S AND ESTHETICS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE 0
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
John Addison Lambeth
Philip Stanhope Lambeth
whose recent arrival helped put everything
in proper perspective
TABLE OF CONTENTS
KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS
. . ..................... vI
. S S S S S S U U S 5 0 S S 5 4 U S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION . . . . . .
THIRD REPUBLIC BELIEFS AND VALUES
. .... 7
POSITIVISM AND EDUCATIONAL REFORM .............
ZOLA AND THE EXPERIMENTAL NOVEL
CLASSICAL AND SPIRITUAL VALUES .. ... ....
SUBJECTIVITY AND VITALISM
CHAPTER 3: THE FOUNDATIONS AND FLUIDITY OF GIDE'S
THE SYMBOLIST MOVEMENT
PALUDES AND THE CRITIQUE OF IDEALISM
A MOSAIC OF NOVELS
NOTES ... .
* S S S S S S S S S
* S U U U S S S S
* U S S S S S S S *
* S S S S S p p S
* 5 5 5 P U S *
CHAPTER 4: NARRATIVE ELEMENTS IN LES FAUX-MONNAYEURS
* U p p a S S S C S U P U S U U
* S S S p p a a S p a a a U S S
* S S S S S 5 5 5 5 S S S S
* U S S S S S U S S S S S S S
* S S S S S p p p a S S S S S S
ER 5: L
A MISE EN ABYME
AND USE OF THE TERM ....
ABYME OF THE STATEMENT
ABYME OF THE ENUNCIATION
ABYME OF THE CODE
. . . ..S U S S C .
CHAPTER 6: TIME AND HISTORY IN LES FAUX-MONNAYEURS
S S 5 9 S S S S S S S S S S S S S S
KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS
Journal d'Andr. Gide I
Journal d'Andre Gide II
R4cits et Soties.
Oeuvres Compltes d'Andr6 Gide
(OC I,II,III,... )
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
ETHICS AND ESTHETICS IN ANDRE GIDE'S
John Addison Lambeth
Chairman: Professor Raymond Gay-Crosier
Major Department: Romance Languages and Literatures
Andrd Gide's experimental novel,
has frequently been criticized
aesthetically flawed and as
on the one hand,
between men and boys,
or on the other, an
t lacking coherence.
Many of his social-minded contemporaries found his novel to
of World War
recent years there has been a reevaluation of Gide's novel
considerations, judging Les Faux-Monnaveurs solely on formal
blinded by the rigorous
construction that they have discovered. They have failed to
grasp the significant marriage of the medium and the message
in this novel.
Gide described his early novels as a mosaic of works
that he conceived simultaneously, all dealing with the same
considered none of them to be truly novels precisely because
told from multiple
is a synthetic work,
and reproducing many
novelistic discourse and
counterfeit gold coin functions as a metaphor for literature
and the counterfeit reality that it represents.
The coin is
also symbolic of the relationship between the novelist and
his public and it calls into question the whole problem of
relative values in the modern world. Gide's use of the mise
en abyme narrative
technique creates a novelistic puzzle
that forces the reader to actively participate in the search
The mise en abyme is a formal analog to
paradoxical structure of irony. They are both models of the
and se r v
as vehi ni e
tn rnnvspv th
Gide began to write Les Faux-Monnaveurs
at the age of fifty. By this time he was a widely read and
last circumlocution derives
idiosyncratic genre distinctions.
The dedication at
the beginning of Les Faux-Monnayeurs reads
A Roger Martin du Gard
je dedie mon premier roman
en t4moignage d'amiti4 profonde.
should consider this work his first novel
might come as a surprise to some who have read his earlier
works such as 1'Immoraliste, la Porte 4troite, Isabelle, les
Caves du Vatican
and la Symphonie pastorale.
are commonly considered to be novels today and
time as well.
Gide himself had,
publication of Isabelle,
germinated and blossomed forth in the context of an ongoing
debate among various
describes this literary quarrel
Qu'il s'agisse d'esth6tique, de politique, de
recoupent 1'un des ddbats enchevetrd
s de 1'6poque
qui voit la restauration des valeurs "classiques"
et la critique du "romantisme"
C'est un example
de ces "captures" qu'on rencontre dans 1'histoire
d'importance dans les pol6miques qu'elle attire a
confusing debate of
counter-accusations, Angl&s isolates three major themes
attribute a ce
d'exploration psychologique et morale.
debate may be understood as symptomatic of what
various critics have called the crisis of the novel3 or the
.-r4 c?4 a nf rh nnnon nP 1 4 n 4n f rt i r Q a'fr 1T
M *? I nh ol Pmn fi Tnrl
In an attempt to
better understand Andr6 Gide's esthetic position in relation
to examine his evolution as a
It is not my purpose here
to reduce Gide
simple product of this period, but rather to examine certain
influences that helped to shape his vision of the novel and
1'influence en literaturee" published in 1900, in which he
says of the artist
Que peut-il? Seul!
--Il est d6bordd.
sens pour palper le monde;
vingt-quatre heures par jour,
II a besoin d'adjoints,
n'y suffit pas,
secr6taires. (OC III
I shall begin by examining the intellectual climate in
which Gide grew up,
scene in 1889 with
the composition of his first
Cahiers d'Andr. Walter.
It is my contention
remain his primary concerns
through all of his subsequent
first look at the dominant philosophical and
esthetic movements of his early years before describing the
reaction of which he was a part.
third chapter concerns Gide's literary production
up until 1919 when he began work on Les Faux-Monnayeurs.
Mallarm6 in particular and his involvement with the dominant
literary journal of his time,
La Nouvelle Revue franchise.
Gide has explicitly rejected the notion of an evolution in
conceived of the totality of his literary works up until Les
Faux-Monnaveurs from the beginning and that his
works should be seen as pieces of a mosaic, each exploring a
different aspect of narrative technique.
The fourth chapter is an examination of certain classic
dialogue and narrative voice. The point of the
techniques that Gide employs and the subtlety with which he
blends them, and on the other hand the paradoxical nature of
f a 1 C ,, -^ 1C I n a -r ^* 1
jj^ + i ^ ^ I*
structuralist critiques of Gide's novel
that help reveal
both the complexity of his project and its coherence.
a critique of
reveal Gide's subtle technique but in so doing conceal major
ethical nature of his formal concerns.
Gide' s predilection
argumentation by misdirection
raising question but offering no answers or only inadequate
outside of history.
There are contradictory references
coexist, although the basic field of historical reference is
century before World War
there is a very rich social milieu within the novel.
dominant form of social interaction,
is a central metaphor
4 n 4-l~~~n nn~~.n1 .s 4 1 1 n 4.. 4.. a m rrn 4- 4. a a na..ea,4.an*4
*- **-^ n i~ r 1 T"
Cf-r l- AhC ^+*^ h ^
Andr6 Gide et le premier groupe de
Nouvelle Revue franchise, Paris, Gallimard, 1978, p.199.
2. Ibid., p.200.
e du roman aux
Naturalisme aux annees vingt, Paris, Josd Corti, 1966.
La Crise du concept de
France au XXe Siecle, Paris, Jos4 Corti, 1974.
THIRD REPUBLIC BELIEFS AND VALUES
Positivism and Educational Reform
Positivism, as a philosophical movement, has its roots
in the writings of Auguste Comte.
He used the term
'positive' in opposition to what he perceived as negative
thought in Hegelian dialectics. Although Comte was a rather
deriving his method from scientific
historicism. He believed in stages in the history of ideas,
from the religious to the metaphysical and finally to the
Comte denied metaphysics and attempted to
transform philosophical theory into scientific theory.
Marcuse says of Comte's project,
'Philosophie positive' is, in the last analysis, a
synthesis of all empirical knowledge ordered into
a system of harmonious progress following an
All opposition to social
r afO l 4+4 /^ 4 C nkl 4 *ar* aA nTll nnnni n4n l
In other words,
develop an independent
that would concern itself
facts, not with transcendental illusions. He saw society
sociology would eventually
writings were very clear and common-sensical, which perhaps
accounts at least in part,
for his great popularity.
read the works of the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant and
agreed with his fundamental
things in themselves, and 'phenomena,
' things as we perceive
Comte decided that the search for true knowledge was
the systematic study of phenomena
from which one could derive
concerning first causes or ultimate ends was disallowed
in a very real sense,
a program for
society because Comte believed that from scientific method
one could make predictions and from these predictions one
In his Cours de Philosophie Positive Comte gives
four primary applications of positivism: 1) the rational and
objective search for the laws governing the human mind,
a .. n a e 4 rt 1 C< I .S 4 I n ,^ 4 n 1 a( n -t ww n I- Ja n S .a 4- a C
nmn 1, AAJ ,, ci, A U: 1 rr
organization of society.2 In his explanation of the first
point Comte rejects out of hand any possibility of knowledge
Mais quant a observer de la meme manire les
intellectuals pendant qu' ils
ii y a impossibility manifeste.
L'individu pensant ne sau
don't 1'un raisonnerai
rait se partager en deux,
t, tandis que 1'autre
L'organe observe et
identiques comment 1'observation pourrait-elle
I will have occasion to return to this problem of the
divided subject in the discussion below of realist
literature and the problem of the narrator. Before coming
back to this point it will be useful to look at some of the
effects of Comte's method in three other areas: educational
delineating fields of
, and the re-
organization of society.
with its pragmatic vision and its naive
belief in inexorable human progress through science, was the
ideal philosophy for the managerial Republicans who were to
gain control of France in the wake of the debacle of the
Franco-Prussian War in 1871.
Indeed the Republicans
4i 1 a r- a Av 4 a 1 n a it on nra a ^ n^ r^ n^- ^ k ^ n it r aF % Trt wn 4 r n a TI 4
perceived as a primitive world view.
