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Happy 147th birthday to philosopher André Gide!

Happy 147th birthday to philosopher André Gide! Today Philosophical Library would like to honor this Nobel Prize winner for his contributions to literature that have stood the test of time. André was born in Paris, France on November 22, 1869. His family led a middle-class lifestyle with his father holding a position as a law professor at the University of Paris. He took an early interest in writing and published his first work at the age of twenty. He titled this novel, drawn from his own religious upbringing and private journals, The Notebooks of André Walter – a philosophical Romantic piece depicting a young man’s yearning for forbidden love with his cousin Emmanuelle. Though, his pining would not lead to a “happily ever after.”

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – André Gide

A few years later while traversing through Africa at the age of twenty-three, he came to terms with the fact that he was homosexual. Though he later married a female cousin, his marriage was never consummated. He became mayor of a commune in Normandy in 1896 and founded a literary magazine, The French Review, years later. A scandalous affair eventually came to light when André took on a lover, Marc, whom was only fifteen at the time. His wife, livid with the news of the two fleeing to London, took a flame to all of his letters, torching the words André held dear.

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” – André Gide

Though André Gide was a French writer, he was able to have many of his works translated to English by a long-time friend. Other writers became quite inspired by his writing, including Jean-Paul Sartre. There were, however, those who were not fond of his work. When it came to his public support of homosexuality, many criticized his views. Though in love and living with Marc, André explored a brief sexual relationship with a woman he had known for many years, Elisabeth. Together they had a daughter, Catherine, much to the turmoil of Marc. Still, this female encounter didn’t create a permanent rift between André and Marc as they later took a yearlong travel through Africa. While there, André kept a journal on France’s involvement in the Congo, critiquing their exploitation of the land’s natural resources.

“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.” – André Gide

André Gide produced many essays and novels that are still highly regarded today. Aside from his first published piece, other titles include Autumn Leaves, a collection of essays reflecting his personal observations and investigations into the contradiction that resides in humanity regarding moral, political and religious conflicts. André not only delved into the inner workings of humanity, he also took it upon himself to defend pianist Frederic Chopin in his novel Notes on Chopin. Here, André believes the work of this famed musician has been betrayed and largely misinterpreted by the music community. He argues his point through poetic expression and personal journals relating to Chopin and music. Urien’s Voyage holds the spotlight as an allegorical piece written by André Gide. It tells the tale of a man named Urien who voyages to imaginative places. André creates a work filled with symbolism and exposes his own psyche through his words, revealing his gradual abandonment of celibacy and embracement of pleasure and sexual desires. Annotated by Wade Baskin, Urien’s Voyage, though fictional, is a telling and revealing piece into the author. To view or purchase more titles by André Gide, please click here.

“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself – and thus make yourself indispensable.” – André Gide

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