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André Gide

André Gide in 1893
Born 22 November 1869(1869-11-22)
Died 19 February 1951 (aged 81)
Occupation Novelist, essayist
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
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André Paul Guillaume Gide (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃dʁe pɔl ɡijom ʒid]) (22 November 1869 – 19 February 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 straight-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 on 22 November 1869, into 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.[1] 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.[2][3]

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 there while residing in Jersey. This period, 1901–1907, is commonly seen as a period of apathy and unsettlement in his life.

In 1908, Gide helped found the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue Française (The New French Review) [4]. In 1916, Marc Allégret, still only 15 years old, became his lover. Marc was the son of Elie Allégret, best man at Gide's wedding. Of Allégret's five children, André Gide adopted Marc. The two fled 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 such as 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 sired a daughter, Catherine, by Elisabeth van Rysselberghe – a much younger woman whom he had known since childhood – who was the daughter of his closest woman friend, Maria Monnom, the wife Belgian neo-impressionist painter Théo van Rysselberghe. This would cause the only crisis in the long-standing and intense friendship between Allégret and Gide. This was possibly his only sexual liaison with a woman and it was brief in the extreme, but Catherine became his only descendant by blood. He liked to call Elisabeth "La Dame Blanche" ("The White Lady"). Elisabeth 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 no longer 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.

In 1924, he published an autobiography, Unless the seed dies (French: Si le grain ne meurt).

After 1925, he began to demand more humane conditions for criminals.


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.[5]


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 Soviet Communism. 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 19 February 1951. The Roman Catholic Church placed his works on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952.[6]


  • "Fish die belly-upward and rise to the surface; it is their way of falling"
  • "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time"

Partial list of works

André Gide

"The reading by Emile Verhaeren" (detail), pointillist painting by Théo van Rysselberghe
  • 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 (translated as The Fruits of the Earth)
  • 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 correspondance – 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 and The Vatican Cellars)
  • 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


  1. ^ If It Die: Autobiographical Memoir by Andre Gide (first edition 1920) (Vintage Books 1935 translated by Dorothy Bussy: "but when Ali - that was my little guide's name - led me up among the sandhills, in spite of the fatigue of walking in the sand, I followed him; we soon reached a kind of funnel or crater, the rim of which was just high enough to command the surrounding country". . ."As soon as we got there, Ali flung the coat and rug down on the sloping sand; he flung himself down too, and stretched on his back". . ."I was not such a simpleton as to misunderstand his invitation". . ."I seized the hand he held out to me and tumbled him on to the ground."[p.251]
  2. ^ Out of the past, Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the present (Miller 1995:87)
  3. ^ If It Die: Autobiographical Memoir by Andre Gide (first edition 1920) (Vintage Books 1935 translated by Dorothy Bussy: "I should say that if Wilde had begun to discover the secrets of his life to me, he knew nothing as yet of mine; I had taken care to give him no hint of them, either by deed or word." . . ."No doubt, since my adventure at Sousse, there was not much left for the Adversary to do to complete his victory over me; but Wilde did not know this, nor that I was vanquished beforehand or, if you will". . ."that I had already triumphed in my imagination and my thoughts over all my scruples."[p.286])
  4. ^ Nobel Prize Biography
  5. ^ Voyage au Congo suivi du Retour du Tchad, in Lire, July–August 1995 (French)
  6. ^ Andre Gide Biography | (1869–1951) (André Gide Biography)

See also

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sin is whatever obscures the soul.

André Paul Guillaume Gide (22 November 186919 February 1951) was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947.


  • Familles, je vous hais! foyers clos; portes refermées; possessions jalouses du bonheur.
    • Families, I hate you! Shut-in homes, closed doors, jealous possessions of happiness.
      • Les Nourritures Terrestres [Fruits of the Earth] (1897), book IV
  • Let every emotion be capable becoming an intoxication to you. If what you eat fails to make you drunk, it is because you are not hungry enough.
    • Les Nourritures Terrestres (1897)
  • What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it; what another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable.
    • Les Nourritures Terrestres (1897), Envoi
  • True kindness presupposes the faculty of imagining as one’s own the suffering and joys of others.
    • Portraits and Aphorisms (1903), Pretexts
  • Le péché, c'est ce qui obscurcit l'âme.
    • Sin is whatever obscures the soul.
      • La Symphonie Pastorale (1919)
  • There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.
    • Si le grain ne meurt [If It Die] (1924), ch. III
  • On ne découvre pas de terre nouvelle sans consentir à perdre de vue, d'abord et longtemps, tout rivage.
    • One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.
      • Les faux-monnayeurs [The Counterfeiters] (1925)
      • Often misquoted as "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
  • The most decisive actions of our life — I mean those that are most likely to decide the whole course of our future — are, more often than not, unconsidered.
    • Les Faux Monnayeurs (1925), Pt. 3, ch. 16
  • C'est avec de beaux sentiments qu'on fait de la mauvaise littérature.
    • It is with noble sentiments that bad literature gets written.
      • Letter to François Mauriac (1928)
  • Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.
    • Poétique

Journals 1889-1949

  • Man is more interesting than men. God made him and not them in his image. Each one is more precious than all.
    • Literature and Ethics, entry for 1901
  • The abominable effort to take one’s sins with one to paradise.
    • Detached Pages, entry for 1913
  • No theory is good unless it permits, not rest, but the greatest work. No theory is good except on condition that one use it to go on beyond.
    • Detached Pages, entry for 1913
  • Old hands soil, it seems, whatever they caress, but they too have their beauty when they are joined in prayer. Young hands were made for caresses and the sheathing of love. It is a pity to make them join too soon.
    • Entry for January 21, 1929
  • The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity.
    • Entry for November 23, 1940

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