They gradually sought
teaching from the
public school system.
the idea of religion,
Comte was not necessarily hostile to
but he opposed both the unverifiable
Protestantism. Charles Lalo writes that
D'une part, avec les conservateurs,
11 affirme le
voire d'une religion,
toutes ces forces d'organisation
du novel esprit scientifique 4
When the Republicans took over the school system they
distributed new textbooks on history,
literature and morals
religious teaching with their own lay morality.
late nineteenth century a new attack
(many of them Protestants) ,
the process in areas where the Church had hitherto
been basically religious
popular education had
keeping with this
the Republicans made their primary
schools concentrate on morals 5
The Third Republic is rightfully called "la republique des
and they tended,
to hire assistants with similar
primary education from 1879 until 1896. He was a well known
a member of the Radical Party and of the League of
the Rights of Man, and later president of the powerful Ligue
Buisson developed a neo-Protestant doctrine
calling for a radical
separation but complementarity between Church and school. He
promoted what he called "la foi laique.".6
greatly influenced by a Catholic heretic
who spent his
life attacking the Church,
Charles Renouvier. He was the author of numerous textbooks
for teachers of Republican morals. In 1873, he converted to
Protestantism and later,
the pages of his
recommended the conversion of
France to Protestantism
moral decadence. This x
a solution to social unrest and
leo-Protestant tendency grounded its
moral system in the writings of Kant and in the belief in
human progress through the development of the intellect.
ideas dovetailed nicely with
the positivism of
appointed a Protestant
- ,-, I-_
n a n r m a i C a r n n* 4- a V n 1 a U a -A n 1 n si 4-
*n a c^ rn r^n v M ^ va i nty u ^ rr^^ T
e in the syllabus.
that education should be both emotional and esthetic, using
the observation of concrete phenomena and active methods to
promote sociability in the masses.
He also gave primacy to
sought active and voluntary submission
opposed to sterile
that education be
governed by an independent,
autonomous corporation of intellectuals which provided Ferry
with the theoretical
justification to make the university
stressing a positive method of
Zeldin provides evidence
not only was near-universal
literacy achieved during this period in France but that the
children learned to write well.
After the decline of religion,
was laid on choosing the
most admired writers
very best pro
as a whole continued to be seen
a conquest of
The day would begin in lay schools with a
lesson in morals replacing the catechism of Church schools.
Although the Republican morality was quite conservative, the
in reaction to
threat of being
supplanted among the people by a secular state, placed these
This seems a bit
extreme by today's standards. Paul Bert's textbook of 1882,
although it favored progress,
was intended to inculcate the
submission to the state.10
competition between public and Church schools, had produced
minority. Between 1881 and 1920 the percentage of boys 11 to
17 in secondary schools never surpassed
percent. In 1887
fifty-six percent of secondary schools were state lycdes or
thirteen percent were
lay schools and
thirty-one percent were Church private 11 During the
the amount of time students spent in seven
years of secondary school studying 'Letters'
n^ t-11- n r- m r .n F -- n 4-n a 4- n 1 -- n o 4 n +-,, 1, n ,. 4 l1 ,nnA..1
of new bacheliers f<
, they were having
)r each year
difficulty finding jobs.
Their options were either to go on
the university in order to specialize,
into a lucrative family business,
or most often,
what they could get:
journalists or civil servants.
they were an
percent of their generation was to receive
their peers were
businesses or working in mines,
in factories or on farms;
equality was hollow
and privilege was
divided according to class lines. Gide recalls his childhood
statement from his
ns le savoir, comme
Frangais et protestant sans
a Protestant lay
drawn directly from
Gide's own experience
recounted in Si le rain ne meurt.
teaching of literature and history,
the state and private lay lyc6es, was greatly influenced by
- S -
r, '1 u f rn r\ a c c2 n r 2 n r nn n n n r- a U f I n '. a n fly i r n n^ m U -->
' He meticulously developed these three parameters in
his analysis of the history of English literature and did it
textbooks of literature. 12 Once again
, in his autobiography,
avidly reading all
of Taine' s books while a
student in the lycde.
was later to see his ideas on race
used by the most conservative elements in France to justify
a rising nationalism accompanied by xenophobia.
In a later
la France contemporaine,
define, in the wake of the debacle of the Second Empire, the
essence of the French nation and to give a unified identity
to its people.
However, as Zeldin states,
of his Oriains of Contemporary
turn Frenchmen against
to move on
Germany was following.13
Ernest Renan was
at odds with
Taine concerning the
essence of a nation.
In a famous lecture at the Sorbonne in
"Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?" Renan declared race
be an inadequate criterion,
* -- '
*fl fl t -r a a^ 'vn r l rn n n am r T / ra rn n r i a n .t nn
justification of the status quo.
In an early essay called
L' Avenir de
written in 1848 but not published
until 1890, Renan expresses a firm belief in the progress of
scientific spirit with
imagination. Science, he said, was his religion.15 From 1865
of volumes under
Christ and generally portrayed religion
cultural byproduct.16 His work obviously found its place in
the Republican syllabus.
It is difficult to
impact of positive
philosophy on French society.
Being a part of the syllabus
did not ensure
acceptance, nor did it ensure even an adequate understanding
teachers or their students.
with the popularization of theories, they were watered down,
and associated with
other ideas or currents of
But positivism had the advantage of appealing to a
systematic organization of knowledge into fields of inquiry
I n iia cn Q -? 7a-t lran4 ci 4 ai nn a a cn n a r -P nn rroaa t-rnran ana nh a
intellectuals and, through them, on many others of
generations to come. In a more general sense, in alliance
with pure and particularly applied sciences, it contributed
to the scientific spirit that was to dominate the Third
Republic not only in the development of human sciences but
even in the elaboration of a new esthetic. Indeed,
observation of concrete reality and the verisimilitude of an
author or an artist's representation of reality gradually
supplanted the Romantic esthetic revolving around the
individual, emotion and introspection.
Zola and the Experimental Novel
Balzac and Flaubert were the models of realism for the
young writers of the 1870s. They told their stories through
omniscient third-person narrators, concentrating,
particularly in the case of Balzac, on minute descriptions
of places, people and causally linked events. Their
narrators told their stories much as an historian would and
they frequently incorporated actual historical events into
the narrative both to increase the feeling of identification
in the reader and to appeal to his sense of verisimilitude.
R 'wa r tn tI >r i n v al in noi rr 4 I *r r? n t Q b0 n + t v rlrr t 1
pure and objective as the 'Code Civil.
' It should
not be assumed that these writers were the dominant ones of
their generation. Balzac was the only one of the three
mentioned who achieved durable popular
in his time.
Hugo, Georges Sand, Prosper MHrimbe and Eugene Sue, among
others, were very popular Romantic writers of the period.
But it was nevertheless the inheritors of Balzac, above all
Emile Zola, who, in the 1870s, constituted a movement based
on scientific principles of observation and experimentation
- -the naturalist school.
The esthetic of the naturalist school was formulated in
the pages of the Soirees de Medan by Emile Zola, Maupassant,
the Goncourt brothers and J.K. Huysmans and others. The most
extensive statement of this esthetic is found in Zola's 1882
work, Le Roman experimental. Zola uses the term
'experimental' not in the sense of formal experimentation,
but rather in a scientific sense based on data observation
and cause to effect, or inductive inference, which he had
found in a book by the physiologist Dr. Claude Bernard
entitled Introduction la mddecine exD4rimentale.
a type of laboratory in which to experimentally
observe the behavior of human beings. He
parait et institute 1'experience, je veux dire fait
s personnages dans une histoire
particulibre pour y montrer que la succession des
faits y sera telle que 1'exige le d4terminisme des
ph6nomfnes mis a l'6tude.17
Already in 1864, in their Journal, the Goncourt brothers
historians of the present and
expressed a desire to bring the 'lower classes' into the
novel. The naturalists believed that their works were a
transcription of 'life
' were true representations
of reality. Not, to be sure, the reality of actual events,
but the reality of natural laws represented by fictional
events and characters. Their pseudo-scientific position did
not last long under the pressure of more rigorous critics,
discussed below, and there were numerous defections within
this loosely connected group.
Maupassant soon abandoned his
naturalist style novel of manners in favor of psychological
novels. Huysmans began to write, with LA-Bas, what he called
a 'naturalisme spiritualiste.
' Gustave Flaubert, present at
the early elaborations of the naturalist esthetic, quickly
distanced himself from the others, following his own line of
reasoning which soon led him to his last and probably most
enigmatic novel, Bouvard et P4cuchet.
This ironic and
Fln~ nn.n AC nran# 1 1 *v nan r.4. n na a~ 1 4: n n nnrn a k 4 n .~ ar an i. an 4~ 1
find only disaster in their experiments and only
disillusionment in their quest for knowledge.
Certainly the enduring popularity of Zola's works owes
more to the pathos,
the politics and his epic style than to
his ideas on social determinism,
but his rapid ascension
a best selling author does reflect the scientistic spirit of
his times. As previously mentioned, through the active
intervention of men like Jules Ferry, the new scientistic
doctrine was disseminated to the middle and lower classes
through an increasingly state dominated educational system.
Zola's massive book sales rose along with the literacy rate
in France. As reactionary
may seem today,
his ideas of social determinism
Zola represented social progress for his
contemporaries. He lent his eloquent pen to creating
sympathy for the condition of the working class.
Michel Raimond shows clearly that the writers of the
Naturalist group organized a veritable public relations
campaign in favor of their novels.
18 They scandalized the
literary world with their graphic depictions of daily
among the poor and with their equally graphic display of
language hitherto censured in literature.
their detractors with insolence,
They replied to
causing further scandal and
so a C 4 A C O a --4-A 4 4-1 it a .. c. a a a 1.. .. 4 a ..^--- *
better condemn them,
but it seems evident,
in light of their
tremendous commercial success,
particularly that of Zola,
that they had struck a chord of common scientistic vision
among the readers of the period.
had invaded such diverse areas of intellectual activity as
not to mention politics and education.
and analysis were the touchstones of the objective positive
Classical and Spiritual
Naturalism had its detractors from the beginning.
Ferdinand BrunetiBre of the Acaddmie Frangaise,
criticized the naturalists in his La Banaueroute du
naturalisme in the name of classical values.
came to criticize them for their
spiritual and moral
Eugene Melchior de
in his Roman russe
(1885) compared the naturalist
novelists to their Russian counterparts,
clear superiority of the latter. De Vogu
pointing to the
ie saw in the novels
of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky an instrument for the study of
* 4 4
-~~ a a n n a a I a1 .r -. a 4 a- I a a a -
accordance with their own changing perspectives, gradually
orienting themselves either toward psychological studies or
toward a spiritualist, a poetic or a fantastic realism.19 If
the naturalists seem to dominate the literary scene of the
early Third Republic, it is probably because they represent
so well the spirit of the times. But it should not be
assumed that they were the only interesting writers of the
period nor the only popular ones.
