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Andre Gide was a French author and 1947 Nobel Prize laureate. Much of his work is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical and deals with the struggle to reconcile the sexual and spiritual aspects of the self. Moralistic constraints and intellectual freedom are important concepts he often put at odds with one another in his work. His writing style is simple and sparse, but with profound emotional depth that requires much reading between the lines.
Gide was born into a French Protestant family in Paris on 22 November 1869. His father, a professor of law at Paris University, died when Gide was 11 years old. He spent his childhood in Normandy and began writing when at a very young age. His first novel, The Notebooks of Andre Walter, was published in 1891.
Gide spent the years of 1893 and 1894 in Northern Africa, where he met and befriended Irish author Oscar Wilde. He discovered his own homosexuality during his time in Northern Africa and had his first homosexual experiences with some of the local boys. His personal moral struggle as a homosexual raised in a strict Protestant home influenced much of his later work.
Shortly after he returned to France, his mother passed away, and he married his cousin, Madeleine Rondeaux, in 1895. Heartbroken, he wrote about his unconsummated marriage with Madeleine in Strait is the Gate (1909) and Madeleine (Et Nunc Manet in Te) (1951). During his marriage, Gide wrote prolifically, acted as the mayor of La Roque-Baignard in 1896, and helped found The New French Review, a literary magazine, in 1908. One of his most well known books, The Immoralist, based loosely on his experiences in Algiers, was first published in 1902.
In 1918, Gide eloped to London with his young lover, Marc Allegret, the son of the best man at his wedding. Madeleine was furious and burned his correspondence during his absence. In England, he met English novelist Dorothy Bussy, who was to become his lifelong friend and the translator of his work into English. He had a daughter, Catherine, with Elisabeth van Rysselberghe in 1923. Madeleine died in 1938.
During the 1920s, he became increasingly famous, inspiring Camus and Sartre, and became more politically active. He spoke out against the inhumane treatment of criminals in 1925, and during a trip to French Equatorial Africa with Allegret in 1926, he condemned French business interests' exploitation of native people and resources. Gide published an autobiography, If it Die, in 1926.
In the 1930s, Gide became a communist and produced anti-fascist articles and speeches. However, he abandoned his new political affiliation after a 1936 trip to the Soviet Union, during which he realized that communism in action did not live up to its ideals. He lived in Africa during World War II, from 1942 to 1945. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1947 and died in Paris on 19 February 1951. In addition to his fictional works, he published many Journals that some critics consider his most valuable work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was André Gide and why is he significant in literature?
André Gide was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. He is significant for his comprehensive and probing explorations of human behavior in novels such as "The Immoralist" and "The Counterfeiters." Gide's work is known for its stylistic innovation and for tackling subjects that were controversial at the time, such as homosexuality and moral relativism. His literary contributions have had a lasting impact on French literature and beyond.
What are some of André Gide's most influential works?
Some of André Gide's most influential works include "The Immoralist" (1902), "Strait is the Gate" (1909), "Lafcadio's Adventures" (1914), and "The Counterfeiters" (1925). These works explore themes of existential search for authenticity, personal freedom, and the complexity of human relationships. "The Counterfeiters" is particularly notable for its metafictional technique and its intricate plot structure, which was innovative for its time.
How did André Gide's personal life influence his writing?
André Gide's personal life, including his struggles with his sexual identity and his eventual coming out as a homosexual, profoundly influenced his writing. His works often reflect his personal quest for self-discovery and truth, as well as his critique of societal norms. Gide's travels, especially to Africa, also shaped his perspectives and themes in his novels, such as the critique of colonialism seen in "Travels in the Congo" (1927).
What was André Gide's contribution to the development of modern French literature?
André Gide's contribution to modern French literature includes his experimentation with narrative form and his exploration of psychological depth in characters. He was a key figure in the transition from traditional, plot-driven novels to more introspective, character-focused narratives. Gide's openness about personal and social issues paved the way for future writers to address taboo subjects more freely in their work.
How has André Gide's work been received by critics and scholars?
André Gide's work has been received with both acclaim and controversy. Critics and scholars have praised his literary innovation and his fearless engagement with complex moral issues. However, some of his views and the explicit nature of his subject matter have also been met with criticism. Despite this, his influence on literature is widely recognized, and his works continue to be studied for their literary merit and their insightful commentary on human nature.