Biography of André Paul Guillaume Gide (1869-1951)

Narrator, dramatist, essayist and French literary critic, born in Paris on November 22, 1869 and died in his hometown on February 19, 1951. Author of an extensive and dazzling literary production which, encouraged by a constant drive to renewal and a strong ethical impetus, based on reflection and self-analysis to attack the hypocrisy of the cristiano-burguesa society and, in general, against any manifestation of authoritarian thinking, is regarded as one of the leading voices of the French lyrics of the twentieth century. His bold spirit, nonconformist and exerted a powerful influence both in the literature and philosophy European of his time, he was already at the aesthetic level - one of the masters uncontested of generations surrealists and existentialists, already at the conceptual level, which provided some of the most lucid and controversial reflections from the Protestant ethic. In 1947, the Swedish Academy honored with the Nobel Prize for literature "for his extensive and artistically significant literary work, in which human problems and the condition is presented with a bold love of truth and an acute psychological penetration".

Life and work

Born in the bosom of a wealthy heiress of two well distinct spiritual legacies family - his father, Paul Gide, was a descendant of a family of Huguenots from Cevennes jurisprudence Professor, while his mother, Juliette Rondeaux, came from a Catholic Norman lineage-, lived as a child subject to tension for this double influence, enhanced by its status as the only child. The constant struggle between the strict and puritanical Catholicism of his mother and no less rigid Protestantism of his father forged in the small André an antagonistic mood which, over time, should be decisive when it comes to tilt toward literary creation, the only field in which this perpetual struggle with same could shed some positive fruit. But not only lived, during his early childhood, with two opposing religious beliefs: in general, the conceptions of the world of Paul Gide and Juliette Rondeaux were permanently confronted in all areas, starting with their respective native languages (tongues of Oc and Oil) and continuing along other many cultural differences that resulted in his son what the own Gide described, years later, as a constant etat of dialogue ('State of debate'). In his autobiography entitled if le grain ne dies (if the seed does not die, 1920-1924), the Parisian writer acknowledged that "nothing could be more different than these two families [...]; nothing more different than the two provinces of France that combine their contradictory influences in me".

The first steps of his training brought him to the Ecole Alsacienne in Paris, where soon exhibited an "irregular" and "disorderly" - conduct according to the testimony of guardians-that brought you several penalties, including an expulsion because of his "bad habits". At eleven years of age was orphaned of father, by which, since then, was educated in strict adherence to the moral Puritan who professed his mother, reinforced by the severity of Anna Schackleton, governess who also had occupied the training of Juliette Rondeaux. Become the sole focus of attention of both women, the young André was trying to escape this pressure, pretending to be victim of acute nervous breakdowns that advised his mother moved to his native Normandy, in the hope that the boy apaciguase in the calm and tranquillity of rural life. This stay in the field, crucial in forging their "sentimental education", won le the encounter with his cousin Madeleine Rondeaux, a young woman of languid beauty they believed fall, pushed by a strange obsession that had more than religious fervor than of passionate love affair. Influenced by rigid Puritan education had received until then, the young André vowed to devote the rest of his days to that young woman of beauty pre-portrait, with the firm intention of protecting it always "against fear, against evil and life"; and in proof of their chaste love, for some time underwent harsh ascetic rules involving such disciplined practices such as sleeping on a tabula rasa, bathing at dawn in freezing water and spend much of the night delivered a fervent prayers.

On his return to Paris, André Gide returned to enroll in the École Alsacienne, where barely concluded its training academic, always irregular and fragmentary. He already had, however, determined to move along the path of literary creation, dazzled by those years of his adolescence by the poetry of the symbolists, in full swing in all forums and cultural cenacles of late 19th century Paris. The young Gide began to frequent such literary gossip and soon befriended some outstanding figures of French letters of the time, as the poet, prose writer and hellenist Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925), who became one of the most influential in the first bars of his literary career. Integrated, for, in the Group of the symbolists, with only eighteen years of age he wrote his first work, which appeared anonymously within four years under the title of Les cahiers d' André Walter (books of André Walter, 1891). Conceived as a kind of diary - genre in which would then achieve a universally recognized teaching - it operates Gide premium was certainly inadvertent for the end of the 19th century French readers, although it attracted the interest of some writers as relevant as the French Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), Maurice Barrès (1862-1923) and Marcel Schwob (1867-1905), and the great poet and playwright Belgian - future Nobel Prize of literature - Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), who, ignorant of the authorial responsibility of Gide in Les cahiers became..., stating on one occasion that his favorite writer was André Walter, who was dead.

Shortly after the appearance of Les cahiers d' André Walter, André Gide began to deal seriously with an inner ghost that was making him since her teens: their status as homosexual, in hard and bitter struggle with the moral values that were instilled him from his childhood. Agitated by this psychic anguish and threatened, at the same time, by the first symptoms of a serious physical illness (tuberculosis), he decided to change of scenery in search of a climate that is more beneficial for your health and a space new and unknown which could definitely go to the meeting itself. He moved, therefore in 1893 to North Africa in the company of his friend Paul Albert Laurens, and fell seriously ill in the Algerian city of Biskra. There, during a long and painful convalescence in the midst of the climatic rigors of the African desert, Gide assumed fully its "abnormality" - according to the point of view of moralists who had educated him-, later explicitly recognized in an epistle that sent his friend the poet and dramatist Paul Claudel (1868-1955): "I have never experienced desire in front of women".

Despite this assumption of their sexual preference - which continued to be field for the agitation of his antagonistic spirit, as well in this excerpt of his aforementioned autobiography: "in the name of God, of idea, I must live according to my nature?" "And this nature do to where I would crawl if I simply followed it?"-, Gide married on October 8, 1895, with her idolized cousin Madeleine ("she was heaven that my insatiable hell married"). He had abruptly returned to France at the beginning of that same year, alerted by the news he received about the ill health of his mother, who found dying on their return. The death of Juliette Rondeaux, ensued before the wedding of his son, became heir to a considerable fortune, which included among others many goods and possessions to André Gide a castle in La Rocque-Baignard; Thanks to this huge material legacy of her mother, Gide could devote full cultivation of literary creation, at the time that was moving away from the boring and suffocating environments of the French artistic and intellectual salons (which, in the eyes of Gide, had lost its charm after his discovery of new races, customs and cultures in North Africa). While still would have to publish a volume of reflections and poetic prose clearly indebted to Symbolist aesthetics and ideology - Les nourritures terrestrial (land-based foods, 1897)-, the truth is that, since the decisive year of 1895, had begun to distance from the symbolism through his work Zuzen (1895), a kind of farce in which is served as a sarcasm to attack hard against "passivity that keeps us on the trails of the" virtue".

Another episode of singular importance in the life of André Gide, that also took place in 1895, was played by Oscar Wilde as a result of the judicial process that ended up giving her bones in prison, after having tested the crime of sodomy which alleged him the Marquess of Queensberry, father of the young lover of British author, lord Alfred Douglas. Gide, who had known Wilde in his travels in Africa and Italy, took party in favour of the writer denigrated by the moral Puritan at the time, partly solidarity with the free manifestation of their sexual orientation, and in part to criticize the cynical attitude of Douglas during the entire process (who only cared about leaving well rid of the)at the time, serious accusations). Years later, after the death of Wilde, Gide returned to attack lord Alfred Douglas in his autobiography, and described as "infamous" book, under the title of Oscar Wilde and I, the son of the Marquess of Queensberry had given to the printer.

Since 1889, André Gide was drafting his then celebrated Journal (newspaper), in which was taking note of their personal experiences, their internal conflicts, their relationships with other artists and intellectuals and their thoughts about the most various subjects, to form one of the fundamental works for the knowledge of letters and the thinking of contemporary Europe. But the real importance of Gide and the enormous influence of his work in Western culture could not be calibrated in their fair dimension until the mid-twentieth century, when the joint publication of these journals (which included five long periods of his life: 1889-1912, 1913-1922, 1923-19131; 1932-1939; and 1931-1942) offered an overview of his thinking which, coupled with his extensive literary output already printedIt placed him at the head of the contemporary European intelligentsia. Meanwhile, Gide had begun to become Guide and mentor of his own generation and other later literary promotions since the publication, at the end of the 19th century, of Les nourritures terrestrial (land-based foods, 1897), work that, halfway between the essay and poem in prose, was presented as an exaltation of joyful hedonism, a blunt rejection of everything that is imposed by the Puritan morality andIn short, a song of praise to the pleasure derived from the senses (which, in the opinion of Gide, is not incompatible with the spiritual fervor).