Idealist novelists such
Octave Feuillet, Georges
Ohnet and Victor Cherbuliez enjoyed moderate
especially among upper middle class readers. In their works,
one often finds disenfranchised aristocrats searching for
ideals to give meaning to their lives in a materialistic
world. Gobineau, Barbey d'Aurevilly and Villiers de l'Isle-
Adam all shared an equal contempt for the modern world and
Paul Adam, in Le Mvst&re des foules (1888), is stridently
These writers received
support from the Catholic reaction and often took up the
banner of anti-naturalist, anti-scientistic sentiment in the
One of the most talented critics of naturalism was the
young Catholic writer Paul Bourget. As early
1883, in an
n. .4..- 1 C a,. 1" f .. 1 n.. 4- .-1i ,, r. A I -la 1 4.1A 1 N^. ,.. -
novels were psychological and moral studies designed to
clarify the complexities of the human mind, but there i
invasion of bourgeois ideology in his writing and he
frequently falls into the 'roman B thhse.'21
His style was
very traditional and his characters rather conventional, but
he was recognized as one of the masters of the genre by the
turn of the century. Gide was later to give qualified praise
to Bourget whose ability he admired, but whose style he
chose not to imitate.
La "vraisemblabilitd" (je crois que
mot) chez Bourget est parfaite
Emule de Balzac,
il est profonddment enfonc6 dans la realitd. Ii ne
s'y empetre jamais, comme j
j'essayais d'y rdussir. Ma r6alit4 r
quelque peu fantastique.
(JAG I, p.992)
Pierre Loti was a brilliant and non-conventional writer
of this period, blending fantasy with emotion to produce
poetic and often exotic novels. Loti characterized great
novels by their capacity to "ddpasser 1'anecdote pour en
faire un symbol de la condition humane.
the 'naturalist vulgarities' in his acceptance speech before
the Acaddmie Frangaise.23
Jules Renard is perhaps one of the most original
Renard a 4t6,
au sortir du naturalisme,
la voie d'une esth6tique nouvelle:
melange du reel
et de l'id6al,
et du rAve, qu
du s6rieux et de 1'ironie,
Li devait s'6panouir.
z Francis de Miomandre,
Giraudoux et Colette.24
Yet none of these dissenting voices ever formed a
linked only by their unanimous condemnation
of naturalism and the materialist bent of their rivals.
Their repeated attacks eventually succeeded in discrediting
the naturalist esthetic but they were never able to find a
new esthetic of their own and so left a void.
refutation of the Medan dogmas ended in a crisis of the
This cursory summary of the novel in France during the
first two decades of the Third Republic is an attempt to set
the scene for Andr6 Gide's entry into literature.
dealt primarily with the novel and the quarrels about its
form and content because I want to trace the general
problematic of the relationship between representation and
This problematic relationship may be artificially
divided into two fundamental aspects,
the esthetic and the
which are in practice difficult to separate.
- 1. -- -,. -L -,, -1 .-. -~ -.. -t 2 L1. -- -- -1. .
form and technique of the idealist and the naturalist
writers mentioned above are similar--primarily third-person
narration and alternating sequences of description,
dialogues and analysis.
On the level of content,
they differ radically.
Zola was criticized by the idealists
not for his style as such,
but for the vulgar
situations that he depicted which,
abstracting the ethical
implications in these ju
what constitutes beauty.
comes down to a question of
For the naturalists,
beauty was a function of thematic coherence and the
objective truth of the
certainly agreed as concerns the
they appealed to subjective truths that they found,
but in philosophy and religion.
whereas the idealists tended to portray individual
a metaphysical order,
the naturalists portrayed social
situations in which the individual was merely
living out his
biologically or socially determined existence.
From the ethical point of view,
one could again
separate form from content.
as described in the
characters and situations are subject
The decisions that the characters make
L, L .- IL - a. -I -L,. at 'L. -- -l 1. 1
historically, naturalist writers removed moral
responsibility from their characters as individuals because
they were subject to forces beyond their control. Their
condition was a social problem, not an individual one, and
this appealed to a progressive sentiment of social reform to
alleviate the conditions that caused their 'depravity.
the other hand, this very determinism that liberates them
from responsibility also denies their individual freedom to
control their own destiny. Furthermore, a primary formal
question, the position of the narrator in relation to the
situations and events in the novel, complicates the
narrative situation. Is the narrator, as presented, truly
objective and reliable? Is he subject to the
same forces as
those dictating the behavior and judgements of his
characters? By what criteria does the narrator analyze the
characters and situations he has created?
One may speak of ethics in another sense as regards the
relation of the novel to the public. It is, after all, an
act of communication that carries a message or messages and
that, by the act of publication, invites comment and
interpretation. What is the function of the novel in
relation to its readers? The novel, since its inception, has
interests of their readers.
This relationship between writer
and reader is also a question of form;
not only what
information is presented but how it is presented,
mouth and with what tone.
These questions involve complex
answers that shall be treated further in the course of the
discussion of Gide's novels.
One last point before leaving the discussion of Zola
and his naturalist colleagues.
though by no means a definitive measure of
at least a reliable measure of its wide public
echo. As mentioned above,
the naturalists were very astute
in their use of public relations techniques and after Zola's
with Nana in 1879,
parlayed this popularity into a power base that seemed to
feed on itself.
Zola's novels prior to Nana were reprinted
and sold by the tens of thousands
as were his subsequent
volumes in the Rougon-Macquart series. As much
naturalist novels were a result of a certain social
situation and a confluence of ideas,
too did they
to disseminate and consecrate certain values by giving them
voice within a symbolic context. In
has an ideological function that is,
other words, th
in an absolute
- 9 I -1
1 -- "U
* I 1
11 eqyn nr i h nor.. aa rI an i- a.. r 9 n ne % .I a
c 1,, e
didactic and moralistic; the plots became formulaic, the
This dilemma was not to be resolved. In 1905, in a
response to a questionnaire by Le Cardonnel and Vellay,
Edmond Jaloux stated that French novelists had to search for
Gide responding to the same questionnaire,
expressed the belief that the French novel was entering a
period in which the appearance of new characters would
transform the novel. 26
As Gide was later to write in his
1936 preface to L'Immoraliste,
en art, il n' y
de problem don't 1'oeuvre d'art ne soit la suffisante
Subiectivitv and Vitalism
Andr6 Gide began writing his Journal in 1889; he had
finished his year of philosophy at the Lycee Henri IV and
was completing his first novel, Les Cahiers d'Andr6 Walter.
Before discussing this novel, it will be useful to consider
some of the events and publications of that year
example of the turmoil and contradictions of the period.
That year, the centenary of the French Revolution,
.. at- CL a.I 1,1 T It__: -.-- ... .-t--
is a description from the pen of Frantz Jourdain in the
weekly magazine L'Illustration
Le plAtre, le moellon, la brique ne
dissimulent plus, sous un mensonger d6cor, le fer
ou la fonte
Les staffs, les faiences
terres cuites, les laves 4maillBes, les brique
vernisstes, les zincs laqu s, les mosaiques
chatoyantes, les enduits colori4s, les verres
flamboyants, toute la vaillante palette de la
polychromie architectonique rejouit la vue,
miroite sous le
soleil et chante le triomphe de
1'esprit frangais, de la gaiety gauloise, du
rationalisme dur une morne et pr6historique
Jourdain goes on, in the same exalted tone, to describe
the Eiffel Tower, controversial centerpiece of this
a new divinity,
implacable comme la destinde."28 The World Exhibition was a
source of great national pride and its opulence served as a
consecration of the embattled Third Republic and its
The major literary
of 1889 were Zola's La
Bete humane, Fort comme la mort by Maupassant, George
Ohnet's idealist novel Docteur Rameau, Japoneries d'Automne
by Pierre Loti and Bob A l'Exposition by Gyp. It was also
the year that Taine published his L'Avenir de la
in the influential Revue des Deux Mondes entitled "PriBre
sur la Tour Eiffel." He wrote,
Toi, fille du savoir, courbe ton orgueil
c'est peu d'dclairer 1'esprit
si l'on ne
guerit pas 1'dternelle peine du coeur
fonder le temple de la nouvelle alliance
science et de la foi.30
e de la
The most devastating attack, though little noticed at the
time, came that same year from the young philosopher Henri
Bergson in his work Essai sur les donndes immddiates de la
Bergson's subtle and rigorous arguments were
later to be very influential in laying the groundwork for a
reaction against determinism and current scientific dogma.
In his 1889 essay, Bergson attacked the contradictions
inherent in both mechanist and dynamist approaches to
psychological phenomena. In both he saw a tendency toward
dualism as they both speak of objective and subjective
reality, giving precedence to one or the other of these two
aspects of experience. One of Bergson's primary critiques is
what he described as the spatialization of that which should
be more properly understood in terms of its duration. This
spatialization or quantification of sensory experience tends
a *,, n a a a: at 1 4.a4 *t a .J 4l it 4 -. Jr 4~ a a .* 1 a
vitalist principles led him to revalorize the notions of
intuition and what he termed
His teaching had a major impact on esthetic values--Proust
is only the most striking example--during the Belle Epoque.
in an entry in his Journal in 1908 comments on his
reading of L'Evolution crdatrice
Importance admirable de ce livre
s'6chapper de nouveau la philosophies.
Que notre intelligence d4coupe,
, par ou peut
des surfaces sur
: que le reste lui 6chappe;
qu'elle ne tienne compete que de cela
Another interesting part of Bergson's
which he continued to develop in his later work,
critique of language.
1889 essay and
In the preface to Les Donnees
imm6diates he points to a fundamental contradiction that
arises in any philosophical investigation that attempts to
juxtapose in space phenomena that don't occupy space at all,
une traduction illegitime de 1'in6tendu en 6tendu,
la qualityd en quantity
,,31 He constantly examines
idiomatic expressions of everyday language which give a
notion of extensivity to sensations: 'une grande douleur'
tin A^ a 4 nr an 4H j .1 n 4- q C .h -- 1n
represent the duration of sensations,
not a predicative
language that fixes phenomena in time through definition,
but rather a metaphorical language.
