I think my reluctance to review this one stems from the fact that I don’t know enough about Gide, and I don’t remember enough about the other novels of his that I have read (and liked) to say anything meaningful. Back in the mists of time I used to get Andre Gide and Jean Genet mixed up. Both Frenchy homos with last names that begin with G. And now I learn, both apparently interested in motiveless crimes. (Although I think Genet falls more into the “isn’t being a criminal profound and fun and sexy” camp.)
The title, Lafcadio’s Adventures, is a bit misleading. Lafcadio does indeed have adventures but so do all the other characters. And they all seem to get equal time as well. One cranky old atheist converts after the virgin Mary comes to him in a dream and cures him of his rheumatoid arthritis only to have him unconvert later when his RA comes back. Another character is the lead in a con game to convince rich Catholics to hand over large sums of money to rescue the pope who is supposedly being held captive while a Freemason impostor pope sits in his place. And then there is the 47-year old virgin who goes off to Rome to try and help free the real pope. In Rome he loses his virginity and on a train between Rome and Naples loses his life. And then of course there is Lafcadio, a poor, 16-year old bastard who becomes unexpectedly wealthy when his real father kicks the bucket. No longer having to struggle to survive, it seems that boredom or curiosity leads him to commit a purely opportunistic and motiveless crime. He pushes the previously mentioned 47-year old no longer virgin character off the train.
If you read other reviews of this work you will understand how woefully I describe it. You will also note that I don’t begin to scratch the surface of the themes that run through the novel. I did have some deeper reactions to the book that I might have gone into if I weren’t so incapable of finding the energy to produce anything more than what you see here.
I quite enjoyed the writing and the setting and Gide’s ability to spin a bunch of great stories. If you want something a little historical, a little quirky, and rather dark with some humor, this might be one to look into.
This might sound weird, but I've wanted to read something from Gide ever since I came across the quote, “Believe those who seek the truth, doubt those who find it.”
For reasons that are too vast to explain in a comment, this is my favorite quote of all time.
EBAC: I like that quote a lot. I don't think Lafcadio has that kind of profundity. I liked The Counterfeiters and Straight is the Gate better than this one if you are looking for a first Gide to read.
I just read Straight is the Gate and really loved it. I honestly don't know where I personally would start to review anything by Gide, but I liked your “non review.”
I made it through The Counterfeiters and Our Lady of the Flowers back in high school when they were the only gay writers I knew of and could find in my local library. I've not read much of Gide or Genet since.
But I do like the covers you show here. Maybe once the TBR Dare is over….
Daniel: Exactly, there is a lot going on in Gide and it could stand a lot of dissection. But where to start?
CB: I think Genet is more difficult to read. I probably wouldn't have gotten to this one if I hadn't been for your TBR dare.
I have been looking for some great information on Lafcadio's Adventures and I found your blog. I see myself becoming a fan.