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The Life and Works of Andre Gide

by Marc Beigbeder

from pp 105-114 of the book: Nobel Prize Library: Gide, Gjellerup, Heyse. Helvetica Press 1971

Marc Beigbeder is a professor of philosophy and literature at the Lycee de Carthage.
Translated by Helga Harrison.



THE WORKS OF Andre Gide, more than most literary productions, are inseparable from the man's life. Gide understood this and talked a great deal about himself to others, right up until his death. Stories about him abound often contradictory in what they seem to reveal of the man. But Gide's life, like his works, embraced ambiguities. The question is, what final image of the man emerges from it all?

In a life at once open and discreet, Gide was motivated by nothing so much as his own literary genius. Andre Gide decided in childhood to become a writer, and he unerringly pursued his chosen course.

In the modern world, the vocation of the writer often has a threefold aim: first, to escape from a set of circumstances; second to do so in an indirect, sublimated way; and, finally, to reach out from one's particular situation to embrace the universal. Gide's particular set of circumstances was shaped almost entirely by family background and his Protestant upbringing. The Protestantism of the late nineteenth century instilled a personal dedication, a need for commitment, and a constant scrutiny of oneself and ones feelings. In Gide, this influence led to those examinations of conscience in which he indulged to the end of his days.

Gide's father died when the boy was quite young, and his life at home was largely influenced by the women of the family. They allowed him great freedom and he did practically anything he wanted. His sense of individuality, indeed of fantasy, was encouraged by such circumstances. So was his passion for nature and his sense of pleasure, of innocent enchantment, almost of intoxication in discovering the beauties of the countryside. "I was passionately fond of the country around Uzes, of the valley of the Fontaine d'Ure and above all of the garrigue," he recalled. At first, Marie, the family's maid went with him on long walks. Like every true Swiss woman, she loved flowers and they carried them home by the armful. The aridity and bareness of the garrigue made the flower gathering more difficult, but added to Gide's delight in it.

As the family traveled, young Gide explored nature in new settings, still sharing his discoveries with approving women. In Si le Grain ne Meurt (If It Die . . . 1924) we have Gide's impressions of seeing eucalyptus trees in flower during a visit to the Cote d'Azur with his mother and Anna Shackleton, a friend of the family: "The first one I saw sent me into transports; I was alone, but I ran off at once to announce the event to my mother and Anna and I did not rest satisfied till I had dragged Anna to the spot where the tree of wonders grew." He also went to the islands of Lerins, where he discovered the submarine flora and fauna in the crannies of the rocks displaying "their splendor with oriental magnificence."

These impressions were shaped by the mature writer, but with age he neither in vented nor distorted the boy's sensations. His reaction to natural beauty was never passive; it involved all of his sensibility and intelligence.

Gide craved novelty, change, and surprise for the pleasure they gave, but he did not let his experience overwhelm him. He took them apart, mastered them, and played with them-like the kaleidoscope he once took to pieces, to make it yield its secret. His passion for analysis, his need to know more, his unaggressive tenacity - traits derived directly from his Protestantism - were freely cultivated at home, in the company of women. Yet at the Ecole Alsatienne, he gave the impression of being stupid and uncouth. Asked by his teacher to repeat the observation that the words coudrier and noisetier designated the same tree, he would not - indeed, could not - answer. Sent out to the playground, then told to come back and repeat the few words required, he was just as tongue-tied as before, to the great delight of the whole class.

Was he clowning or simply being obstinate? Neither. School was all rules, conventions, and habit; organized, monotonous, impersonal, bearing no relation to the natural life. It was not that Gide was lazy. What he needed, would always need, was to be swept up in enthusiasm. Gide wrote in If It Die: "I experienced an unspeakable distaste for everything we did in class, for the class itself, for the whole system of lectures and examinations, even for the play hours: nor could I endure the sitting still, the lack of interest, the stagnation. One would like to believe that in the age of innocence the soul is all sweetness, light, and purity, but can remember nothing in mine that is not all ugly, dark, and deceitful . . . A photograph of myself, taken at that time . . . represents me half-hidden in my mother's skirts, frightfully dressed in a ridiculous check frock, with a sickly ill tempered face and a crooked look in my eyes."

At the Ecole Alsatienne he did master the art of recitation but his manner of reciting and his teacher's compliments only earned him the jealousy and derision of his schoolmates, who used to set upon him after school. Fortunately, he was a good runner and often managed to elude them. Not always, however - he was bullied and beaten and finally had a dead cat rubbed against his face. At last he found a way out: illness. While convalesced from smallpox, he had dizzy spells which he deliberately tried to exacerbate: "Ha! I said to myself, suppose I were to imitate what I imagine!" And he would let himself collapse, after making sure that was in a place where the fall would not hurt too much. Was he sly? There are all sorts of slyness and his was of a childish, even open kind, without malice or falsehood, a means of defense rather than attack. A weakling's way out? Rather that of a child terrified of being sent back to the slaughter. He liked doing it, too, not only because it was a source of relief, but because he was taking an unknown path making new feelings conceivable by miming them. These traits would recur Gide's later life.

At school, he had been unfairly excluded from the company of others and had felt their hatred. As an only child, he adored having friends, for he was of a eminently sociable, friendly disposition. He wanted to be liked, but was rejected. It was the fault of the others, but, instead of hating them for it, he tried to win them over. With his neurotic make-believe he did not mean to shut himself off, to become aloof and embittered; dislodged from one branch, he simply perched himself on another, to see and be seen, to charm others and himself. For his make believe was as much social as it was neurotic. He threw himself into a role full of refinements, surprises, and subtle effects - a double role, a creation.

Thus we find him on the threshold of his career: an aesthete and an individualist. He wanted not only to live apart from the crowd, to be true to himself - but also to be liked. He sought to be sincere, but at the same time sought to please by his sincerity, which inevitably became suspect. It was this conflict, this peculiar set of circumstances from which Gide sought to escape by becoming a writer.

When he returned home from school, the question of his future arose. Gide loved nature, and his mother suggested he make a career in forestry or something similar. But he did not want a profession, since his real interests lay elsewhere-exactly where, it would have been difficult to say. He only knew that he did not, and would never, want an official function. How, at the age of fifteen, could he admit to this evasion? Inflating his aesthetic leanings and his feeling of being "different" into a sense of moral purpose, he thought up, innocently enough, an other role - one with mystical tenets. He became a religious enthusiast.

At the same time, he was also awakening to the mysteries of sex. As he had been taught, or at least allowed, to let things take their course, he offered no resistance to his desires and cravings. He was fully prepared to give in to them, provided they made no real demands on him and were intense and exciting - like a game. There were two possibilities: either the game could be a solitary one - he took to masturbation with alacrity - or it could be played with partners, inevitably children In If It Die . . . Gide describes an episode of this kind with the concierge's son, both of them hidden under the family table. Not just any children would do; only those who were most instinctive and natural. And even with them, things should not get too serious. The game also needed a proper setting - preferably the open air with the complicity of nature. In playing the game, Gide could embrace and escape several experiences at the same time.

His religious "awakening" was also, in its way, a game. He plunged into mysticism with the same enthusiasm, dash, goodwill, and tenacity that he put into everything. He carried a New Testament, which he pulled from his pocket on any pretext. He mortified his flesh by sleeping on a board and getting up to pray in the middle of the night and then plunging into icy water. Was he really a believer or was he just putting on an act? The second supposition, even in his own eyes, was probably the correct one. Imagination, a craving for the unreal or for art, played an important part in his fervor, as it would later in his love life.

But Gide was unable - and never would be able - to find the flesh displeasing. So, in his twentieth year, his religious fervor failed, or rather came to a halt. Enthusiasm is an unreliable motive force, and when, as in Gide's case, it is not the object of the enthusiasm that counts but the enthusiasm itself, it soon finds a new outlet. This is particularly so when the enthusiasm is accompanied by a critical eye that, while delighting in the game one is playing, also sees through it.

On coming of age, Gide acquired a certain amount of money. He never became attached to money for its own sake, but it always ensured his independence. With his school days at an end, he came under the influence of Pierre Louys (a Protestant only in name), who introduced Gide to the Parisian literary avant-garde. Among the writers he met was Mallarme, and the effects of this encounter were far reaching for Gide. Gide felt reassured and justified when he found that Mallarme shared his own estheticism and concern for verbal music. Gide's problems of soul and style were resolved - provisionally at least - by Mallarme and his mystic devotion to the word. There remained, however, more burning problems touching on Gide's life, personal and beyond the understanding of his contemporaries.

Where would he find a circle in which he would be at home? He had, in fact, to form and foster it himself. Eventually, in 1909, he brought together a series of patiently acquired friendships that had been cultivated separately and were based as much on the bestowal and acceptance of differences as on a common fastidiousness - a circle, but one of individuals. The Nouvelle Revue Francaise was established and in its circle Gide was, at last, at home.

By now, the demands of the flesh could no longer be ignored. To give them their due, Gide left for North Africa with the similarly minded Paul Laurens. Health was the object of the trip, but how was it to be found? "Our predominant feeling," he wrote in his Journal, "was one of horror for anything peculiar, odd, morbid, and abnormal." He did not even set out as a "heretic," sexually speaking; his Protestant conscience made him sleep dutifully with various women during his stay. But in vain: the only one who found favor in his eyes was "Miriem," to whom Pierre Louys would later be attracted as a result of Gide's enthusiastic descriptions. But what he really liked in her was her urchinlike quality and her resemblance to her brother.

In lf It Die . . . he relates the famous episode with Ali in the sandhills and the rapture it brought him. Once released, this rapture burst forth in laughter and high spirits, as might have been expected. But, from his silence on his return, it was clear that he had not finished with it: later he would have to tell and justify everything. This became one of the aims of an increasingly large part of his work, work that from now on would be indistinguishable from his life. The need for self-justification became all the more acute and embarrassing (not to say enriching) when, with the rashness of youth, he complicated his problem by marrying his pure-minded cousin Madeleine, known as "Em." Almost all his work, as he said himself, was to be a long attempt to come to terms with an essential contradiction, a tenacious and unremitting dialogue between the levity that, was part of his nature and the serious mindedness - also part of it - that was entirely characteristic of Em.

Everything in Gide is ego-oriented. A large part of his work is in the form of confidences that, like most confidences, were intended for the ears of those closest to his own life. The fact that Gide was his own subject matter did not preclude objectivity - far from it. Indeed, for quite a time he was as preoccupied with language as with himself. It did not take him long to realize that he would never be a poet (It is to Gide's credit that, relying solely on his own taste, he discovered this very early in his career.) Nevertheless, he was influenced by the Symbolists - especially Mallarme - for some time. While confining himself to prose, he wanted it to derive life and substance from its form alone. He would have scorned to put a "story" into it. His first works were prose poems, whose underlying thought is expressed only indirectly with artistic reticence. Nothing could be more modern, more contemporary. Perhaps it is because of this that Gide is still in favor with today's avant-garde, just as he was -t hough for other qualities as well - briefly in favor with the Surrealists.

Gide's first book Les Cahiers d'Andre Walter (The Notebooks of Andre Walter) appeared anonymously in 1891, and it reveals a Gide still unconsciously fettered by the rigors of Puritanism. The journal of a poet and moral philosopher, it prefigures later works such as La Porte Etroite (Strait is the Gate) and If It Die. . . The same year Gide also published a Traite du Narcisse (The Treatise of the Narcissus) - which has the subtitle 'Theory of the Symbol" and is dedicated to Paul Valery. These works, and his next book, La Tentative Amoureuse (The Attempt at Love, 1893), were as the author knew, slight, ephemeral efforts. "Our books," he wrote in his preface to the latter, "are never very veracious accounts of ourselves - but rather our wistful desires, our craving for other lives eternally denied us, for every impossible gesture. Here I have written down a dream that was troubling my thoughts too much and demanded an existence. And every book is only a different temptation."

Somewhat less evanescent, a little more substantial and virile, are Le Voyage d'Urien (Travels of Urien, 1893) and Paludes (Marshlands, 1895), which may be linked with Saul, written in 1896. but not published until 1903. In these two works, purity, austerity, and abstraction rise to a peak, but they are protected and hedged round by irony. Le Voyage d'Urien (which could justly have been titled Voyage de Rien or Journey of Nothing') and Marshlands may, on the whole, be considered satirical works in ,which routine, depersonalization, apathy, repose, resignation - as represented by a colorless group of men and women of letters - are taken to task. Marshlands is the story of a bachelor in a tower surrounded by marshes, a man who is content with his restricted little world and makes no attempt to escape from it, and is thereby doomed to inertia.

Les Nourritures terrestres (Fruits of the Earth, 1897), like the preceding works, was published at the author's own expense. It is the most extreme and meticulous example of Gide's early predilection for poetic prose. But it was also a breakthrough for Gide. Here he gave up irony and indirection for a positive celebration of the senses, of self- indulgence in beauty. He stopped putting off temptation, or being ashamed of it, and celebrated its savor, its liberating qualities, no longer in a tone of lamentation but with a hymn-like fervor.

