Andre Gide: A Life in the Present

Overview

One of the most important writers of the twentieth century, Andre Gide also led what was probably one of the most interesting lives the century has seen. Following Gide from his first forays among the Symbolists through his sexual and political awakenings to his worldwide fame as a writer, sage, and commentator on his age, Alan Sheridan richly conveys the drama of a remarkable life; the depth, breadth, and vitality of an incomparable oeuvre; and the spirit of a time that both so...
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Overview

One of the most important writers of the twentieth century, Andre Gide also led what was probably one of the most interesting lives the century has seen. Following Gide from his first forays among the Symbolists through his sexual and political awakenings to his worldwide fame as a writer, sage, and commentator on his age, Alan Sheridan richly conveys the drama of a remarkable life; the depth, breadth, and vitality of an incomparable oeuvre; and the spirit of a time that both so aptly expressed.
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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
Paradoxically, it was left to an Englishman, Alan Sheridan, to write the first full-scale life of Gide. Sheridan has the credentials for the job--the mastery of two languages; the grasp of political and cultural as well as literary history; the patience; the sympathy; the sheer industry. He has assimilated all this material and handles it with easy familiarity, taste, and wit...He writes with insight about the life, the works, and their interconnections, and he can suddenly cut straight to the marrow...Sheridan has no ax to grind, no theory to impose; he allows us to share the pleasure he takes in Gide's company.
Dan Hofstadter
Though [Sheridan] is obviously very learned, he lacks the one attribute that a literary biographer must have: a consistent aesthetic point of view.
Wall Street Journal
Dissent
One great virtue of Alan Sheridan's beautifully written new biography is that it does not try to claim Gide as a trophy for liberalism, modernism, or any other intellectual terrain...With great clarity and wit, and with a minimum of analytical fanfare, [Sheridan] brings us into the company of a particular life and a particular body of work. The miracle is that, in a volume of nearly three hundred thousand words, the narrative almost never becomes tedious.
ForeWord
Sheridan uses Gide's Journal (the book Gide said he would choose if only one could survive), forty volumes of letters, interviews and the novels themselves to build this outstanding biography. Sheridan's voice is clear in the narrative, and his personal comments and insights lighten the over 600 pages of chronological text. André Gide often reads like a novel. There are hilarious sections when an event is described in several different ways, in several different letters, to several different people. There are reading lists and journal entries; 'cruising' successes and failures; and synopses and interpretations of all his works...According to Sheridan, it is Gide's very un-French sincerity and the mysterious mix of curiosity and self-absorption that ensured the endurance and vitality of his work.
New Republic
[André Gide] far surpasses earlier biographies...Alan Sheridan is an eloquent and perceptive writer...The book has many virtues, not least of them being Sheridan's ability to weave brief and penetrating essays on Gide's work into the chronicle of his restless days.
Washington Times
[A] detailed and comprehensive biography of the great French and Nobel Prize-winning author of the Journals and The Counterfeiters...The biography moves chronologically--at the top of each recto page the reader can find out what year he's in--and we read what Gide does: the people he meets, the books he reads, what's on his mind, where he travels and by what means. It's as though we're living his life in the order that he lived and experienced it.
Library Journal
Sheridans biography of Andr Gide (18691951) answers a need for a thorough, well-documented study of the French Nobelists life, including insightful analyses of his literary works. Sheridan (Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth, Routledge, 1993) rightfully acknowledges the futility of strict adherence to literary history in interpreting Gides work, but he does delineate the process by which the author transmutes the material of his life into the work. Sheridan perceptively examines the structure of each of Gides works and their relation to each other. Gide, a homosexual, married his first cousin Madeleine Rondeaux, but the marriage was never consummated. At age 43, he fathered a daughter with a friend, a woman who did not want marriage. Although he had many sexual dalliances with adolescents and young men, the most enduring was with film director Marc Allgret, a man more than 30 years his junior. Sheridan has written an excellent biography of a great 20th-century writer. Highly recommended.Robert T. Ivey, Univ. of Memphis, Bartlett
Frederick Brown
...[This book]far surpasses earlier biographies, at a propitious moment....Alan Sheridan is an elegant and perceptive writer....[T]he book has many virtues, not the least of them being Sheridan's ability to wave brief and penetrating essays on Gide's work into the chronicle of his restless days.
The New Republic
Allan Hepburn
In his biography of Gide, Alan Sheridan has accomplished a magnificent feat. Whereas other biographers have been brought up short by the daunting intricacies of Gide's life, Sheridan does not shrink from recounting the full range of his subject's sexual escapades, musical knowledge, friendships, vexed marriage, Protestantism, affluance, and literary merits. Without interpreting the raw materials of Gide's life in a tendentious way, Sheridan shapes facts into coherent patterns. This is a biography worthily in the manner of Plutarch; the destiny of incidence never overwhelms the clarity of presentation.
Boston Book Review
Augustin Cauchy
[An] outstanding biography. Sheridan's voice is clear in the narrative, and his personal comments and insights lighten the over 600 pagess of chronological text. Andre Gide often reads like a novel.
ForeWord
Boston Book Review
In his biography of Gide, Alan Sheridan has accomplished a magnificent feat. Whereas other biographers have been brought up short by the daunting intricacies of Gide's life, Sheridan does not shrink from recounting the full range of his subject's sexual escapades, musical knowledge, friendships, vexed marriage, Protestantism, affluence, and literary merits. Without interpreting the raw materials of Gide's life in a tendentious way, Sheridan shapes facts into coherent patterns. This is a biography worthily in the manner of Plutarch; the density of incidence never overwhelms the clarity of presentation.
— Allan Hepburn
Boston Globe
Paradoxically, it was left to an Englishman, Alan Sheridan, to write the first full-scale life of Gide. Sheridan has the credentials for the job--the mastery of two languages; the grasp of political and cultural as well as literary history; the patience; the sympathy; the sheer industry. He has assimilated all this material and handles it with easy familiarity, taste, and wit...He writes with insight about the life, the works, and their interconnections, and he can suddenly cut straight to the marrow...Sheridan has no ax to grind, no theory to impose; he allows us to share the pleasure he takes in Gide's company.
— Richard Dyer,
Choice
Noted author and translator of works by Sartre, Lacan, and Foucault, Sheridan provides the most thorough literary biography since Gide's death in 1951...Writing in remarkable, accessible prose that leaves scarcely a stone unturned, Sheridan integrates Gide's life and fiction...Among the best treatments of Gide, this volume will be a point of departure for anyone interested in Gide or French literature.
