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The Immoralist by André Gide
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The Immoralist (1902)

by André Gide

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English (31)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
This story of the Immoralist is narrated to a select group of his old friends, who come at the request of the epoymous protagonist to his self appointed place of exile in North Africa. They find him dejected and really out of sorts, and he explains the story of what led him to be here, which spans an interval of time over which they have largely lost touch with him. In the final pages, following his tale, one of them sums up their feelings, which capture the unease that is likely to take hold of the reader: ”Our not having known at what point to condemn it in the course of his long explanation seemed almost to make us his accomplices. We felt, as it were, involved.”
The story itself, without going into any detail of the plot, centres on the Frenchman Michel. After recovering from a life threatening illness that he discovers on his honeymoon, he becomes extra alert to the pleasures of his senses, and veers off onto a path of hedonism at the expense of his new wife. While no single action here is really shocking in itself, and seems understandable based on Michel's point of view, it is the sum total that become unsettling, and perhaps more so the attitude or thoughts of Michel that drive his behaviour. He becomes detatched in some way from the world and society, but not in the sense that the existentialists do - yet it produces a similar sense of unease. The difference is perhaps that existentialist unease in some cases is due to feeling at odds with, or sick due to the senses (Satre's Nausea), of sometimes too much moral self reflection (Kierkegaard), and alienation from others (Sartre again, and Camus), while in this case Michel slips into a world subject to the senses and detatched from moral self reflection. Having said that, though much of his enjoyment revolves around others, his superficial appreciation of them more as unknowable objects in some sense, does however share some aspects with existentialism.
This is a very distinctive work, and though the story in itself is not of the kind that makes a page-turner, it leaves a lasting impression due to the reasons above, and much of the atmosphere vividly described. It is also not at all difficult to read, and is somewhere between a novella and a novel in length at under 160 pages. Though it might be considered by some a classic due to there not being anything else quite like this, that I am aware of, I did not enjoy it as much as the novella length works by Camus or other French writers with whom Gide might be compared. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Nov 12, 2017 |
Knowing a bit about Gide's biography makes Marceline make sense. A lot of the book is clarified in light of his biography, really. Another one that contributes to my current work, I must say that this book wasn't nearly as satisfying as I hoped. I was ready for more criminality and more immorality, though the oblique ways that Michel renounces morals is thought-provoking. I also dreadfully wanted more Menalque, which gives me more motivation to get to [b:Fruits of the Earth|869348|Fruits of the Earth|André Gide|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1338733205s/869348.jpg|1272045]. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
A story powerful in its subversiveness, one that gets under the reader's skin, touching the reader at their most vulnerable: it is a crash course in the non-normative sexual experience that is far ahead of its time. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jan 15, 2017 |
A story powerful in its subversiveness, one that gets under the reader's skin, touching the reader at their most vulnerable: it is a crash course in the non-normative sexual experience that is far ahead of its time. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jan 15, 2017 |
This was one of the first pieces of French literature that I read.

Gide's writing is very atmospheric and sensual (sensual as in it engages with your senses, and sensual as in sexy). The protagonist in this little book is not a very good person - newly married, he travels to Africa and, upon meeting some of the young men, begins to explore his sexuality.

I really liked this book. I like amoral characters, I like moral ambiguity, I like reading books about bad people doing questionable things. The only problem I believe I had with this book is that the female character in it feels a little bit arbitrary.

But the atmosphere is lovely, Gide uses metaphor really well and it makes for a hedonistic novel. c: ( )
  lydia1879 | Aug 31, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gide, Andréprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bussy, DorothyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kurpershoek, TheoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsman, H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watson, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm cxxxix:14
Dedication
To my comrade and fellow-traveller Henri Ghéon.
First words
Yes, my dear brother, of course, as you supposed, Michel has confided in us.
The copious and varied literary production of Andre Gide (1869-1951; Nobel PRize for Literature, 1947) was basically a long, penetrating investigation of his own character and potentialities - so much so that his diaries are frequently referred to as his finest work of all. (Note)
I present this book for whatever it is worth. (Preface)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142180025, Paperback)

With today's headlines and talk shows, it takes a lot to shock a reader--certainly more than was required in 1902, when André Gide's The Immoralist was first published. What was seen then as a story of dereliction translates today into a tale of introspection and fierce self-discovery. While traveling to Tunis with his new bride, the Parisian scholar Michel is overcome by tuberculosis. As he slowly convalesces, he revels in the physical pleasures of living and resolves to forgo his studies of the past in order to experience the present--to let "the layers of acquired knowledge peel away from the mind like a cosmetic and reveal, in patches, the naked flesh beneath, the authentic being hidden there."

But this is not the Michel his colleagues knew, nor the man Marceline married, and he must hide his new values under the patina of what he now reviles. Bored by Parisian society, he moves to a family farm in Normandy. He is happy there, especially in the company of young Charles, but he must soon return to the city and academe. Michel remains restless until he gives his first lecture and runs into Ménalque, who has long outraged society, and recognizes in him a reflection of his torment. Finally, Michel heads south, deeper into the desert, until, as he confides to his friends, he is lost in the sea of sand, under a clear, directionless sky.

What Gide's story lacks in sensationalism is fulfilled by his descriptive prose, which evokes the exotic nature of Michel's inner and outer journey: "I did not understand the forbearance of this African earth, submerged for days at a time and now awakening from winter, drunk with water, bursting with new juices; it laughed in this springtime frenzy whose echo, whose image I perceived within myself." --Joannie Kervran Stangeland

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:55 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

'To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom' - Andre Gide. Michel had been a blindfold scholar until, newly married, he contracted tuberculosis. His will to recover brings self-discovery and the growing desire to rebel against his background of culture, decency and morality. But the freedom from constraints that Michel finds on his restless travels is won at great cost. And freedom itself, he finds, can be a burden. Gide's novel examines the inevitable conflicts that arise when a pleasure seeker challenges conventional society and, without moralizing, it raises complex issues involving the extent of personal responsibility.… (more)

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