At the time that is released with this work - as already noted above - from the influence of the symbolists - and, in particular, the remarkable trail which had left Mallarmé (1842-1898) and Valéry (1871-1945) - in his new writings, André Gide outlined in terrestrial food the main hallmarks that would characterize the bulk of his future literaryamong which should be noted his boldness in addressing social and moral aspects prone to scandal, and his sense accused of ethical commitment ("are why I have written this book?" - said after the appearance of his autobiography-. "Because I believed that it should do so [...]." Perhaps the cause is in my [...] Protestant education. I feel horror for the lie"). Encouraged by this commitment to sincerity with itself, at the beginning of the 20th century Parisian author gave to the press his first novel, L' l'immoraliste (the immoralist, 1902), a work full of autobiographical references since poses, in its plot development, a case of conscience identical to which the own Gide met during their stay in North Africa (i.e.(: the need to go as soon as possible in search of individual identity and, once found, the analysis of the problems and dangers posed by this radical exercise in self-affirmation). Michel, the Nietzschean young protagonist of this story, leads to unsuspected extremes demands for self-realization, to finish discovering - after having caused the death of his wife - that this desperate quest for his own individuality leads only to the abyss of evil.

Despite the impeccable stylistic invoice of this novel and the hard problem of consciousness raised, the immoralist went quite unnoticed before the beginning of the new century French readers, failure that Gide plunged into a deep depression and took him even to make the determination to abandon the literary creation. Fortunately, an enthusiastic critical of the narrator and dramatist of Trévières Octave Mirbeau (1850-1917) returned to Gide its illusion by creative writing and encouraged him to continue to publish other narrations such as Le retour de l'enfant prodigue (the return of the prodigal son, 1907) and La porte étroite (narrow door, 1909), - the latter - work arising from the same case of conscience reflected in the immoralist, though now embodied in a totally opposite to the Nietzschean Michel character. Indeed, Alissa, the protagonist of the narrow gate, runs also in search of his own individuality, although this walk in the harsh path of renunciation and spiritual asceticism, that also leads it to destruction. Consistent with that antagonistic spirit that had been clear well since his early childhood, André Gide presented so the two sides of a same failure, both closely related to the tortuous inner conflict in which the Parisian writer remained under discussion: on the one hand, the radical search for one's identity, with absolute disregard for all the values and moral codesDrag to the individualist to the domains of evil and causes the annihilation of all those around him (the immoralist); but the opposite way, excess of virtue and the rejection of hedonism leading to same sterility (the narrow gate).

Between the appearance of the return of the prodigal son (1907) and the narrow gate (1909), Gide, already fully integrated in Parisian literary circles, he founded, with other artists and intellectuals from the likes of the actor and theatre director Jacques Copeau (1879-1949), playwright Henri Ghéon (1875-1944) and the writer and literary critic Jean Schlumberger (1877-1968), the cultural magazine Nouvelle revue française (1908)that soon became the most prestigious literary publication in Europe. The major avant-garde movements that flourished in the interwar period found a wide echo in the pages of this magazine.

After the publication of one minor novel (Isabelle), Gide achieved his first great literary success with extensive narration entitled caves Les du Vatican (the basement of the Vatican, 1914), one of the most lucid and disturbing stories of contemporary French literature. In this masterpiece, the Parisian author resumed the same conflict raised by the arguments of the immoralist and the door close, but focus now from an ironic perspective which meant a radical novelty regarding the perspective taken by the author in the cited two previous novels. Appeared in the middle of the acute crisis of values waving to the West on the eve of the first war world, this novel introduced the narrative corpus of André Gide a virulent anticlerical satire, explicitly directed against the Catholic Church - what led him, among other controversies, the rupture of relations with his friend Claudel - and voluntarily carrying this transgressive desire that characterizes almost all of his work. But perhaps the most remarkable value within the Vatican Cellars is the excellent depiction of one of the favorite topics of Gide, "the free Act", directly inherited from the prose of Dostoevsky (1821-1881) and incarnated here on the vicissitudes of a fascinating character, anarchist Lafcadio, who throws out the window of a train to Amédée Fleurissoire, a naive Catholic who was on his way to Rome to investigate a mock impersonation of Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903).