It is easy to
the esthetic parallels that can be
drawn from this type of philosophical investigation,
Bergson's influence should not be overstated.
did not really create a new 'intensive'
style remained rigorously classical and its very clarity
represented an underlying contradiction of content by form.
although Bergson was to achieve great popularity
in the coming years with his optimistic philosophy of
his ideas sustained a probing
reevaluation following the death and destruction of World
Gide was later to criticize Bergson
Ce qui me ddplait dans la doctrine de
que je pens
e ddja sans
qu'elle a de flatteur,
Plus tard on
croira decouvrir partout son influence sur notre
simplement parce que lui-m&me est de
epoque et qu'il cede sans
e au movement
son importance representative
The tone is harsh but Gide's point is well
an important representative of the ideas of his time and
governments was rapidly secularizing daily life and Bergson
was correct to point out the linguistic pervasiveness of
Gide's position within this period of conflicting
values can be traced through his Journal, which he began in
1889, his autobiography, Si le grain ne meurt, Jean Delay's
biography, La Jeunesse d'Andr4 Gide, and Claude Martin's
remarkable work, La Maturitd d'Andrd Gide. The first two
works offer an interesting contrast in both style and
judgement concerning Gide's early interests and ambitions.
Si le grain ne meurt was written concurrently with Les Faux-
Monnayeurs and so offers some interesting insights not only
with regard to his early life, but to his preoccupations in
the early 1920s. This is not an attempt to explain Gide's
work simply through biographical data, rather I intend to
choose elements of this data that indicate certain literary
and philosophical preferences that he exhibited and the
influences that contributed specifically to the development
of his fluid esthetic of the novel in the context of a
generalized crisis in esthetic and moral values. Without a
doubt the most important of these formative influences was
his involvement in the Symbolist movement and particularly
L.2 I.. l, ar 1 .. 1. ... 1, 1.. -Ilu Ct a.-i --T I.-- --- --
Gide was an introverted child and adolescent raised in
a wealthy and liberal Protestant family surrounded by women.
His father died with he was a young child and his mother
subsequently uprooted her little family of two several times
before finally returning to Paris to settle when young Andr6
was fifteen. Andr4's secondary education came to an abrupt
halt because of 'nervous disorders' when he was thirteen and
attending school in Montpellier. These problems were to
prevent him from returning to a regular classroom for
years. In the meantime he had a series of tutors whom he
describes in unflattering terms in his autobiography. The
last two years of this six year hiatus he spent working
assiduously with several tutors at the Pension Keller, a
Protestant boarding school that is obviously the model for
the Pension Vedel in Les Faux-Monnayeurs. He managed to
catch up with his former classmates in time to join them in
1887 for his Rhetorique at the Ecole Alsacienne, a private
lay lycee in Paris. Gide could hardly be considered a
representative product of the Republican school system.
However, it is certain that the Gide family, without
being fervently partisan, sympathized with the Republican
did many liberal Protestants at the time. In
C 4 1 1 a n 4 a .I wr(v C 4 4 a .. a 1 a C a n a a a a a. n 1
Si nous allions voir une exposition de
tableaux--et nous ne manquions aucune de celles
que Le Temps voulait bien nous signaler--ce
n'dtait jamais sans emporter le numero du journal
qui en parlait, ni
sans relire sur place les
appreciations du critique, par grand peur
d'admirer de travers
, ou de n'admirer pas du tout.
(OC XIII, p.211)
The principal organ of the Republican government served then
as a mediator of cultural values for the Gides.
In another reference to Le Temps Gide recounts a
sequence of events that came from an article in the paper.
Having read an article concerning reports of moral turpitude
in a small street near the Pension Keller, Andrd's mother
warns him to avoid the street. Andre, for unexplained
reasons, suspects that his best friend may have frequented
this place and is so overwrought that when he finally
confronts his friend Bernard, who seems unaware of the
existence of any foul play on the street, AndrB breaks down
in tears, begging his friend not to go there. The reasons
behind such an extreme reaction are more a result of the
young Gide's vivid imagination than of the newspaper article
itself, but the reference is significant.
(Once again this
memory finds its way into Les Faux-Monnayeurs in two
editor of Le Temps.
p.240-241) Jean Delay tells us
that Gide even participated in a pro-Ferry demonstration
while attending the Ecole Alsacienne,
though he further
states that Gide was rather indifferent to politics.32 The
point here is not to determine whether Gide was a partisan
but to portray the subtle influences in his
Gide mentions a Cours de litterature dramatique by
Saint-Marc-Girardin that he and his mother used to read
a chapter at a time,
during the year before he
entered the Pension Keller.
He also writes several
interesting pages about his first memories of his father's
which he describes
a sanctus sanctorum full of
mysterious works in Latin and Greek,
classics in beautiful bindings. But
law books and great
the ones he chose
read were the small volumes of poetry.
Victor Hugo and Thdophile Gaut
great prestige in those days,
whose work had achieved
though Gautier's sensuality
caused Gide some embarrassment to read in front of his
He discovered the Greeks through translations by the
Parnassien poet Leconte de Lisle:
eurent sur mon esprit une influence decisive.
" (OC XIII,
nJ vs a* rt I Ua 1 a r 1 a n ar A a a a 4 n a s. 4 a n rr a a i 1 4r- a ,a 4- i i a u /
the Scriptures: "
.1'art et la religion en moi
d6votieusement s'apousait et je goutais ma plus parfaite
extase au plus fondu de leur accord." (OC XIII, p.265)
also enjoyed the poetry of Heinrich Heine, first in
translation and then in the original
, and that of the
Parnassien poets Sully Prudhomme and FranCois Coppee.
One may assume that Gide gained a familiarity with the
French tradition during his Rh6torique. He speaks of early
s to write poetry but found his
to be awkward
and "A la maniere de Sully Prudhomme." (OC XIII, p.266) He
progressively gave more attention to writing prose and, a
he entered his year of philosophy at the Lycde Henri IV, he
began to write his Cahiers d'Andr6
literally overflows with references to Greek and Latin
classics, to German and English authors and to a panoply of
But as he entered his class in philosophy, he happened
upon Schopenhauer's Le Monde comme representation et come
volont6 which he read and reread (OC XIII, p.296), adopting
Schopenhauer's subjectivist and vitalist ideas for his own
credo. Though he claims later to have rid himself of
Schopenhauer's influence, in favor of Spinoza, Leibnitz,
fl a n n rn t nv iTt 4 a n n a v 4, $1 .. a 4 ar n e 4. 14 n 1 n n r n A n
attributes this statement to the influence of the German
At another moment,
questioned by an insistant colleague at a Symbolist
gathering as to the
which would guide his future
Gide finally responded impatiently,
a statement that was
later to appear in the
mouth of one of his characters.
Schopenhauer's influence on French literature of the
Third Republic was ambiguous.
There were echoes of his
thought in such varied writers as Taine,
Bernard and Paul Bourget.
Neo-Kantians such as Renouvier
found much to agree with in this German idealism
A ceux que la foi et la contemplation
esth6tique ne rdussi
ssaient plus & apaiser,
s'offrait une doctrine de renoncement et de
-c -. a- .- -a1 1 ;a- 6-- .. -...-.- 33
for instance was greatly influenced by
Schopenhauer and Darwin. He shared the former's fundamental
pessimism and belief in the perversity of human nature;
their most fundamental accord was on the dogma of original
ce le de Sc openhauer
Paul Bourget often quotes the German philosopher in his
Essais de psychologie contemporain,
particularly drawn to
Schopenhauer's notion that the material world is only a
projection of man's will and his radical idealism has much
to do with Bourget's development of the psychological novel
at the end of the century.
Bourget approved of
Schopenhauer's aversion to democracy as being hostile to the
superior individual and he believed that superior men,
disgusted by vulgarity,
should withdraw into contemplation
and mark their disdain for the common man.
The young French
writer was also drawn to the irrationalist pessimism of
Schopenhauer and used it in his critique of scientist.
Devant la banqueroute
tomberont dans un disespoir
finale de la
qui aurait saisi Pascal,
s'il eit et6 priv6 de
Bourget played an active role in the struggle against
naturalism in favor of analytical novels and paved the way
for the psychological novel.
Pierre Loti and Maurice Barris,
along with Anatole
were to be
a4-L .... .. ... C t--- 1 2 a-1-- ... 1 -
It was a short subjectivist sketch that reveals more about
its author than about the French province. It was drawn from
notes Gide took while writing his first novel, Les Cahiers
in an isolated provincial cottage.
was originally published in a very
limited edition in 1891
by the Librairie de 1'Art Ind6pendant in Paris
posthumous work of Andr4 Walter.
There was a preface by a
friend of the defunct author,
Gide's best friend),
though within a year it
was generally known that Gide himself was the author.
times overwhelmingly maudlin, this novel is nevertheless
fascinating for its interesting form, the weaving together
literary and biblical quotes,
poems and prayers,
all in diary entries of a young novelist who is writing a
novel about a young novelist.
There are numerous references
to this novel
that AndrB Walter is writing,
a long theoretical passage in the
ir," though we
never actually read any fragments of this novel.
In his summary biography of AndrB Walter,
s includes this statement:
d'un livre qu'il
"Ii parlait quelquefois
a a -11 a s-
. a -
V .-i a.Cin at. a -j a J n a- a a-. .n l r
early pages of the first part, the "Cahier Blanc," in which
AndrB Walter speaks of his literary inspiration
Puis avec 1
s ambitions rv414les, ce fut Vigny,
--Flaubert, 1'ami toujours souhaite
subtilitds rhdtoriques des
affilaient notre esprit;
alerted, et plus ergoteur
tendhal le faisait plus
(OC I, p.33)
However, the work most often cited by far is the Bible,
a continual source of consolation and inspiration for the
protagonist, in the throes of a spiritual crisis which
eventually degenerates into madness (fievre c6rdbrale) and
finally death, leaving his work unfinished. Gide tells us
that he had eliminated about half the references to the
Bible in his final version on the advice of his friend and
mentor Emile Verhaeren. (OC XIII, p.310) Andr6 Walter
very much a Romantic hero in the tradition of Werther or
Ren6 and this is indeed a Bildungsroman in which we follow
the author through his spiritual and emotional crises.
if a Romantic archetype were placed in a world of
symbols where passion is not so much an effect of the senses
of thought images. In a phrase redolent of Schopenhauer,
AndrB Walter writes: "L'Ame,
en nous la Volontd
. .,- -- r- x I V. i
is preceded by this phrase from Corinthians V,
selon la chair."
nous ne connaissons plus personne--
p.92) Andr4 Walter retires to the
countryside and gradually withdraws into his own mind
living a studious life of abnegation.
The references to
other characters and events are gradually reduced to a
minimum and the introspection becomes more metaphysical.
"Pas un 4vtnement
la vie touj ours intime -tout
jou6 dans l'Ame,
il n'en a rien paru."
Schopenhauer is also evoked repeatedly to
author's fascination with himself,
connait tout et n'est connu de personnel,
c'est le Sujet.
est done le support du monde.
" (OC I,
extreme idealism is intentionally nourished in search of a
vision that goes beyond the materiality of objects. Andrd
"Perdre le sentiment de son rapport
de sorte que la representation
degage toute pure
et qu'aucune connaissance ext6rieure ne distraie de la
connaissance intuitive et de la vision commencee tout
" (OC I,
His three catch words are
' 'la connaissance intuitive'
--- ^1 I- 1Z ... . 1_ -1 -------------... 1 -
T-Tr 1 1
in a macabre race
By the end of the
author confuses himself with Allain as both succumb to
in a long footnote presented
the composition of Allain,
we find other similarities
between the novel he is writing and the novel we are
"Un personnage seulement
. ou plut6t son
n'est que le lieu commun oh le drame
champ clos ou les adversaires s'assaillent.
These adversaries are not two separate passions,
aspects of a single passion,
'l'ame et la chair.
from the struggle between the spirit and the flesh that the
novel is created. He also calls this the struggle between
materialism and idealism. "Non point une veritd de r4alisme,
mais une v6rit4 theorique,
(du moins humainement).
" (OC I,
He wants to create an
la vie phdnomenale absent,
by transposing Spinoza's ethical principles
into an esthetic for the novel,
Un roman c'est un th6oreme.
" (OC I,
Les Cahiers d'Andr6 Walter,
for all its
in kernel form,
esthetic preoccupations that
Gide would go on to elaborate for the rest of his career.
ml- -. 1 A.* 4 *
awareness would remain.
Andr6 Walter is an odd work with
its episodic narration and shifts of narrative voice, using
letter fragments in which dialogues are reported that in
turn elucidate some other part of the text. This structural
play, putting a conversation inside a diary entry inside the
novel within the context of a false preface, is a narrative
procedure that Gide continued to employ.
We will in fact
point to similar narrative strategies, though more subtly
executed, thirty-five years later in his Les Faux-
The diary form gives an impression of linear
development, but the diary fragments
presented seem to
represent more an absorption of a discontinuous reality in
which memory and especially other texts blend the past into
the present, each fragment subject to abstraction in the
present moment of the diary writing. The narrator is
continually looking backward, analyzing past events and
drawing general conclusions about himself, his relation to
human nature and to literature.
But the journal form is by
nature a deferred presence, that is to
presence in the first person
writing subject and his
object of the analysis only coincide with one
another through the abstraction of the past into a web of
Jean Rousset, in his brilliant work L'Intdrieur et
1'ext rieur, comments on Gide's radical subjectivity in the
young author's Notes de Bretagne, written during the
composition of Les Cahiers d'Andrd Walter
VoilA, me semble-t-il, 1'essentiel
dans le caracthre radicalement subjectif de
~ -r A 4- S 4- a. -
: 11 est
Le rapport entire le spectacle et 1
spectateur tend A
In Andrd Walter the narrator gradually replaces the
spectacle of the material world with the spectacle of
himself, his inner world. He
"les choses deviennent
vraies: il suffit qu'on les pense.
--C'est en nous qu'est la
notre esprit crde
Vdrites." (OC I, p.54)
radical denial of exterior reality leads to a paradoxical
negation of the subject that only attains the purity it is
seeking through the death of the protagonist and of his
double. The conclusion of the text corresponds with the
death of its author; the text then is the image of the
A few years later Gide was to write in his Journal,
On peut dire alors ceci, que je vois come
- .- 4 I V
The text is, in this sense, a higher reality; it is the
ideal that governs his actions. In the same 1892 entry in
his Journal Gide
"Toute notre vie s'emploie a tracer de
nous-memes un ineffagable portrait." (JAG I, p.29)
of Andr6 Walter is a composite portrait of
his soul, and inevitably, the soul and will are all that
his body and his reason succumb to the 'fi&vre
The young AndrB Gide saw his first novel
to a pressing need of his generation; in fact, he states in
Si le grain ne meurt that he expected great
work seemed to him to correspond to Melchior de VogOu's call
for innovation and to Paul Desjardin's Devoir present. (OC
He was bitterly disappointed by the absence of
critical acclaim, not to say the indifference, of the large
majority of his contemporaries.
the praise of the 'happy few.
However, he took solace in
Pierre Louys lavished
enthusiastic praise on his friend's work and it was read and
admired within a small circle of habitues at Mallarm6's
courses du mardi soir.
' They admired his style and his
rigorous use of language in his effort toward perfect
limpidity of expression. Gide later said of hi
. 9 .- 3 TI f A S -
1 1 __ ~
Gide began writing for various literary journals over
the coming years
a critic and essayist. The previously
mentioned "Notes de Bretagne" was published, still under the
pseudonym of Andrd Walter, in Albert Mockel's literary
magazine Wallonie and he finally published, under his own
name, the Traitd du Narcisse in Tristan Bernard's Entretiens
nolitiaues et litt~raires in 1892.
The Traitd du Narcisse,
with a subtitle "Thdorie du Symbole"
reads like a manifesto
of the Symbolist movement, of which Gide had become
Indeed certain critics
a major statement of
Symbolist esthetics. The following chapter will delve more
deeply into Gide's participation in the Symbolist movement.
1. Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution, London,
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973, p.341.
"Introduction." Cours de philosophie
positive, Paris, Hachette, 1927
e Comte, Cours de philosophie positive, Paris,
4. Lalo, p.xiv.
Theodore Zeldin, France 1848-1945,
Clarendon Press, 1977
6. Ibid., p.155.
-- -- a 101
11. Ibid., p.292.
12. Ibid., p.121.
14. Ibid., p.123.
16. Ibid., p.124.
17. Emile Zola, Le Roman experimental, Les Oeuvres Completes
d'Emile Zola, Paris, Francois Bernouard, 1927-1929,vol.41,
18. Michel Raimond, Le Roman depuis la Rdvolution, Paris,
Armand Colin, 1972, p.133.
19. Ibid., p.124.
20. Ibid. p.131.
21. Ibid., p.133.
22. Ibid., p.131.
24. Ibid., p.132.
26. Ibid., p.134.
27. Jacques Chastenet, Histoire de la TroisiBme R4publique,
Paris, Hachette, 1974, p.535.
29. Ibid., p.534.
30. Ibid., p.535.
34. Ibid., p.301-302.
35. Ibid., p.302.
36. Jean Rousset, L'Interieur et 1'exttrieur, Paris, Jose
Corti, 1968, p.227.
THE FOUNDATIONS AND FLUIDITY OF GIDE'S ESTHETIC
The Symbolist Movement
Although it is evident from remarks in Si le grain ne
in Gide's early
entries that he was an avid reader of novels and philosophy,
his first love was poetry.
temps-lA, je n'avais
de regards que pour l'Ame, de goit que pour la poedsie." (OC
friends with Josd-Maria Herddia
Louys and spent his
evenings at Hdrddia's home in the company of many poets and
artists whom he also
on Tuesday evenings at Mallarm 's
influence of this
loosely knit avant-
and most particularly Stdphane Mallarmd,
Gide's career can hardly be overstated.
This is not to
that the young Gide was a sycophant who blindly followed his
-,1 -1t .?_ -_-
rfl t A- A_ A _
a a a n r ra n fl f r f Tr 1 r Vi rI V r 1' 0 r7 t I f fl r fl 0 T 1 fl 1 '1 T 0 0 1 0 f l
milieu was more of a catalyst that liberated him from any
realist penchant and reinforced his classical belief in the
primacy of style and the word. A closer examination of this
period will clarify some of the major and recurrent themes
in Gide's work.
The Symbolist movement derived its name from an 1886
article published by the poet Jean Moreas
in the Figaro.
and magazines called it the
the movement which,
dessinait en reaction contre
in Gide's words,
avec un remous
Parnassians, particularly in the person of Leconte de Lisle,
espoused a poetry of detachment and total objectivity.
ideas were often as categorical as those of the Naturalists.
description of objects and the pristine clarity of ideas in
Baudelaire for their
vision of art.
Baudelaire is commonly regarded as a poet with one foot
in the past, Romanticism, and another in modernist idealism.
This dualism is certainly evident in much of his work
attempts to reconcile the material world with the spiritual.
a lost paradise of
natural harmony and purity gives way to irrational pessimism
about the oppressive world of material existence. He escaped
through an abstract
in which the
the mediation of
yearning for the sensuality of the material world constantly
crept back to burst his spiritual bubble.
ambivalence concerning the material
shared no such
the idealism into a credo of pure art. Michel Ddcaudin,
des valeurs symbolistes,
second half of the nineteenth century became a moral system,
a religion and a metaphysics:
la vie police
que 1'art est necessairement iddaliste.4
Camille Mauclair describes the symbol as,
d'une pensee par un 6tre,
un acte n'intervenant
pas pour eux-memes, mais seulement pour cette expression."5
Mauclair goes on to enumerate the means of expressing these
procedures of synthesis--which leads him to conclude
Symbolism was more a movement of forms than of ideas. 6
Mauclair is generally correct as concerns the majority
of symbolist poets such as Verlaine, R6gnier,
Vi61"-Griffin among others,
but his statement is misleading
for the more complex case of St6phane Mallarmd.
difficulty one has in separating idea and form in Mallarm6's
"La forme pure est ce qui n'existe pas. Elle est le
tant qu' absence du concrete" 7
that Mallarm6's poetry strives toward absolute purity,
the absolute is not in the realm of truth in a moral sense;
rather it is in the realm of order in a geometric sense.
