Wilde and Gide in Algiers

Jonathan Dollimore

in Sexual Dissidence

Published in print August 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112259
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670732 | DOI:
Wilde and Gide in Algiers

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André Gide first met Oscar Wilde in Blidah, Algeria in January 1895. In a letter to his mother, Gide describes Wilde as a terrifying man, a ‘most dangerous product of modern civilisation’. A few days later Gide met him again in Algiers, a city which Wilde says he meant to demoralise. It is here that there happened the event which was to change Gide's life and radically influence his subsequent work. He was taken by Wilde to a cafe: ‘there suddenly appeared a marvellous youth. He stood there for a time, leaning with his raised elbow against the door-jamb, and outlined on the dark background of the night’. The youth joined them; his name was Mohammed. This instance confirms Gide's sexual nature. The very categories of identity which, through transgression, Wilde subjected to inversion and displacement, Gide reconstituted for a different transgressive aesthetic, or as it might now more suitably be called, in contra-distinction to Wilde, a transgressive ethic, which remained central to the unorthodoxy which characterised his life's work.

Keywords: Oscar Wilde; André Gide; Algiers; Mohammed; sexual nature; transgression; identity; inversion; displacement; transgressive ethic

Chapter.  7286 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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