Andre Gide

André Gide


André Paul Guillaume Gide (November 22, 1869February 19, 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 strait-laced 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 puritan 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

Gide was born in Paris, France on November 22, 1869, in a middle-class Protestant family. His father was a Paris University professor of law and 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.

In 1893 and 1894 Gide traveled in northern Africa. Gide realized he was homosexual after an encounter with a boy prostitute in North Africa. He befriended Oscar Wilde in Paris, and in 1895 Gide and Wilde met in Algiers. There, Wilde had the impression that he had introduced Gide to homosexuality, but, in fact, Gide had already discovered this on his own.

The middle years

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 here when he was residing in Jersey. This period 1901-07 is commonly seen as a period of apathy and disquiet in his life.

In 1908, Gide helped found the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française (The New French Review). In 1916, Marc Allégret, 16, became his lover. He was the son of Elie Allegret, best man at Gide's wedding. Of Allegret's five children, André Gide adopted Marc. The two eloped to London, in retribution for which his wife burned all his correspondence, "the best part of myself," as he was later to comment. In 1918, he met Dorothy Bussy, who was his friend for over thirty years and who would translate many of his works into English.

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

In 1923, he conceived a daughter, Catherine, with Elisabeth van Rysselberghe, a much younger woman, who was the daughter of his closest woman friend Maria Monnom, the wife of the Belgian neo-impressionist painter Théo van Rysselberghe. This would cause the only crisis in the long-standing and intense friendship between the two men. Gide had known Elisabeth since childhood. This was possibly his only sexual liaison with a woman and was brief in the extreme, but Catherine became his only descendant by blood. He liked to call Elisabeth "La Dame Blanche" (French: the White Lady). She eventually left her husband to move to Paris and manage the practical aspects of Gide's life (she had adjoining apartments built for each of them on the rue Vavin). She worshipped him, but evidently they never 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.

After 1925, he began to demand more humane conditions for criminals. In 1926, he published an autobiography, If it die (French: Si le grain ne meurt).


From July 1926 to May 1927, he travelled through the French Equatorial Africa colony with his lover Marc Allégret. He 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 during 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.


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 the idealogy. 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.

The 1940s

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.

Gide died on February 19, 1951. The Roman Catholic Church placed his works on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952.

Partial list of works

  • Les cahiers d'André Walter - 1891
  • Le traité du Narcisse - 1891
  • Les poésies d'André Walter - 1892
  • Le voyage d'Urien - 1893
  • La tentative amoureuse - 1893
  • Paludes - 1895
  • Réflexions sur quelques points de littérature - 1897
  • Les nourritures terrestres - 1897
  • Feuilles de route 1895-1896 - 1897
  • El Hadj
  • Le Prométhée mal enchaîné - 1899
  • Philoctète - 1899
  • Lettres à Angèle - 1900
  • De l'influence en littérature - 1900
  • Le roi Candaule - 1901
  • Les limites de l'art - 1901
  • L'immoraliste - 1902 (translated by Richard Howard as The Immoralist)
  • Saül - 1903
  • De l'importance du public - 1903
  • Prétextes - 1903
  • Amyntas - 1906
  • Le retour de l'enfant prodigue - 1907
  • Dostoïevsky d'après sa correspondence - 1908
  • La porte étroite - 1909 (translated as Strait Is the Gate)
  • Oscar Wilde - 1910
  • Nouveaux prétextes - 1911
  • Charles-Louis-Philippe - 1911
  • C. R. D. N. - 1911
  • Isabelle - 1911
  • Bethsabé - 1912
  • Souvenirs de la Cour d'Assises - 1914
  • Les caves du Vatican - 1914 (translated as Lafcadio's Adventures)
  • La marche Turque - 1914
  • La symphonie pastorale - 1919
  • Corydon - 1920
  • Numquid et tu . . .? - 1922
  • Dostoïevsky - 1923
  • Incidences - 1924
  • Caractères - 1925
  • Les faux-monnayeurs - 1925 (translated as The Counterfeiters - 1927)
  • Si le grain ne meurt - 1926 (translated as If It Die)
  • Le journal des faux-monnayeurs - 1926
  • Dindiki - 1927
  • Voyage au Congo - 1927
  • Le retour de Tchad - 1928
  • L'école des femmes - 1929
  • Essai sur Montaigne - 1929
  • Un esprit non prévenu - 1929
  • Robert - 1930
  • La séquestrée de Poitiers - 1930
  • L'affaire Redureau - 1930
  • Œdipe - 1931
  • Perséphone - 1934
  • Les nouvelles nourritures - 1935
  • Geneviève - 1936
  • Retour de l'U. R. S. S. - 1936
  • Retouches â mon retour de l'U. R. S. S. - 1937
  • Notes sur Chopin - 1938
  • Journal 1889-1939 - 1939
  • Découvrons Henri Michaux - 1941
  • Thésée - 1946
  • Le retour - 1946
  • Paul Valéry - 1947
  • Le procès - 1947
  • L'arbitraire - 1947
  • Eloges - 1948
  • Littérature engagée - 1950


See also

External links

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