By Jocelyn Van Tuyl
The 1st entire examine of Gide’s missed wartime writings.
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Extra resources for Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation
This chapter examines Gide’s political and intellectual trajectory from Munich to Montoire—from the 1938 pact that paved the way for Hitler’s expansionism to the 1940 encounter that set France on a course of collaboration with Germany. After discussing Gide’s decisions about how best to give of himself as the war approached, I trace his reactions to the war, examining the bewildering shifts in his political opinions and the stylistic evidence of his internal struggle to understand and judge what was happening around him.
Perhaps Hitler is the one who is destined to reestablish this new world,” he wondered. ”64 Many Europeans entertained such thoughts, but Gide’s particularly strong sense of sympathie, of attempting to understand others’ viewpoints, sometimes led him into fantasy and paradoxical thinking. In January 1941, he penned an imaginary dialogue with Hitler—a dramatization of his mental struggle between condemnation and admiration that is characterized by a mix of detachment and sick fascination. In this dialogue, the “voice of hell”65 points out similarities between Hitler’s ideas and Gide’s own, even quoting from Gide’s writings (J 4: 57).
49 If this passage— suppressed until 1997, undoubtedly because of its “unseemliness”—evokes the sensual pleasures of the Nourritures terrestres, there is a reason: recently recovered from the long and debilitating bout of nephritis that had kept him in bed throughout most of April 1940, Gide was again experiencing that fragile exuberance of convalescence he had described in the lyrical 1897 work. That bout of nephritis—and plans to treat it with a mineral water “cure”—made for one of the oddest and most darkly comical episodes of Gide’s war.