André Gide: A Biography by Alan Sheridan - review by Douglas Johnson

Douglas Johnson

He Had So Much to Say

André Gide: A Biography


Hamish Hamilton 880pp £30 order from our bookshop

Alan Sheridan has written a biography of Gide. It is the story of Gide’s life and the history of the many books that Gide published. He writes therefore both as an historian and as a literary critic.

Gide was an active man, who travelled a lot, had many friends, had a private life which is usually described as scandalous, and published a great deal. Therefore Sheridan, who is a most careful and conscientious biographer, has amassed a remarkable amount of detail. Thus, if we take Paludes, which was published in 1895, we are told about all the circumstances in which it was written. There are Gide's disagreements with his mother in Normandy, sudden decisions to cut short his stay with her and threats to go to Madagascar. On medical advice he spends four weeks in La Brévine near Neuchâtel. But before going there, he goes to Switzerland and northern Italy, where he has an idyllic episode with a boy on Lake Como, first depicted as innocent but later described as not at all ‘innocent’.

We learn how many hours Gide spends at the piano, how many hours taking exercise and washing, about his reading, which is 'unabated'. When actually in La Brévine, he finds it ugly and appears to have few distractions. There is, however, an episode with a Swiss girl of ample figure,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter