If It Die . . .: An Autobiography
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This is the major autobiographical statement from Nobel laureate André Gide. In the events and musings recorded here we find the seeds of those themes that obsessed him throughout his career and imbued his classic novels The Immoralist and The Counterfeiters.
Gide led a life of uncompromising self-scrutiny, and his literary works resembled moments of that life. With If It Die, Gide determined to relay without sentiment or embellishment the circumstances of his childhood and the birth of his philosophic wanderings, and in doing so to bring it all to light. Gide’s unapologetic account of his awakening homosexual desire and his portrait of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas as they indulged in debauchery in North Africa are thrilling in their frankness and alone make If It Die an essential companion to the work of a twentieth-century literary master.
numbers of enormous grasshoppers, which spread their blue, red or grey membranes and shot up into the air, gay butterflies for a single moment, but falling down the next with their brightness dulled, and indistinguishable from the stones and scrub amongst which they lay. Asphodels grew on the banks of the Gardon; and in the river-bed itself, which was almost everywhere dry, the flora was quasi-tropical … Here, I leave the shandrydan for a moment; there are memories I must snatch in passing or I
premeditated; the explanation one looks for after the event is idle. A fatality led me; perhaps also the secret desire to set my nature at defiance; for in loving Emmanuèle, was it not virtue itself I loved? It was the marriage of Heaven with my insatiable Hell; but at the actual moment, my Hell was in abeyance; the tears of my mourning had extinguished all its fires; I was dazzled as by a blaze of azure and the things I refused to see had ceased to exist for me. I believed I could give her my
nothing but temporary wooden booths, stalls for the selling of old clothes, and sellers or hirers of second-hand velocipedes. The asphalt—or perhaps macadam—space which borders the second Luxembourg was used as a track by the devotees of this sport; they sat perched up aloft on those weird, paradoxical machines which were the ancestors of the bicycle, circled swiftly past us and disappeared into the darkness. We admired their boldness and their elegance. The frame-work and the minute back wheel
Then, very quickly, thrown in as an extra: “It’s perfectly simple, my dear; if you haven’t a porte-cochère, I can tell you straight off the people who won’t come to see you.” And she immediately reeled out a list of names such as to terrify the stoutest heart. But my mother looked at her sister and smiled rather sadly: “And you, Claire,” she said; “would you stop coming to see me?” Upon which, my aunt would purse up her lips and return to her embroidery. These conversations only took place
friendship comports degrees and shades and that it was not proper Miss Shackleton should forget she was a governess. “What!” thought my mother, “am I handsomer? or more intelligent, or better? Is my fortune or my name any reason I should be preferred?” “Juliette,” Anna would say, “you must give me a tea-coloured silk gown for your wedding-day, and I shall be completely happy.” For a long time Juliette Rondeaux had disdained the most brilliant matches in Rouen, when one day people were