It is easy to see how such exaltation disconcerted the public and the critics, who - for the moment at least, a moment that was to extend beyond World War I - remained unimpressed. Gide's expressions did not fit into any of the accepted conventions, yet did not lash out against them. Apart from Nietzsche, who certainly had some influence on Gide, there were few precedents for a didactic work of so personal and lyrical a nature.

The apparent detachment of Promethee mal enchaine (Prometheus Unchained, 1899) might tempt one to link it with the works preceding Fruits of the Earth if it were not even more deft and lighthearted. more perfect in its virtuosity, and if it did not mark a further advance in Gide's thought. Here, for the first time, 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.

While Fruits of the Earth represented a vital breakthrough, it was with L'lmmoraliste (The Immoralist, 1902) that the real change in Gide seems to have occurred. To write a novel was a betrayal, a capitulation to middlebrow standards. But the need for escape, for self examination combined with concealment (confession without giving too much away), gave Gide the needed courage. The Immoralist is, in fact, barely more than a laborious travesty of the authors own history. What is important, however, is that Gide employed the narrative form in this book in defiance of his own circle. He can only be admired for doing so, despite the outcry from the purists and the book's failure with the public, while continuing to produce and publish the critical writings expected of him. Gide sees his characters as embodiments of certain problems, but it is the problems themselves that most interest him.

Through Alissa, whose devotion to duty is like that of a Sister of Charity to the lepers, and her antagonist Jerome - smitten, vacillating, frustrated, shattered - the idea of moral obligation is attacked from the inside in Strait is the Gate. Not only incompatible with happiness, it excludes sincerity, or at least genuine feeling. Needless to say, although Andre, Em. and their childhood background are drawn upon, the book belongs to the realm of fiction in that everything is heightened, transformed, and embroidered.

In The Immoralist, Gide's sexual problem is only secondary. It was not until Strait is the Gate that Gide started dealing with sex more or less directly instead of obliquely. One of his aims in writing Strait is the Gate was to convince Em, his wife, of his error; to establish by a sort of reductio ad absurdum the inimical truth before which he was still hesitating and which - hence his use of the novel form - he was reluctant to state outright.

Isabelle (1911) is a rather cold and austere tale seemingly concerned with abortive revolt, but in Les Caves du Vatican (Lafcadio's Adventures, 1914), Gide really casts off his shackles and breathes the intoxicating air of freedom. It is perhaps his most free - and - easy work and certainly his most picaresque, with an air of fantasy that led him to call it a sotie, or satirical farce, rather than a novel. There is an amusing anticlerical element, a marked irreverence toward religion and moralistic cant, and the hero Lafcadio is a young man endowed with every charm. Motiveless action, which Gide had treated with a certain ambiguity in Prometheus Unchained, he now openly acclaimed. This book briefly linked Gide with the Surrealist movement, which was then in its infancy.

Gide's most authentic and penetrating work excepting his Journals. which did not begin publication until 1931-is Le Symphonie pastorale (Pastoral Symphony 1919), which appeared after an apparent hiatus in his work between 1914 and 1918. Of all his books, this is the least self-conscious. It brings all his experience of faith into play, to heap humiliation, touched with a certain sublimity, on a naive and unfortunate Swiss pastor who is subjected to the temptations of a neophyte. We can see how much of himself Gide put into it - unstintingly for once. We can also see that the book is more than a stinging satire, for it arbitrates the conflict between nature and moral obligation.

It is obvious that Gide's inspiration is bound up with Christianity (or what is called Christianity). This element is, however, almost completely missing from the background of Les Faux Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters, 1926). It may well be this lack that prevents the book, while Gide took pains to term a "novel," from being more than an attractive fresco. On The Counterfeiters Gide attached the highest importance to the opinions of others and I should not be surprised if he divided his critics, friends, and enemies into two categories - those who thought it a masterpiece and those who did not. For once, he had set out to produce something like a professional piece of work. He wanted to be accepted as a novelist, to prove himself, and in a sense succeeded. Though written in the spirit of a wager, the book is by no means contrived. It gives the impression, however of an assemblage of exact, vivid, sometimes penetrating observations, brought together with a purpose that is less than profound and that only rarely captures the imagination.

What had deprived Gide of substance, or rather of roots, though at the same time brought him balance, was the termination of the conflict between his private experiences and their literary expression. The open publication of his most candid, personal works, Corydon (1923) and If It Die . . . , occurred after both books had first been privately circulated. There is something touching about this deferred public confession. While the reticences, qualifications, and evasions that hedge it round may be irritating, it is largely this hesitant, embarrassed, constrained approach that - as Sartre has justly observed - gives it its special quality.

