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The Counterfeiters by André Gide
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The Counterfeiters (1925)

by André Gide

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The Counterfeiters is a book about writing a book, also called "The Counterfeiters". That is the primary theme of the novel which comes from the title of the book by the writer Edouard. Thus The Counterfeiters is a novel-within-a-novel, with Edouard (the alter ego of Gide) writing a book of the same title. Other stylistic devices are also used, such as an omniscient narrator that sometimes addresses the reader directly, weighs in on the characters' motivations or discusses alternate realities. However, there is also the story of a group of boys who are passing counterfeit coins throughout Paris. Thus we have entered a world where we cannot trust our senses -- what is counterfeit and what is real?

The story of Edouard writing his novel demonstrates his search for knowledge, yet as he associates with a group of his own adolescent relatives it appears as an artificial arrangement; one that displays the effects upon society of youth's corruption of traditional standards and values. The collapse of morality is illustrated with Eduoard's nephew Vincent, who deserts his lover Laura, a married woman, and runs away with Lillian, the mistress of Count Robert de Passavant. His life goes downhill as he murders her and goes insane.
There is also the coming of age story of Bernard and Olivier as they prepare to leave school -- but does this extend beyond their education and emanate from all who are learning about the world? This learning which is required by the changing nature of the everyday, the quotidian reality that is, perhaps, counterfeit.

I found the details of Edouard's struggles with his career, his family, his friendships and love provided images that enhanced the main themes, yet also energized the narrative drive. Another subplot of the novel is homosexuality. Some of the characters are overtly homosexual, like the adolescent Olivier, and the adult writers Count de Passavant and Eduoard. The Count seems to be an evil and corrupting force while the latter is benevolent. Even when the treatment is not overt, there is a homoerotic subtext that runs throughout, which encompasses Olivier's friend, Bernard, and their schoolfellows Gontran and Philippe. The main theme of The Counterfeiters encompasses the issue of sexuality, morality, and social order and lineage in a unique way for his era.

Gide's novel was not received well on its appearance, perhaps because of its homosexual themes and its unusual composition. It is this unusual composition that I thought made it an interesting read; along with which the way Gide demonstrates ideas through his characters and their actions much like Dostoevsky and Thomas Mann. The Counterfeiters has seen its reputation improve in the intervening years and is now generally counted among the great novels of the twentieth century. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Mar 17, 2011 |
The French writer André Gide ( 1869 - 1951), is a far more interesting personage than any character in his books.
And he knows it. His book “the counterfeiters” (French: Les faux-monnayeurs) written in 1925 copies the fictional journal of his fictional alter ego Edouard who is trying to write a book with the same title “ the counterfeiters”. Edouard does not succeed but Gide did and was awarded both with a Nobel Prize for litterature ( 1947 ) and with a dishonorable mention on the Roman catholic Church index of forbidden books ( 1952 ).
The book is about adolescent young men, emerging out of the golden cage of their protected childhood with its straight-laced education and narrow moralistic and puritan constraints, trying to become fully and honestly themselves (ambition, aspirations, values, sexual nature etc ).
The very complex structure of the counterfeiters with as many characters developments crisscrossing each other,succeeds in creating the same confusion within the reader as the one the young characters experience in the book. One needs a social network graph to understand and remember how the most important characters in The Counterfeiters are related to each other.
With many characters and crisscrossing plotlines, its main theme is that of the original and the copy, and what differentiates them – both in the external plot of the counterfeit gold coins and in the portrayal of the characters' feelings and their relationships.
Furthermore, The Counterfeiters is a novel-within-a-novel and the “mise en abime” technique recreates this sense of vertigo to the pages of this roman.
Gide uses other stylistic devices, such as an omniscient narrator that sometimes surprises the reader by adressing him directly. He does this with technical brio !

