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The Counterfeiters: A Novel (Vintage International)

The Counterfeiters: A Novel (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Andre Gide

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Product Description

Product Description

A young artist pursues a search for knowledge through the treatment of homosexuality and the collapse of morality in middle class France.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1363 KB
  • Print Length: 481 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B0007G5SI6
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007SGM0KW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #233,680 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, lyrical masterpiece. 19 Jun 2003
By John Hovig - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Counterfeiters" (1926), by Andre Gide (1869-1951) is a fascinating chronicle of life in Paris before World War I. It begins as two high school friends, Bernard Profitendieu and Olivier Molinier, prepare for the bacchalaureat, their final exam. Bernard finds some letters hidden at home which show he is illegitimate, and runs away from home, thus setting in motion a rich set of adventures among a cast of mind-boggling proportions. From Bernard, Olivier and their parents, the story quickly grows to include Olivier's younger brother George, his uncle Edouard, Edouard's friend Laura, Olivier's older brother Vincent, Vincent's friend Robert Count Passavant, Passavant's lover Lady Griffith, Edouard's old schoolmate Victor Strouvilhou, Victor's nephew Gheri, Laura's father Vedel, Edouard's old piano teacher Perouse, and Perouse's grandson Boris, among many others. As this prodigious cast assembles itself, the fireworks really begin!
The reader will be amazed by all the ways these characters interconnect with each other. For example, at the beginning of the book, Edouard is traveling from London to Paris to visit and advise Laura, who is trying to extricate herself from an extra-marital affair, but only upon arriving will he learn Laura's paramour is actually his nephew Vincent. Many similar connections between most of the characters will be revealed during the course of this motivating story. "The Counterfeiters" is less a plotted novel than a finely-woven tapestry. Every character interacts with almost every other. The chapters are brief, only a dozen pages or so, but most focus on one of these interactions in particular, making for a compelling narrative. It was notably experimental for its time, but extremely readable, and still fresh today.
The title describes a counterfeiting ring which uses children, like something from Dickens's "Oliver Twist", to pass off gold-plated glass disks for coins. Gide's broader theme, however, is that of falsehood in general, like that popular theme of 19th-century French literature, namely hypocrisy. Beside the counterfeiting ring itself, Gide describes fathers with illegitimate children, adults with hidden affairs, and people generally searching for truth among the artifice of life.
Gide's characters are brilliantly conceived, executed on a par with his predecessor Balzac, whom Gide himself called "possibly our greatest novelist" (as published in the invaluable reference in the appendix of this book, the illuminating journal Gide himself kept while writing "The Counterfeiters"). There is something of Balzac's Goriot in Gide's Perouse, something of Rastignac in Bernard, and perhaps even a little Vautrin in Passavant. But Gide's literary style is markedly different. Where Balzac told self-contained stories, usually ones with social morals attached (as did most 19th-century French authors), Gide tells us he is "fond of sudden endings," and "it is an insult to explain what the attentive reader has understood" (both also paraphrased from this book's appendix).
Gide weaves dozens of strands of the story, intersecting every character with every other character, drawing lines to question the moral behavior of each interaction, an experimental gambit for its time. But I'm pleased to say Gide's experiment worked. The complete book is a brilliant success. His "novelist's novel" is perhaps one of the most important literary results of the early twentieth century, crafting a compelling story of interesting characters, maintaining great intellectual interest throughout. This novel is recommendable to anyone who enjoys fine literature.
Note: Other reviews invariably paint this book in shocking shades of homosexual or hedonistic material, but this is misleading at best. It's true, a homosexual and hedonistic tone appears at places, Count Passavant being the worst offender, but Gide is not a pornographer, he is a moralist. Homosexual himself, Gide was also Protestant (Huguenot), and like his brilliant work "The Immoralist", he believes in showing a moral lesson through human action.
Finally, two small quibbles: An emotional incident at the end of the book, based on a newspaper article Gide clipped, seems incongruous with the rest. It doesn't detract from the book, but it seems tacked on for special effect. Also, while excellent for the most part, the translation insists on leaving some expressions in the French original, such as "chef d'oeuvre" instead of "masterpiece", or "entr'acte" instead of "intermission".
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Counterfeiters: A Courageous, Timeless Classic 26 July 2000
By mholesh - Published on
If you think that James Dean invented the Rebel without a Cause, read The Counterfeiters. It is easy to see that this book could outrage "cultural conservatives" especially those who never bother to read it but condemn it by its reputation or blurb. On the surface, one may think it is "epater les bourgeois." One could easily call it scandalous in the matter-of-fact treatment of how the younger characters behave amongst themselves and in relation to their elders.
But in the end, the message of this book is highly moral. It is a warning against naivete, complacency and delusions about others and oneself. In our dealings with those we love and care about, we fail to communicate our true feelings and thoughts out of timidity, self-absorption, pride, fear, spite and ignorance. (A good word for one cause of miscommunication that probably is taken from the original French is "pique.") Even the desire to protect the object of our love causes us to lie and hide the truth. Because of our lies and omissions we suffer immeasurably and cause others to suffer.
In a tribute to the power of love, Gide generously grants his best characters the opportunity to redeem themselves. The worst characters remain stagnant behind masks of insincerity or fall into hopeless degradation. Some of the characters in this book are truly evil. They reach a crescendo of depravity made possible by the misplaced good intentions of those who could have stopped them earlier. And one gets the sense, that as in life, even after the most horrid events, the surviving characters will muddle through, some having learned something valuable, others having learned little or nothing.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent novel, but overrated 9 July 2003
By Steve - Published on
Three-and-a-half stars. Gide's reputation precedes him. He is generally regarded as one of France's best novelists and is widely admired by American writers as well. I plunged into this novel eagerly and emerged from it, two days later, with little more than a shrug. I hesitate to be too critical about books that I read in translation; one never knows how accurately the translator has captured the original work.
All in all, there's nothing really wrong with The Counterfeiters; it reads and feels at times like Dickens and a spate of other nineteenth-century British novels--the cast of characters is rather large, there are ample doses of melodrama, and the story makes use of several nice "coincidences" to tie otherwise disparate storylines together. It's been said that Gide's style was revolutionary for his day, but it's fair to say that readers today will find it fairly conventional. The same goes for the book's "scandalous" reputation--there is nothing about The Counterfeiters that will shock or amaze readers in 2003 the way it may have in 1926, when it was first published.
That said, The Counterfeiters is a decent book. There are moments when the reader feels that Gide has touched upon something greater than the story itself; some cutting observation about the relationship between Art and Morality, or the decline of social morals. But the material and style is otherwise dated. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading this book, if so inclined. But as for me, six months from now, I'm doubt I'll remember much about it. It just didn't make much of an impression.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretense and Compassion 22 Feb 2008
By GS - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Andre Gide's "The Counterfeiters" is a novel about individual development in a society structured by deceit. The French writer began the novel after World War I and continued working on it for years until it was published in 1927. Set in Paris, the story describes upper middle class adolescent boys and the men who exploit them. The plot progresses in a somewhat disjointed fashion as Gide inserts psychoanalytic insights popular at the time. Some of Gide's journal entries, included as an appendix to the novel, indicate a dissatisfaction with his ability to produce seamless connections between realistic structure and unconscious processes.

