Corydon – André Gide

Corydon(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

This book consists of four Socratic dialogues on homosexuality. Its name comes from Virgil’s pederastic character Corydon. Parts of the text were separately privately printed from 1911 to 1920, and the whole book appeared in its French original in France in May 1924 and in the United States in 1950.

An old school friend visits Corydon, who has become a doctor. He is very slow on the uptake but I suppose that give the author the excuse to go into great detail.

Corydon marshals a range of evidence from naturalists, historians, poets, and philosophers (many from the classics, of which I have virtually no knowledge or interest) to support his contention that homosexuality has pervaded the most culturally and artistically advanced civilizations, that homosexuality is natural, or better not unnatural, and that it pervaded the most culturally and artistically advanced civilizations such as Periclean Greece, Renaissance Italy and Elizabethan England. Gide argues this is reflected by writers and artists from Homer and Virgil to Titian and Shakespeare in their depictions of male-male relationships, such as Achilles and Patroclus, as homosexual rather than as platonic as other critics insist. Gide uses this evidence to insist that homosexuality is more fundamental and natural than exclusive heterosexuality, which he believes is merely a union constructed by society.

He explains that he was going to marry but: “I loved her too much to realize clearly that I didn’t desire her at all……Yet the few experiments I then attempted in a brothel certainly proved to me that I wasn’t impotent; but at the same time they afforded convincing proof . . .saw that I was capable of pleasure; I supposed myself incapable, strictly speaking, of desire……My fiancee had a brother, a few years younger than she, whom I of ten saw and who felt the deepest friendship for me.”

This brother later committed suicide because of his unrequited love for Corydon.
Of the so-called experts: The doctors who usually write about the subject treat only uranists who are ashamed of themselves—pathetic inverts, sick men. They’re the only ones who consult doctors. As a doctor myself, those are the ones who come to me for treatment too; but as a man, I come across others, who are neither pathetic nor sickly—those are the ones I want to deal with.” “Yes, with the normal pederasts!”

We get lots of information about female animals being on heat and how males can’t help themselves when they smell; the odour. But human males can choose and the female has to wear make up to attract. Males have more semen that is needed for reproductive purposes so isn’t it natural for them to sow their seed all over the place?: Napoleon – “Woman is given to man to bear him children. Yet one woman could not suffice man for this purpose; she cannot be his wife when she is suckling; she cannot be his wife when she is sick; she ceases to be his wife when she can no longer give him children; man, whom nature besets neither by age nor by any of these disadvantage

Then the quotation from Pascal: I am very much afraid that this nature is itself merely a first form of custom, just as custom is a second nature.”

Anti-Semitism dismisses some words of Leon Blum: The Jews are past masters in the art of disintegrating our most cherished, our most venerable institutions—the very ones that are the pillars and foundations of our Western civilization, for the sake of who knows what license and laxity of morals which are fortunately re­pugnant to our good sense and our Latin instinct for social values.

He appeals to great times which show the present day to be one of ignorance: I do not believe it is going too far to say, on the contrary, that the periods of great artistic flowering—the Greeks in the age of Pericles, the Romans in the age of Augustus, the British in the age of Shakespeare, the Italians in the time of the Remiss French in the Renaissance and then under 1.01 the Persians in the century of Hafiz, etc.—have very times when pederasty asserted itself most a and, I was going to say, most officially. I would a so far as to say that only the periods or regions uranism are also the periods or regions without art.

The interviewer counters all this classicism with: “Christianity, thank God, has risen above such a thing, sweeping away, cleansing, sweetening, and subli­mating all that; strengthening the family, consecrating marriage, and, beyond that, advocating chastity.

In the current climate, Corydon would probably be arrested for saying: “I am also saying that an older man can understand an adolescent boy’s troubles better than a woman can,”My friends insist that this little book is of the kind which will do me the greatest harm,”

The problem is that homosexuality is confused with abuse. Its opponents do that often but its advocates should be more careful in what they say.

Gide wrote of the book: Some say that it’s outdated, but the debates contained within it still rage today – is it nature or nurture? So what if animals indulge? Aren’t humans endowed with a higher nature?

Quotations:

Be faithful to that which exists within yourself.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

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

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.

Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.

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

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