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A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle's house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems 'steeped in azure'. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome's love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she dec A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle's house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems 'steeped in azure'. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome's love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she decides to suppress everything that is beautiful in herself - in both mind and body.


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A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle's house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems 'steeped in azure'. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome's love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she dec A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle's house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems 'steeped in azure'. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome's love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she decides to suppress everything that is beautiful in herself - in both mind and body.

30 review for Strait Is the Gate

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Gide said that he meant this book to be treated as one half of a pair, together with L'Immoraliste. I took him at his word and read them in rapid succession. By the way, I should say this was atypical - I'm a "when all else fails, read the instructions" kind of person, but I found both books together at a second-hand bookstore and it seemed silly not to do what he said. Looking at other reviews, I seem to have a fairly different take on the book, and perhaps my reading route has something to do w Gide said that he meant this book to be treated as one half of a pair, together with L'Immoraliste. I took him at his word and read them in rapid succession. By the way, I should say this was atypical - I'm a "when all else fails, read the instructions" kind of person, but I found both books together at a second-hand bookstore and it seemed silly not to do what he said. Looking at other reviews, I seem to have a fairly different take on the book, and perhaps my reading route has something to do with it. So, here we have a guy who's in love with this charming girl, Alissa, and is hoping to marry her. Alissa, however, takes it into her head that God doesn't wants her to marry her nice fiancé, but rather to contract a form of anorexia, coupled with depression, which eventually kills her. On the way, she also manipulates her unfortunate sister into marrying someone she doesn't much like, trapping her permanently in a loveless marriage. Well, if Alissa was someone I knew personally, I wouldn't be rhapsodizing about her moving closeness with the Divine. I'd be trying to get her into therapy as quickly as possible, and meanwhile reading up the literature on religious mania. When I did what Gide suggested, and compared her with the main character in L'Immoraliste, I decided that his take on her wasn't very different from what mine would be in a real situation. He thinks Alissa is falling into one of two possible errors with religion, allowing it to take such a large part in her life that it drives her mad, destroying her and also several people she supposedly cares about. The hero of L'Immoraliste falls into the opposite trap. He rejects religion entirely, living an utterly selfish life which ends up killing his beautiful and loving wife in a particularly horrible way. So, to sum up both books, I'd say Gide was telling people not to abandon religion - but also not to overdo it, and not to forget to listen to their normal human feelings and their common sense. Pretty balanced advice, in fact.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    This book is been hailed as one of the most sensous and sublime love stories of the 19th century, as well as being one of Andre Gide's most vaunted publications. Me? I have no basis for comment or comparison at this time as this was my first tentative foray into the world of Andre Gide. I don't think it will be my last but I don't think I will be charging out the door to clasp all of his other publications lovingly to my bosom. It also seems a little ironic that a gay Frenchman produced one of t This book is been hailed as one of the most sensous and sublime love stories of the 19th century, as well as being one of Andre Gide's most vaunted publications. Me? I have no basis for comment or comparison at this time as this was my first tentative foray into the world of Andre Gide. I don't think it will be my last but I don't think I will be charging out the door to clasp all of his other publications lovingly to my bosom. It also seems a little ironic that a gay Frenchman produced one of the best received and highly praised (but devoutly and notably chaste) novels about the ritual trials and tribulations of heterosexual romance? Gide was alive and kicking in Paris at a time when you could barely walk down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées without rubbing shoulders with a literary giant, artist or poet. The avant garde and the artistic were practicallly falling over each other and no doubt causing endless obstructions in the bars and backstreets of Paris as the sought out each other for drinking, philosophising, trysting, quaffing absinthe and howling at the moon beneath La Tour Eiffel. Ok, I'm not sure how much of that is true but it is infinitely more interesting to imagine it that way, non? Ultimately I failed to see the great romance of this book and was more generally struck by how it portrays the unchecked spiral of a young girl who quite clearly has some fairly severe mental health problems. These may or may not have been brought on by all the general "ardent-ness" and love-struck mooning which took place around her. Yes, yes young Jerome is an admirable chap who really does love Alissa in his own naieve and youthfully love-struck way, but with all the too-ing and fro-ing and self sacrifice going on, no one actually turns around for long enough to spot the onset of severe depression with religiously zealous overtones which is clearly manifesting itself in Alissa. That, and I found it a little dull at times. Nil point for joie de vivre.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary Durrant

    A haunting tale of doomed love. Sad, powerful and deeply moving. Stimulates the emotions with beautiful prose. Such a sad ending!

  4. 5 out of 5

    gwayle

    The worst kind of person is one who uses the love of another to hurt herself, someone (Alissa) who willfully provokes feelings in another (Jerome) then uses them in cheap furtherance of a self-glorifying martyrdom. Make no mistake: the about-face from self-indulgence to self-denial is itself an indulgence--and especially despicable when it makes casualties (Jerome, Juliette) of others. Morality is not algebraic; cessation doesn't undo; and neither human frailty nor youth nor the absence of ill i The worst kind of person is one who uses the love of another to hurt herself, someone (Alissa) who willfully provokes feelings in another (Jerome) then uses them in cheap furtherance of a self-glorifying martyrdom. Make no mistake: the about-face from self-indulgence to self-denial is itself an indulgence--and especially despicable when it makes casualties (Jerome, Juliette) of others. Morality is not algebraic; cessation doesn't undo; and neither human frailty nor youth nor the absence of ill intentions excuse. There are consequences for action and inaction. The narrow way and the strait gate are not attained by such monstrous irresponsibility and thoughtless sacrifice of others. Pretty writing but enraging subject matter. Some have convincingly argued that there's a larger message to this novella--namely the ill effects of taking religious notions too far--but I don't see any awareness of that in the narrative itself. I guess I have little patience for cautionary tales. Forgive my righteous rant, but I feel as though my emotions have been preyed upon for no good reason, and I've wasted my sick day reading this, and that makes me gra-ha-um-py.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John David

