Short summary - The Counterfeiters - André Gide

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Counterfeiters
André Gide

The scene is Paris and the Swiss village of Saas-Fee. The time has not been deliberately specified. In the center of the story are three families - Profitandier, Molyneux and Azaisy-Wedel. The old music teacher Lalerouse is closely associated with them, as well as two writers - Count Robert de Passavant and Edouard. The latter keeps a diary, where he records his observations and analyzes them from the point of view of the future novel, which has already received the name "The Counterfeiters". In addition, the text is invaded by the voice of the author himself, commenting on the actions of his heroes.
Seventeen-year-old Bernard Profitandier leaves home after learning about his illegal origin. He is convinced that he has always hated the person he considered to be his father. However, the investigator Profitandier loves Bernard much more than his own sons - lawyer Charles and schoolboy Kalou. Both lack the unbridled strength of character that distinguishes Bernard.
Olivier Molyneux also admires his friend's determination. Gentle Olivier needs spiritual support: he is deeply attached to Bernard and is looking forward to the return from England of his uncle Edward - the only person in the family with whom you can talk heart to heart. On the eve, Olivier became an involuntary witness of a terrible scene: at night a woman was crying under the door - apparently, it was the mistress of his older brother Vincent.
Vincent entered into an affair with Laura Duvier at a tuberculosis sanatorium when both of them believed they did not have long to live. Laura is pregnant, but does not want to return to her husband. Vincent cannot support her because he spent all his money in cards. The Count de Passavant, who has his own secret reasons, inspired him to play. Robert gives Vincent the opportunity to win back and gives him his own mistress - Lady Lillian Griffith. Vincent is smart, handsome, but completely devoid of secular gloss, and Lillian happily takes on his upbringing. In return, Robert asks for a small favor: Vincent must set him up with his younger brother Olivier.
On the train, Edward is irritated looking at a recently published book by Passavant - as brilliant and fake as Robert himself. Edward rereads a letter in which Laura begs for help, and then writes down thoughts about the novel in his diary: in the era of cinema, action should be abandoned.
The long-awaited meeting with his uncle does not bring joy to Olivier: both behave constrainedly and cannot express the happiness that overwhelms them. Bernard picks up the baggage receipt that Edward lost. The suitcase contains a diary with entries from a year ago. Edouard then caught the hand in stealing the youngest of the Molyneux brothers - Georges. Nephews study at the boarding school of Pastor Azais. - grandfather of Laura, Rachel, Sarah and Arman Vedely. Laura endlessly returns to the past - to the days when she and Edward wrote their names on the windowsill. Rachel actually gave up her personal life and pulls the entire household on herself. Young Sarah is openly trying to seduce Olivier - it's not for nothing that the cynical Armand calls her sister a prostitute. Something is amiss in the devout Protestant family, which is why Laura should marry an honest, albeit narrow-minded, Duvier - after all, Edward himself is not able to make her happy. Old Azais praises Georges very much: the lovely kids have organized something like a secret society, where only the worthy are admitted - the yellow ribbon in the buttonhole serves as a mark of distinction. Edward has no doubts that the cunning boy deftly misled the pastor. It is just as painful to watch La Perouse. The former music teacher is deeply unhappy: he has almost no students left, his once beloved wife is irritating, his only son has died. The old man broke off relations with him because of his affair with a Russian musician. They left for Poland, but never got married. Grandson Boris is unaware of the existence of his grandfather. This boy is the dearest creature to Lalerous.
Comparing Olivier's story with Edouard's diary, Bernard guesses that Laura was crying under Vincent's door. The letter contains the address of the hotel, and Bernard immediately goes there. Circumstances are favorable for the young adventurer: both Laura and Eduard like his daring self-confidence. Bernard receives the post of secretary under Edward. Together with Laura they go to Saas-Fee: according to La Perouse, Boris spends his holidays here. Meanwhile, Olivier meets Passavant, and he invites him to become the editor of the magazine "Argonauts". In a letter from Switzerland, Bernard tells Olivier about meeting his uncle, confesses his love for Laura and explains the purpose of their arrival: Eduard for some reason needed a thirteen-year-old boy who is under the supervision of a Polish woman doctor and is very friendly with her daughter Bronya. Boris suffers from some kind of nervous disease. The author notes that Bernard did not foresee what a storm of low feelings his letter would cause in the soul of a friend. Olivier feels fierce jealousy. At night he is visited by demons, In the morning he goes to the Count de Passavant.
Eduard records a doctor's observation in his diary: Sofronitskaya is sure that Boris is hiding some shameful secret. Eduard unexpectedly tells his friends the idea of the novel "The Counterfeiters". Bernard advises to start the book with a counterfeit coin that was slipped into his shop. Sofronitskaya shows Boris's "talisman": a piece of paper with the words "Gas. Telephone. One hundred thousand of rubles". It turns out that at the age of nine, a school friend introduced him to a bad habit - naive children called it "magic." It seems to Edward that the doctor has unscrewed all the wheels of the boy's mental mechanism. Boris cannot live without chimeras - perhaps he will benefit from staying at the Azais boarding house. A letter comes from Olivier, where he, in enthusiastic tones, narrates about a trip to Italy in the company of Robert. The author notes with concern that Edward is making an obvious oversight - after all, he knows how the atmosphere in the house of the Azais - Vedel is poisoned. It seems that Edward is lying to himself, and the devil is whispering advice to him. It is a pity that, by a whim of fate, Bernard took the place designated by Olivier. Edward loves his nephew, and Passavan will spoil this fragile youth. But Bernard, under the influence of love for Laura, is clearly changing for the better.
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Back in Paris, Eduard introduces Boris to his grandfather. Molyneux Sr. tells Edouard about his troubles: he started a little affair on the side, and his wife, apparently, found love letters. He is also worried about Olivier's friendship with Bernard: the investigator Profitandier is conducting a case about a den of debauchery, where schoolchildren are lured, and nothing good can be expected from Bernard, because he is illegitimate.
Edward arranges for Bernard to be a tutor at the Azais boarding school. Old man La Perouse also moves there to be closer to Boris. The boy was immediately disliked by the most lively of the students Leon Geridanisol - the nephew of Victor Struvilu, who was once expelled from the boarding house, and now is engaged in the sale of counterfeit coins. Gehry's company includes Georges Molyneux and a few other schoolchildren - all of them were regulars of the very "brothel of debauchery" about which prosecutor Molyneux spoke to Edouard. After a police raid, the boys have to remove the yellow ribbons from their buttonholes, but Leon is already ready to offer them an interesting new case. Pauline Molyneux shares her suspicions with her brother: money began to disappear in the house, and letters from her mistress to her husband have recently disappeared - Pauline herself found them a long time ago, and it did not occur to her to be jealous, but it would be extremely unpleasant if Georges found out about it. The youngest son worries her extremely - after all, Vincent is already an adult, and Olivier can rely on Edward's love. Meanwhile, Olivier suffers: he needs Bernard and Edouard, and he is forced to deal with Passavant. At a banquet on the occasion of the release of "Argonauts", a deadly drunk Olivier makes a scandal, and the next morning he tries to commit suicide. Edward saves him, and harmony reigns in their relationship. Passavant convinces himself that he overestimated the beauty and abilities of Olivier - with the duties of the editor of the magazine, the rogue Struvilu will do much better.
Eduard unexpectedly visits the investigator Profitandier and asks to warn the prosecutor Molyneux in a relative way: his son Georges was involved in a scandal with prostitutes, and now he is involved in a scam with counterfeit coins. After painful hesitation, Profitandier starts a conversation about Bernard - Edouard is convinced that this strong, self-confident man most of all yearns to return his son's love. And Bernard passes the bachelor's exam brilliantly. He so wants to share his joy that he can hardly suppress the desire to go to his father. In the Luxembourg Gardens, an angel appears to him. Bernard follows him first to church, then to a meeting of members of various parties, then to large boulevards filled with an idle indifferent crowd, and finally to poor neighborhoods, where disease, hunger, shame, crime, prostitution reign. After listening to Bernard's story about the night fight with the angel, Edouard informs him about the visit of Profitandier the elder.
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Meanwhile, disaster is brewing at the boarding house. The children hound the old La Perouse, and the company led by Gehry steals the revolver from him. Struvil has a vision of these schoolchildren: counterfeit coins are being snapped up, and Georges Molyneux got hold of his father's love letters. Sofronitskaya informs Boris about Bronya's death - from now on, the whole world appears to the boy as a desert. At Struvil's instigation, Leon tosses a piece of paper on his desk with the words “Gas. Telephone. One hundred thousand of rubles". Boris, who has already forgotten about his "magic", cannot resist the temptation. Deeply despising himself, he agrees to pass the test for the title of "strong man" and shoots himself during the lesson - only Leon knew that the revolver was loaded. In the last pages of his diary, Edward describes the consequences of this suicide - the dissolution of the Azais boarding house and the deep shock of Georges, who was forever cured of his admiration for Geridanisol. Olivier informs Edouard that Bernard has returned to his father. Investigator Profitandier invites the Molyneux family to dinner. Edward wants to get to know little Kalu better.