The Immoralist (book)

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The Immoralist, is a book by André Gide--a famous BoyLover, who first discovered his love for boys when he visited North Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He had many sexual affairs with boys, and documented many of those in his writings, along with photographs of the boys. He generally preferred boys who were pubescent or post-pubescent, so he was actually a pederast rather than a true pedophile.

The book illustrates what may happen to a BoyLover when society forces him to conform to the heterosexual narrative, as happened very often to homosexuals in the past.

Book description

Here is a description of the book by one publisher:

Among the masters of modern French literature, André Gide (1869–1951) concerned himself with the motivation and function of the will, with self-cultivation, and the conduct of the individual in the modern world. His perception, integrity, and purity of style brought him much acclaim, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947.
The Immoralist (written in 1901, published in 1902), one of his best-known works, deals with the unhappy consequences of amoral hedonism. Filled with similarities of Gide's own life, it is the story of Michel, who, during three years of travel in Europe and North Africa, tries to rise above good and evil and allow his passions (including his attraction to young Arab boys) free rein; in doing so, he neglects his wife, Marceline, who eventually dies of tuberculosis. The book is in the form of Michel's attempt to justify his conduct to his friends.
Notable for its fusion of autobiographical elements with both biblical and classical clarity and lack of clutter, The Immoralist marks a decided shift in Gide's prose style and a somewhat decadent floweriness to his later classical clarity and lack of clutter. This nobility and simplicity of style is skillfully retained in this excellent new translation by Stanley Appelbaum, which also preserves the passion and intensity of the original.

The book has been published by a number of publishers, in a number of translations. The edition linked to below (1930) was translated from the original French (1921) by Dorothy Bussy.


NOTE: The reviews refer to a number of different editions/translations, but are not differentiated.


  • Top Customer Reviews
  • 5.0 out of 5 starsSelf-truth at Any Cost
  • By Grace on September 23, 2000
The Immoralist is straightforward in language and easy to read, but more complicated, more complex are its themes: Man's sense of morality towards society, family, himself. What happens when man's values conflict with those of society's? Whose interests should be served? Gide explores these themes through one man's odyssey of self-discovery. The protagonist is the learned and conflicted Michel who yearns for something more than the stable, predictable, familiar life he has always known, but no longer finds tolerable. It is after a life-threatening bout of tuberculosis that these feelings rise to the surface, intensify, and are more keenly felt.
This hunger, still unidentified, takes him on a journey, both literal and figurative, where his search for self-awareness, or self-truth, carries him to distant and exotic locales. New experiences and mysterious encounters give way to a new aestheticism in which weakness, constraint, and life's banalities play no role. :Heightened senses, unsuppressed impulses erode age-old human values that were once accepted blindly.
A life less checked, though, can have consequences, as is the case for Michel, and for so many others like him. As Michel becomes stronger, his wife becomes weaker. Indeed, society becomes weaker. How can the newly strong fail to quash the weak in their path? The question one must ask, then, and Gide does, is whether a life without restraint has value. Is there something admirable in the old adage, "To thine own self be true"?
One of the novel's most inspired moments is found in its ending. Without giving anything away, it is the last passage, after the reader has come full-circle, where Michel's journey seemingly ends. Will Michel embrace his new truth? The reader is left to wonder. The Immoralist is told in narrative, in Michel's own voice. It is self-confessional literature at its highest, and should be read by anyone who reads to think and be moved.

[The following reviewer seems to not be interested in stories about BoyLove and descriptions of sexual adventures with Moroccan boys...]

  • 2.0 out of 5 stars
  • Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving....
  • By B. Morse on February 3, 2003
I acquired Andre Gide's The Immoralist from a pile of free books set outside a used book store that was closing for good. I brought it home and set it aside for about a month before reading it.
The 170-odd pages were very easy to digest, in terms of time and complexity. But the ideas filling them were intriguing, at least at first. A man marries, develops tuberculosis, convalesces, and decides to live life more deliberately, more fundamentally, and expose himself, his emotions, his experiences, down to their very foundation. He embraces the pain of sunburn for it's capacity to make a person feel, for the sensation it produces. He strips away all layers of clothing in the outdoors to plunge into an icy pool of water, to expose himself completely to the elements and the world around him. He gives up his scholarly pursuits to run a family farm, and experience a completely different type of life and industry.
But here the intrigue of the premise becomes mired in an obviously closeted gay man (not uncommon for the turn of the 20th century) torn between duty to wife and honesty of desire. The second half of this brief novel is merely an endless parade of boys and men that draw Michel's attention and ardor. The desire to experience all in its most basic, honest form is lost in the lie that Michel obviously lives in suppressing his hidden desires and perpetuating his sham marriage.
While Gide's concept was initally enough to draw me in and press me to read on, the latter half of the book left me apathetic to my inceptive appreciation of a very promising idea. I found the character of Michel to be hypocritical at best, and failed to feel any sympathy for his longing after the neverending parade of males that slip through his fingers, and his fickle interest in them.
I felt some sympathy for Marceline, Michel's wife, but his narrative portrayal of her as more of an impedence and a nuisance gave me more cause to pity her than feel empathy for her eventually contracted case of tuberculosis, no matter how frail she grew; the author always managed to make her more of an annoyance to Michel than anything else, and her character never really has an opportunity of true definition.
Gide has a very accessible way with prose, but not a very clear and concise focus on his story with this book, which is the first of his works that I have read. All in all, this book suffers from \"When Harry Met Sally\" syndrome...and disproves its initial 'thesis'. I would not recommend this book to others, save for anyone interested in examining the conflict of a closeted gay married man at the turn of the 20th century.

See also

André Gide

External links

  • To read online/download the 1930 edition:
  • Wikipedia description of book:
  • The author at Wikipedia: