The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide


The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide 

French fiction 

Original title – Les caves du Vatican 

Translator – Julian Evans

Source  – review copy 


FBI Team Leader: It’s an interesting setup, Mr. Ross. It is the oldest confidence game on the books. The Spanish Prisoner. Fellow says him and his sister, wealthy refugees, left a fortune in the home country. He got out, girl and the money stuck in Spain. Here is her most beautiful portrait. And he needs money to get her and the fortune out. Man who supplies the money gets the fortune and the girl. Oldest con in the world

From the film spanish prisoner by David mamet  from imdb 

I have long been a fan of Gallic books ,they publish a wide range of books from France from crime  to lit fiction in translation ,so there discussion to start doing some classic French writers is great and where better to start than with Andre Gide ,one of the most well-known names in 20th century French literature .Born in Normandy he grew up in isolation really ,he started writing at age 21 .He is best known for his books Strait is the gate and the Immortalist , this book came out a few years after that just on the outbreak of world war one .Gide influence the next generation of French writers Camus and Satre in particular .

In 1890 , in the papal reign of Leo XIII , the reputation of DR X—- , a specialist in rheumatic diseases , persuaded Anthime Armand-Dubois , Freemason , to travel to Rome .

“What?” his brother-in-law , Julius de barglioul exclaimed “You’re going all the way to Rome to get your body look after ! I hope that when you get there you’ll realise how much sicker your soul is !”

One family heads to Rome .


Rhe Vatican cellars is the tale of French upper class society falling victim to a band of Con men called the Millipede .The story follows three families Armand-Dubois family live in Italy Anthime has recently convert to become a Christian after he has a miracle cure ,meanwhile in Paris His wife sister  Marguerite and her husband Julius sister  ,he has recently written  a book and are movers in the Literary world of Paris , the third family Amedee who is Julius sister anyway these three families end up as a target for the millipede who want them each to give them 20,000 francs as they have 140,000 to help free the real Pope Leo XIII as they make them believe that the Pope there now is a fake Pope .Along the way the is some sex and comic turns .

“To have lost a pope is a frightful thing ,Madame ,there is no doubt about it . But even more frightful is a false pope ! Because to conceal its crime – what I am saying  – to inveige the church into pulling itself apart and fatally weaken itself ,in place of Leo XIII the lodge has installed on the papal throne who knows what puppet of the Quirinal .

The crumbs of the fake pope and why it happened are sowed .

Now this book when it arrived I knew the plot somewhat as it is a classic Scam , called the Spanish prisoner ,where the dupe is lead to believe that some one has been change and replaced with a double or variations on that theme .I would suggest if you like to see a modern version of the scam watch the David Mamet film Spanish prisoner (a very underrated film ) .So this book has been out print for 25 years is a good choice for a reissue and new translation .For me yes it has a strong theme of god and the church ,but also at points is quite brilliantly blackly comic ,I think one of the reason it hasn’t been popular is the plot is at times quite drifting and it is easy to lose where you are ,a few times I had to turn back a couple of pages and check I had it right Julian Evans is very good with older books I am halfway through his translation of Foundling boy another book from Gallic books I am reading .I had read Gide once before about 20 years ago  and have  couple on my shelves to read ,I think it may be a bit less time between his books this time .

Have you read Gide ?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amateur Reader (Tom)
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 17:47:28

    “Unavailable in the UK for 25 years,” from the website – what an odd claim by the publisher. It has been in print for decades under the title Lafcadio’s Adventures.

    I have only read The Immoralist, plus a chunk of Gide’s journals. The Immoralist was a tricky puzzle book. Is that Vatican, too? It sounds like a puzzle book.


  2. jacquiwine
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 18:14:38

    I haven’t read Gide, but I am a fan of Mamet, so it’s interesting to see that you’ve compared this book to The Spanish Prisoner. I recall enjoying the film at the time of its release.


  3. Jonathan
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 20:11:17

    I haven’t read any Gide yet but I picked up an old Penguin copy of this one the other day in a charity shop. I hope to read it soon.


  4. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Oct 01, 2014 @ 20:33:45

    I’ve several Gide books on the shelf – and they’ve been there for 30 years or so and I haven’t read them yet (hangs head in shame). I should stop buying new books and read the ones I have!!


  5. Richard
    Oct 02, 2014 @ 01:23:49

    Kaggy makes me feel much better now, Stu, because I’ve had this book at home for several years now without ever having gotten around to doing anything more than browsing through it. Not 30 years or so, though! Like Jacqui, I’m intrigued by the comparison of the scam in Gide’s book with that film by Mamet, which I’ve yet to see. I like Mamet OK, but he often seems super controlling and everything I’ve ever heard about Gide makes him sound like an all over the place but talented non-super controlling wacko!


  6. Amateur Reader (Tom)
    Oct 02, 2014 @ 02:26:08

    That’s just what I was asking, sort of – The Immoralist is a lot closer to “super controlling.”


  7. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Oct 02, 2014 @ 06:01:58

    Looking forward to reading this, a controverisal author in his time, but a Nobel prize winner no less!


  8. MarinaSofia
    Oct 02, 2014 @ 08:06:55

    I read quite a few of Gide’s books a very long time ago – I seem to have gone through a phase when I found him quite exciting (dealing in controversial subjects and sexuality etc. which appealed to the teenager I was then). La Porte etroite was about the crushing of the young spirit by the strait-laced Protestant values somewhere in the North of France, L’Immoraliste, Symphone Pastorale, The Counterfeiters and The School for Wives – all very progressive for their time. It certainly got me thinking…


  9. LaGraziana
    Oct 03, 2014 @ 12:12:58

    I read this one as Lafcadio’s Adventures about a year ago and reviewed the book – as usual quite in detail – on my blog Edith’s Miscellany. It was my first experience with André Gide and a very enjoyable, even amusing one. I’m determined to read also other works of this French author since I like his wit and his irony very much.


  10. Emma
    Oct 12, 2014 @ 18:34:28

    I’ve read The Immoralist and I have The Counterfeiters at home. He’s not a writer I’m attracted to. I’ll try The Counterfeiters before this one.
    It’s nice to see him in a new English translation.


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October 2014


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