André Gide

French author and Nobel laureate (1869–1951)

André Paul Guillaume Gide (22 November 186919 February 1951) was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947.

Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable.
See also:
The Immoralist


Sin is whatever obscures the soul.
There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.
  • La sagesse n'est pas dans la raison, mais dans l'amour.
    • Wisdom comes not from reason but from love.
      • Les Nourritures Terrestres [Fruits of the Earth] (1897), book I
  • Familles, je vous hais! foyers clos; portes refermées; possessions jalouses du bonheur.
    • Families, I hate you! Shut-in homes, closed doors, jealous possessions of happiness.
      • Les Nourritures Terrestres (1897), book IV
  • ...que toute émotion sache te devenir une ivresse. Si ce que tu manges ne te grise pas, c'est que tu n'avais pas assez faim.
    • Let every emotion be capable of becoming an intoxication to you. If what you eat fails to make you drunk, it is because you are not hungry enough.
      • Les Nourritures Terrestres (1897)
  • Ce qu'un autre aurait aussi bien fait que toi, ne le fais pas. Ce qu'un autre aurait aussi bien dit que toi, ne le dis pas, — aussi bien écrit que toi, ne l'écris pas. Ne t'attache en toi qu'à ce que tu sens qui n'est nulle part ailleurs qu'en toi-même, et crée de toi, impatiemment ou patiemment, ah! le plus irremplaçable des êtres.
    • What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it; what another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable.
      • Les Nourritures Terrestres (1897), Envoi
  • True kindness presupposes the faculty of imagining as one's own the suffering and joys of others.
    • Portraits and Aphorisms (1903), Pretexts
  • Le péché, c'est ce qui obscurcit l'âme.
    • Sin is whatever obscures the soul.
      • La Symphonie Pastorale (1919)
  • There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.
    • Si le grain ne meurt [If It Die] (1924), ch. III
  • On ne découvre pas de terre nouvelle sans consentir à perdre de vue, d'abord et longtemps, tout rivage.
    • One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.
      • Les faux-monnayeurs [The Counterfeiters] (1925)
      • Often misquoted as "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
      • Frequently misattributed to Christopher Columbus.
  • The most decisive actions of our life — I mean those that are most likely to decide the whole course of our future — are, more often than not, unconsidered.
    • Les Faux Monnayeurs (1925), Pt. 3, ch. 16
  • C'est avec de beaux sentiments qu'on fait de la mauvaise littérature.
    • It is with noble sentiments that bad literature gets written.
      • Letter to François Mauriac (1929)
  • Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.
    • Poétique
  • Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent; doutez de tout, mais ne doutez pas de vous-même.
    • Believe those who seek the truth, doubt those who find it; doubt all, but do not doubt yourself.
      • Gallimard, ed. (1952), Ainsi soit-il; ou, Les Jeux sont faits, p. 174 
  • It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.
    • Autumn Leaves, Philosophical eLibrary[1], 2012, (Feuillets d'automne, 1941, trans. Jeanine Parisier Plottel)
  • Toutes choses sont dites déjà; mais comme personne n'écoute, il faut toujours recommencer.
    • Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.
    • Le Traité du Narcisse (The Treatise of the Narcissus)
      • Nothing is said that has not been said before. -- Terence
To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom.
Main article: The Immoralist
  • Savoir se libérer n'est rien; l'ardu, c'est savoir être libre.
    • Translation: To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom.
    • The Immoralist, Chapter 1 (1902)
  • The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they're seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful?
    • p. 159

Journals 1889-1949

The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity.
  • Man is more interesting than men. God made him and not them in his image. Each one is more precious than all.
    • Literature and Ethics, entry for 1901
  • The abominable effort to take one's sins with one to paradise.
    • Detached Pages, entry for 1913
  • No theory is good unless it permits, not rest, but the greatest work. No theory is good except on condition that one use it to go on beyond.
    • Detached Pages, entry for 1913
  • The most important things to say are those which often I did not think necessary for me to say — because they were too obvious.
    • Entry for August 23, 1926
  • Old hands soil, it seems, whatever they caress, but they too have their beauty when they are joined in prayer. Young hands were made for caresses and the sheathing of love. It is a pity to make them join too soon.
    • Entry for January 21, 1929
  • The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity.
    • Entry for November 23, 1940
  • A straight path never leads anywhere except to the objective.
    • The Journals of André Gide: 1914-1927, A.A. Knopf, 1951, p. 313