The disturbing and puzzling history narrated in the basements of the Vatican took Gide on the cusp of literary fame, both for the achievements made in his attempt to renew the formalities of traditional narrative - achievements well patent in this novel, as by his audacity and intellectual honesty in the treatment of numerous policy issues, moral and cultural certainly controversial. At the end of the war international contest, definitely consolidated its position as teacher of several generations of writers and thinkers with the publication of another splendid novel, pastoral symphonie (the pastoral Symphony, 1919), a disquieting plot loving that complicated with spiritual conflicts of all her characters and plunged into a rarefied atmosphere that highlights the hypocrisy of Christian morality (both Catholic and Protestant)again just tragically. Still in the life of the author, this novel was brought to the big screen and converted a remarkable cinematic success that deserved great prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

The emergence, during the first five years of the Decade of the 1920s, the autobiography if le grain ne dies (if the seed does not die, 1920-1924), was a scandal of proportions shift not only in France, but also in other European countries in which the literary production of Gide was greatly appreciated. From England, the writer and critic literary Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), who had been one of the first to publish - in English language - a study on the work of the Parisian author (1909), approached through the epistolary Gide to reproach those memories of his childhood and youth, which had left him "deeply dismayed" that had written. But Gide, firmly determined to combat human hypocrisy in all its aspects (moral, political, social, cultural, etc.), did not stop before the relentless criticism of those who had been previously as one of the best connoisseurs of his work - Gosse came to praise, in his studio in 1909, "the penetrating analysis of weakness and moral narrowness of Protestantism" captured in the door closer - and went ahead with transgressive desireat the time focused on other literary forms which are beyond the prose of fiction, as dramatic writing and essay. By the end of the 19th century had written a drama, Saul (Saul, 1898), was not taken to the tables until 1922, time in which continued preparing his French version of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), where she worked for thirty years - was released in 1947 thanks to the insistence of his friend the actor Jean-Louis Barrault, coinciding in the French Billboard with another theatrical adaptation of Gide to his native language of a universal work: The process of Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Gide, who didn't know a word of English until the forty years of age, was dedicated during World War I to perform numerous translations of this language, which included another masterpiece of Shakespeare (Antonio and Cleopatra). His other forays into the dramatic genre are the piece in verse Le Roi Candaule (1901), OEdipe (Oedipus, 1930) - released drama in 1932 at the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels - and other interpretations of the theatre of classical antiquity as Perséphone (Persephone, 1934) and Thésée (Theseus, 1949).

Immersed in a frantic literary activity, in those first years of the Decade of the 1920s Gide simultanesus the drafting and publication of his autobiography with some of these theatrical premieres, with the elaboration of a lucid and brilliant essay on one of his favorite authors (Dostoevsky, 1923), and with the writing and editing of a couple of calls to cause new narrative works scandals not only in the literary Cenacle, but in all layers of the French society. His readers were already accustomed to each new work of the Parisian writer implied a publishing event followed by a bitter controversy in which the literary values were the least discussed, but few could suspect that he dared to publish his story Corydon (1924) - which had already circulated confidentially between their intimate from 1911, where he not only publicly confessed his homosexuality, but that was a joyful celebration of sex homoerotic. It was the Gide literary response to an accusation of having corrupt public morals that fell upon him that same year of 1924, a time and a place that, fortunately for him - had nothing to do with Victorian England had denigrated to Oscar Wilde.

Far from flinching with the scandal aroused by the publication of Corydon, a year following André Gide gave to the printing press that perhaps his narrative work more complex and elaborate, Les faux-monnayeurs (the fake purses, 1925), the only one of his writings qualified himself as "novel" itself (since their earlier stories did not let be reworkingsmore or less fictional, of its tortuous life Peripeteia). Plagued by bullies, gay and women of ill repute, this story is led by a novelist who is writing a novel entitled "Fake purses", in which it has been proposed to reflect "all I see, all that I know, everything that the lives of others and my own teach me".

As a result of a new trip to Africa and a prolonged stay in the Congo (1925-1926), Gide took political consciousness and began to direct their steps towards communism, ideology that communed more record Christian his training by doctrines Marxists, that never came to feel fully identified. Result of the tour of the African continent were his books of annotations entitled Voyage au Congo (journey to the Congo, 1927) and Le retuor du Tchad (Chad back, 1928), two works in which left evidence of anger and unrest which had caused the contemplation in situ of colonialist exploitation. Soon after, Gide fought in the drafting of a narrative trilogy composed by L' École de femmes (the school for women, 1929) - remarkable introspection of a woman who, after having married madly in love, soon discovers the true personality of her husband, Robert - continuation of this story, now from the point of view of the husband, and Genevieve - psychological account of the life and the daughter of both psychological evolutionwho, after having verified the marital failure of parents, chooses to disregard social conventions and moral prejudice and surrender to a life free of others to any imposition.

For the first five years of the Decade of the 1930s, that notorious Gide tilt towards communism was well reflected in the pages of his diary and numerous public statements that, as head of the French intelligentsia, the Parisian author performed frequently ("I have not changed direction: he continued forward, but I now direct my steps towards an end")told the journalist Pierre Quint at the time). Although he never came to formalize their entry into the French Communist Party, played an active militancy at the forefront of the movement anti-fascist of their nation, militancy that led him to preside over, together with his compatriot in 1935 André Malraux (1901-1976), the I International Congress of writers for the defense of culture, in which took part the intellectuals around the world more engaged in the fight against the totalitarianism of the right booming European. However, in the wake of a trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1936 - that accompanied him French, as the painter and novelist Eugène Dabit (1898-1936) artists and intellectuals-, he publicly denied of Marxist communism and made public their disappointment in the volume entitled USSR Retour (return of the USSR, 1937), work that, how could it be less in the case of a writing of Gideraised on controversy between supporters and opponents of communism. Aware that his angry but honest criticism of communism they had, against his will, of abundant arguments in the totalitarian right (Emmanuel Berí said, apropos of this book, which had provided a "great joy in the souls of the Pharisees, which are precisely those who Gide more hate"), the Parisian writer pointed out their devastating vision of Soviet Communism in a new book entitled Retouches to mon Voyage en l' USSR (retouches to my trip to the USSR1938), work which did not prevent his previous writing follow being considered as the most virulent attack of an intellectual of the left against the Stalinist regime.

In 1938, Gide made a new trip to Africa, this time accompanied by his friend Jean Ilerbart, and in that same year lost his wife Madeleine, with which he had a daughter (Catherine). The outbreak of the second world war forced him to settle in the French area not occupied by the German army, where he wrote his Interviews imaginaires (imaginary interviews, 1942). Accused, by a considerable part of French society, had been one of the major forgers of moral defeatists which had given rise to the subjugation of the nation, decided to leave the country and go to Tunisia, where it resided from the spring of 1942 until after the landings in Normandy by Allied troops.

Again in Paris, Gide was delivered diligently to a frantic literary activity, supported by the intuition of his approaching death, allowed him to conclude great part of the works which had to medium write, as the aforementioned drama Thésée (1946) and some trials of notable interest, like Attendu than... (Waiting for that...), Jeunesse (youth), Le retour (return), Souvenirs littéraires et problems actuels (literary memories and current problems), Feuilles d'Automne (autumn, 1949 leaves), En découvrant Henri Michaux (discovering to Henri Michaux) and Paul Valéry. Its inclusion in the prestigious roster of writers awarded the Nobel Prize, which came to the seventy-eight years of age, came to underline the importance of his legacy intellectual and artistic, always committed to a severe ethical conscience that it was a pure anachronism in mid-20th-century Europe. One of his most passionate followers, Narrator, essayist and critic of art Marcel Arland (1899-1986), publicly acknowledged that "Gide is one of those rare spirits which can be said that, after them, literature and thought are not the same before"; However, also its wide well-marked trail left in its wake a large number of detractors who, like Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), British essayist and novelist continued blaming him that negative influence on French youth who had been accused during the war conflagration international: "the writings of Gide go anointed a brushstroke of esoteric arrogance; around his books fleet as a thin, rarefied atmosphere. His influence on French youth generation was deplorable, and not just by the twisted eroticism that reproached you the fascists of Vichy (does not become one inverted simply by reading books), but because of the arrogant presumption of spiritualism transmitting such influence, a peculiar attitude of being started, the illusion of belonging to a kind of order of exclusivityshare some exquisite values, which, however, when it comes to defining them, you drain as the sand between your toes. "The message of Gide to the young intelligence did evoke the new fabulous tunic of the Emperor: nobody dared to confess that he could not see her" (the yogi and the curator, Arthur Koestler).


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BOISDEFFRE, Pierre's. Metamorphosis of literature. Volume 1: Barres. Gide. Mauriac. Bern (Barcelona: Ediciones Guadarrama, 1969).

BORRAS DUNAND, Josette. Weather in André Gide (Salamanca: editions of the University of Salamanca, 1984).

VILA SELMA, José. André Gide and Paul Claudel front (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1952).