October 07, 2003


While trying to restore a little order to my home work space (this involves haphazardly reshelving the books that tend to pile up, among other things) I came across an old Vintage edition (the cover price was $1.65!) of the Journals of Andre Gide, Volume I, translated by Justin O'Brien. My copy was printed in 1956 in the United States, but has a stamp of a bookseller in New Delhi, India, on the title page.

I've always had a fondness for Gide -- fiercely protestant, homosexual, a man of the 19th Century in the 20th -- always an engaging writer and thinker. I flipped through the book (this explains why I accomplish very little cleaning) and came across this passage, from June 1913, in which Gide sketches out the theme of a novel:

Establish the bankruptcy of Christianity -- those who wanted to practice it had to withdraw from the world; Chirstianity was unable to form a world in the image of Christ as Buddha or Mohammed did -- show that this is the superiority of Christ. But Catholicism set out to form a society and succeeds in doing so only by getting rid of Christ.

(All this wants to be said very mildly; horror of the tone of voice that belongs to the dispenser of justice or to the revolutionary.)

That the first duty of the Christian is to be happy; and so long as he has not achieved happiness he has not put into practice the teaching of Christ. -- Christ's wonderful words: "Why weepest thou?" (To be commented on.)

Gide sometimes strikes me as being more of a theologian who dabbled in writing fictions than a novelist, but I mean that as a compliment.

Posted by Ideofact at October 7, 2003 11:45 PM