Pretexts: Reflections on Literature and Morality (1964)

Edited by Justin O'Brien
  • In my present insistence on high standards you will see that there is less self-indulgence than resolve and application. I do not let the Christian monopolize the ideal of perfection. I have my own virtue, which I am constantly cultivating and refining by teaching myself not to tolerate in me or my surroundings anything but the exquisite.
    • Maurice in “Characters,” p. 298
  • Pay attention only to the form; emotion will come spontaneously to inhabit it. A perfect dwelling always finds an inhabitant. The artist's business is to build the dwelling; as for the inhabitant, it is up to the reader to provide him.
    • “Characters,” p. 299
  • Generally among intelligent people are found nothing but paralytics and among men of action nothing but fools.
    • “Characters,” p. 304
  • Pourtant il me semble que, n'eussé-je connu ni Dostoïevski, ni Nietzsche, ni Freud, ni X. ou Z., j'aurais pensé tout de même, et que j'ai trouvé chez eux plutôt une autorisation qu'un éveil. Surtout ils m'ont appris à ne plus douter de moi-même, à ne pas avoir peur de ma pensée et à me laisser mener par elle, puisqu'aussi bien je les y retrouvais.
    • It seems to me that had I not known Dostoevsky or Nietzsche or Freud or X or Z, I should have thought just as I did, and that I found in them rather an authorization than an awakening. Above all, they taught me to cease doubting, to cease fearing my thoughts, and to let those thoughts lead me to those lands that were not uninhabitable because after all I found them already there.
      • “Characters,” p. 306
  • The artist who is after success lets himself be influenced by the public. Generally such an artist contributes nothing new, for the public acclaims only what it already knows, what it recognizes.
    • “Characters,” p. 306
  • O my dearest and most lovable thought, why should I try further to legitimize your birth?
    • “Characters,” p. 310
  • Most often people seek in life occasions for persisting in their opinions rather than for educating themselves.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 311
  • True intelligence very readily conceives of an intelligence superior to its own; and this is why truly intelligent men are modest.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” pp. 311-312
  • Often the best in us springs from the worst in us.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 315
  • There is no feeling so simple that it is not immediately complicated and distorted by introspection.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 317
  • The only really Christian art is that which, like St. Francis, does not fear being wedded to poverty. This rises far above art-as-ornament.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 317
  • At times it seems to me that I am living my life backwards, and that at the approach of old age my real youth will begin. My soul was born covered with wrinkles—wrinkles my ancestors and parents most assiduously put there and that I had the greatest trouble removing.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” pp. 319-320
  • The finest virtues can become deformed with age. The precise mind becomes finicky; the thrifty man, miserly; the cautious man, timorous; the man of imagination, fanciful. Even perseverance ends up in a sort of stupidity. Just as, on the other hand, being too willing to understand too many opinions, too diverse ways of seeing, constancy is lost and the mind goes astray in a restless fickleness.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 324
  • We call “happiness” a certain set of circumstances that makes joy possible. But we call joy that state of mind and emotions that needs nothing to feel happy.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 326
  • When intelligent people pride themselves on not understanding, it is quite natural they should succeed better than fools.
    • “An Unprejudiced Mind,” p. 346
  • When people felt they had a right to seek out Christ before the torment, and in the fullness of his joy—it was too late; the cross had overcome Christ himself; it was Christ crucified that people continued to see and teach. And thus it is that religion came to plunge the world into gloom.

Quotes about André Gide

  • And every choice, as Gide insisted, entails the rejection of what might have been better.
    • George Norman Laidlaw, Elysian Encounter: Diderot and Gide, 1963, p. 4
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