nyt obituary

This is the New York Times obituary
February 19, 1951

Winner of Nobel Prize in 1947
Was Considered Greatest Man
Of Letters in France of Era


Sought Artistic and Intellectual
Liberty - 'Counterfeiters' and
'Symphony Pastorale' by Him

PARIS, Feb. 19 - Andre Gide, France's greatest contemporary man of letters and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, died here tonight at his home in Rue Vaneau. He was 81 years old.

Stricken with a heavy case of pneumonia, Gide took to his bed several days ago. His condition rapidly worsened, but the octogenarian remained conscious until early this morning. He had refused to be taken to a hospital, preferring to remain at home.

His family, including a daughter and son-in-law, were at his bedside when he died.

Recognized as one of the most brilliant and original philosophical writers of the twentieth century, Gide continued working almost until the day he was stricken. His latest play, "Les Caves du Vatican" ["Cellars of The Vatican"], based on a novel he wrote in 1914, was produced at the Comedie Francaise last month.

Quest for "Authentic Life"

Andre Gide has been judged the greatest French writer of this century by the literary cognoscenti. It was not a popular conception, particularly in this country, where he was read mostly by a literary elite. To those who knew his full work, however, who had followed the shaded twistings of a tortured individual in his quest for an "authentic life," the novels and other works of Gide were a tremendous canvas stroked heavily with greatness.

Belatedly - in 1947, while critics had predicted the honor a decade earlier - he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His reaction to the award is not known, but it is a matter of record that for many years he repeatedly rejected membership in the French Academy, explaining: "I prefer artistic and intellectual liberty."

Gide wrote more than fifty books. They included novels, poems, prose poems, farces, much criticism, travel books, memoirs, his journals and an autobiography, up to the age of 25, titled "If It Die."

Marcel Proust had once decreed: "You can put down everything but never say 'I'." It was an injunction that never bothered Gide who used 'I' and who wrote in "If It Die" what has been described as the frankest autobiography ever published. Part of it was a defense of Oscar Wilde.

Born in Paris on November 22, 1869, of a strictly religious family, he had an errant schooling and his never-ending conflict between his appetites and his inherited French Puritan Protestantism began early. His first book was published when he was 21 - at his own expense.

Renounced "Civilized Society"

A turning point in his life was a stay in North Africa which started in 1893. He became completely a part of the native life in a small oasis near the edge of the Sahara Desert and renounced "civilized" society. In 1895 he married his cousin, Emmanuele, to whom he had been attracted since boyhood, and took her to Algeria with him. They separated, Gide being unable to reconcile marriage with his severe introspection.

In 1902 "The Immoralist" was published, a realistic novel, autobiographical, as was everything he wrote, and a statement of his great dilemma - the search for a true "morality" at a time he reached for a sort of holiness while frankly steeping himself in carnal audacities.

He founded in 1909 the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, which for thirty years had a pronounced influence on the literary taste of Europe and America. In the journal he discovered and encouraged several French writers who later became famous - Cocteau, Jules Romains and Jean Giraudoux among them.

The stormy literary years after the first World war found Gide becoming a tremendous symbolic figure of the new era of writing, but it also found him in deep controversy. Henri Massis, a Catholic nationalist, accused Gide of corrupting public morals through his books. Gide's reply was to issue a popular edition of a book entitled "Corydon," a defense of homosexuality. This and "If It Die" led to the charge that Gide had overstepped the bounds of decency.

In 1950, he voiced his final disillusionment with Soviet communism. He was co-author, with Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Richard Wright, Louis Fischer and Stephen Spender of "The God That Failed," (A Confession).

The book has been hailed as his greatest, "The Counterfeiters," was published in 1926. He also wrote "Symphony Pastorale."

Among his other books that have been available in English translation are: "The Prodigal Son," "The Immoralist," "The Vatican Swindle" and books of criticism on Montaigne, Oscar Wilde, and Dostoyvsky.

His journals were published here in 1947 in a translation by Justin O'Brien.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters elected Mr. Gide an honorary corresponding member in 1950.

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