The author wrote this work when he was suffering from tuberculosis. Addressed to the reader, it is a hymn to the pleasures of life that Gide came so close to losing: travel, touch, hearing, smell, sight and, above all, taste. During the author's travels, he meets Menalcas, a caricature of Oscar Wilde, who relates his fantastic life story. But for all his brilliance, Menalcas is only Gide's yesterday self, a discarded wraith who leaves Gide free to stop exalting the ego and embrace bodily and spiritual joy.
Gide was born in Paris on 22 November 1869. He had an irregular and lonely upbringing. He became devoted to literature and music, and began his literary career as an essayist, moving on to poetry, biography, fiction, drama, criticism, reminiscence and translation. By 1917 he had emerged as a prophet to French youth, and his unorthodox views were a source of endless debate and attack. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. Gide died in Paris in 1951.