ANDRE GIDE by George D. Painter


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Criticism has had a fine time with Gide: just by looking into any one of his works a busy aesthetician can drag up some ""new"" insight, ""different"" interpretation. His collected works are a sparkling sea in which all the fish are biting. Take the following line from Gide's Journals, which George Painter uses as the epigraph for one of his chapters: ""The only art that pleases me is that which sets out from unrest and makes for serenity."" Here it would seem is Gide in a nutshell: the famous journey from Protestant disquietude to pagan, nay classic, equilibrium, captured in about twenty words. Then one remembers another motto: ""Please do not understand me too quickly."" Painter's biography, originally published two decades ago and ""now revised and enlarged in the light of Gide's posthumous writings,"" cannot be said to proceed with much caution. His study is clearly an effort at celebration, the studious gleanings of an enthusiast, triumphing over all complexities, not by ignoring them, but by fitting them, painlessly and even engagingly, in his Procrustean thesis: Gide as a master stylist and ""heroic guide in the acquisition of personal happiness, virtue, and liberty."" But Gide is more interesting than this, and the interest lies in all the nuances, fervor, gravity, psychosexual tensions, and morality (half Nietzsche, half Pascal) that made up the puzzling mythic contours of his fictions and life.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1968
Publisher: Atheneum