    As with most all of Gide’s best novels, this one concerns the anxiety and yearning at the heart of human experience. A very young Jerome Palissier regularly spends holidays at the house of his aunt and uncle’s estate in Fongueusemare in rural Normandy. One day, he happens upon his cousin Alissa, who is distraught at her aloof, hypochondriacal mother. Both desperate to rescue her and drawn by a genuine affection, Jerome takes it upon himself to sweep in and rescue her like a good, Christian knigh As with most all of Gide’s best novels, this one concerns the anxiety and yearning at the heart of human experience. A very young Jerome Palissier regularly spends holidays at the house of his aunt and uncle’s estate in Fongueusemare in rural Normandy. One day, he happens upon his cousin Alissa, who is distraught at her aloof, hypochondriacal mother. Both desperate to rescue her and drawn by a genuine affection, Jerome takes it upon himself to sweep in and rescue her like a good, Christian knight errant. The subtle imagery of Jerome as a kind of salvific hero is only a foreshadowing of the religious unease that drives this novel forward toward its foreordained conclusion. As Jerome portentously declares, quoting Baudelaire, “Bientot nous plongerons dons les froides tenebres.” Jerome and Alissa spend irenic summers together reciting poetry, reading from books to one another in their splendid garden, and enjoying music. The appropriateness of Jerome’s name jumps out at you when he mentions another of their mutual literary interests: “We had procured the Gospels in the Vulgate and knew long passages of them by heart.” (It was Saint Jerome who made the first Latin translation of the Bible.) Jerome wishes to become engaged before moving off to the Ecole Normale, but Alissa refuses. He is understandably upset by her rejection, but is only more spurred on by his ecstatic vision (again, that religious imagery) of eventually marrying her. Eventually, we learn that Alissa has sacrificed Jerome so that her sister, Juliette, will be able to get married first, yet even after Juliette gets married - to a boorish, business-minded vintner - Alissa continues to push him away. He visits her at Fongueusemare while finishing both his schooling and a military stint, but every time he mentions wanting to marry her, she rejects him and requests that he leave soon, that she cannot bear his presence. Eventually, she tells him that her love of God surpasses her love for him, even though she has always passionately loved Jerome. During their last meeting together, Alissa has grown thin and pale, presumably because of her anchorite-like existence; she has also removed the books of poetry and novels she and Jerome used to read together, and replaced them with works of cheap, vulgar piety. Even while there is room here to doubt Alissa’s love for Jerome, a chapter that includes her personal journals makes it perfectly clear that she loved Jerome just as much as he loved her, if not more so. Jerome has a final meeting with Juliette while she is enceinte with her fifth child by the vintner. Seeing him calls to mind both her sister’s Christ-like sacrifice and makes her reflect on her own uneventful, bourgeois life. As Flaubert said: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” For maximum effect, as noted above, read this right next to Gide’s “The Immoralist” for a most effective couple of case studies. Considering the year of publication (1909) and the ideas considered – repression, sexuality, sublimation – it should be noted that Gide almost certainly had Freud in mind when he was writing this, though it yields wonderful insights into human psychology even without a Freudian reading. When reading a novel, sometimes the most difficult obstacle to being able to truly and fully appreciate it is the historical change that has taken place between the time in which it was written and when you read it. Judging from some of the reviews I have seen, that seems to be the case with this novel, too. In both this and “The Immoralist,” Gide looks at the tension, confusion, and repression that can often come about when romantic love is pitted against, and forced to compete with, love for the divine. Since this novel was published, this antagonism has almost completely died, which may lead some readers to accuse Alissa of being frigid. Once we are able to bridge that historical gap, however, and realize that Alissa did not see her torment as self-imposed but rather something that was required of her, this novel proves itself to be a superior meditation on both romantic passion and, what was once thought to be its opposite, sacrifice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    Is Andre Gide always pointing in the wrong direction? And does he ever have any fun? Can someone please tell him that the First World War's coming and that very soon we're all going to be living in a world of "if it's a bit warm, take off your jacket. You don't have to move your entire household 200 miles to the north"? I think I'd probably have been kinder if the secret diary had been more fun. A book with a boring secret diary? That's just rubbish, isn't it?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Strait is the Gate is, for some reason, the first of Andre Gide's books which I have read, despite his having been on my radar for years. I had written his name upon the list of authors whom I hoped to get to during 2017, and also thought that he would be a great inclusion upon my Reading the World list. First published in France in 1909, and in Dorothy Bussy's 1924 translation, I could not pass up the chance of adding yet another marvellous classic of French literature to my list. Strait is the Strait is the Gate is, for some reason, the first of Andre Gide's books which I have read, despite his having been on my radar for years. I had written his name upon the list of authors whom I hoped to get to during 2017, and also thought that he would be a great inclusion upon my Reading the World list. First published in France in 1909, and in Dorothy Bussy's 1924 translation, I could not pass up the chance of adding yet another marvellous classic of French literature to my list. Strait is the Gate also seemed a wonderful place to start, being, as it is, the first novel by the Nobel Prize for Literature winner of 1947, and one of his best works in English; indeed, its blurb states that is is '... regarded by many as the most perfect piece of writing which Gide ever achieved. In its simplicity, its craftsmanship, its limpidity of style, and its power to stimulate the mind and the emotions at one and the same time, it set a standard for the short novel which has not yet been excelled'. Strait is the Gate is a 'story of young love blighted and turned to tragedy by the sense of religious dedication in the beloved'. The novella's opening paragraph is relayed in one of my favourite styles: 'Some people might have made a book out of it; but the story I am going to tell is one which took all my strength to live and over which I spent all my virtue. So I shall set down my recollections quite simply, and if in places they are ragged I shall have recourse to no invention, and neither patch nor connect them; any effort I might make to dress them up would take away the last pleasure I hope to gt in telling them'. All of Gide's writing holds this strength, and his descriptions in particular are absolutely beautiful, and often quite startling. Of the house of an uncle, our narrator, Jerome, says thus: 'Certain others [windows] have flaws in the glass which our parents used to call "bubbles"; a tree seen through them becomes distorted; when the postman passes he suddenly develops a hump'. He describes his aunt, Lucile, whilst she is playing the piano: '... sometimes she would break off in the middle of a bar and pause, suspended motionless on a chord'. After the death of both of his parents, young Jerome becomes infatuated with his cousin, Alissa, with whom he spends every summer at her family's secluded house in Le Havre. 'No doubt,' he says, 'like all boys of fourteen, I was still unformed and pliable, but my love for Alissa soon urged me further and more deliberately along the road on which I had started'. Alissa's younger sister, Juliette, fast becomes a go-between for the pair: 'She was the messenger... I talked to her interminably of our love, and she never seemed tired of listening. I told her what I dared not tell Alissa, with whom excess of love made me constrained and shy. Alissa seemed to lend herself to this child's play and to be delighted that I should talk so happily to her sister, ignoring or feigning to ignore that in reality we talked only of her'. Religion was not so much of an aspect here as the blurb makes out; rather, it is more of a familial novel, and a wonderfully wrought one at that. Interesting family politics are at play throughout. Letters which Gide writes from the perspective of others in Jerome's family feel entirely authentic; he has captured such nuanced elements of voice, and renders each distinctive. His prose is packed with emotion, which grows as the work progresses. Bussy's translation is seamless; there is such a marvellous elasticity to the writing, and the whole has been rendered beautifully. Strait is the Gate is a truly beautiful work, and a novella which I was immediately immersed within. Whilst it is my first taste of Gide's work, it certainly will not be my last. I can fast see him becoming one of my favourite authors, in fact.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Durrant

    Much about this novel could lead some current readers to brush it aside, maybe even with a sneer: overheated teenage romanticism, a struggle with a literalistic but now somewhat passee notion of what Protestant devotion should be, frequent Biblical references and quotations, a somewhat "old-fashioned" use of letters and diary entries to present several points of view, etc. But I confess this novel enthralled me precisely because I have seen in my own religious tradition so many of the same tende Much about this novel could lead some current readers to brush it aside, maybe even with a sneer: overheated teenage romanticism, a struggle with a literalistic but now somewhat passee notion of what Protestant devotion should be, frequent Biblical references and quotations, a somewhat "old-fashioned" use of letters and diary entries to present several points of view, etc. But I confess this novel enthralled me precisely because I have seen in my own religious tradition so many of the same tendencies portrayed here, particularly the tendency to construct a relationship in such a religious-romantic way that only disappointment and frustration can follow. The narrator is a young man, Jerome who spends much of his youth with his female cousin, Alissa, reading poetry side-by-side in a lovely family garden (i.e., "Eden")--these are children of a hyper-educated, Protestant bourgeoisie. Alissa, for Jerome is obsessively enticing and entiringly maddening (the latter for me as well). She is determined not to fall into the sensuality of her "creole" mother, which so pained her father, and also to sacrifice her own life, in some Christ-like way, for the happiness of her rather mediocre sister. But let me say, without raising the necessity of a spoiler alert, that one must withhold judging her too harshly, as I had done, before reading the final bundle of diary entries, which conclude the novel. These add a layer of depth--or at maybe confusion--to Alissa's fascinating personality.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This novel, sometimes translated into English as Strait is the Gate after a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, was published in 1909. It is at once searing and haunting, often misunderstood and misinterpreted, and remains forever enigmatic. The young and earnest man Jerome falls in love with his cousin Alissa. She in turn has suffered the awareness of her mother’s infidelity and eventual abandonment of the family by running off with her current lover. Aware of Alissa’s despair, Jerome determin This novel, sometimes translated into English as Strait is the Gate after a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, was published in 1909. It is at once searing and haunting, often misunderstood and misinterpreted, and remains forever enigmatic. The young and earnest man Jerome falls in love with his cousin Alissa. She in turn has suffered the awareness of her mother’s infidelity and eventual abandonment of the family by running off with her current lover. Aware of Alissa’s despair, Jerome determines to dedicate his life to her happiness. Alissa refuses his proposal of marriage, first trying to arrange his marriage with her younger sister Juliette (who desperately loves Jerome) until Juliette, sensing that Jerome will never love her, turns elsewhere and makes an unsatisfactory marriage with a merchant. Alissa then spends decades alternating between sending Jerome passionate love letters that keep him on tenterhooks and in perpetual hope, and refusals to see or accept him when he repeatedly comes to be with her – usually at her invitation. Alissa’s progressively intense religious involvement, which can only be described as a mania, becomes more and more convoluted and obsessive, and she claims to be trying to save not only her own soul but that of Jerome. Years pass, and ultimately Alissa essentially starves herself to death, not before realizing that she has saved neither herself nor Jerome, never having raised her love of God above her love for Jerome and perhaps most of all her love for herself. The work has often been misinterpreted first as a lovely praise of religious devotion or a rather charming account of thwarted young love, but that is to distort the novel entirely. It has also, more frequently, been understood as a condemnation of religious extremism, of the dangers of carrying religious dedication beyond reason. There may be an element of truth to this interpretation, but that begs the question as to why Alissa has chosen such a path. Perhaps her horror at her mother’s sexual libertinism has so traumatized her that she cannot ultimately give herself to Jerome physically, subconsciously instead choosing a life of sexual (and ultimately physical in all senses) renunciation, her most available alternative being religious monomania. Why Jerome chooses to tolerate and perhaps even collude with this is unclear, his own alternative being to leave her and seek his own fulfillment elsewhere, an alternative he seems never to consider, even decades after her death refusing to establish any other romantic relationship. The novel is beautifully written (I read it in French) even as it is claustrophobic and anguishing. This is my first experience of Gide’s writing. I certainly shall read more.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leonard

