«It would no doubt be of little purpose to dwell on my regrets at not being able to be present on this solemn occasion nor to have my own voice bear witness to my gratitude, compelled as I am to forgo a trip that promised to be both pleasant and instructive.
I have, as you know, always declined honours, at least those which as a Frenchman I could expect from France. I confess, gentlemen, that it is with a sense of giddiness that I suddenly receive from you the highest honour to which a writer can aspire. For many years I thought that I was crying in the wilderness, later that I was speaking only to a very small number, but you have proved to me today that I was right to believe in the virtue of the small number and that sooner or later it would prevail.
It seems to me, gentlemen, that your votes were cast not so much for my work as for the independent spirit that animates it, that spirit which in our time faces attacks from all possible quarters. That you have recognized it in me, that you have felt the need to approve and support it, fills me with confidence and an intimate satisfaction. I cannot help thinking, however, that only recently another man in France represented this spirit even better than I do. I am thinking of Paul Valéry, for whom my admiration has steadily grown during a friendship of half a century and whose death alone prevents you from electing him in my place. I have often said with what friendly deference I have constantly and without weakness bowed to his genius, before which I have always felt ‹human, only too human›. May his memory be present at this ceremony, which in my eyes takes on all the more brilliance as the darkness deepens. You invite the free spirit to triumph and through this signal award, given without regard for frontiers or the momentary dissensions of factions, you offer to this spirit the unexpected chance of extraordinary radiance.»
Prior to the speech, Arne Tiselius, Deputy Chairman of the Nobel Foundation, made the following comment: «Unfortunately, Mr. André Gide, due to ill health, has had to give up his original intention to attend the ceremonies. We regret this, indeed, and would like to extend our reverence and our sympathy to the venerable master of French literature whose genius has so profoundly influenced our time.»