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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Immoralist (1902) by Andre Gide

Book Review
The Immoralist (1902)
 by Andre Gide

 It is clear to me that one of the literary trends in late 19th century/early 20th century was the development of ennui/existentialism as a theme.  This proto-existentialism was classified as belonging to the "Fin de siecle" period (literally end of the century in French.)  Fin de siecle is typically applied to French art, making The Immoralist a clear example of the movement, but these works were spread all over Europe.  One of the most significant fin de siecle type books was Against the Grain, written by a Dutchman, Joris-Karl Huymans.

 Any description of The Immoralist will contain a lead like "Considered shocking when it was published."  Because so much emphasis is placed on that aspect of The Immoralist, it is worth noting that the narrator spends A LOT of time rhapsodizing about young Arab boys (he is Frenchman living in Morocco because his boo has tuberculosis.) I didn't catch an overtly sexual references to the young boys, but there is plenty of admiration of their cocoa butter skin and "long, smooth" limbs.

 On another level The Immoralist is a clear step down the road to the inky depths of literary modernism- only a couple of events actually happen during the book: He moves to Morocco and he moves to Normandy.  Much of the space is devoted to description of emotions, locations and people.  There is no conventional plot.

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