Thursday, 21 November 2013

Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself

[Marc Allegret and André Gide by Lady Ottoline Morrell]

Often considered one of the most intellectual and influential writers in the French language, Nobel Prize winner André Gide was also author of a ground-breaking work on homosexuality, Corydon, published in 1920.

Written as a series of arguments between "interrogator" and "interviewee", the eponymous character lays out convincing evidence from naturalists, historians, poets, and philosophers in order to back up his argument that homosexuality is natural and that it pervaded the most culturally and artistically advanced civilizations such as Periclean Greece, Renaissance Italy and Elizabethan England. Gide argues this is reflected by writers and artists from Homer and Virgil to Titian and Shakespeare in their depictions of male-male relationships, such as Achilles and Patroclus, as homosexual rather than as platonic as other critics insist. Gide uses this evidence to insist that homosexuality is more fundamental and natural than heterosexuality, which he believes is merely a union constructed by society.

"My friends insist that this little book is of the kind which will do me the greatest harm," Gide wrote of the book. Nevertheless, it sealed his place in gay history.

Further facts about André Gide:
  • He had an on-off fascination with Oscar Wilde; on occasion travelling to North Africa with him and Bosie, where, Oscar claimed, he introduced Gide to homosexuality (which Gide himself denied, stating he chose to keep his sexuality a secret from Wilde). André was one of the few notable authors of the age who agreed to add his name to the petition to reduce Wilde's jail sentence, and wrote an article in tribute after his death.
  • Marc Allégret - screenwriter and director among whose "discoveries" were Jean-Paul Belmondo, Louis Jourdan and Roger Vadim - became André Gide's lover when he was fifteen and Gide was forty-seven.
  • Much of Gide's work was of a campaigning nature, arguing for prisoner’s rights (he even petitioned Hitler during WW2), and highly critical of the Soviet style of Communism, of the church, and of colonialism (particularly in French sub-Saharan Africa).
  • In 1952, the Roman Catholic Church listed the work of André Gide in the Index of Forbidden Books.
"What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it; what another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself - and thus make yourself indispensable."

"Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason."

"It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not."

"Dare to be yourself."

André Gide (22nd November 1869 – 19th February 1951)

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