If It Die . . . provided lucid, disarmingly discursive memoirs, in contrast to Corydon, which is a bland, rather superficial and arbitrary exercise. But with their appearance, Gide closed that long period of his identity-seeking and self torment, of which Dostoevsky (1923) had marked yet another stage, and in which most of his writings had been motivated by irresolution. Since he no longer had much to question in himself, it was natural that he should turn to social problems.

Now the time had come to exteriorize the values he had gradually assimilated. After The Counterfeiters, he turned to social criticism in a series of works - Le Voyage au Congo (Travels in the Congo, 1927), Le Retour du Tchad (Back from Chad, 1928), and L'Ecole des femmes (Girl's School, 1929). The most militant of Gide's crusading works - apart from certain scattered notes (Feuillets) - began to appear with Oedipe (1931), in which rejection of a divinity and faith in man are presented with great assurance and delightful humor. Gide's crusade gained momentum almost immediately afterward, when he started his flirtation with Communism.

Believing, not altogether wrongly, that his own personal values (sexual freedom, social equality, atheism) were, or would become, social values, Gide made his offering - indeed, practically gave himself as an offering - to the Communist creed. There were many reasons for this move. He was motivated, in part, by a sense of guilt (this time, over being rich) with which he had always lived. In Communism too, he could see the opportunity of renewing contact (against established Christianity) with the evangelical spirit that was still very close to his heart, thus demonstrating that there was some continuity in his life. Finally, and perhaps primarily, he was inspired by a need for personal renewal, for rejuvenation. But like his earlier enthusiasms, this one did not survive his own critical view.

In his cooling-off, seen in Retour de l'U.R.S.S. (Back from Russia, 1936), Gide demonstrated a great deal more acuteness and prudence than he had in the first flush of enthusiasm. He withdrew, in sorrow and confusion at first, into the shell from which, undoubtedly, he should never have emerged. Through the hostilities of World War Il and the French Liberation that was, for Gide, also a personal one, he kept himself in form, as was his habit, by critical reflections and adaptations such as Interviews imaginaires (Imaginary Interviews, 1942), Le Proc¸s (The Process, 1947), and Anthologie de la poesie francaise (Anthology of French Poetry, 1949 . He was aware, though he had succeeded in staying off the wrinkles, that the end was near, and he had only one concern: to finish his life well.

First of all came the modestly triumphant smile of Thesee (Theseus, 1946). Then he exercised that gift for self examination, which he had continued to cultivate in the Journals and Feuillets and which was now more concerned with God than with the sinner, in Et nunc manet in te (Madeleine) and the posthumous Ainsi soit-il or Les Jeux sont faits (So Be It), which complete and elaborate, with their fitful grace, the interrupted confessions of If It Die....

From a man who followed such a tortuous path through life, it would be foolish to expect any one metaphysical or moral thesis. However, Gide persistently made a fundamental distinction between the Gospels proper - to which he subscribed, insofar as it can be summed up in terms of joy and love - and the additions of St. Paul and the Church, which he rejected. "The Gospel as it stands is enough for me," he wrote in Un Esprit non prevenu. "As soon as I come face to face with it again, everything becomes glowingly clear to me. Human explanations obscure it; when I look for Christ, I find the priest instead and, behind the priest, St. Paul."

The following lines from the Feuillets are also worth quoting in this regard: "How extraordinary that they should reproach me for interpreting the words of the Gospel to suit my own ends. On the contrary, it is they who interpret and explain. I take those words as they are given to me in that little book which confounds the wisdom of men."

This opposition to authority is freely expressed in the anticlerical passages of such books as Lafcadio's Adventures, Isabelle, and Oedipe. Theologically, the great interpolation of St. Paul (and of the Church) is, in Gide's opinion, the Cross. Since the Crucifixion was a complete failure in the eyes of the world, an attempt had to be made to salvage everything possible from the wreckage. Gide noted in his Journals: "It was essential to show that the end had been foreseen, to show that it was necessary to the accomplishment of the Scriptures and likewise to the salvation of humanity. Once that doctrine had mastered minds and hearts it was too late: it was Christ crucified that people continued to see and to teach." He abided by this strict evangelism even when he was tempted by Catholicism, and it served him as an emotional armor.

