André Gide

        André Gide.

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        André Gide

        "Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."
        - André Gide

        a n d r é   g i d e  :   f a c t s

      • Name: Andre Gide
      • Birthname: André Paul Guillaume Gide
      • Born: 22 November 1869
      • Place of birth: Paris, France
      • Awards: 1947 Nobel prize in literature
      • Died: 19 February 1951
      • Place of death: Paris, France
      • Cause of death: Pneumonia

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        Andre Paul Guillaume Gide was born in Paris in 1869. His father, a professor of law at the University of Paris, was descended from Cévennes Huguenots and his mother was a Norman heiress. His uncle was the political economist, Charles Gide. Much of his childhood and later life was spent in his mother's native Normandy.

        His father died when he was eleven, so he grew up in a female household with his very possessive mother. As a child he was often ill and his education at the École Alsacienne, where he developed an interest in literature, was interrupted by long stays in the South, where he was instructed by private tutors. Gide had a strict Protestant upbringing. Throughout his adolescence he experienced an intense religious fervour.

        As his family was wealthy, he was able to devote himself to writing. His first prose work was the symbolist influenced, anonymously authored Les Cahiers d'André Walter (1891, The Notebooks of Andre Walter). He had started it at 18. The book, published anonymously, told the story of an unhappy young man and his pure love for his cousin Emmanuèle. Next year appeared his first poems, Walter's Poésies, but by 1900 he had practically abandoned poetry.

        Gide fell in love with his cousin, the devoutly Protestant Madeleine Rondeaux, but the family separated them. In 1895, following his mother's death, Gide married Madeleine, who inspired a number of his works. Although they loved each other, their marriage was unconsummated.

        In 1893 and 1894 Gide traveled to North Africa, learning different moral and sexual conventions which gave basis for his psychological novels The Immoralist (1902) and Strait is the Gate (1909). In Algeria he met Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, who shocked him with their boldness and precipitated his revolt against his puritanical background. It was here that he realised that he was homosexual. Henceforth his work lived on the never resolved tensions between a strict artistic discipline, a puritanical moralism, and the desire for unlimited sensual indulgence and abandonment to life. Les Nourritures terrestres (1897, Fruits of the Earth), a book of prose poems, became in the 1920s his most popular work, influencing a generation of young writers, including the existentialists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. At this time he became interested in Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, who with Montaigne and Goethe, greatly influenced his work.

        In 1908, Gide founded, with other writers, La Nouvelle Revue Francaise. It was he who persuaded them to reject the first volume of Marcel Proust's novel A la Recherche du Temps Perdu on the grounds that a little socialite like Proust could have nothing of interest to say. He was later to apologise.

        Gide felt that his most important work was Corydon (1924), which was highly controversial in content (sexual matters) and in treatment of its subject. It is generally agreed however, that his outstandng work are his Journals (1889-1913, 1914-1927,1928-1939, 1939-1949), which provide a fascinating and valuable insight into a great literary mind.

        Gide divided his narrative works into soties such as Les Caves du Vatican (1914, The Vatican Cellars / Lafcadio's Adventures) and classically restrained récits, for example, La Porte étroite (1909, Strait is the Gate) and Symphonie Pastorale (1919). The only work which he considered a novel was the structurally complex and experimental Les Faux Monnayeurs (1926, The Counterfeiters).

        Until the twenties Gide was known chiefly in avant-garde and esoteric literary circles, but in his later years he became a highly influential, although always controversial figure. After the war, he was seen as one of the foremost representatives of the modern literature of introspection, with sexual abnormality as its theme. He became widely read and even more widely discussed, influencing the aesthetic and moral values of the inter-war generation. Throughout his career Gide used his writings to examine moral questions. He is as well known for his influence as a moralist and as a thinker as for his contributions to literature.

        He became increasingly introspective and questioned his religious faith, pronouncing himself an agnostic, as he struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality. Gide taught that people must be true to their own nature, but by following this, he was false and cruel to his wife. After her death he was to reproach himself.

        In Symphonie Pastorale (1919), written in the form of the diary, Gide explored the hypocrisy which masquerades as Christian pity and duty. In the story a Swiss Protestant pastor adopts and educates the blind orphan Gertrude. The pastor is afraid that Gertrude loves him less than his son Jacques, and seduces the girl on the eve of an operation, which may restore her sight. After the successful operation Gertrude understands the truth about the people around her and she commits suicide. The pastor doesn't realize his own blindness before he starts to re-examine the bases of his thinking and behavior.

        He travelled widely. His trip to the Congo in 1926 led to a scathing report on economic abuses by French firms and resulted in reforms. In the same year he published his self-revealing autobiography Si le Grain ne Mert (If It Die: An Autobiography).

        In the 1930s he announced his conversion to Communism, which shocked his readers, but he also was rejected by his new admirers after his disillusioning trip to the Soviet Union. His disillusioned report of his journey to Russia, Return from the U.S.S.R (1936), scandalized another. Gide's interests went far beyond the confines of French literature. He translated Shakespeare, Whitman, Conrad, and Rilke. He was an influential literary critic (Prétextes, 1903; Nouveaux Prétextes, 1911) and was especially attracted to problematic writers like Dostoevsky, about whom he wrote a book titled Dostoevsky (1923).

        Among Gide's last work was Thésée (1946, Two Legends: Oedipus and Theseus), the reworking of an old myth in which contributed to the renewed use of Greek myth in the 20th century literature, like the earlier Oedipe (1931). Gide's collected works have been published in fifteen volumes (1933-39).

        In 1947, he won the Nobel prize.

        He died in 1951. The following year the Vatican placed all his works on the Index of Forbidden Books.

        a n d r é   g i d e  :  s e l e c t e d   b o o k s

      • The Notebooks of Andre Walter (1891)
      • Walter's Poésies (1892)
      • Fruits of the Earth (1897)
      • The Immoralist (1902)
      • Le Retour de l'Enfant Prodigue (1907)
      • Strait is the Gate (1909)
      • Isabelle (1911)
      • The Vatican Cellars / Lafcadio's Adventures (1914)
      • Symphonie Pastorale (1919)
      • Dostoevsky (1923)
      • Corydon (1924)
      • If It Die: An Autobiography (1924-26)
      • The Counterfeiters (1926)
      • Travels in the Congo (1927)
      • Retour du Tchad (1928)
      • Living Thoughts of Montaigne (1929)
      • The School for Wives: Robert (1929)
      • Les Nouvelles Nourritures (1935)
      • Return from the U.S.S.R (1936)
      • Afterthoughts on my return from the U.R.S.S (1937)
      • Journals 1889-1913 (1939)
      • Journals 1914-1927 (1946)
      • Journals 1928-1939 (1946)
      • Two Legends: Oedipus and Theseus(1946)
      • Journals 1939-1949 (1950)
      • Madeleine (1951)

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