Word and Image in France, 1880–1926
Chapter 5 - Gide’s Les Faux-monnayeurs: From Alchemy to Forgery 197
Chapter 5 Gide’s Les Faux-monnayeurs: From Alchemy to Forgery In a diary entry of 16 July 1919, Gide recorded his intention to incorporate several faits divers that he had collected between 1906 and 1909 into his work-in-progress, Les Faux-monnayeurs, and admonished himself to ‘start from there and to stop trying to create in the abstract’. Appended to this diary, in which he charted the progress of his novel, one of these reports recounts the tragic fate of a schoolboy pressured to commit suicide after drawing lots; another gives details of a coin-counterfeiting ring using young students and writers as traf fickers. Together with at least three other inci- dents involving counterfeiting, these cuttings were to provide material for the novel’s action and themes.1 Like the ‘Litre d’Or’ clipping in Picasso’s Bouteille, tasse, journal (1912), and Mallarmé’s meditation, in ‘Or’, on the financial scandal of Panama, Les Faux-monnayeurs is also composed of newspaper cuttings that deal with the theme of gold. Like Mallarmé and Picasso, Gide transformed the ‘low’ material of journalism into the pre- cious metal of art, setting up a tension between the commercial value of economic currency and the transcendent worth of the artist’s gold. Deriving inspiration from faits divers, he moulded an apparently arbitrary assort- ment of events into an intricate literary structure whose contrivance is 1 ‘partir de là sans chercher plus longtemps à construire à priori’. Gide, Journal des faux- monnayeurs (1926), 1927 edn, p. 20. Gide notes: ‘j’ai ressorti ce matin les quelques découpures...
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