By Jocelyn Van Tuyl
The 1st entire examine of Gide’s overlooked wartime writings.
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Additional resources for Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation
S. R. and Europe’s fascist nations made for alarmed reactions from Gide’s communist associates. Those who sought to block or delay the publication argued political expediency, and warned that a public denunciation of the Soviet Union would merely play into Hitler’s hand. A more pressing argument against immediate publication of the Retour concerned the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War, which was in some respects a microcosm of the world war to come. Since July 1936, the democratically elected Spanish Republicans had been fighting Franco’s forces.
Given the historical context, such remarks easily give an impression of shocking insouciance. Thus, just two days after Gide mentions the “dismaying news”48 of Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries, we find an entry describing familiar Gidian pleasures: having hoisted a group of children into a cherry tree so they could rob it of its fruit, Gide watched them play for more than an hour, and reflected that his greatest pleasure always came in the company of young children. 49 If this passage— suppressed until 1997, undoubtedly because of its “unseemliness”—evokes the sensual pleasures of the Nourritures terrestres, there is a reason: recently recovered from the long and debilitating bout of nephritis that had kept him in bed throughout most of April 1940, Gide was again experiencing that fragile exuberance of convalescence he had described in the lyrical 1897 work.
58 Here again, the marshal was speaking Gide’s language. “Pétain’s explanations are clear, reasonable, and are the only ones we had any right to expect,” Gide wrote on 26 June: “I yield to his reasons, and cannot keep my mind in the state of protest I felt the day before yesterday. There is nothing to do but submit and accept, alas! ”59 Gide later chose to suppress this diary entry that invalidates the picture of surefooted progress toward resistance sentiments that he sought to present to the world.
Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation by Jocelyn Van Tuyl