Authors: André Gide

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist, playwright, travel writer, and social critic

Identity: Gay or bisexual

Author Works

Long Fiction:

L’Immoraliste, 1902 (The Immoralist, 1930)

La Porte étroite, 1909 (Strait Is the Gate, 1924)

Les Caves du Vatican, 1914 (The Vatican Swindle, 1925; better known as Lafcadio’s Adventures, 1927)

La Symphonie pastorale, 1919 (The Pastoral Symphony, 1931)

Les Faux-monnayeurs, 1925 (The Counterfeiters, 1927)

Thésée, 1946 (Theseus, 1950)

Short Fiction:

Paludes, 1895 (Marshlands, 1953)

Le Prométhée mal enchaîné, 1899 (Prometheus Misbound, 1953)

Drama:

Philoctète, pb. 1899 (Philoctetes, 1952)

Le Roi Candaule, pr., pb. 1901 (King Candaules, 1952)

Saül, pb. 1903 (English translation, 1952)

Bethsabé, pb. 1903 (Bathsheba, 1952)

My Theater, pb. 1952

Nonfiction:

Amyntas, 1906 (English translation, 1958)

Corydon, 1911, 1924 (English translation, 1950)

Le Journal des fauxmonnayeurs, 1926 (Journal of the Counterfeiters, 1951)

Si le grain ne meurt, 1926 (If It Die . . . , 1935)

Voyage au Congo, 1927 (Travels in the Congo, 1929)

Retour de l’U.R.S.S., 1936 (Return from the U.S.S.R., 1937)

Retouches à mon “Retour de l’U.R.S.S.,” 1937 (Afterthoughts on the U.S.S.R., 1938)

Journal, 1939-1950, 1954 (The Journals of André Gide, 1889-1949, 1947-1951)

Et nunc manet in te, 1947, 1951 (Madeleine, 1952)

Ainsi soit-il: Ou, Les Jeux sont faits, 1952 (So Be It: Or, The Chips Are Down, 1959)

Miscellaneous:

Les Cahiers d’André Walter, 1891 (The Notebooks of André Walter, 1968)

Le Traité du Narcisse, 1891 (“Narcissus,” in The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1953)

Le Voyage d’Urien, 1893 (Urien’s Voyage, 1964)

Les Nourritures terrestres, 1897 (Fruits of the Earth, 1949)

Le Retour de l’enfant prodigue, 1907 (The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1953)

Les Nouvelles Nourritures, 1935 (New Fruits of the Earth, 1949)

Biography

André Gide (zheed) was a distinguished French writer, the significance of whose work was finally recognized by the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. This award was the termination of a debate that had for many decades been carried on in France regarding whether Gide, a writer of great talent and diversity, should be given official sanction and recognition such as membership in the French Academy indicates.{$I[AN]9810001501}{$I[A]Gide, André}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Gide, André}{$I[geo]GAY OR BISEXUAL;Gide, André}{$I[tim]1869;Gide, André}

André Gide

(©The Nobel Foundation)

During much of his career Gide was suspect because of his revelation in Corydon, which is essentially a defense of homosexuality, of his own sexual preference. Also, from 1936 on, his Return from the U.S.S.R. stood–in the minds of left-wing critics–as the record of Gide’s retreat from a wholehearted admiration of post-revolutionary Russia. Indeed, Gide’s whole career, in a way that is more typical of France than of most other countries, was a constant theme for debate and speculation. Did aesthetic excellence mean that one should overlook a writer’s challenge to conventional social patterns? Did this excellence permit one to overlook the damage Gide may have done to young and impressionable readers? Such questions were asked by distinguished contemporaries such as Paul Claudel and François Mauriac.

The circumstances of Gide’s origins underlined these questions. He was born of respectable parents in Paris in 1869, and he was raised in a household in which Protestant piety and artistic responsiveness were closely aligned. His education was thorough, and he had the financial security to undertake early literary experiments such as The Notebooks of André Walter, experiments that soon placed him within the confines of literary coteries that included Stéphane Mallarmé and Pierre Louÿs.

Against this cultivated background of privilege and taste, Gide’s personal history unfolded, a history which is described in his journals and memoirs and is displayed in slightly altered form in works of fiction such The Immoralist and The Counterfeiters. As Gide reveals this history, he presents in the foreground a struggle to choose between inherited patterns of behavior–norms that were Protestant and devout–and faithfulness to the impulses the writer found in his own nature. Gide married his cousin, Madeleine Rondeaux, in 1895 and thereafter regarded her as a principle of stability in his life.

