Malraux, (Georges-)André (Vol. 15)
Malraux, (Georges-)André 1901–1976
A French novelist and critic, Malraux unceasingly pursued the possibility of the individual's transcendence over mortality, triumph over silence and death, and subsequent ennoblement. He viewed Art as an integral part of humanity's dynamic search for absolutes. His fiercely intelligent novels of ideas are considered among the world's most important contemporary works. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 4, 9, 13, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-22; obituary, Vols. 69-72; Contemporary Authors Permanent Series, Vol. 2.)
Behind the many masks of eroticism and heroism—whether he seems momentarily to express Communist or Gaullist ideology, whether he chooses the novel or the essay as his means of expression—Malraux (perhaps like most great writers) has reiterated only one point under the most diverse forms: the absolute impossibility for any individual to communicate with any other, even with those who belong to the same group….
The book in which this message, the inexorability of human solitude, appears most clearly—and which is also the most successful of his novels—is without a doubt La Condition Humaine. (p. 117)
Malraux's fictionally individualized characters are nomads, like islands separated by uncrossable abysses; even when their will is not … driven to affirm itself against everything else and to emphasize its distinction, they never succeed in meeting except for brief moments and usually derisively….
In La Condition Humaine, the incommunicability between men reappears at every level, in every form, as an obsessive certitude, the only one there is, along with death, of which it is doubtless the epiphany. Men are fundamentally separated one from the other by being distinct individuals. But this enormous misunderstanding reappears between human groupings and the forms of life they incarnate: the Communists, Ferral's consortium, and the Kuomintang are irreconcilable, not only on the...
(The entire section is 2537 words.)
T. Jefferson Kline
[Malraux] has founded the Human in a rigorous geometry of differences. Whereas animals appear to ignore their impending death or to accept it as part of a larger natural process of continuity, Man posits his identity on the knowledge of his death as a radical rupture of his own continuity. Man is a consciousness of pure opposition to death or destin, and thus the activities which define him are termed anti-destin. Traditionally Malraux's novelistic evolution has been seen as a long and increasingly successful quest for authentic values which would serve as such an anti-destin. His early essays and novels make it clear that traditional Western social organizations are themselves incapable of providing authentic values, are simply absurd. Malraux's protagonists from Garine to Berger pursue an increasingly elusive ideal; they move from adventurous cynicism through Marxist idealism to a socratic pessimism and finally to contemplative resignation. Yet it is precisely when a peaceful sense of contemplation replaces a frustrated active idealism that Malraux's novelistic universe fails. However satisfying philosophically, Berger's contemplation of a new, yet ageless man comfortably ensconced in a life-and-death cycle fails as a novel. Les Noyers has been cast by its author into an enfer, stricken from the happy register of his official Oeuvres complètes.
Why should so apparently satisfying a...
(The entire section is 1431 words.)