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.