— R. Merker
Commercial Appeal
The subtitle of Sheridan's biography, A Life in the Present, explains the exceptionally close focus with which he approaches his subject. Armed with encyclopedic grasp of Gide's life and works, including unpublished letters and journals that cast valuable light on his contradictory nature, Sheridan peers at Gide as through a microscope...The result is richly detailed and succeeds admirably in tying the life and work together.
— Fredric Koeppel
Contemporary Review
Alan Sheridan's account is perhaps best in dealing with the critical moments of his subject's life. The meetings with Wilde; the acceptance, then world-shaking rejection, of Stalin, are narrated as if by an eye-witness.
— Geoffrey Heptonstall,
Dissent
One great virtue of Alan Sheridan's beautifully written new biography is that it does not try to claim Gide as a trophy for liberalism, modernism, or any other intellectual terrain...With great clarity and wit, and with a minimum of analytical fanfare, [Sheridan] brings us into the company of a particular life and a particular body of work. The miracle is that, in a volume of nearly three hundred thousand words, the narrative almost never becomes tedious.
— David Glenn
ForeWord
Sheridan uses Gide's Journal (the book Gide said he would choose if only one could survive), forty volumes of letters, interviews and the novels themselves to build this outstanding biography. Sheridan's voice is clear in the narrative, and his personal comments and insights lighten the over 600 pages of chronological text. André Gide often reads like a novel. There are hilarious sections when an event is described in several different ways, in several different letters, to several different people. There are reading lists and journal entries; 'cruising' successes and failures; and synopses and interpretations of all his works...According to Sheridan, it is Gide's very un-French sincerity and the mysterious mix of curiosity and self-absorption that ensured the endurance and vitality of his work.
— H. Shaw Cauchy
Jerusalem Post
How does personal experience tie into Gide's literary odyssey in the realms of morality, religion, and politics? Sheridan, an experienced translator and literary commentator, eschews simplistic explanations, spiritual or materialistic, psychological, ideological or historical. General explanations, he claims, should be confined to particular circumstances in the course of human activities. This does credit to the complexity of the subject...Readers of [this] biography will have a fuller understanding of the actual models for characters in Gide's major works and even of some of the factual situations.
— Allan E. Shapiro
Lambda Book Report
In André Gide, Sheridan does an admirable job of showing us why Gide should not be forgotten...It is the very essence of Gide, the man and the writer, to bravely defy expected norms of behavior in his principled search for truth and meaning. It is, Sheridan asserts, one of the reasons he remains such a compelling figure. Gide's constant traveling, his unflinching introspection, his cult of sincerity with always insisting he tell the absolute truth in his books, no matter the consequence, make him very much a person of our own times.
— Ulysses D'Aquila
Lesbian & Gay New York
The strength of Sheridan's biography is its relentless attention to Gide the man rather than Gide the novelist. Though Sheridan offers rather informed readings of each of Gide's works, he goes beyond his call in successfully fleshing out the man-in-the-world.
— Christopher Voigt,
Literary Biography
Sheridan, who is a most careful and conscientious biographer, has amassed a remarkable amount of detail...[He] is both perceptive and restrained in his judgement that Gide has had much to say to several generations. Certainly he presents us with a most informative and detailed biography.
— Douglas Johnson
Los Angeles Times
A Life in the Present proves to be the best book on Gide I know...Certainly Sheridan's is the first book anyone interested in this author should consult after reading Gide's own work and--in the case of certain precariously 'sincere' Gidean texts, such as 'Corydon'--even before...Sensible and sympathetic, as well as powerful and politic.
— Richard Howard
New Republic
[André Gide] far surpasses earlier biographies...The time was ripe to demonstrate Gide's intellectual legacy: to show how, in a career that bridged two centuries, the ground was laid for the subversive strategies of the nouveau roman and for the all-out war waged by ideologues such as Sartre and Foucault against 'patriarchal' institutions, above all the family...Alan Sheridan is an eloquent and perceptive writer...The book has many virtues, not least of them being Sheridan's ability to weave brief and penetrating essays on Gide's work into the chronicle of his restless days.
— Frederick Brown
San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle
André Gide is a remarkable achievement. To portray adequately Gide's place in literary history is already an impressive feat...Sheridan guides his reader through Gide's varied literary output as well. He provides excellent accounts of the social and political activities Gide became involved in. Most important, Sheridan provides a frank and sympathetic account of Gide's personal life, as paradoxical as his public one.
— Michael Lucey,
The Brunswick Reader
An excellent new study...Reading Sheridan's biography gives some of the same pleasure you get from reading Gide's Journals, which appeared between 1939 and 1950, or his vast published correspondence...In absorbing a great deal of Gide's own distinctive voice, one is reminded both of Graham Greene's world-weariness and of Joseph Conrad's cosmopolitanism...One of the reasons to enjoy the book by Sheridan is that Sheridan is an English academic, not an American one, and even though Sheridan has been one of Michel Foucault's many translators, he doesn't write in the trendy jargon of postcolonial studies, using words like Otherness, upper case, or alternity; He simply accepts that colonialism was the dominant form of international trade and culture when Gide was doing his most important work.
— Douglas Fetherling
The Independent on Sunday
Neither in English nor in French has there been a biography relating, in appropriate detail and depth, Gide's life and writings to each other...Happily this lack is now a thing of the past. Alan Sheridan has given us a biography as scrupulous and critically alert as it is lively and sympathetic...Alan Sheridan brings [Gide's relationships] to life with a multiplicity of detail and an empathy not only with Gide himself but with the others concerned.
— Paul Binding
Virginia Quarterly
This is the first full literary biography to date of the extraordinary life of the French modernist author Gide. Sheridan does a particularly fine job of chronicling his notoriety in matters both sexual and political. Gide's leftist politics and his open homosexuality are shown to be deeply interwoven with his literary creations. The book provides an intimate look at a figure who was, at best, a reluctantly public individual. This will be of great interest to anyone interested in French letters and literary modernity.
Washington Times
[A] detailed and comprehensive biography of the great French and Nobel Prize-winning author of the Journals and The Counterfeiters...The biography moves chronologically--at the top of each recto page the reader can find out what year he's in--and we read what Gide does: the people he meets, the books he reads, what's on his mind, where he travels and by what means. It's as though we're living his life in the order that he lived and experienced it.
— Stephen Goode
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780241127292
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Pages: 709

