • Si le grain ne meurt(translated as If It Die) - 1926 - Gide's autobiography of his childhood and youth, ending with the death of his mother in 1895.
  • Journal 1889–1939 – 1939

Travel writings

  • Feuilles de route 1895–1896 – 1897
  • Amyntas – 1906 (North African Journals)
  • La marche Turque – 1914
  • Voyage au Congo – 1927
  • Le retour de Tchad – 1928
  • Retour de l'U. R. S. S. – 1936
  • Retouches â mon retour de l'U. R. S. S. – 1937

Essays and other writings

  • Réflexions sur quelques points de littérature – 1897
  • Lettres à Angèle – 1900
  • De l'influence en littérature – 1900
  • Les limites de l'art – 1901
  • De l'importance du public – 1903
  • Prétextes – 1903
  • Dostoïevsky d'après sa correspondance – 1908
  • Oscar Wilde – 1910
  • Nouveaux prétextes – 1911
  • Charles-Louis-Philippe – 1911
  • C. R. D. N. – 1911
  • Souvenirs de la Cour d'Assises – 1914
  • Numquid et tu . . .? – 1922
  • Dostoïevsky – 1923
  • Incidences – 1924
  • Caractères – 1925
  • Le journal des faux-monnayeurs – 1926
  • Dindiki – 1927
  • Essai sur Montaigne – 1929
  • Un esprit non-prévenu – 1929
  • La séquestrée de Poitiers – 1930
  • L'affaire Redureau – 1930
  • Notes sur Chopin – 1938 - Reflecting Gide's love of Chopin, this work urges the pianist who plays Chopin to seek, invent, improvise, and gradually discover the composer's thoughts.
  • Découvrons Henri Michaux – 1941
  • Paul Valéry – 1947
  • L'arbitraire – 1947
  • Eloges – 1948
  • Littérature engagée – 1950

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ If It Die: Autobiographical Memoir by André Gide (first edition 1920) (Vintage Books, 1935, translated by Dorothy Bussy: "but when Ali – that was my little guide's name – led me up among the sandhills, in spite of the fatigue of walking in the sand, I followed him; we soon reached a kind of funnel or crater, the rim of which was just high enough to command the surrounding country"..."As soon as we got there, Ali flung the coat and rug down on the sloping sand; he flung himself down too, and stretched on his back"..."I was not such a simpleton as to misunderstand his invitation"..."I seized the hand he held out to me and tumbled him on to the ground." [p. 251]
  2. ^ Out of the past, Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the present (Miller 1995:87)
  3. ^ If It Die: Autobiographical Memoir by André Gide (first edition 1920) (Vintage Books, 1935, translated by Dorothy Bussy: "I should say that if Wilde had begun to discover the secrets of his life to me, he knew nothing as yet of mine; I had taken care to give him no hint of them, either by deed or word."..."No doubt, since my adventure at Sousse, there was not much left for the Adversary to do to complete his victory over me; but Wilde did not know this, nor that I was vanquished beforehand or, if you will"..."that I had already triumphed in my imagination and my thoughts over all my scruples." [p. 286])
  4. ^ André Biography. nobelprize.org
  5. ^ Voyage au Congo suivi du Retour du Tchad, in Lire, July–August 1995 (French)
  6. ^ André Gide as quoted by T. Heggy in his book Culture, Civilization, and Humanity (2003). ISBN 0-7146-5554-6
  7. ^ "André Gide (1869–1951)". Musée virtuel du Protestantisme français. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Andre Gide Biography (1869–1951). eninimports.com
  9. ^ From the backcover of: Alan Sheridan, André Gide: A Life in the Present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  10. ^ All summaries of the works of André Gide are taken from: Alan Sheridan, André Gide: A Life in the Present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. See the index at the back for page references.
  11. ^ Also see the article on Andre Gide in Contemporary Authors Online, 2003, Gale Publishing (accessed 04/11/2014 with library card); and the article on Andre Gide in French on French Wikipedia - https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre_Gide.
  12. ^ Alan Sheridan, p.109.

External links[edit]