In the first half of the novel, the young characters are introduced, and their intellectual, social, and artistic developments are described in an engaging manner reminiscent of Balzac. The reader is involved in the plot and cares about the behavior of each of the boys. The children are becoming adults without the realization that a single immature act can determine a life path.

In the second half of the book, the pace of the plot slows as Gide inserts an increasing number of psychological interpretations into the story. The device he uses is a journal written by a novelist character, Edouard, who is using his experience with the boys and their families to write his own novel. With this voice, Gide is able to discuss events from the point of view of a witness who is intimately involved in the action and assumes a role of psychoanalyst.

The final chapters of the novel demonstrate Gide's success in the integration of form and free expression as the plot accelerates to chaos and resolution. The reader understands that all of the boys are counterfeiters in their interactions with family, friends, and others. This is expected from adolescents who are impulsive and largely ignorant of life's consequences. But we do not expect the adult characters to be counterfeiters, to try to deceive by pretense and dissembling in order to exploit the boys socially, intellectually, and sexually. Though this counterfeit life is entrenched in the adults, Gide provides hope that the younger generation is capable of insight and judgment and can avoid dissolute lives.

Complete redemption by the boys is possible if they recognize the immorality of their external counterfeit roles. They must learn to stop the narcissistic internal voice that speaks to them incessantly reflecting the counterfeit influence of parents and friends. Finally, they can enter the silence of genuine communication with people, without guile or envy, and experience a compassionate and selfless immersion in the lives of others.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good read 22 July 2005
By PuppyTalk - Published on
This is not a plot-oriented story, so if you are looking for "what happens next", you will be disappointed, even though there is enough happening. For example, in the beginning, the affair of Vincent and Laura is in the foreground, but then half way through, after Laura goes back to her husband, it's almost forgotten and Vincent is out of the picture, and the reader is not going to be informed about what happened to him or Laura in details. Instead, the other issues of the other characters take over the story. In other words, the "events" aren't the important issue Gide is dealing with.

There are so many, in fact too many, for my little brain to grasp, characters and each of them has his/her own story and issues to be dealt with, and at times I felt I couldn't digest them all (to remember all the names alone was a challenge). As Gide says in his notebook, this book could have been divided into two books. Nonetheless, he decided to put everything in one book, one story, and he "gave everything" he had, as he expected this story to be his last novel.

There are more discussions on art, literature, and moral issues than the story itself, which I enjoyed and learned a great deal. This sort of novels are very rare these days, as the current trend of novels are more "event-based" than "idea-based".

His notebooks are even more enjoyable.

As for homosexuality, I didn't find a trace of it in this novel. Would someone tell me where people got that idea? Or am I missing something? My guess is the affection and respect between Eduard and Oliver is the cause of it, but they're Uncle and Nephew, which makes it only natural that they possess affection, fondness and love, especially if they share the same interest, and both of them being artists, shy and sensitive by nature.

The corruption of the society, both in adults and young people, was brought up brilliantly. Only, I wish it was told through Oliver's eye. (I really wanted to get to know him better, but there were too many other characters who took up the pages.)

The sudden ending caught me by surprise, and I was a bit dissatisfied, but after reading the notebooks and realized that's how Gide wanted it, I decided to respect his decision.

Some of the characters needed a bit more attention and needed to be developed a little more, I think, especially Boris, as he is the one who ends the story by a drastic action such as committing suicide. (I never got to know him well enough to know what was going on in his head.)

The style is unique. It's written mainly in 3rd person omnicient, but often Gide lets Eduard tell the story in his journal, in 1st person. And then he goes back to omnicient again in the next chapter. This repeats throughout. The trouble I had was that there were so many characters, and I really didn't get to know any of them intimately. Eduard was the only one I felt I got to know, but that's because he was given many chances to write journals in 1st person.

There are several main characters obviously, but then occasionally the less important characters also come out in the foreground. So you think there's going to be a story about them, but then they disappear and you don't hear about them for a while.

In the notebook, he says that the important characters shouldn't be in the foreground but instead let the reader figure them out, or something to that effect. It was only then I realized what he was trying to do. It is a rare style, I think, and requires some adjusting.

In any case, it's a very readable novel, has a lot to offer, and I should say you will get your money's worth.
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