Meet the Author

Alan Sheridan's most recent book is Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. He has also translated over 50 books, including works by Sartre, Lacan, and Foucault.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction
1 Two Stars, Two Races, Two Provinces, Two Faiths 1
2 Childhood: Schooldays and Holidays (October 1874-October 1880) 10
3 Youth: God and Love (October 1880-September 1889) 28
4 Andre Walter: Puritan and Narcissist (October 1889-June 1891) 54
5 The Ironic Narcissist: Le Traite du Narcisse, Poesies d'Andre Walter, Le Voyage d'Urien, La Tentative amoureuse (June 1891-October 1893) 72
6 Liberation and ... Engagement: 'J'ecris ... Paludes' (October 1893-June 1895) 93
7 Marriage and Nomadism: Les Nourritures terrestres, Saul, Le Promethee mal enchaine, Philoctete (June 1895-October 1898) 128
8 High Hopes Brought Low: Le Roi Candaule and L'Immoraliste (November 1898-October 1902) 165
9 The Barren Years: Le Retour de l'Enfant prodigue and La Porte etroite (October 1902-October 1908) 195
10 The 'New' Gide and the Founding of the NRF: Isabelle and Les Caves du Vatican (October 1908-August 1914) 233
11 The War: De Profundis, Summer's Lease (August 1914-November 1918) 280
12 The Post-War Years: La Symphonie Pastorale (November 1918-December 1921) 316
13 Gide, Homosexual Theorist and Father: Corydon and Les Faux-Monnayeurs (January 1922-July 1925) 351
14 Heart of Darkness: Voyage au Congo and L'Ecole des femmes (July 1925-December 1930) 401
15 Gide, 'Fellow-traveller': Oedipe, Persephone and Les Nouvelles Nourritures (January 1931-June 1936) 441
16 Retreat from Moscow, a Sense of Ending: Retour de l'U.R.S.S. and Genevieve (June 1936-September 1939) 492
17 Another War: Retreat and Exile (September 1939-May 1945) 538
18 'The End of Life ... A Rather Dull Last Act': Thesee and Ainsi soit-il (May 1945-February 1951) 570
Conclusion 621
Notes and References 635
Bibliography 655
Family Tree: The Gide Family 676
Family Tree: The Rondeaux Family 677
Index 679
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