Book - The Immoralist
While traveling to Tunis on honeymoon with his new bride, the Parisian scholar Michel is overcome by tuberculosis. As he recovers, he re-discovers the physical pleasures of living and resolves to forgo his studies of the past in order to experience the present—to let "the layers of acquired knowledge peel away from the mind like a cosmetic and reveal, in patches, the naked flesh beneath, the authentic being hidden there." This is not, however, the Michel his colleagues knew—not a Michel that will be readily accepted by traditional society—and he must hide his new values under the patina of what he now reviles. Bored by Parisian society, he moves to a family farm in Normandy. He is happy there, especially in the company of young Charles, but he must soon return to the city and academe. Michel remains restless until he gives his first lecture and runs into Ménalque, who has long outraged society, and recognizes in him a reflection of his torment. Michel returns south, deeper into the desert, until, as he confides to his friends, he is lost in the sea of sand. Gide's story is filled by his descriptive prose, which evokes the exotic nature of Michel's inner and outer journey: "I did not understand the forbearance of this African earth, submerged for days at a time and now awakening from winter, drunk with water, bursting with new juices; it laughed in this springtime frenzy whose echo, whose image I perceived within myself."