A lot of human relations are condemned as “faux”, or false in the book. Behind the façades of the Parisian bourgeois mansions, a hidden world unfolds. Damaged Father – son relations, unwanted pregnancies, repressed homosexual or bisexual love, paedophilic attraction, adulterers, bastard children, cruelty, general unhappiness and thanatos.
Incidently, it looks like a shortlist of Gide’s own issues. He too was trying to cope with his sexual nature within his “modern marriage” in a world from which he could expect neither understanding nor sympathy.
André Gide born in Paris, son of a professor of law at the University of Paris,
was raised by his Calvinist mother. He was mostly educated at home and was a lonely child. Although Gide had “discovered” his homosexuality during his African voyage in 1893, he still did marry his childhood friend Madeleine Rondeaux in 1894. In 1916 Gide eloped to London with his 16 year old lover Marc Alegret, son of his friend Elie Allegret. No one was amused and Madeleine burned the lovers correspondance as retribution.
Still in 1923, Gide, the married homosexual, conceived a daughter with Elisabeth van Rysselberghe, a much younger woman, daughter of his friend, the Belgian neo-impressionist painter Théo van Rysselberghe.

Enough gossiping, back to the “ Counterfeiters”

Gide aims to expose the hypocrisy and self-deception with which people try to avoid sincerity. The protagonist, Edouard, keeps a journal of events in order to write a novel about the nature of reality. Another internal author - the 'pseudo-author', an intervening first person voice - comments the action. Edouard falls in love with his nephew Oliver Molinier. Through their story Gide illustrates what he considered a constructive homosexual relationship. Numerous themes are woven into the complex structure, not only the novelist writing a novel about a novelist who is writing a novel about forging. The intrigues of a gang of counterfeiters symbolize the counterfeit personalities with which people disguise themselves.

Initially received coldly on its appearance, perhaps because of its homosexual themes and its unusual composition, The Counterfeiters has gained reputation in the intervening years and is now generally counted among the Western Canon of literature. Gide has influenced a whole generation of young writers, including the existentialists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
The making of the novel, with letters, newspaper clippings and other supporting material, was documented by Gide in his 1926 Journal of The Counterfeiters. ( )
6 vote Macumbeira | Nov 22, 2009 |
French Novel
  Budzul | May 31, 2008 |
Ca fait maintenant longtemps que j'ai lu ce livre. Il m'a plu, mais je ne sais plus trop pourquoi! ( )
  schwabinger | Mar 13, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
André Gideprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bussy, DorothyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A Roger Martin du Gard

je dédie mon premier roman en témoignage d'amitié profonde
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"The time has now come for me to hear a step in the passage," said Bernard to himself.
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La précision ne doit pas être obtenue par le détail du récit, mais bien, dans l'imagination du lecteur, par deux ou trois traits, exactement à la bonne place. Je crois du reste qu'il y aurait intérêt à faire raconter tout cela par l'enfant; son point de vue est plus significatif que le mien. (...) Rien n'est plus difficile à observer que les êtres en formation. Il faudrait pouvoir ne les regarder que de biais, de profil.
Ces scènes où l'un offre plus de son coeur qu'on ne lui demande, sont toujours pénibles. Sans doute pensait-il forcer ma symapthie.
Je n'ai jamais rien pu inventer. Mais je suis devant la réalité comme le peintre avec son modèle, qui lui dit: donnez-moi tel geste, prenez telle expression qui me convient. Les modèles que la societé me fournit, si je connais bien leurs ressorts, je peux les faire agir à mon gré; (...) Si j'avais plus d'imagination, j'affabulerais des intrigues; je les provoque, observe les acteurs, puis travaille sous leur dictée
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please don't combine "The counterfeiters" with the editions including "The journal of the counterfeiters".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394718429, Paperback)

A young artist pursues a search for knowledge through the treatment of homosexuality and the collapse of morality in middle class France.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young artist pursues a search for knowledge through the treatment of homosexuality and the collapse of morality in middle class France.

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