Andre Gide

Andre+Gide

      Am reading André Gide’s, The Counterfeiters, or as he would have it, Les Faux Monnayeurs.  Published in 1925, it’s a complex novel with, all told, 29 characters in interlaced relationships.  One is constantly having to look up who such & such a person is.  Mostly it’s about the original, the real as opposed to the copy or the false.  A brilliant writer, and a major influence in the 20th century, subtle, especially in describing relationship, and sophisticated.  he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1917.

      Gide was gay.  He explains his orientation thusly:

I call a pederast the man who, as the word indicates, falls in love with young boys. I call a sodomite ("The word is sodomite, sir," said Verlaine to the judge who asked him if it were true that he was a sodomist) the man whose desire is addressed to mature men. […]

The pederasts, of whom I am one (why cannot I say this quite simply, without your immediately claiming to see a brag in my confession?), are much rarer, and the sodomites much more numerous, than I first thought. […] That such loves can spring up, that such relationships can be formed, it is not enough for me to say that this is natural; I maintain that it is good; each of the two finds exaltation, protection, a challenge in them; and I wonder whether it is for the youth or the elder man that they are more profitable.

He describes an adventure he had with Oscar Wilde:

Wilde took a key out of his pocket and showed me into a tiny apartment of two rooms… The youths followed him, each of them wrapped in a burnous that hid his face. Then the guide left us and Wilde sent me into the further room with little Mohammed and shut himself up in the other with the [other boy]. Every time since then that I have sought after pleasure, it is the memory of that night I have pursued. […] My joy was unbounded, and I cannot imagine it greater, even if love had been added.

How should there have been any question of love? How should I have allowed desire to dispose of my heart? No scruple clouded my pleasure and no remorse followed it. But what name then am I to give the rapture I felt as I clasped in my naked arms that perfect little body, so wild, so ardent, so sombrely lascivious? For a long time after Mohammed had left me, I remained in a state of passionate jubilation, and though I had already achieved pleasure five times with him, I renewed my ecstasy again and again, and when I got back to my room in the hotel, I prolonged its echoes until morning.

      In a novel within a novel, the main character, Edouard, is writing a novel called The Counterfeiters.  He falls in love with his half sister’s middle son Olivier, a senior college student.  Olivier’s older brother, Vincent has impregnated and abandoned Edouard’s former sweetheart.  Olivier also has a schoolmate, Bernard, attracted to him.  And then Vincent the impregnator becomes involved with Lady Griffith who takes him under her wings and sets about polishing him up.  She is a friend to the bad guy, the Comte de Passavant who lent Vincent the money for his pregnant ex.  Bad times ahead with this bunch.

      This was Gide’s second book with a homosexual theme.  The first one, Corydon was the gate crasher, the closet doors flung open asserting the rightness of homosexuality, strident, I didn’t enjoy it.  But Counterfeiters is very good.  Gide was prolific, over 50 books, he founded the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, a leading literary magazine, many travel books, Journals, imaginary interviews, exposés on corruption.  A gentleman.