    Le Havre, France (view spoiler)[ Strait is the Gate is a story of love between a man and a woman. But it is a love beyond the love of a man and a woman. They sought “mental love,” which is akin to divine union: the love through union with God, the fellowship of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. They sought a love without happiness, a love too elusive between two mortals, a love at once holy, pure and sublime, which our mortal passions would likely taint. In the end they must give up Le Havre, France (view spoiler)[ Strait is the Gate is a story of love between a man and a woman. But it is a love beyond the love of a man and a woman. They sought “mental love,” which is akin to divine union: the love through union with God, the fellowship of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. They sought a love without happiness, a love too elusive between two mortals, a love at once holy, pure and sublime, which our mortal passions would likely taint. In the end they must give up the love between a man and a woman, to reach for that holy and pure love without joy and passion. Andre Gide, through his personal struggle between puritanical virtues and personal happiness, created a thought-provoking story about love, which challenges the reader to assess the variations of love. (hide spoiler)] Andre Gide

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kaph

    Verdict: Arguably a love story because ‘story’ implies things happen. On the plus side, it is quite short. Unlike the French as a whole, I’m quite au fait with their literature so far. du Maurier wrote a better Jane Eyre and, against all expectations, I found Madame Bovary to be a rip-roaring good read. Sadly I’m afraid Gide is letting the side down. To be fair Strait is the Gate is a symbolist work of literature which is fancy speak for ‘nothing happens.’ I will never understand how one movement Verdict: Arguably a love story because ‘story’ implies things happen. On the plus side, it is quite short. Unlike the French as a whole, I’m quite au fait with their literature so far. du Maurier wrote a better Jane Eyre and, against all expectations, I found Madame Bovary to be a rip-roaring good read. Sadly I’m afraid Gide is letting the side down. To be fair Strait is the Gate is a symbolist work of literature which is fancy speak for ‘nothing happens.’ I will never understand how one movement can produce such fantastic art and such shite novels. Anyway, when Gide picked up pen instead of paintbrush we were never going to be friends. Your prejudices may differ. Aaaand spoiler ahoy. Strait is the Gate is about Jerome. Jerome loves Alissa, his raised-as-but-not-actually-sister. Alissa loves Jerome and also God. That is cool, ‘cause Jerome loves God too. But no, it’s not, ‘cause Alissa has some (severe) issues stemming from her mother’s whorishness. So Alissa and Jerome love each other for awhile. Then Alissa decides that’s no good on account of God (I’ll admit to some trouble following her exact course of logic) so they say goodbye and she goes to a Paris care home to kill herself with her own mind*. The End. I never know what to do with this sort of story. What am I meant to be seeing in this? What should I be taking from this? Writing-wise of course it is perfect. Gide is one of those golden-age pre-war authors and knows his way around a composition book. Personally, I could have stood to see the dramatics toned slightly back. Everyone is always flinging themselves about and clasping bits of other people to them which just seems excessive in a book where nothing happens. In fact, this combination of floral words and famined plot suggest that what Gide really wanted to write was poetry and that I have been duped. I have very definite feelings on poetry. Namely that, once we had invented the alphabet and bards could now write out their tales instead of relying on rhythm and rhyme to remember the epics, poetry had no more usefulness. Sure people can still use it to great effect to enhance a story (see examples Shakespeare and Theodore Geisel) and we can all get behind a good limerick but poetry in its purest form holds no interest for me. (Poetry in its contemporary form I actively despise, but the same can be said for art, music, architecture and fashion so why single it out?) Well Strait is the Gate is failed poetry and I have been tricked into reading it. True to form, I didn’t get it. Luckily (like a poem) it was super short and this has saved it from the dreaded one star. Only books I hate get one star and I didn’t spend enough time or emotion on these sad French people to get past apathy. *I’m still puzzling over whether or not this counts as brain fever. I’m something of an expert on this forgotten yet lethal ailment of the past and have encountered victims from France to the small Russian town of Skotoprigonyevsk. Whatever Alissa contracted does not quite fit the bill. All the triggers are there. A love that cannot be. Moral wrangling. God. It is certainly self-induced like all proper brain fevers ought to be. She just seems a bit too lucid and there aren’t nearly enough hallucinations. Yeah, I think I’ll stick with my original diagnosis of ‘death by application of willpower.’ Fine by me. I’m so sick of brain fever.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    Wow. So I’m going to put this right into the sufferings of young werther, the devil in the flesh, the blind owl mould. Yes I would mention Gide in the same breath as Goethe and Radiguet and Hedayat for sure. If you have ever been in love read on, if not then this will not impact you as much. The book is essentially about 2 cousins who fall in love with each other but the girl (Alissa) sacrifices her love for the boy (Jerome) because her own sister falls in love with the dude. Ok maybe a bit unre Wow. So I’m going to put this right into the sufferings of young werther, the devil in the flesh, the blind owl mould. Yes I would mention Gide in the same breath as Goethe and Radiguet and Hedayat for sure. If you have ever been in love read on, if not then this will not impact you as much. The book is essentially about 2 cousins who fall in love with each other but the girl (Alissa) sacrifices her love for the boy (Jerome) because her own sister falls in love with the dude. Ok maybe a bit unrealistic but there was something about the writing style that moved me. Gide won the Nobel prize for literature and I can totally see why. Here are some of the amazing parts of the book: • I pressed her head against my heart and I pressed my lips to her forehead, while my whole soul came flooding through them. • I lived with the thoughts of Alissa, and covered my favourite books with notes meant for her eyes, subordinating the interest I sought in them myself to the interest they might have for her. The book did take a little while to get going but then the last half Gide must have downed some red bulls because it really gets going. The last few chapters are a journal of what Alissa meant to say to Jerome but never revealed to him and it was an incredibly emotional part of the book. It’s a short 128 page penguin classic which anyone could finish off in an evening if you have the time. HIGHLY recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Better known as "Strait is the Gate". 4½★ This is the second French classic I have read translated by Walter Ballenberger. I appreciate the way he has put them into modern English without losing the flavor of France. I have only read one other book by Andre Gide, "The Immoralist". Both that novel and this one deal with people who choose to live their lives according to a guiding principle and where that decision takes them. While I could understand the main character in "The Immoralist" better, I Better known as "Strait is the Gate". 4½★ This is the second French classic I have read translated by Walter Ballenberger. I appreciate the way he has put them into modern English without losing the flavor of France. I have only read one other book by Andre Gide, "The Immoralist". Both that novel and this one deal with people who choose to live their lives according to a guiding principle and where that decision takes them. While I could understand the main character in "The Immoralist" better, I had more sympathy for Alissa & Jerome in this novel. Both are quite short and would make a good introduction to this Nobel Laureate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vishnu

