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Andre Gide was a French author and 1947 Nobel Prize laureate. Much of his work is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical and deals with the struggle to reconcile the sexual and spiritual aspects of the self. Moralistic constraints and intellectual freedom are important concepts he often put at odds with one another in his work. His writing style is simple and sparse, but with profound emotional depth that requires much reading between the lines.
Gide was born into a French Protestant family in Paris on 22 November 1869. His father, a professor of law at Paris University, died when Gide was 11 years old. He spent his childhood in Normandy and began writing when at a very young age. His first novel, The Notebooks of Andre Walter, was published in 1891.
Gide spent the years of 1893 and 1894 in Northern Africa, where he met and befriended Irish author Oscar Wilde. He discovered his own homosexuality during his time in Northern Africa and had his first homosexual experiences with some of the local boys. His personal moral struggle as a homosexual raised in a strict Protestant home influenced much of his later work.
Shortly after he returned to France, his mother passed away, and he married his cousin, Madeleine Rondeaux, in 1895. Heartbroken, he wrote about his unconsummated marriage with Madeleine in Strait is the Gate (1909) and Madeleine (Et Nunc Manet in Te) (1951). During his marriage, Gide wrote prolifically, acted as the mayor of La Roque-Baignard in 1896, and helped found The New French Review, a literary magazine, in 1908. One of his most well known books, The Immoralist, based loosely on his experiences in Algiers, was first published in 1902.
In 1918, Gide eloped to London with his young lover, Marc Allegret, the son of the best man at his wedding. Madeleine was furious and burned his correspondence during his absence. In England, he met English novelist Dorothy Bussy, who was to become his lifelong friend and the translator of his work into English. He had a daughter, Catherine, with Elisabeth van Rysselberghe in 1923. Madeleine died in 1938.
During the 1920s, he became increasingly famous, inspiring Camus and Sartre, and became more politically active. He spoke out against the inhumane treatment of criminals in 1925, and during a trip to French Equatorial Africa with Allegret in 1926, he condemned French business interests' exploitation of native people and resources. Gide published an autobiography, If it Die, in 1926.
In the 1930s, Gide became a communist and produced anti-fascist articles and speeches. However, he abandoned his new political affiliation after a 1936 trip to the Soviet Union, during which he realized that communism in action did not live up to its ideals. He lived in Africa during World War II, from 1942 to 1945. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1947 and died in Paris on 19 February 1951. In addition to his fictional works, he published many Journals that some critics consider his most valuable work.