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André Gide: La symphonie pastorale (The Pastoral Symphony)

Once again, Gide resorts to the notebook technique. Here we have the notebooks of a pastor. He is called to help a dying woman in a poor part of the Swiss Alps. She lives in a humble cottage with her granddaughter, Gertrude, who is blind and cannot speak, as her deaf grandmother had never spoken to her. The pastor takes pity on her and takes her home to his wife (who already has five children to look after). He spends much time and effort on her education to the resentment of his family. He even takes her to a concert to hear Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and the girl is amazed by it. His son, Jacques, says that he himself is falling in love with her though, of course, we know that it is the pastor himself who is falling in love with her and his love seems to be reciprocated. There is a cure for Gertrude and when she regains her sight, of course, it is Jacques she prefers. Jacques, however, has now decided to become a priest. Frankly, despite the fact that this is Gide’s best-known work, I find it the least interesting of his major prose works. The pastor, who confuses Christian charity with sensual love, and suffers the consequences thereof, is a somewhat trite theme. Of course, Gide writes it well but he has done better.

Publishing history

First published 1914 by NRF
First published in English 1925 by Knopf
Translated by Dorothy Bussy