Friday, June 03, 2005

Andre Gide


Andre Gide, born in 1869, was one of France’s most famous writers and he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

Marc Beigbeder, a professor of philosophy and literature at the Lycee de Carthage, has written Nobel Prize Library: Gide, Gjellerup, Heyse, 1971.

Scott Fish has written about Gide at

According to Beigbeder, Gide’s ‘reaction to natural beauty was never passive; it involved all of his sensibility and intelligence.’

In Si Le Grain Ne Meurt (1924-26, If It Die: An Autobiography) , Gide describes a childhood sexual episode with the concierge's son, while both of them were hidden under the family table.

Beigbeder states that Gide was ‘unable to find the flesh displeasing.’ In fact, the demands of the flesh ‘could not be ignored.’

At the age of 24, Gide traveled to North Africa. According to Beigbeder, ‘Gide’s Protestant conscience made him sleep dutifully with various women during his stay.’

In North Africa he also enjoyed sex with an Arab boy called Ali, as related in his autobiography Si Le Grain Ne Meurt.

When he returned to North Africa he met up with Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas, and had further adventures with young Arab boys.

Gide got married - to his ‘pure-minded’ cousin Madeleine Rondeaux. He never consummated the marriage.

When Gide wrote Les Nourritures Terrestres (Fruits of the Earth, 1897), it was ‘a breakthrough for Gide’ because it was ‘a positive celebration of the senses, of self- indulgence in beauty.’

In Gide's L'Immoraliste, the chief character, Michel, is married to Marceline. But Michel is attracted to the naked young boys of North Africa and the youthful farm boys on his estate in Normandy.

According to Scott Fish, Michel rejects ‘the Protestant ethic of duty and bourgeois morality.’ He glorifies in ‘a self released from all moral constraint.’

In 1916, Gide began a relationship with the young Marc Allégret. They travelled to Switzerland together.

On his return to France, Gide discovered that his wife, ‘in reaction to his infidelities’, had burned all of his letters to her.

In 1926, Gide published Les Faux-Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters) in 1926. According to Scott Fish, ‘the only relationship in the novel that ultimately succeeds is that of Eduard and his young nephew Olivier Molinier, who are clearly based on Gide and Marc Allégret.’

According to Fish, ‘the relationship between Eduard and Olivier also furnished Gide an opportunity to make a case for pederasty which Gide saw as permissible because it had been honored in ancient Greece and Rome.’

Gide’s Corydon (1924) is in the form of four Socratic dialogues. The narrator has the dialogues with Corydon, a former doctor preparing a text entitled Défense de la pédérastie (In Defense of Pederasty).

In Corydon, Gide points out that homosexuality had a civilizing influence on ancient Greek society.

Corydon's defense of homosexuality includes an examination bisexuality in the animal kingdom.

Beigbeder describes Gide’s attitude to free-will: "Gide equates freedom with the gratuitous, with chance. By acting gratuitously, he asserts, the individual is liberated from himself, leaving self-interest, the routine, and the commonplace behind."

Gide rejected priestly religion, but he did like the joy and love that was found in the four Gospels.

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