It is certainly this rigorous approach to language that
for most of his contemporaries.
of Parnasse contemporaine,
_- L? .I .. _I I* _1 1 1 1 *
la po6sie est 1'expression par
d'authenticitd notre s6jour et constitute la seule
or perhaps constituted
its highest form of expression for Mallarm6.
essential for the discussion here
the great poet's ideas to those of his young disciple Gide
whose first work published under his own name, Le Traite du
explain the symbol, Gide has recourse to Greek and Christian
and the Garden of Eden.
myth of Narcissus, beginning in a time before the hero had
found his own image. "En la monotonie inutile de 1'heure il
et son coeur incertain s'interroge."
He leaves the monotony to search for his own image and stops
along the banks of the River of Time,
"fatale et illusoire
rivibre ou les
Narcissus looks into the present of events flowing past; he
-~~L -. -. -1 ---A t .
du flot seul les diff6rencie. "
This leads him to
that they all must come from some paradisiac and
dreams of paradise
The Garden of Eden is a place of perfect harmony: "Tout
s'y crystallisait en une floraison ndcessaire "
Alone within this garden is Adam;
les formes apparaissent." (III,p.
pour lui, par lui,
5) But Adam tires of being
the privileged and eternal
his own image,
c 'est un esclavage
risquer un geste,
sans crever tout
l'harmonie." (III,p.6) In a rebellious gesture of free will,
Adam breaks a branch of Ygdrasil,
and in so doing destroys the harmonious order of paradise,
forever lost. Henceforth man will only know paradise through
the words of the prophets and
4s du Livre
total harmony of form;
appearances inside of objects
each salt has within it the
devoir est qu'il
Son seul pdch6: qu'il se pr6fhre. (III,p.8)
likely that Gide drew these last two ideas from the
German philosopher Schopenhauer--that the will by necessity
the poet must suspend his own
savant, ne doit pas
le mot ni
a 1'idde qu'il
aue c'est la
poet and scientist are both looking for
these primary forms
latter is limited by his meticulous inductive method, by his
The poet intuits
appearances. For Gide the work of art is like a crystal,
ou l'idde refleurit en
ouh les phras
symbols encore, mais
symbols purs, ou
1 --1-- - A- A_- I 1 -
in Narcisse answers
master's "tache spirituelle;" and Gide's "phrases rythmiques
the previously quoted phrase from
myst r i e ux
1'existence." Undoubtedly Gide's
idea of spirituality is
than Mallarm 's
There is a flavor of Calvinism in the crucial
role Gide gives to Adam's free will in the preordained unity
a demi-god mediator between man and
paradise. Furthermore, Gide's notion of the transparency of
another Romantic notion of
Mallarmd surely would not subscribe. However, many critics,
a primary theoretical document
proffered at the
most notably by
Gide's best friend, Pierre Louys, in his Ldda ou la louange
des Bienheureuses T6nebres. Beyond certain differences on
Gide's other Symbolist
friends admired the Traitd du Narcisse
a beautiful work
_a ----_------------A_-U _- n __ u .: _A- ------- _- La -r __ 3
* 1 I L
LA, on exigeait du monde ext6rieur qu'il se
recr4e A neuf sur le module des id6aux; ici, c'est
s'achevant elle-mlme comme
qu'il s'offre A elle comme mati&re adequate
This relationship to the exterior world
raw material for
literary work is a crucial
notion that Gide retained from his Symbolist association and
I shall have occasion to return to this point later in the
discussion of Les
But Gide owes more
Mallarm6 than this basic vision of the artist's relationship
the exterior world;
importance of language
tutelage Gide came
itself and of
than any other poet,
that the subject of all poems was poetry. His poems are an
relationships between words and objects to create a higher
meaning. In Maurice Blanchot's words,
"Le language est
d6truit le monde pour le faire renaitre &a 1'tat de sens, de
valeurs signifi6es."11 This
idealist notion of language
best reflected in a famous quote from the preface Mallarm6
that Mallarmd seeks
idealism resembles closely some of Hegel's pronouncements on
emphasis from objective reason to a subjective sensitivity.
In Mallarmd's poetry,
the subject becomes an integral part
of the texture, not as an end in itself, but as a universal
subject, a totalizing means of expressing the ideal. Order,
"est saisi non par
la raison mais par
le Beau n'est que 1'ordre immanent de la
breaking the sound barrier,
pushed the envelope of language
and form to the limit. To quote from Lukacs once again,
1'immanence du sens
justement du fa
telle que ]
bout, et sans aucun management, dans la mise a nu
de son absence.15
of Mallarmean idealism fascinated
mn: r~, ~ 1 I. -r
ideas remained, however, particularly the notion of critical
and dialectical couples of subject/object and of
"Peindre, non la chose, mais 1'effet qu'elle produit,"16 was
a point of
reference for Gide's view
suggestive magic of words,
general problematic of language.
I shall return to Gide's
It must be said that Gide was not particularly happy
with his chosen vocation as a poet, if one is to believe his
retrospective statements in Si le grain ne meurt. He could
seeing only his own reflection in the people and
objects that surrounded him. He writes,
1'ami qu'il m'eQt fallu, c'est quelqu'un qui
s & m'int6resser a autrui et qui m' et
sorti de moi-meme
: un romancier. (OC VII,p.316)
Gide became friends with the English novelist Oscar Wilde in
1891 and Wilde certainly did much to open Gide up to himself
though it isn't certain that this was
C. t 1 ,1
of Nietzsche was
equally strong and perhaps accounts
some of his differences with others in the Symbolist group.
He writes at one point that the guests at Mallarmd's Tuesday
gatherings were enthralled with Plato, whereas he considered
Schopenhauer to be far superior. For the German philosopher,
contemplation or what he termed will-less perception.
judgements would be disinterested and beauty sufficient unto
also held that there
is a shift in the subject's mode of perception in relation
to an esthetic object and consequently a shift in the object
perceived. The esthetic object is exterior to normal spatio-
and causally related
observer is presented with,
forms of the world and all its phenomena,"17 which he calls
archetypal forms. Schopenhauer approved Kant's separation of
perception of things)
and agreed that one could only know
things through their appearances.
But he differs from Kant
that he proposes
two separate modes of
-, -. ,, -., -, ..- -- --- --. 4 I- 6 -- a-.- *
the Cartesian dualism of body and mind,
seeing instead the
merely an objectification of the will.
favor of a more
particularly regarding the double nature of the subject, was
helped Gide overcome his fascination with the author of The
and Representation while
It is always difficult to
the precise influence
ideas of one man produce
integrated into an existing
personality of the reader and of the events of the time, are
selected and modified
pressure to change. Gide writes, in 1892,
dans ma t&te
peu & tous les autres
. chaque concept
in Gide's web
a discussion of the sophisticated irony of
Paludes and the Critiaue of Idealism
Gide maintained the
greatest respect for Mallarmd and
represented, resisting exterior influences and making a cult
His novel Paludes,
published in 1895,
a reaction against the
milieu and many of its characters are easily recognizable
members of the group.
in good humor
the pretentions of many of his colleagues, his most
nameless narrator. There is a significant shift in tone from
Gide's earlier works and Gide was later to classify Paludes
as a sotie. The original subtitle for this work was "Trait6
and it was meant to be a complement to
his Narcisse. In the intervening period Gide had undergone a
radical change; his vision was different
Tout au plus pouvais-je pardonner aux autr
ae ne pas
j 'avais a
j' tais change
To show this change in himself and the new ideas he wanted
to express, he conceived a different form of prose. Paludes
is a very lively, amusing and ironic narrative. The narrator
structure of this novel,
discussion of Gide's development as a novelist.
resembles the earlier Cahiers d'Andr6 Walter.
It is also
journal form, it
is open-ended and,
letter fragments and
in a strange sense,
recounts the spiritual quest of a young novelist writing a
But between these
similar in form,
a very serious,
spiritual companion, metamorphosed into Angble, a lively and
frivolous companion. The earlier sedentary and introspective
narrator has become a peripatetic extrovert. Moreover, while
characters who rarely speak,
in Paludes there are many and
soul and apparent to no one,
0 -,,1 ,,~ 1 .E Al nIhl nI a i Aa .1 n*
these chapters qua
dialogues, character analysis and descriptions, all of which
we are reading.
Indeed at one point on the last day, after what appears to
be an extemporaneous
the narrator preempts
Angle's comment saying,
"Et ne me dites pas que je devrais
The narrator promotes our confusion of the two Paludes,
constant references to
things he has seen,
written that should be included in Paludes; and of course,
in a very obvious sense,
in a few very
Yet the two texts differ
The frame narrative is
written in the first person while the fragmentary narrative
has no name,
person narrative is named Tityre, a character borrowed from
174 .a...*1 I *~ 4- -S 1 S a .....~* .3.31 a ...C a -
tt f t 1 I n A -*
narrative--an urban landscape full of movement and lively
The narrator never seems to stop moving, from
someone's salon, and back again to his own apartment.
is a constant stream of brief visits by or to the narrator
are constant digressions
the agitation of
that he writes
the frame narrative,
in order to act and his
exhortations to his colleagues to change their habits, what
repetition of the same actions and
words. The story of Tityre is a transposition of the vicious
the narrator's existence in the literary scene
into a landscape of monotony.
The narrator writes
down an agenda each evening of
things to do the following day, but his lists are bizarre in
accentuate the narrator's objectification of self (s'dtonner
de, penser a, s'inqui6ter de, tAcher d'avoir). He begins the
second day by
to do and
a~l CLn 4 .1 a. 4-l 1. ai nr -E a.~w ~ aA 1 4 .1.4. .a A a.
k"-^ h^ il J^ h b ^ i ^ *
give him "des id6es morales. "
This said, he has
no compunction about ignoring items on the list or modifying
intentions and his actions sets the text in an ironic mode
which is made all the more obvious by the triviality of his
agenda items and his
lengthy moral rationalization of
function of such lists.
So he finds written in his agenda for the
lever a six heures," and beside it he writes,
"lev6 A sept." (III,p.96) He calls the difference 'l'imprivu
his agenda qua moral
reaches absurd proportions. He arises at eight,
agenda "tAcher de
lever a six heures,"
it out and
lever b onze heures,"
goes back to bed.
Unable to sleep, he nevertheless refuses
out of self-discipline to arise before the newly appointed
He also finds noted in his list for the second day that
1'individualit6 de Richard." (III,p.97) He begins by pulling
out a file
on Richard who,
we ,. fl 4-*% Ylte r tA n a ~rnmel n *- U-lt l -l* l4 -.. 4 ne n
nJrv ^ 4i rn ^- nt1 r^ + ^ ^
m A OI II II C
narrator's notes on Richard.
It is as if he were called to
text to concretize
phrases, giving an impression of repetitive absurdity.
Richard's presence quickly turns out to be more of a
"J'6tais ladgrement ennuy4 ne pouvant bien penser aux gens
en leur presence."
(III,p.99) This comical situation points
narrator and his subject.
third person is
the one who
intellectuals at Angele's party, he defines the third person
as the 'normal' man, generalized man who resembles everyone
equally. In fact, this is the very subject of his novel.
1'histoire de la troisibme personnel
--qui vit en chacun et qui ne meurt p
e don't on
narrator tells AngBle that Tityre
modeled after Richard,
9a 4 .. an 1rn ,, I r. anvk lnnn a n iI n 4 nf e n 4 ,ra 4 an n i na a C n
leitmotif of presence/absence
is another playful reference
to repetition and
inutility in a scene that takes place just before Angele's
party in the stairwell of her building. As the narrator sits
addressed arrives and,
without having read the note,
down to write a response.
Their first exchange concerns the
' but they draw diametrically
opposed conclusions. The second exchange of notes begins, in
with an example of a mistranslated Latin
necessity of lucidity to achieve true happiness, his friend
to demystify the notion of moral
in their third and last exchange,
notes coincide perfectly:
subject--individual liberty and moral necessity. There is no
progression in this dialogue of notes, only an accumulation
first exchange of notes recalls Plato's
*v ar it ar n n fl t4 So* 4 L - -- t S .-
--T. A_, -l t
(II ,p. 115)
/ Q 1TQ
(III,p.114) However absurd the context,
this is one of the
consequences of self
for the self and
Whereas Martin argues for passive resignation,
narrator proposes freedom through an act of will. It is also
an argument about the philosophical notion of contingency
and the philosopher,
arrives at the end of
Monsieur, et ne demandez pas la contingence; d'abord vous ne
pas- -et puis:
(I The distance between the narrator' intention,p 115)
The distance between the narrator's intentions and his
is perhaps most apparent near the end of the text
when he and AngBle decide to take a trip to get away from
stagnant self-complacency of their
of planning and with great hopes
they never make
u. After two
it any further
than the train station. But the narrator is not discouraged
and rationalizes the setback into a victory
1 I A A,, 4.4
e ait ratd--pouvant ainsi mieux vous
e plaisir que nous peut procurer
n'est qu' accessoire.
4. -w ^ -t 4 o 4
g l l nh I f. I 1
In the end,
and Roland who
it is Hubert,
leave on a long trip
the narrator's best friend,
to North Africa.
left to his habits and futile repetitions.
immediately begins to worry about how he is going to replace
Hubert's regular six o'clock visits and, as Paludes comes to
we find him once again sitting in his room
the opening scene.
A friend enters and finds him writing.
The whole farcical
text has come back to its
leaving the reader with
a feeling of
to say the least,
an enigmatic text,
decentered the text.
The reader is invited to find his own
in a short preface
Paludes, the author writes,
si nous savions
que nous voulions dire,
nous ne savons pas si nous ne disions que
plus que CELA.--Et
tout m'y int~resse,
ce que j'y ai mis
voudrais appeler la part de Dieu.
success and was read and commented
restrained circle of
Gide's contemporaries were
impressed by this unusual
Mauclair wrote in the Mercure de France,
je crois bien que depuis Laforgue personnel
fagon exquisement dd
lassitude de l'ordinaire et du prdvu
And in an anonymous note in the Figaro of July 17
reference is to Sterne
, 1895, the
dessus de toute
sans s'y poser
, un peu
la fagon de Sterne, avec des points d'ironie, de
critique et des Blans de poet
On n'analyse guere
omme celui-la qu'on n'explique un
ce sont 1I choses trop subtitles pour que
e suffise A en donner l'impression.21
But perhaps it is Mallarm6 who, in a letter to Gide, sums up
best the impression left by Paludes.
goutte aigrelette et prdcieuse d'ironie qui tient
ii I fF 01,.. nr 4I>-4 n' n1 -4 _. 1
the critics were
Paludes made a stir in the Parisian literary community and
Gide's parody of
for considerable polemic.
the salons and cenacles was
whom Gide was soon to
literary critic for the Revue Blanche,
statement not only of Gide's
but of a changing esthetic in his generation. He
a novel heralding a new sensitivity.
gai roman de
ou 1'uniformitd du
celle-ci n'est plus romanesque,
intime et difficile de
Paludes a bien pu
Atre son Werther. Chaque jour la verra se ddtacher
de 1'homme vers la nature et vers 1'id6e 23
Leon Blum astutely points to one of the major influences on
Gide's esthetic at that time,
who was to remain a
model for Gide's subsequent work.
Blum may have found the
deuxibme edition de Paludes et pour annoncer Les Nourritures
preface, attempts to explain the genesis and meaning of his
nfl n n n r n nt.a ns lk n~e N rn rs n nr nn .a'. an F '4 rrr r I
on Human Understandint.
marked a feeling
of stagnation in a closed literary milieu and a desire to
s 'paissit entire nous et
Goethe et ]
enfin sa vie
son admiration pour
publication of Paludes,
Gide recommends Goethe
to her in
. 1'extraordinaire some de folie que cet
homme raisonnable entire tous put absorber,
faire sienne et
"24 It is Goethe's receptivity to the world
of sensations that Gide admires and would emulate. His long
meditation of Leibnitz had lead him to re-evaluate the worth
of an individual idea as opposed to a universal truth. In an
1894 entry in his Journal, Gide writes
confondent iddes et v6rit6s
touj ours bonnes;
L' on dirait que 1'idde
nt dangereuses A
est la tentation
II n'est pas
autres; Dieu envoie a chacun des tentations selon
SA --* r
nf^ .. %-n- *n, A -- t
the novel. One of the two phrases cited is, "Ii faut porter
jusqu' la fin toutes les idees qu'on souleve." (III,p.149)
In his 1897 "Postface" Gide commented on this choice
1'histoire d'une id6e plus que 1'histoire de quoi
He then goes on to compare the idea to a cancer that takes
over the body
, to a seed that becomes a majestic tree and to
the kingdom of God.
the author to his
gives birth to and nourishes the idea around which the text
governs the logic of narrative development much more than do
concerns of verisimilitude. Therefore, in Paludes, it
logic of boredom and stagnation
digression and circularity. But one might
that Gide was
To disabuse his readers of this notion
he goes a step further to express an esthetic principle that
n ~,,, ae a oaAa o1 9 .
J'aime qu'il porte en lui de quol
It is this dialectical tension between subject and
object, inscribed within the text,
that gives Paludes its
enigmatic quality and assures its enduring modernism beyond
the topical parody of the Parisian literary milieu. To
create this dialectical tension between subject and object
Gide has recourse to a narrative form that he calls a
"construction en abyme." He writes
qu'en une oeuvre d'art,
personnages, le sujet m&me de cette oeuvre. Rien
ne 1'6claire mieux et n'4tablit plus surement
toutes les proportions de 1'ensemble. (JAG I,p.41)
He gives a series of examples of this interior duplication
to illustrate his idea. He mentions Memling and Quentin
Metzys, whose paintings contain convex mirrors reproducing
the pictural space from within; the Velasquez painting Las
Meninas, in which one
the painter painting; literary
works such as Hamlet, Wilhelm Meister and The Fall of the
House of Usher,
of which contain autoreferential
narratives; and his own works, AndrB Walter, Narcisse and
in Les Faux-Monnaveurs,
thirty years later.
I shall explore
it to say here
that one of
the primary functions
that Gide ascribes to the mise en abyme is the engagement of
the reader in the psychological development of the novel
a dialogic process of becoming.
"Cette r4troaction du sujet
psychologique typique." (JAG I,p.41)
In other words the structure of the work of art would,
in this way,
represent the structure of human consciousness
--the subject's awareness of self as an object of thought.
subjectivity in Gide's early
works mentioned in the passage above.
Gide's Narcisse, for instance
Ce Narcisse gidien
est lui aussi aquarelliste;
proj&te sur la toile vide du monde
son effigie qu'il
tournant autour de
cette conscience devenue
pensee partout refl6tee.
away from his
own logic of retroaction eventually
idealist position because
A-1_ t A 1
T- n itlm a 4 cr a- r nnr T.Y f^ 1 a __ if r n r ha
Erll^ Ar^^- / a af A V~ a r a~ ^1 n ^\ nl a *V
but also by representing the subtle dialectic
between interior and exterior. Maurice Nadeau writes,
En tant qu' me promise A Dieu il avait v4cu
redescendant sur terre,
faut d4couvrir le fait d'exister
dans le monde) a travers le 'fa
qui est exister
it de conscience'
61mentaire qui assoit dans un unique phenomene le
sujet et 1'objet: la sensation.26
Paludes paved the way for les Nourritures terrestres and the
materialist conversion which Nadeau goes on to
describe in these terms
Par les sens le monde existe; par la sensation il
rapport de participation.
