80 Lettres du proprietaire immobilier : Pour faire valoir by Le Particulier

By Le Particulier

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In the course of his career Gide often stated his opinions on the subject of literary influence. To fear the effect on one's precious originality of another man's work was a sign of weakness, he maintained, not of strength; periods of great literary vitality, like the Renaissance, were times of large borrowings and importations. One should use the works of others freely, and as freely confess the debt, not in slavish imitation but with fruitful assimilation and re- creation. He was often accused of interpreting the books of others to suit his own ideas, and he usually replied by half admitting and half protesting the charge.

To submit to the common morality, Gide now thought, was to betray one's individual mission and so to commit the sin against the Holy Ghost for which there was no forgiveness. He carried these preoccupations into the literary salons he was now frequenting, but found it hard to express him- self. If, as occasionally happened, someone appealed to him directly for an opinion, he was apt to be disconcerted, then confused and angry at what he found himself saying. For the most part, however, what these men of letters wanted most was the opportunity to talk about themselves and their own ideas, and Gide made himself popular by follow- ing his own bent, listening everywhere with the closest and most flattering attention, seldom speaking himself, but trying hard to look like an artist.

To fear the effect on one's precious originality of another man's work was a sign of weakness, he maintained, not of strength; periods of great literary vitality, like the Renaissance, were times of large borrowings and importations. One should use the works of others freely, and as freely confess the debt, not in slavish imitation but with fruitful assimilation and re- creation. He was often accused of interpreting the books of others to suit his own ideas, and he usually replied by half admitting and half protesting the charge.

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