Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

André Gide

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. 
Doubt those who find it."

French writer André Gide (1869-1951) was the first openly gay man to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1947, at age 78, Gide was too ill to travel to Stockholm to receive the prize. Considered a controversial literary figure his entire life, Gide was nevertheless honored for his novels, essays, travel diaries and commentaries on contemporary events when his award was placed in the hands of the French Ambassador.

Born in Paris into a Protestant family, Gide’s first publication was a novella in 1891, when he was twenty-two. Great works followed, such as The Immoralist (1902) and Strait Is the Gate (1909), books which cemented his literary stature. However, the publication of Corydon (1920), his nonfiction work in praise of homosexuality, sent his reputation into a nosedive, and Gide was almost universally condemned. Five years later The Counterfeiters (1925), considered by many his best novel, brought renewed recognition and acceptance. With the publication of Travels in the Congo (1927), an attack on French colonialism, Gide’s influence took on a new dimension.

"It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not."

The publication of his autobiography If It Die (1926) left the reading public in shock with its salacious details of homosexual lovemaking as a teenager under the dining table with the concierge’s son and as an adult atop the sand dunes with an Arab youth in Algeria.

Gide met up with Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas while in North Africa, and their friendship influenced his subsequent writings, which exalted honesty, openness and sincerity. Gide was one of the few people willing to defend Wilde’s literary reputation in the years after the Englishman’s death.

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."

In 1916 at the age of forty seven Gide fell in love with 16-year-old Marc Allégret (in photo at right), whom he adopted, and the couple eloped to London to commence an eleven year relationship. Marc was to fall briefly under the spell of Jean Cocteau, whom Gide feared would "corrupt" him. After the notorious affair with Gide, Allégret went on to establish a successful career in cinema, becoming a noted screenwriter and director of more than 50 films.

“My faith in communism is like my faith in religion: it is a promise of salvation for mankind. If I have to lay my life down that it may succeed, I would do so without hesitation.”

As a distinguished writer sympathizing with the cause of communism, Gide was invited to tour the Soviet Union as a guest of the Soviet Union of Writers. The tour disillusioned him, however, and he subsequently became quite critical of Soviet Communism.

“It is impermissible under any circumstances for morals to sink as low as communism has done. No one can begin to imagine the tragedy of humanity, of morality, of religion and of freedoms in the land of communism, where man has been debased beyond belief.”

Gide lived in North Africa during WW II and soon thereafter returned from Tunisia to Paris, where he died in 1951 at the age of 81. The following year the Catholic church included all of his literary works on the index of Forbidden Books.

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