Tuesday, May 5, 2020

224. The Immoralist

The Immoralist
Andre Gide
Around 150 pages

It's nice when the chunkie chunksters on this List are broken up by some shorter works. I read this in a couple hours and it was a pretty delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Michel recently married Marceline, and is pretty much the worst husband imaginable. After a rather embarrassing wedding night performance, he concludes with coughing blood all over her silk foulard. He also drags her around North Africa despite her being in poor health. Despite Michel's treatment of his wife and some of his Michael Jackson-y attachments to children, Gide passes no judgment on his hero. He prefaces the novel saying:

"The public nowadays will not forgive an author who, after relating an action, does not declare  himself either for or against it; more than this, during the very course of the drama they want him to take sides, pronounce in favor either of Alceste or Philinte, of Hamlet or Ophelia, of Faust or Margaret, of Adam or Jehovah. I do not indeed claim that neutrality (I was going to say 'indecision') is the certain mark of a great mind; but I believe that many great minds have been very loath to conclude — and that to state a problem clearly is not to suppose it solved in advance."

I like novels where the protagonist is somebody who has no business being a protagonist (Hufflepuffs for the win!). I probably couldn't have put up with Michel for very long, but I enjoyed the journey, even if Marceline got the short end of the stick in terms of characterization.

It's clear this had a heavy influence over other works, particularly Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. A worthy entry to the List and I am enjoying getting to know Gide.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

James Dean starred in a stage adaptation of this novel.

UP NEXT: The Ambassadors by Henry James. We can't shake this guy.

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