WHAT ARE YOU READING?: Lafcadio’s Adventures, but only because I found it for a dollar at a used book store.
REVIEW: I wrote a long one, but the short answer is that the tone and structure change too much. It starts as a tale of conversion, then becomes a family saga, a comic swindling novel and Crime and Punishment lite in turn. Each of the main characters (except two, who I will discuss later) steps out of the place society expects for him, shudders at the prospect of the true freedom available to him and returns to comfortable conformity. The first exception, the one who finds himself swept off in an adventure novel, gets chucked out of a moving train and dies. The second, who did the chucking, finds himself in a position to escape detection, since his friend had all the evidence of the murder. He hesitates, and then the book ends. That uncertainty makes Lafcadio’s Adventures somewhat better than Crime and Punishment lite, but Gide doesn’t have the theoretical chops to make it transcend its time and limitations. His influence on Camus and Sartre is evident, and I’d bet good money that Gide turned a few heads inside-out when this came out in 1914, but it doesn’t hold up too well. This was another book like Lagerkvist’s: I’m not upset that I spent the time with the book, but I’m not too inspired to track down more by Gide.
DO YOU RECOMMEND IT? For a fun bit of early 20th century fiction, sure, why not? I enjoyed it, it was light and breezy, just not as deep or complex as it wanted to be.
WHAT’S NEXT?: Solzhenitsyn and then Thomas Mann