For a long time, Gide associated this "primitive Christianity," which he then considered the only true kind, with the identification of God with nature and love, but he seems to have gone back this opinion: "I recognize that I have long used the word 'God' as a sort dumping-ground for the most woolly concepts. This has ended up in something quite different from Francis Jammes' benevolent white-bearded God, but scarcely more real. For some time yet, this divine residue, shedding personal attributes, tried to take refuge in the esthetic, the harmony of numbers, the conatus viven of nature. At present I don't even see the point of talking about it any more."

The question is more squarely tackled in Gide's 1949 Journal: "I believe that there are not two separate worlds, the spiritual and the material, and that it is useless to set them apart. They are two aspects of one and the same universe; as it is useless to oppose the soul and the body. It is in their identification that I have found calm."

Gide is aware not only of the taboos Christianity places on the senses but even more, of how much it can detract from the human personality and its natural, genuine development. In Gide's opinion, religious faith may spring solely from within, which obviously deprives it of the authority it claims, indeed of an authority at all. "There is not one of these conversions in which I do not find some inadmissible secret motivation: fatigue, fear, disappointment, sexual or emotion impotence."

As for the idea of an afterlife, he see in the end to have rejected it completely. "That the life of the soul should continue beyond the dissolution of the flesh, I find inadmissible, unthinkable, and against all reason. I do not believe in the soul separated from the body. I believe that body and soul are one and the same thing and that, when life has withdrawn from the body, it is all over with both of them at once." Thus, even from his evangelism, he retained only the moral teaching.

It is obvious that Gide's work is already of historic interest. There are two main reasons for this: the place that Gide held in the awareness of the public, that is, his identification with a certain attitude to life, and the place he held in art itself. But it remains to be seen whether Andre Gide is simply a respectable library author or if he still has something to say to the world of today.

The survival of, say, Corneille or Racine, is not merely academic. We do not read or go to see their plays just to learn about the past; we are stirred by them. A even more striking example is the Beaumarchais of The Marriage of Figaro. It is the same with Balzac: his portrait of society is fantastically exact but, though it contains much to interest us, this is not or at least not primarily - what keeps Eugenie Grandet or Father Goriot alive. It is the power and the art of the portrayal. Thus, to a large extent, it is the art they continue to radiate that gives life to the works of dead authors and it would be quite wrong to attribute their survival simply to interest in the period.

With Andre Gide, this fact is attested not only by the frequent new editions of his books, but also by the manner in which he is read. There can be little doubt that he holds his readers primarily by his way of expressing himself, by his style rather than his imagination. He attracts us not as a lyrical, creative writer but as an ironist, a critic, a stylist. This is why his seemingly most casual works have the greatest survival value, why Gide the writer is identified with a Journal, and, even more, with a kind of taste - perhaps with taste itself.

But it is also worth considering why his literary definitions and his "human values" are likely to survive. For the most part, his definitions of art are so shrewd that they could never become mere museum pieces; they are still relevant and shall continue to be so. No doubt they contain some excesses, half-truths, presumptions, and even errors. But the essential remains intact, lively, and permanent. Once the prejudices have been trimmed away, there remains the sound sentiment that art is a personal, difficult domain for the use of what is best in man and for his pleasure. In the future Gide's "human values" will probably cease to be associated with his own personality so much. The hundred-and-one twists and turns of his spiritual and moral itinerary, as well as his confessions and his parade of his day-to-day existence, have already lost their attraction. This is not to say that his image will be entirely obliterated, but it will become more like a face behind a curtain, a rustle, a breath - in short, it too will eventually become stylized.

It was not against the man himself - kindly and worthy of respect - but against his personal values that his opponents had a grudge. After his death they continued to tilt at them, thus showing, even at his graveside, that Gide's ideas were still very much alive and that he had kept faith with himself right to the end. "Andre Gide's death was well received" - Jean Paulhan's witticism is quite true. Gide survives because he continues to make the same friends and the same enemies: Those who - without necessarily having discovered them through Gide himself - share his values and those who reject them, who are scandalized by or indifferent to them.

What has been called his humanism was not, and could not be, a doctrine: a doctrine is too rigid. He was a humanist only in wishing that nothing should be alien to him. This is what justified his shrewd and disconcerting "crises," his sexual conflicts, his fugitive yet sincere conversions: it is also what makes us concerned about them.

He would have belonged to the Academie Francaise if this would not have prevented him from being something other than an Academician. For fear of having strings attached, of being classified, he accepted only one prize, the one that classifies without classifying: the Nobel Prize for Literature.


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