Gide was born in Paris, France on November 22, 1869. His father was a Paris University professor of law and died 1880. His uncle was the political economist Charles Gide. Gide was brought up in isolated conditions in Normandy and became a prolific writer at an early age. In 1895, after his mother's death, he married his cousin Madeleine Rondeaux but the marriage remained unconsummated.
In 1891 Gide published his first novel, Les Cahiers d'Andre Walter. From 1893-94 Gide traveled in northern Africa. He befriended Oscar Wilde in Algiers and later began to recognize his homosexual orientation. In 1896 he was mayor of a commune in Normandy.
In 1908 Gide helped found the literary magazine Nouvelle Revue française (The New French Review).
In the 1920s Gide became a inspiration for writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1923 he published a book on Fyodor Dostoyevsky; however, when he defended homosexuality in the public edition of Corydon (1924) he received widespread condemnation. He later considered this his most important work.
In 1923 he conceived a daughter named Catherine with another woman, Maria Van Rysselberghe. His wife Madeleine died in 1938. Later he used the background of his unconsummated marriage in his novel Et Nuck Manet in Te (1951).
After 1925 he began to demand more humane conditions for criminals. From 1925-26 he was a special envoy for the colonial ministry. In 1926 he published an autobiography, Si le grain ne meurt and journeyed to the Congo with his friend Marc Allegret. They returned 1927. In his report he criticized the behavior of French business interests in the Congo and inspired reform.
During the 1930s he briefly became a communist, but became disillusioned after his visit to Soviet Union. His criticism of communism caused him to lose many of his socialist friends, especially when he made a clean break with it in Retour de L'U.S.S. in 1936.