His regard for her, however, did not keep him from homosexual involvements, notably with future film director Marc Allégret. In 1918, Madeleine, angry at Gide’s involvement with Allégret, burned all the letters Gide had written to her since their adolescence; Gide claimed that her act had ruined his career, saying the letters were the only true record of his life and were irreplaceable. Gide did not regard with indifference the agonies of his wife; he too experienced pain because part of his nature drew him away from her and the sober piety of French Protestantism. (Gide’s work is full of phrases that indicate that he was a reader of the Gospels.) But Gide felt just as strongly the need to be faithful to his own emotional nature, whatever the cost in personal difficulties and social scandal. Gide had great appeal in a century that was already critical of the old certainties typified by religion and traditional morality.

The events of Gide’s life are a record of the publication of many books and of wide-ranging travels in Europe and Africa that were in accord with his restless spirit. In his early years he found the cultures of North Africa particularly attractive. Toward the end of the 1920’s he was strongly attracted by the social experiments of the Soviet Union and finally traveled in that country. His report, in 1936, on what he found there–the triumph of an unimaginative dictatorship over the social aspirations of the 1917 revolution–aroused almost as much controversy as the personal avowals of Corydon. Because of his censures of Russia, Gide was the center of a storm that did not abate until the beginning of World War II. This experience convinced Gide that artists take an unwise risk when they involve themselves in current problems, and during World War II he would not allow his private loyalties to become enmeshed in the conflict as they had been by the Russian experiment and, still earlier, by the abuses of French colonial policy in the Congo.

Gide’s own writing is, with the exceptions noted, a monument to his convictions that writers have a first and final duty to their work and not to particular moral and social problems that exist in the society to which they belong. Faithfulness to an artistic task, Gide decided, lies at the center of artists’ morality; they must avoid bowing to the protests of the society they address. Even more painful, artists must ignore the protests of their own conscience that speak for the partial truths of childhood. Gide’s works frequently express this emphasis on aesthetic faithfulness by presenting a character who is a writer and who is writing a book within the story that Gide himself is writing. Such a character appears in The Counterfeiters; moreover, there also exists a Journal of the Counterfeiters that Gide composed while he was writing the novel itself. This emphasis on art and the self as it is involved in the creation of art suggests the myth of Narcissus.

Gide was strongly drawn, as Justin O’Brien points out in his Portrait of André Gide (1953), by ancient myths as well as by scriptural narratives. Gide was convinced that the old tales are naïve only on the surface; actually, they offer the modern writer inexhaustible suggestions for creation. Indeed, the tales are richer than the codes readers have associated with them; Gide’s defenders consider that he was successful, in part, because he detached himself from the codes and sought the reality, whether in ancient myth or in the sorrow and delight of his own life and art.

BibliographyBettinson, Christopher. Gide: A Study. London: Heinemann, 1977. The first chapter provides a succinct biography of Gide, and subsequent chapters concentrate on the major novels, with a final chapter on his social and political activities and writings. Includes a short bibliography. A good introductory study.Brée, Germaine. Gide. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1963. A study by one of the great scholars of modern French literature, with chapters on the Gide of fact and legend, the man of letters, and on his major novels. Includes detailed notes and bibliography.Cordle, Thomas. André Gide. 1969. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1992. An introductory study, with chapters on “The Gidean Personality,” “Decadence and Symbolism,” “Romantic Resurgence,” and “Social Realism.” Includes notes and bibliography.Driskill, Richard T. Madonnas and Maidens: Sexual Confusion in Lawrence and Gide. New York: Peter Lang, 1999. Examines the issues of sexuality, Christianity, and psychology in Gide and D. H. Lawrence.Fowlie, Wallace. André Gide: His Life and Art. New York: Macmillan, 1965. One of the enduring, standard works on Gide, with chapters on his childhood and adolescence, early career, major novels, journals and autobiography, relationship to Catholicism, and his vocation as a writer.Littlejohn, David, ed. Gide: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970. Essays by distinguished critics on Gide’s fiction, including Germaine Brée on The Counterfeiters and Jean-Paul Sartre on Gide’s career. The introduction, chronology, and bibliography provide a comprehensive overview of his life and career.Lucey, Michael. Gide’s Bent: Sexuality, Politics, Writing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A specialized study for advanced students of Gide. Lucey discusses both his fiction and nonfiction.Walker, David H., ed. André Gide. New York: Longman, 1996. Criticism and interpretation of Gide’s oeuvre. Includes bibliographical references and an index.
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