Heritage and youth.
In 1894 Gide returned to North Africa, where he met Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, who encouraged him to admit the nature of his suppressed homosexuality. He was recalled to France because of his mother's illness, however, and she died in May 1895.
In October 1895 Gide married his cousin Madeleine, who had earlier refused him. Early in 1896 he was elected mayor of the commune of La Roque--at 27 the youngest mayor in France. He took his duties seriously but managed to complete Fruits of the Earth. It was published in 1897 and fell completely flat, although after World War I it was to become Gide's most popular and influential work. In the postwar generation, its call to each individual to express fully whatever is in him evoked an immediate response.
In the early 1900s Gide had already begun to be widely known as a literary critic, and in 1908 he was foremost among those who founded La Nouvelle Revue Francaise, the literary review that was to unite progressive French writers until World War II. During World War I Gide worked in Paris, first for the Red Cross, then in a soldiers' convalescent home, and finally in providing shelter to war refugees. In 1916 he returned to Cuverville, his home since his marriage, and began to write again.
The war had intensified Gide's anguish, and early in 1916 he had begun to keep a second Journal (published in 1926 as Numquid et tu) in which he recorded his search for God. Finally, however, unable to resolve the dilemma (expressed in his statement "Catholicism is inadmissible, Protestantism is intolerable; and I feel profoundly Christian"), he resolved to achieve his own ethic, and by casting off his sense of guilt to become his true self. Now, in a desire to liquidate the past, he began his autobiography, Si le grain ne meurt (1926; If It Die . . .), an account of his life from birth to marriage that is among the great works of confessional literature. In 1918 his friendship for the young Marc Allegret caused a serious crisis in his marriage, when his wife in jealous despair destroyed her "dearest possession on earth"--his letters to her.
After the war a great change took place in Gide, and his face began to assume the serene expression of his later years. By the decision involved in beginning his autobiography and the completion in 1918 of Corydon (a Socratic dialogue in defense of homosexuality begun earlier), he had achieved at last an inner reconciliation. Corydon's publication in 1924 was disastrous, though, and Gide was violently attacked, even by his closest friends.
Gide called his next work, Les Faux-Monnayeurs (1926; The Counterfeiters), his only novel. He meant by this that in conception, range, and scope it was on a vaster scale than his tales or his soties. It is the most complex and intricately constructed of his works, dealing as it does with the relatives and teachers of a group of schoolboys subject to corrupting influences both in and out of the classroom. The Counterfeiters treats all of Gide's favourite themes in a progression of discontinuous scenes and happenings that come close to approximating the texture of daily life itself.
In 1925 Gide set off for French Equatorial Africa. When he returned he published Voyage au Congo (1927; Travels in the Congo), in which he criticized French colonial policies. The compassionate, objective concern for humanity that marks the final phase of Gide's life found expression in political activities at this time. He became the champion of society's victims and outcasts, demanding more humane conditions for criminals and equality for women. For a time it seemed to him that he had found a faith in Communism. In 1936 he set out on a visit to the Soviet Union, but later expressed his disillusionment with the Soviet system in Retour de l'U.R.S.S. (1936; Return from the U.S.S.R.) and Retouches a mon retour de l'U.R.S.S. (1937; Afterthoughts on the U.S.S.R.).
Gide's lifelong emphasis on the self-aware and sincere individual as the touchstone of both collective and individual morality was complemented by the tolerant and enlightened views he expressed on literary, social, and political questions throughout his career. For most of his life a controversial figure, Gide was long regarded as a revolutionary for his open support of the claims of the individual's freedom of action in defiance of conventional morality. Before his death he was widely recognized as an important humanist and moralist in the great 17th-century French tradition. The integrity and nobility of his thought and the purity and harmony of style that characterize his stories, verse, and autobiographical works have ensured his place among the masters of French literature.
Stories, satires, and fables: Paludes (1895; Marshlands, 1953); Le Promethee mal enchaine (1899; Prometheus Misbound, 1953); L'Immoraliste (1902; The Immoralist, 1930); La Porte etroite (1909; Strait Is the Gate, 1924); Isabelle (1911; Eng. trans. in Two Symphonies, 1931); Les Caves du Vatican (1914; The Vatican Swindle, 1925; Lafcadio's Adventures, 1927); La Symphonie pastorale (1919; "The Pastoral Symphony," in Two Symphonies, 931); L'Ecole des femmes (1929; The School for Wives, 1950); Rober (1929; "Robert," in The School for Wives, 1950); Geneieve (1936; "Genevieve; or the Unfinished Confidence," in The School for Wives, 1950); Thesee (1946; "Theseus," in Two Legends: Oedipus and Theseus, 1950).
Novel: Les Faux-Monnayeurs (1926; The Counterfeiters, 1927; also as The Coiners).
Drama: Philoctete (1899; "Philoctetes," in The Return of the Prodigal, 1953); Le Roi Candaule (1901; "King Candaules," in My Theater, 1951); Saul (1903; Eng. trans. in The Return of the Prodigal, 1953); Bethsabe (1912; "Bathsheba," in The Return of the Prodigal, 1953); Oedipe (1931; "Oedipus," in Two Legends: Oedipus and Theseus, 1950); Persephone (1934; Eng. trans. in My Theater, 1951); Le Treizieme arbre (1935); Robert, ou l'interet general (1944-45); Le Retour (1946); Les Caves du Vatican (1950).
Criticism: Pretextes (1903; Pretexts, 1959); Nouveaux pretextes (1911); Dostoievsky (1923; Eng. trans. 1925); Incidences (1924); Le Journal des Faux-Monnayeurs (1926; The Logbook of the Coiners, 1952); Essai sur Montaigne (1929; Montaigne, 1929); Divers (1931); Interviews imaginaires (1943; Imaginary Interviews, 1944); Attendu que . . . (1943); L'Enseignement de Poussin (1945; Poussin, 1947); Poetique (1947); Prefaces (1948); Rencontres (1948); Eloges (1948); Notes sur Chopin (1948; Notes on Chopin, 1949).
Travel: Voyage au Congo (1927), and Le Retour du Tchad (1928; Travels in the Congo, 1929); Dindiki (1927); Retour de l'U.R.S.S. (1936; Return from the U.S.S.R., 1937); Retouches a mon retour de l'U.R.S.S. (1937; Afterthoughts on the U.S.S.R., 1937).
Journal: Journal, 1889-1939 (1939); Journal, 1939-49 (1954), including most other autobiographical works; Journals of Andre Gide, 4 vol. (1947-51).
Critical studies in English include Justin O'Brien, Portrait of Andre
Gide (1953, reprinted 1977); Enid Starkie, Andre Gide (1953), a sympathetic
brief guide based on a long friendship with Gide; Germaine Bree, Gide
(1963, reprinted 1985; originally published in French, 1953); Wallace
Fowlie, Andre Gide: His Life and Art (1965), an interesting account
of the development of Gide's thought; Albert J. Guerard, Andre Gide,
2nd ed. (1969), by a specialist on Gide; G.W. Ireland, Andre Gide: A
Study of His Creative Writings (1970), a discussion of his novels; Patrick
Pollard, Andre Gide: Homosexual Moralist (1991), researching Gide's
sources of sexual themes; and Michael Lucey, Gide's Bent: Sexuality,
Politics, Writing (1995), on sexual themes.
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