Gifts for Mankind. Venus in a masculine Guise, from André Gide.

Post by Wanda Smit

André Gide was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947 “for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight.”

He also wrote the first gay novel ever published.

Gide in 1893.

In his outstanding biography, ANDRĖ GIDE. A Life in the Present, Alan Sheridan ends this fascinating life with a quote from Gide’s confrere, Roger Martin du Gard:

“Gide was, by general consent, one of the dozen most important writers of the 20th century. Moreover, no writer of such stature had led such an interesting life, a life accessibly interesting to us as readers of his autobiographical writings, his journal, his voluminous correspondence and the testimony of others. It was the life of a man engaging not only in the business of artistic creation, but reflecting on that process in his journal, reading that work to his friends and discussing it with them; a man who knew and corresponded with all the major literary figures of his own country and with many in Germany and England; who found daily nourishment in the Latin, French, English and German classics, and, for much of his life, in the Bible; [who enjoyed playing Chopin and other classic works on the piano;] and who engaged in commenting on the moral, political and sexual questions of the day.”

Born in Paris on  22nd November 1869 at  3 am.

Sheridan often mentions the two sides to Gide’s personality. On the one hand he was homosexual. On the other hand he was a married man. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that Gide’s chart has two sides, overlapping at the Eye in the lower hemisphere.

All the structures, except the Ambivalence Triangle,  are the more unusual ones, more ‘exotic’ as Gide was indeed: two Megaphones which enabled him to speak out against all the personal values, learning and conventions of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th houses; a Surfer, Decorative Figure, Stage, Trampoline and a Search Figure. Discussing all the aspect structures in his chart would be better suited for a thesis than this article in which I am looking at the Age Point conjunctions with planets and ending with the Search Figure which was guided by his North Node.

In both Gide’s Radix and House charts, there is a surplus of green aspects, suggesting that his consciousness was constantly filled with thought and more learning. This, together with sufficient air in his temperament, could be what underlies the following words by William Rothenstein, an artist whom Gide visited in London: “Nobody understood art more profoundly than Gide, no-one’s view of life was more penetrating.”

Balancing Act

Despite, or perhaps due to the three oppositions running through his core, Gide believed in striking a balance between the two, operating from his centre. During WW2, for example, he didn’t see the Germans as all black and the Allies as all white. He was known as a man of great integrity, who gave the public his truth. In his autobiographical works, Gide exposes the conflict and eventual reconciliation of the two sides of his personality. Sheridan mentions that every new work Gide wrote was often an antidote to the previous one. Gide himself puts it best in his Journals as pulling in the reins, then whipping the horse.

First Opposition

The opposition on the Possession axis, between Mercury in Scorpio in the 2nd house, and Jupiter conjunct Pluto in the 8th house is reflected in his early learning of austere Protestant values, not only at home but also at the strict, moralistic school in Normandy he attended. Jupiter conjunct Pluto explains his transgressive sexual adventurousness.

André Gide by Paul Albert Laurens (1924)

The already mentioned artist described Gide as having both a “satanic and monk-like mien.” With Jupiter/Pluto as Satan and Mercury as the Monk, we’d like to add.

Although his life was extremely adventurous, both physically and intellectually, he was still reading the Gospels and other religious texts just before his death…when his Age Point was once again heading for Mercury. Had he lived, what would he have written in his Journals after this encounter, I wonder?

Throughout his life, Gide spoke out against what the Eye had observed in terms of values with a Scorpionic sting in the tail, be it Protestantism, Catholicism, Colonialism (after his many travels to North Africa) and Communism (after his visit to Russia in 1936).

In the House chart, the energy created by this opposition is enjoyed by Uranus at the blue angle of an Achievement triangle – a year after the publication of his defence of homosexuality in his novel Corydon, which he considered his most important work.

House chart

His preference for boys was first experienced at age 10 when he fell passionately in love, twice in 1879, with boys. About the first boy, a blond Russian, he writes: “Sometimes (…) I caught him looking at me during the break, and I would drop out of the game there and then and go over to him.” The second boy was a little older than himself and his ‘slimness, grace and volubility’ dazzled the young Gide. .

It is noteworthy that this was during the AP/Sun conjunction in December 1879, suggesting that Gide related more strongly to men as represented by his lawyer father, who often took him on adventurous walks through Paris, than to his mother who stayed at home. The AP/North Node trine – also in December – suggests that his North Node was paving the way for him to go: into his love for men..

Of course, these opposing forces were aggravated by his strict and moralistic education. Consequently, his work can be seen as an investigation of freedom and empowerment in the face of moralistic and puritanical constraints, and centres on his continuous effort to achieve intellectual honesty. He would become a man known for his great integrity.

An example of this opposition can be seen in his uneasy relationship with another famous French writer, Paul Claudel, who was known for his strict Catholicism and who firmly believed that Gide “will burn in hell.”

Second Opposition

Mars in Sagittarius in the 3rd house is opposed by his Moon in Cancer in the 9th house. In the House chart above, the opposition between Mars and Uranus finds release in Neptune – in his creativity – at the red angle in Aries of an Achievement Triangle, spewing out the pressure into his never ending creativity (there is a surplus (-8) of cardinal motivation and far too much fire (-28) in his temperament and) as reflected in the 50 works he wrote in the course of his life.

The adventurous man in him acquired ever more knowledge which wasn’t always close to his heart as suggested by this opposition. His self-exploratory texts reflect his search of how to be fully oneself, including owning one’s sexual nature, without at the same time betraying one’s values. Not without suffering: his Moon is on a low point.