    A short review for a short novel. As French things go, this one went too. Delicate in its aesthetics, bold in ideas and a little silly in its notions of love. A petite and accessible tale of love and its labours lost and a simultaneous ode into dejection. For me, this serves as an introduction to Gide before I read the more serious work that is 'The Counterfeiters'.

  15. 5 out of 5

    jude

    “Come!’ said she at last: ‘we must wake up.” utterly marvellous, and (in my own humble opinion) an infinitely more skilful work than his the immoralist, andré gide paints a remarkable portrait of excessive virtue and the folly of over-religiosity. it's both a stark warning and an intimate portrait of two fools in love—in love with each other, with themselves, but perhaps most dangerous of all: in love with the idea of love, for (in christian teaching and practice) Who is God but the very apot “Come!’ said she at last: ‘we must wake up.” utterly marvellous, and (in my own humble opinion) an infinitely more skilful work than his the immoralist, andré gide paints a remarkable portrait of excessive virtue and the folly of over-religiosity. it's both a stark warning and an intimate portrait of two fools in love—in love with each other, with themselves, but perhaps most dangerous of all: in love with the idea of love, for (in christian teaching and practice) Who is God but the very apotheosis of love? this is a moving psychological portrait for all those religious out there. while most might perhaps appreciate the scandal of the immoralist better, this sanitary work—wherein no hint of scandal or impropriety even ever hits our two characters—is actually a far more dangerous flame to be kept alive. after all, it's better to be the fool who knows he's a fool than to be a fool who thinks himself utterly, completely, wholly (perhaps holy?) justified.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monty Milne

    I had two thoughts on reaching the end of this: (a) thank goodness that's over and (b) how can anyone sign up to a belief system so obviously unhealthy and life-denying and fail to see that it is a symptom of mental derangement? But then I remembered that many years ago I also dabbled in religious self-denial where matters of the heart were concerned, and it also ended badly...so my response to this is quite a lot to do with uncomfortable memories of my own past. Of course, this is finely writte I had two thoughts on reaching the end of this: (a) thank goodness that's over and (b) how can anyone sign up to a belief system so obviously unhealthy and life-denying and fail to see that it is a symptom of mental derangement? But then I remembered that many years ago I also dabbled in religious self-denial where matters of the heart were concerned, and it also ended badly...so my response to this is quite a lot to do with uncomfortable memories of my own past. Of course, this is finely written. And the sadness has a wistful quality which gives it a kind of beauty. For these reasons I can't give it less than three stars...but I enjoyed it far less than other Gides.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R K

    This is a beautifully written soap opera. So the narrator and Alissa have been in love with each other since they were young. But despite this overwhelming love for one another, Alissa seems flaky. She says she loves him but pushes him away for one reason or another. It comes out that she is the type of person who would make sacrifices for the sake of others, and she does this despite knowing the hurt it causes the narrator. Review Continued Here This is a beautifully written soap opera. So the narrator and Alissa have been in love with each other since they were young. But despite this overwhelming love for one another, Alissa seems flaky. She says she loves him but pushes him away for one reason or another. It comes out that she is the type of person who would make sacrifices for the sake of others, and she does this despite knowing the hurt it causes the narrator. Review Continued Here

