Paris [L'Imprimerie Sainte-Catherine, Bruges] (1920-1921). 2 volumes. 8vo., 220pp.; 166pp.
The first, privately issued edition of Gide's influential confessional memoir, issued four years prior to the first published edition, limited to twelve copies. Cyril Connolly, who included the book on his list of the 100 key books of the modern movement wrote that "Gide's autobiography is a work of art or rather the true portrait of the artist as a young man, for his horizon was much larger than Joyce's and he writes with an electric excitement". This first printing includes explicit passages suppressed in both the first published edition (1924) and the first English-language edition (New York, 1935) and was extremely controversial for its description of his sexual encounters with boys in North Africa. Considered one of his greatest works (certainly his most personal and revealing), the memoir recounts Gide's sexual awakening while on a journey to Algeria in 1893-94, where he met Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, who shocked him with their boldness. In Tunisia he lost his virginity at the age of twenty-three to Athman, a fourteen-year-old Arab boy, and came to accept his own homosexuality. Henceforth his published works invoked the never resolved tensions between a strict artistic discipline, a puritanical moralism, and the desire for unlimited sensual indulgence and abandonment to life. The memoir covers the first twenty-six years of his life Gide was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1947, the first openly gay man to have received the award. In the presentation speech offered at the award ceremony, the Swedish Academy stated "The significance of these memoirs thus is indicated in the mysterious Biblical quotation of the grain of wheat which here represents the personality: as long as the latter is sentient, deliberate, and egocentric, it dwells alone and without germinating power; it is only at the price of its death and its transmutation that it will acquire life and be able to bear fruit." Si le Grain ne Meurt was placed on the Catholic Church's list of prohibited books in 1952, the year after Gide's death.
A lovely example bound in full green crushed violet morocco by Martin, raised dentelles, gilt decorations, all edges gilt, each volume is housed in a chemise and slipcased. The first volume (this example is #12) was issued in an edition of twelve copies and the second volume (#7) was issued in an edition of thirteen copies. Very small chip to the head of one chemise, spine of chemise lightly browned, otherwise fine, original wrappers present. Light wear to marbled boards of slipcase. Provenance Raoul Simonson, with his bookplate laid into the book. Laid into the book is a 1pp. ALS from Gide to Donald Allen, dated 1947. A beautiful example of an important twentieth century document. .