Third Opposition

Opposing his Venus on the IC is Uranus in the 10th house which suggests he wanted to be free of women. After his mother’s death in 1895, he experienced “love, anguish and freedom.” A few months later, he married his cousin Madeleine but the marriage was never consummated. This was during the AP/Uranus quincuncx which indicates both his longing for Venus in a masculine form and freedom from her in her feminine form.

Venus opposed by the unexpected – Uranus – also reflects the Venus in Gide, who appeared in a masculine guise: in a black velvet jacket and white trousers and with a scarf loosely knotted around his neck, rather than the expected collar and tie.

In “So be it” which he wrote after the death of Madeleine, he cites the same experience of “love, anguish and freedom.” Over the years, his secret life as a homosexual and his public life as a married writer were experienced as a ‘pendulum’ moving from one side to the other, aided and abetted by all the oppositions in his chart.

He did however have long relationships with women who worked with him, such as Dorothy Bussy, whom he met in 1918 during the Age Point/Venus quincunx. She remained his friend for over thirty years and translated many of his works into English.

The other long relationship was with Elizabeth, the daughter of an artist friend of his, who wanted a child. Gide obliged and thus sired a daughter in 1923 – Catherine – his only descendant. Elizabeth eventually left her husband to move to Paris and manage the practical aspects of Gide’s life – in an adjoining apartment, of course.

It is noteworthy that his gay novel, Corydon, was published in 1924 when his Age Point conjoined Uranus, thus filling his consciousness with this essence of freedom. At last he could say it out aloud!

His Life

At age 9 when his Age Point formed a trine with Uranus, a neighbour took him to the Luxemburg museum and an art museum where he enjoyed the sculptures and even more so a certain Mercure.

His older cousin Albert once asked him if he was interested in anything else but himself and this introduced the young Gide to the concept of egoism. In his journals written much later in life, he states that: “Albert could have had no idea of what a profound effect his words had on me…” With 5 planets on the I-side and 5 on the YOU-side, Gide was well balanced in his interaction with the world.

In 1883 when his Age Point was face to face with Saturn – his strongest ego planet by far – the 14-year old Gide experienced his physical ego intensely. Firstly because his body was in a bad condition due to headaches tiredness, insomnia and extreme nervousness. And secondly, because his mother – representing Saturn – took him to doctors, spas and other places of healing.

At age 15 in 1884, the neighbour who used to take him to see the landmarks in Paris, died. Fortunately Gide had a tutor who believed in the peripatetic mode of teaching: the two of them walked the streets of Paris during the ‘lesson’. “These voyages of discovery were more instructive to me than the reading of many novels”, he remembered later.

This is a perfect reflection of his consciousness filled with the adventurousness of Mars in Sagittarius as suggested by the AP/Mars conjunction in the same year. It was only the beginning of a life of being constantly on the move, thanks to his surplus of mutable motivation (-1). He would visit many countries in Europe and North Africa during the course of his life.

He became a prolific writer at an early age, anonymously publishing his first novel, The Notebooks of André Walter in 1891, at the age of twenty-one. His Age Point was then in the 4th house of conventions and traditions which he constantly challenged.

When his Age Point was on the cusp of the 5th house in 1893/4, he made his unique impression on the social scene in Northern Africa, where he came to accept his attraction to boys. Back in Paris, he befriended Oscar Wilde (also on the blog) and in 1895 – during the AP/Uranus quincunx – the two of them met in Algiers where they could indulge their homosexuality with all the teenagers who were available. At the C1 in 1898 when he was 29, Gide came to accept his sexual preferences and no longer feared being ostracised.

In his autobiography, the period from 1901–07 is seen as a time of apathy and turmoil.His Age Point was then traversing the 6th house of work and he constantly questioned himself: What was his real work?  Was he a man of letters or of social issues? In 1903, his Age Point fired up his Moon on that low point of the 6th house, thus causing much emotional suffering. .

As his Age Point approached the third quadrant of thinking, after three and a half decades of impulse and instinct, he realised the things of which he wrote were no longer central to his living and thinking. Yet he was determined to finish them, thanks to his surplus of cardinal motivation.

Perhaps the AP/Neptune conjunction in 1907 provided the answer, for early in 1908, Gide helped found the literary magazine The New French Review together with several other intellectuals. His consciousness was brimming with his creativity.

His Age Point was then traversing the 7th house. His close, personal relationships came in the form of other intellectuals from across Europe. Oscar Wilde, Thomas Mann and Rainer-Maria Rilke (all on the blog) and Roger Martin du Gard amongst many others

In 1916, Marc Allégret, only 15 years old, became his lover. The semi-sextile his Age Point then formed with the Moon suggests that his heart had became aware of this young man with whom he had a life-long relationship.

When his Age Point was progressing through the 9th house, he experienced the bigger picture and thus became an inspiration for Existentialist philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre (on the blog) and Albert Camus, as well as writers such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

But what made him stand out from the crowd – when his Age Point was traversing the 10th house – was his defence of homosexuality in the public edition of Corydon (1924) for which he received widespread condemnation. He later considered this his most important work.

Also in 1924, he produced the first French language editions of (also on the blog) Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. Gide and Conrad certainly had much in common: personal planets on low points.

The Search Figure

Gide’s search for his integrity is reflected in this aspect structure which is highly activated by the Mars/Moon opposition. Every time his Age Point touched his heart – the Moon on a low point – he would be reminded to stay on track as suggested by the North Node at the green-blue angle. He would then enjoy following his path with heart until his Sun, also on a low point in the area of personal values, would long for the bigger picture of his emotions.

In 1939, when his Age Point rewarded both his Sun and the North Node as suggested by the sextiles it formed with them, Gide became the first living author to be published in the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. He devoted his last years to publishing his Journal. Gide died in Paris in 1951, thus missing the Roman Catholic Church’s placing of his works on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1952!