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    "I advanced slowly; the sky was like my joy---warm, bright, delicately pure. No doubt she was expecting me by the other path. I was close to her, behind her, before she heard me; I stopped . . . and as if time could have stopped with me, "This is the moment," I thought, "the most delicious moment, perhaps, of all, even though it should precede happiness itself---which happiness itself will not equal." (p 96) "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth "I advanced slowly; the sky was like my joy---warm, bright, delicately pure. No doubt she was expecting me by the other path. I was close to her, behind her, before she heard me; I stopped . . . and as if time could have stopped with me, "This is the moment," I thought, "the most delicious moment, perhaps, of all, even though it should precede happiness itself---which happiness itself will not equal." (p 96) "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14). This is the text from which Gide drew the title of his short novel, Strait is the Gate. It is a first person narrative that begins forthrightly with the words: "Some people might have made a book out of it; but the story I am going to tell is one that it took all my strength to live and over which I have spent all my virtue. So I shall set down my recollections quite simply, and if in places they are ragged I shall have recourse to no invention and neither patch nor connect them; any effort I might make to dress them up would take away from the last pleasure I hope to get in telling them." (p 3) The author signals in this short paragraph the importance of virtue (of what sort we shall find out) and that these are personal "recollections", subject to the vicissitudes of memory and desire, but not invented. Finally, the narrator claims to have pleasure, or at least hopes to, in telling them. One may see already the potential for the contradiction of truth presented as fiction and fiction telling the truth. The setting is the Protestant upper-middle-class world of Normandy in the 1880s. The narrator, Jerome Palissier, originally from Le Havre, is eleven when the story begins. His father having died he is living with his mother and a governess. He is surrounded by family including a creole aunt Lucille who alternately fascinates and terrifies him. She has two young daughters, Alissa and Juliette Bucolin, who are devoted to their father. Alissa and Jerome become childhood sweethearts and this gradually develops into a situation such that it becomes assumed, at least unofficially, that they are engaged. Unfortunately Alissa never truly agrees to any such arrangement. Complicating matters further are the feelings of Juliette for Jerome and the entry of Jerome's good friend Abel Vautier who quickly becomes infatuated with Juliette. The relations among these young people are complicated by the strength of youthful Eros, their own growth, and their search for identity. It is this search that leads Alissa in the direction of religion, in spite of which she professes to love Jerome. But she is no longer her former self and as Jerome is about to leave the country home of Fonguesemare where they have been together she claims that he has been in love with a ghost. Jerome replies that the ghost is not an illusion on his part: "Alissa, you are the woman I loved . . . What have you made yourself become?" Jerome leaves, "full of a vague hatred for what I still called virtue". Strong stuff for teenagers. Three years later he returns but their relations are never the same; the strength of her religious convictions has altered Alissa both spiritually and physically. The affairs narrated here are apparently drawn from Gide's own life, however loosely. Their are also parallels with Gide's own work as Alissa may be seen as corresponding to Michel, the protagonist in Gide's novel, The Immoralist, written about a decade earlier. Strait is the Gate presents itself as a small gem of a literary work. With its focus on the passions and desires of young love I am reminded of Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther. Gide's biographer, Alan Sheridan, suggests that it is also a meditation on Gide's relationship with his own wife, Madeleine. Whether that is the case or not this short novel is has a beautiful clarity of prose and a haunting style that suggests the memories of young love that, while strong enough to leave permanent impressions, in some way become ghosts of one's youth.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Graychin

    Simon Leys in his “Little ABC of Gide” quotes the latter to the effect that each of his new titles was specially designed to “upset those readers who enjoyed the preceding one.” Strait is the Gate did not follow precisely on the heels of The Immoralist but it may as well have, the two are so clearly linked. Where the earlier book trades in the excess of sensualism and self-indulgence, Strait is the Gate trades instead in the excess of asceticism and self-denial. Parting from one another at a the Simon Leys in his “Little ABC of Gide” quotes the latter to the effect that each of his new titles was specially designed to “upset those readers who enjoyed the preceding one.” Strait is the Gate did not follow precisely on the heels of The Immoralist but it may as well have, the two are so clearly linked. Where the earlier book trades in the excess of sensualism and self-indulgence, Strait is the Gate trades instead in the excess of asceticism and self-denial. Parting from one another at a theoretically balanced middle, both these paths will be seen to curve round until they mirror each other’s trajectory and finally embrace. The plot: Alissa Bucolin is in love with Jerome Palissier and there is no reason in the world they shouldn’t marry except for the fact that it would make them happy. Unfortunately, Alissa’s God did not make man for happiness – the way of the Lord is too narrow for two to walk abreast, she says – and so she crucifies her heart (and the hearts of those around her as a side-effect) for a mystical solace which, of course, proves elusive. The final scene of the novel is devastating. …Once in college a girlfriend dumped me “for God” too; it was more forgivable than Alissa’s case, however, because I knew that rather than creating a divine prohibition for the sake of self-glory she was inventing a divine sanction for what she really wanted all along. Weakness, I think, is always more sympathetic (and more renderable into holiness) than flexing your muscles.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liel

