By Jocelyn Van Tuyl
The 1st whole learn of Gide’s overlooked wartime writings.
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How can one fail to approve Churchill? 56 Is it not enough for France to be conquered? Must she also be dishonored? (J 4: 24)57 In later years, Gide would point to this early expression of support for de Gaulle as proof of his long-standing resistance allegiances. What he concealed throughout his lifetime was the retraction, two days later, of the Journal’s denunciation of Pétain. In a speech delivered on 25 June, the head of the État Français implicitly criticized both de Gaulle’s decision to leave French soil and his call to rally in England and fight from the empire.
In August 1939, Gide went to Pontigny, where intellectuals gathered each summer to debate various literary and political issues, to attend a décade devoted to the plight of refugees. ”14 Among these detainees were numerous exiles from Austria and Germany—most of them Jewish, and all violently opposed to Hitler. In an October 1939 statement in Le Petit Niçois, Gide denounced France’s indiscriminate incarceration of German and Austrian nationals—even those who had been deprived of their citizenship and were technically stateless—and cited England’s more humane approach as a model (Fraysse).
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. That bout of nephritis—and plans to treat it with a mineral water “cure”—made for one of the oddest and most darkly comical episodes of Gide’s war.
Andre Gide and the Second World War: A Novelist's Occupation by Jocelyn Van Tuyl