L'excitation appelle la
"Postface" to Paludes as the author's conversion to a more
a hymn to sensual
of bourgeois mentality.
pleasure and a
By his own account Gide
d'ou elle ne
dans un abime de
sortir que compl&tement
reactions to this unusual work and the literary context in
which it first appeared
Quand ont paru mes Nourritures,
on dtait en
sdparer ainsi r6solument du
factice A ceux qui n'avaient plus de gott que pour
s' chappait de la littdrature
, on n'y vit d'abord
this book was amply criticized and certainly
did not achieve the commercial success that Gide would have
writers of the time,
and received favorable reviews in the
avant-garde press.28 Contrary to Gide's own assertions, his
break with Symbolism was very much in tune with the esthetic
aspirations of a new generation. Edmond Jaloux, writing for
protagonist of Les Nourritures terrestres,
the new Werther or Rend of the
profound optimism and love for
He saw a
this unique work,
to glorify it in these terms:
nombreux esprits qui ont 6td bouleversds par Les Nourritures
vision of human existence and an awareness of others. In an
1897 letter to his Belgian friend AndrB Ruijters Gide writes
Crois bien que
qui mange mon Je n'est pas
seulement mon idbe. Si Je suis moins, c'est aussi
que je m'interesse toujours plus aux autres.30
This change in perspective
is marked by a seven year
hiatus of journal entries. Gide had come to
introspection and prevented a more genuine contact with the
world around him.
traveled extensively in North Africa
and, most significantly recovered from a terrible bout with
wellspring of his art;
the uneasiness and difference from
others that one feels through illness produces a feeling of
disequilibrium and a search for a new order:
propose a 1'homme une inquietude nouvelle, qu
'il s'agit de
16gitimer." (JAG 1,98)
represented a radical break with contemporary
of literature and particularly with
Gide was not merely a voice crying out in the desert. His
a~r~ al 1.r a a a -1 a 1r a- St a 31.. a. a S, - -L -
especially Mallarm4 and Henri
to an expression of
admiration for Gide and his long- time friend Francis Jammes.
Gide found much to agree with in the Naturist movement, but
bothered by the unbridled attacks against R4gnier and
the help of Emile Zola,
manifesto of Naturism in the January
issue of Le
Figaro in which he defined the esthetic principles of
new movement as an amor fati of the material world.
Au lieu d'dvoquer de charmantes et de suaves
e 1 homem.
nous chanterons les hautes
es podtes convoqueront les plants,
les vents et les graves animaux. Une
litt&rature naitra qui glorifiera les marines, les
laboureurs nes des entrailles du sol et les
pasteurs qui habitent pres des aigles.31
imagine his reaction
followed and which Claude Martin correctly qualifies as,
". sans ambiguity, une morale xenophobe, une esth4tique
defigure 1'esprit de la race
"33 At this point, without
publicly denouncing the Naturists,
distance himself from their movement.
But despite his
very tentative involvement with this movement and subsequent
terrestres came to be seen as the only true Naturist work.
le la vie,
1'affirmation d'une sorte de pantheisme a la fois
r4aliste et moral, alors 1'oeuvre de Gide est bien
une oeuvre naturiste,
nommer au premier rang
nommer au premier rang.
and despite Gide's
contrary, he had crystallized the new esthetic concerns of a
illustrates perfectly the
Naturist esthetic, it also contains structural elements that
continue to appear as leitmotifs in his subsequent works.
The two structural elements in question for the purpose
of this study have been mentioned in connection with Gide's
earlier works and will be discussed at length
in a later
- U- ---~ f - n- -'I ~ -S -- ~ L
zl rr.., r.
Nourritures terrestres by inserting "Le R6cit de Mdnalque."
excerpted form and originally planned not to include it in
the final version. He finally did so, at least in part,
add this extra narrative dimension to his work.35
Francis Jammes in a letter he sent to Gide immediately after
publication of Les Nourritures
in which he
continually undermined by a vacillating point of view as the
affirmation with negation--success may
also be a type of failure, goodness may also be evil, good
opposites maintains a narrative tension throughout the text
it from becoming didactic,
it would by
offering simplistic moral lessons.
Finally, although at first glance a disordered text of
lyrical effusion, Les Nourritures terrestres is, like Gide's
other works, carefully and purposefully assembled,
Martin demonstrates. 37
to become one of
Gide's closest friends and collaborators, was one of the few
- ,.t A- -- -A --- .. _. -1 t r
d'avoir su developper une thbse philosophique avec
un tel lyrisme, et de nous avoir offert une oeuvre
dons que nous
avions admires un a un,
dpars dans chacun de
The intimate tone of this book engages the reader to enter
sensations, but also demands that he shed his traditionally
participate actively in the deciphering of the narrative, to
use it for his own purposes and go beyond. Already,
the author called upon his
explain his text to him.
Un livre est toujours une collaboration,
tant plus le livre vaut-il
, que plus
la part du
scribe y est petite
revelation des chosi
Attendons de partout la
es; du public, la rtvdlation de
nos oeuvres. (III,p.89)
The idea of reader participation was always a concern
and he was
often disappointed not only by the
frequent misinterpretation of his works,
but also by the
- -. -- r __ -- 1- .
sympathetic readership. But he was rarely satisfied with the
reactions of his readers.
Throughout his career he readily
responded to any criticism in the press. It is certain that
he didn't expect his works to be great commercial successes
and, happily, he didn't depend on the sales of his works for
his livelihood, but he remained acutely aware of the public
reaction to his writing.
In two brilliant lectures given in Brussels in 1900 and
in Weimar in 1903, Gide discusses the role of the artist in
called De 1'influence en litterature,
revolved around two basic ideas: first, influence isn't good
or bad in any absolute sense, only in relation to the person
need not fear
losing his personality through
influence; he should be receptive to it.
Un grand home n'a qu'un souci:
le plus personnel.
. c'est ainsi qu'il
Tandis que celui qui
t 4 -.-
p t r
.1 vT on vn 4 4 ar F n l -r
nnrt rn ny ^" t ^^^yr'^^^lui^
certain sense, only in virtual form before finding its place
the mind of
responsibility for the influence of his
him of the torment of this responsibility he needs the help
of a group
resumer: il ne se suffit pas & lui-meme.
II a besoin d'adjoints,
s vivront et joueront pour
i ses id6e
s; risqueront le danger de les experimenter
series of dialectical
opposition in Gide's esthetic. In the discussion of Paludes
and of Les Nourritures terrestres I pointed out the dynamic
nature of writing and reading,
influence of the work on its author and the reader's active
Here one may see
broadened to indicate the mutual influence of the writer and
within the tradition of literary production.
Gide makes it
1' importance du
public (OC IV,p.181-197), that
the writer cannot ignore his
Auguste Angl&s synthesizes these two lectures well.
Ces deux conferences complementaires sont une
s'ouvrir aux influences et influence A son tour;
Goethe a 4t6 bonnifid par la cour de Weimar autant
l'artiste qui s'isole,
contemporains condamnent & 1'isolement,
ou s' tiole.
languit apr&s un public, ce n'est pas une action a
retour Otre modifi6.
ii salt qu'entre autrui
The reader Gide had in mind was an enlightened friend
Claude Martin remarks that Gide always seemed
to need a closely knit group of friends,
in whom he could
confide and whose judgment he could trust.41 Gide had begun
collaborating with various literary journals quite early in
frequent contributor to
La Revue Blanche and L'Ermitage,
He was easily persuaded to contribute pieces
but was reluctant to
identified with any particular group.
greatly valued his independence, he did seem to need a solid
support group, as previously stated, and often attempted to
periodically discussing political,
philosophical and moral
articles to foreign authors still largely unknown in France,
such as Nietzsche,
encouraged the translation and diffusion of foreign works in
proposing nationalistic and at times even racist criteria
for literary selection.
At a time when polemic often became grossly insulting,
sought a higher ground for criticism,
the work of those with whom he disagreed fundamentally. His
treatment of Les
is a good
example of his method.
He treated BarrBs with the greatest
praising his brilliant style and imagery as well as
his character portrayal. He expressed unqualified agreement
with the importance of the problem treated by Barrds but, in
found two basic faults: a heavy-handed ideological
bent that bordered on the didactic and a misunderstanding of
the true dilemma that his characters faced. Gide maintained
demonstrated the exact
opposite of Barrbs' stated thesis.
the question of
the validity of Gide's
-9 ~--.., .9 .9 9 I I- I 0
the author can,
through a close reading, be reversed. It is
through such subtle and objective critiques that Gide became
Gide's judgment of Barrbs is symptomatic of his view of
much of contemporary French literature which he found to be
the protagonist of
to open all the windows and doors to let in fresh
idea of promoting new ideas in literature,
foreign and domestic,
Gide began making plans
to create a
literary journal with a closely knit group of friends.
result of their association was the Nouvelle Revue Francaise
which soon became a
forum for new ideas and continually
refused to be co-opted by political or religious movements.
The various contributors maintained their independent voices
and, despite inevitable clashes of opinion, they continually
offered their readers the best in new writing and criticism.
A list of early
Who's Who of 20th century French literature and criticism,
though at the time these authors were largely unknown.
S S -- S -- n
Auguste Angles writes of his
impressions on reading the early issues of the N.R.F.
d'une curiosity en veil,
et dominant. leur promptitude A faire surgir
un probleme gn4Bral.43
judgment of the editorial board and
elective affinities that brought them together. The strength
of their common project was then evident in the style and
presentation of their journal.
Three unifying themes
that Angles finds
in the early
issues of the journal are, 1) classical qualities
the only true
psychological and moral exploration.44 The debate with the
of Paris was engaged on far-reaching
though the attacks and responses sometimes
degenerated into sterile posturing, they forced attention to
be focused on the nature of current French literature and
its place within history.
literature' by pointing to the fundamental ambiguity of any
such definition. Over the course of these three articles, he
gradually abandoned the questions of national literature and
classicism to lead his readers toward a more subtle vision
of literary works, to be viewed in terms of their individual
It is in this sense that we understand Gide's repeated
request that his own works be judged only for their esthetic
attention exclusively on the moral implications of a text
and their incursions into questions of form served only to
define the author as part of a particular literary tradition
which in turn led them back to moral concerns of national
character. It should be evident from Gide's own criticism as
was not opposed
discussion of ethical principles represented by the various
in a text,
but he did oppose a superficial reading
complexities of narrative structure and ironic distancing.
A Mosaic of Novels
two decades preceding Les Faux-Monnayeurs.
is not to formulate extensive analyses of
but rather to highlight
irony and the mediation of experience in novelistic form.
esthetic ideas because he himself argued explicitly against
such an interpretation of his works. He claimed, on several
occasions, to have conceived the whole of his works from the
solid corroborative evidence
from his friends and acquaintances. As Auguste Angles
1'ordre du simultand."46 In one of his famous
AngHle" Gide claims to have conceived all of his fictional
through La Symphonie pastorale
contradict Gide's previously mentioned statements concerning
the dynamic relationship between an author, his work and his
In order to reconcile
ideas of simultaneity
with dynamic interaction,
one must consider the context of
It is a particular characteristic of Gide's work that
-~~ ~~ a