    The title of Andre Gide's haunting treatise on love and piety is taken from Luke: "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate that leadeth unto destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: But strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." The book's protagonist, a serious young man named Jerome, understands Luke's words as a commandment to lead a dedicated and purposeful life, which he hopes to do with his cousin and object of infatuation, Alissa. She The title of Andre Gide's haunting treatise on love and piety is taken from Luke: "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate that leadeth unto destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: But strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." The book's protagonist, a serious young man named Jerome, understands Luke's words as a commandment to lead a dedicated and purposeful life, which he hopes to do with his cousin and object of infatuation, Alissa. She, on the other hand, sees the text very differntly: Disgusted with her capricious and adulterous mother, she commits herself to an increasingly rigid regime of deprivation, abandoning all the pleasures of the world in a desperate attempt to achieve unquestionable purity. Allisa's struggle between the need for transcendence on the one hand and her immense passion for Jerome on the other unfurls slowly, making for a moving study of the fine mechanics of human relationships, and Gide, in his symbolistic prime, captures the drama in sparse but effective prose.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Gide has a rare talent for spotting important moral issues, particularly relevant to his own time, and then presenting them in a scrupulously fair manner. The Immoralist can be read as a defense of homosexuality (which I'd like to think doesn't really need a defense anymore), or as a defense of uber-menschliche Nietzscheanism (which doesn't deserve such a defense), or an attack on said Nietzscheanism (which shouldn't, but does, need such an attack). Similarly, Strait is the Gate can be read as a Gide has a rare talent for spotting important moral issues, particularly relevant to his own time, and then presenting them in a scrupulously fair manner. The Immoralist can be read as a defense of homosexuality (which I'd like to think doesn't really need a defense anymore), or as a defense of uber-menschliche Nietzscheanism (which doesn't deserve such a defense), or an attack on said Nietzscheanism (which shouldn't, but does, need such an attack). Similarly, Strait is the Gate can be read as an attack on religiosity (which remains relevant), or an attack on irreligious lust (which remains relevant), or something in between. Both books are wonderfully readable, thought out, slightly melancholy, and intellectually fascinating, provided you don't assume a priori that they're defending a position with which you disagree.

  22. 5 out of 5

    sonny (no longer in use)

    I was pretty sure I hated this book but the last 30 pages left me feeling conflicted on where I actually stand with it. the prose in the last ten pages or so are so heartbreaking that I almost cried, summing up depression, loneliness and craving perfectly. definitely on par with the desperation of the elementary particles. 3.5

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    I read this book when I was very very young. To this day it is one of the saddest books I've read. It is philosophical, I know that, I know that there is a message there, I get that. But the young me hated how very tragic everything was. It is so beautifully written. It will touch your soul and leave you thinking for months after.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    André Gide re-broke my heart. I don't recommend it. Unless you like crying. (Okay, I strongly recommend it. But I had to warn you)

  25. 5 out of 5

    rosamund

    Beautiful clear, readable prose, full of memorable images and turns of phrase. Some credit must go to the translator, Dorothy Bussy, for that, who knew Gide, and worked on some of the translations with him. Alissa loves her cousin, Jerome, and he loves her, but Alissa is also devoutly religious, and comes to believe that the two cannot marry because they would love each other more than they love God. This ultimately ends in tragedy and loss. It's hard for a modern atheist to fully understand Ali Beautiful clear, readable prose, full of memorable images and turns of phrase. Some credit must go to the translator, Dorothy Bussy, for that, who knew Gide, and worked on some of the translations with him. Alissa loves her cousin, Jerome, and he loves her, but Alissa is also devoutly religious, and comes to believe that the two cannot marry because they would love each other more than they love God. This ultimately ends in tragedy and loss. It's hard for a modern atheist to fully understand Alissa's reasoning, but Gide's ability to capture atmosphere and character transforms this strange premise into something moving and gripping. I've yet to be fully convinced by the characters and plot of Gide novel, but his prose and atmosphere are so compelling that I'm going to keep reading his work.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life...… there ain't going to be many of us making it to heaven. Alissa certainly will, she is so ardent in her self-denying Protestantism that she foregoes happiness in favour of her sister Juliette. However, Jerome loves her and not Juliettte, and he spends the novel banging his head against her holy intransigence until her martyrdom has the inevitable casualties. Gide might have been writing a simple tale of doomed love, but Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life...… there ain't going to be many of us making it to heaven. Alissa certainly will, she is so ardent in her self-denying Protestantism that she foregoes happiness in favour of her sister Juliette. However, Jerome loves her and not Juliettte, and he spends the novel banging his head against her holy intransigence until her martyrdom has the inevitable casualties. Gide might have been writing a simple tale of doomed love, but I'm pretty sure that he was making an argument against religious devotion becoming moral fanaticism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Katz

    Love, as defined by Gide, is frankly impossible.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joan Kerr

