Gilles, by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle


Best known in the English speaking world for his book Le Feu Follet, which has been adopted into several films, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle considered the semi-autobiographical Gilles to be his greatest work. The literary critic Gaëtan Picon wrote that Gilles “is, without any doubt, one of the greatest novels of the century—and one of those books in which the disarming sincerity of a man rises to the grandeur usually reserved to literary transpositions.”

Volume I

The novel begins during the First World War, where the hero Gilles returns from the front after being badly wounded, his regiment having been decimated. Penniless, he asks his friends, the wealthy Falkenberg brothers, for help, only to discover that both of them had died. Their sister, Myriam, falls in love with him and helps him financially; although he does not respond to her love, Gilles accepts her support. He even decides to marry her when her father's death makes her a wealthy heiress. The day after the wedding, he leaves her, joins the army again and has a love affair with a nurse, whom he in turn leaves.

Volumes II & III

After the war, Gilles frequented social circles and profited from his ex-wife's money. More or less unwillingly, he is drawn into a plot against the President of the Republic, Morel, after making friends with Morel's son-in-law, Gilbert de Clérences, and meeting Caël, the leader and almost guru of a dandy political group. The ridicule of intellectuals, the grotesquerie of events, the cowardice and demagoguery of politicians—compounded by the departure of Dora, an American girl he loved—leads him to leave France and seek refuge in Algeria. There he meets a simple, wholesome young girl, Pauline, with whom he experiences a true love affair for the first time. Gilles returns to Paris, however. Still disgusted with society and politics, he starts a newspaper and, after 6 February 1934, decided to join the only ideology capable of radically changing society and regenerating France: Fascism.

Grief-struck by the death of Pauline and the child she was expecting, Gilles chooses to be alone, and joins Franco's side in the Spanish Civil War.

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Table of Contents

Volume I: La Permission

IIn which Gilles returns from the front.

IIIn which Gilles meets Myriam.

IIIThe first stirrings of love.


V In which Gilles meets Mr Falkenberg.

VI "He's not a serious man."

VII In which Gilles travels to Trianon with Mabel.

VIII In which Gilles gets a job.

IX“Are you going to marry this boy?”

X Debrye.

XI The tremor.

XII In which Gilles visits Carentan.

XIII Avenue de Messine.

XIV The suicide.

XV Evening chez Mrs Florimond.

XVI The marriage.

XVII The consummation.

XVIII "I can't do it."

XIX Alice.

XX Myriam.

XXI The end.

XXII Pantruche

XXIII True bitterness.

XXIV Gille's wife.

XXV The armistice.

XXVI Departure.

Volume II: L'Elysee coming soon

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