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  • Gide par lui-même:1947
  • Richard Macksey

Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent.

—André Gide, Ainsi soit-il. [cited by Claude Martin]

The year 1947 marked for André Gide a certain closure to his literary career and, after refusals or denials of honors at home, the culmination of his international canonization. In the preceding year he had finally published his last récit, the conclusion of his mythic Theban cycle, Thésée, and his final drama, Le Retour. The fatidic year 1947 thus comes immediately after the completion, save for the final pages of his Journal, of almost six decades of labor as an author. It was also a time to gather honors from abroad, to sort his papers and inédits, to arrange his voluminous correspondence, and to reach some assessment of his place in history. He clearly took an active role in the balancing of the books and retouching of portraits. A previously unattributed MS by Gide may throw some light on his own active contribution to this assessment.1

In April of 1947, he arranged at Neuchâtel a private printing (13 copies) of Et nunc manet in te, with the stipulation that the commercial edition of this, perhaps his most intimate confession, not be published until after his death. On June 5th, largely through the energetic agency of Enid Starkie, he received the degree of doctor honoris causa from Oxford University. Bending to the urgings of his friend Alexis Léger [End Page 1286] (St.-John Perse), then in Washington, he also agreed to participate in an international symposium organized by Elliott Coleman at the Johns Hopkins University for April of the following year. The trip to the U.S.A. was to be coordinated with honorary degrees, at Columbia as well as Hopkins, and a long-awaited visit to Florida.2 In July, Ides et Calendes of Neuchâtel began the publication of Gide's Théâtre complet (8 volumes, 1947–49). The same publishing house issued his collected Poétique in September. The following month Jean-Louis Barrault opened to great acclaim at the Théâtre Marigny his adaptation of Kafka's Der Prozeß. On November 13th these international consecrations were completed with the announcement that Gide had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The awards ceremony was scheduled for December 10th and the event was to be followed in due course by the publication of a memorial album for the laureates, academicians, and other distinguished guests. ("Due course" took a little over a year in production.) The album, bound in the blue and gold royal Swedish colors, contains the presentation of the laureates, their portraits and "notices biographiques," as well as the lectures that some of the honorees subsequently offered. Unfortunately Gide was prevented by the fragility of his health from attending; he was "presented" in a brief speech by M. A. Österling, the Perpetual Secretary of the Swedish Academy and President of the Nobel Committee for Literature. Gide's letter of acceptance in absentia, with a graceful bow to his friend Valéry who had died in 1945, was read by M. Gabriel Puaux, the French Ambassador to Sweden.3

Although there seems to have been no single format for the "notices biographiques" accompanying each laureate's formal portrait—some look like professional curricula vitae, others resemble brief encyclopedia entries—they are uniformly dry and follow a predictable route: birth, education, works, and honors (the last item in the cursus being a rather lengthy ascent to the Nobel Prize). Gide's entry is a notable exception to this model. While it begins in characteristic telegraphic form, as it progresses it becomes more essayistic and judgmental. It is the only vita that could not have been easily prepared by an office worker in Stockholm or in the laureate's laboratory.

The first (and one of the last) Gide scholars actually to examine Les Prix Nobel en 1947 is Justin O'Brien of Columbia University in his pioneer biography, Portrait of André Gide (1953). While working on his massive 4-volume translation and annotation of the Journal (1947–51), he had, from 1946 to...


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