    "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate that leadeth unto destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: But strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Luke 13:24 I was a teenage university student when I first read André Gide’s "The Strait Gate", and it made a tremendous impression on me. I thought it was all about the life-denying power of religious obsession. Growing up in an intensely Catholic family myself I was all too aware of the fascinati "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate that leadeth unto destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: But strait is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Luke 13:24 I was a teenage university student when I first read André Gide’s "The Strait Gate", and it made a tremendous impression on me. I thought it was all about the life-denying power of religious obsession. Growing up in an intensely Catholic family myself I was all too aware of the fascination of self-sacrifice in the name of God. I still see that in it, but how much more I see these days. First published in 1909 and a counterpart to the earlier "The Immoralist", "The Strait Gate" is the story of a young woman caught up in a religious fervour that impels her to sacrifice everything in an attempt to reach “the summit of virtue”. Alissa is the polar opposite of the protagonist of "The Immoralist", Michel, who gives himself over entirely to the fulfilment of his sensual desires and fantasies. In fact there is a strong current of revulsion for the flesh in Alissa, probably beginning when she realises, as a young teenager, that her mother, the charming, indolent Lucile, is having an affair. The narrator, Jerôme, is her cousin, two years younger, who adores her and has set his heart on marrying her when they’re older. He and the serious, graceful Alissa recognise that they’re soul-mates, and the book is the story of his attempt to win her and her struggles against the love she feels for him. I won’t go into details here; it’s a spellbinding page-turner and I don’t want to give too much away. The image of the strait gate recurs many times in the book, most tellingly early on when Jerôme sees, through the partly-open door of her room, Alissa on her knees by her bed, weeping. She has just realised the truth of her mother’s behaviour. "Here I am before Alissa’s door. I wait an instant. Laughter and chatter comes up from the floor below; and perhaps they have covered the sound of my knock, for I hear no response. I push the door, which yields silently. The room is already so dark that I can’t at first see Alissa: she is on her knees at the foot of her bed, turning her back to the dying day. She turns round, without getting up, when I approach; she murmurs, ‘Oh Jerôme, why have you come back?’ I bend down to kiss her; her face is drenched with tears… That instant decided my life; even today I can’t think of it without anguish. No doubt I understood only partially the reason for Alissa’s distress, but I felt intensely that this distress was much too strong for this palpitating little soul, for this frail body shaken by sobs." (27) What I missed the first time I read it is that there are forces deeper than religion motivating Alissa. Hilary Mantel gets it exactly right when, in an article about woman saints and modern-day anorexia, she says, "It is possible that there is a certain personality structure which has always been problematical for women, and which is as difficult to live with today as it ever was – a type that is thoughtful, reserved, self-contained and judgmental, naturally more cerebral than hormonal." * There could hardly be a better description of Alissa. Battered by the forces of religion, duty, and shame at her mother’s sexual looseness, a passionate reader of poetry and high-minded fiction, with an instinctive need to reach for what is beyond the ordinary and a dream of perfect love beyond the mundane couplings of man and woman, she is torn between her love for Jerôme and an instinct for self-sacrifice that she herself recognises is in part egotistical. And she knows too that what Jerôme loves is some image of her that he has constructed after his own needs (a friend comments how like Alissa is to Jerôme’s much-loved mother, who dies when he is in his mid-teens.) "Our letters were a huge mirage," she writes, "and we were writing not to each other but to ourselves." Gide is justly famous for his harmonious, lucid style, even as he recreates the hopelessly tangled psychological processes that direct our lives. "The Strait Gate" is an unfashionable book in its tone and preoccupations. Perhaps you need to be the Alissa type to want to enter into its world; but if it grabs you you’ll stay grabbed. * You can read this fascinating article here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n05/hilary-m...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I was frankly disappointed by this book, primarily because I think it was written in bad faith. It tells the story of a romance between the narrator, Jerome, and his cousin Alissa. The romance sours halfway through, and Jerome is left confused; while Alissa has clearly changed. The reason I say it was written in bad faith is that its author, André Gide, was gay, though he had not yet declared himself when the book was first published in 1909. Why do I accept Marcel Proust, who transliterated the I was frankly disappointed by this book, primarily because I think it was written in bad faith. It tells the story of a romance between the narrator, Jerome, and his cousin Alissa. The romance sours halfway through, and Jerome is left confused; while Alissa has clearly changed. The reason I say it was written in bad faith is that its author, André Gide, was gay, though he had not yet declared himself when the book was first published in 1909. Why do I accept Marcel Proust, who transliterated the young men he loved into young women? I always felt that Proust was emotionally honest, whereas Gide, at any rate in Strait is the Gate, is just pretending. I am not saying that some women -- at least those who are a little weak in the head -- do not turn to lonely lives of austere piety and abandon any chance for love. But Alissa infuriated me, as did Jerome, who kept carrying a torch for Alissa long after he should have dropped her like a hot potato. If I am bitter, it is because I have carried a torch also; and it flustered me to no end. Eventually, I dropped out of the game. In my case, I was not pretending; and the women I thought I loved did not suddenly urn into Mother Theresa. That would have been altogether too much!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Boysie Freeman (not my real name, it's just my Internet name)

    I have read the negative reviews over here that made no ghosts of senses to me so I decided to write mine to defend Gide against such remarks. Maybe my understanding of this story is wrong but this is why I like it: Well in the first place I do not think this is a love story. It is very depressing and very true. The overly sensitive, righteous Alissa thought of herself very highly and defied the love of Jerome to her, yet she behaves like they were not born for each other and tried to look good b I have read the negative reviews over here that made no ghosts of senses to me so I decided to write mine to defend Gide against such remarks. Maybe my understanding of this story is wrong but this is why I like it: Well in the first place I do not think this is a love story. It is very depressing and very true. The overly sensitive, righteous Alissa thought of herself very highly and defied the love of Jerome to her, yet she behaves like they were not born for each other and tried to look good by making so-called sacrifices (that no one likes or even need) for the sake of her emotional S&M satisfaction. She knows all the good things to say, like, God and other religious or moral crap but they never really make senses because they are not true at all. Hey, I've known those kind of people in real life. They use God, Buddha, whatsoever beautiful reasons to hide their own intentions. They live in a great delusion where they are the only sensible one.

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