The Immoralist by Andre Gide

This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.

September 13, SFO-JFK: Andre Gide begins his book with an author’s note that apologizes for his main character. Or perhaps, preemptively defends. He pleads with the reader that the character and the author’s purpose have been misconstrued. Not hard to imagine. The Immoralist spins a tale of Michel, a disaffected young man who is unimpressed by the norms of society at the start and has no desire to get close to God. As the book unfolds, he descends into immorality in a first person narrative that brings you through it with him.

The trick of it all, of course, is that Gide writes beautifully. That Michel’s narrative is easy to internalize because of the beauty of his description. And of course, through our modern lens (in which so many of us have an unfamiliarity with God) Michel’s ‘descent’ can also be seen as a ‘journey’ of self-discovery.

Oddly, the narrative of the monster is not what I took from this book. That place in my canon is held by Lolita. This was my “tuberculosis is romantic” book. Both Michel’s illness and then his wife Marceline’s, both so beautifully rendered in prose, were the first I’d read of the romance of illness. A ridiculous sentiment. In reading this book now, the biology of their suffering is so crisply detailed and thus frightening.

Buy The Immoralist from the Internet.

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