André Malraux Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111206373-Malraux.jpg André Malraux Published by Salem Press, Inc.

In 1921, André Malraux (mal-ROH) published the fictional text Lunes en papier, a Surrealist composition. In addition to his novels, Malraux wrote several books on art, the most significant of which is the three-volume La Psychologie de l’art (1947-1950; The Psychology of Art, 1949-1950). Other volumes on art include Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale (1952-1954, 3 volumes) and La Métamorphose des dieux (1976, 3 volumes). Malraux wrote two significant essays on painters: Saturne: Essai sur Goya (1950; Saturn: An Essay on Goya, 1957) and La Tête d’obsidienne (1974; Picasso’s Mask, 1976), published as the third volume of Le Miroir des limbes (1976). The latter work also contains meditations unrelated to art, notably what Malraux has called his Antimémoires (1967; Anti-Memoires, 1968) and Les Chênes qu’on abat (1971; Felled Oaks: Conversation with de Gaulle, 1972), a tribute to the memory of Charles de Gaulle.

At the end of his writing career, Malraux wrote L’Homme précaire et la littérature (precarious man and literature), a critical work in which he reevaluated the evolution of literature. This volume was published posthumously in 1977.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

André Malraux is known principally for his novels rather than for his writings on art. In all of his books and essays, however, Malraux’s composition is bold and extremely dense. His style frequently reaches epic dimensions and is often characterized by an abrupt journalistic form. Whereas Malraux’s works on art have been given a lukewarm reception, his novels, from the beginning, have elicited the enthusiasm of readers and critics alike. General recognition of his literary genius came with Malraux’s third novel, Man’s Fate, awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1933 and considered a masterpiece.

Despite early critical acclaim, however, Malraux’s fictional works were not interpreted in the same way during the ten to twenty years after their publication as they are today. Man’s Fate, translated in England in 1934 as Storm in Shanghai, was at first taken to be a political thriller based on the Chinese Revolution. The Conquerors also was misunderstood, perhaps because of its journalistic style. Originally seen to be more truth than fiction, it was interpreted as a kind of documentary on the 1925 Canton uprising, which eventually was to lead to the 1927 Shanghai massacre of China’s Communists by Chiang Kai-shek. Malraux was suspected of taking sides in the Communist-capitalist struggle he portrayed. Today, critics generally agree that the political fanaticism of Malraux’s heroes should be seen in a different light.

Malraux’s novels, including Man’s Hope—based on the Spanish Civil War, in which Malraux himself actively participated—are not vehicles for political ideology. Indeed, the realistic political struggle portrayed in his fiction is now viewed as only a backdrop for the metaphysical conflict confronting Malraux’s characters. In short, Malraux’s portrayal of humankind is what is most valued by serious readers; this compelling picture calls up questions that critics and thinkers will continue to ponder.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. André Malraux. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Essays on Malraux’s major novels, on Malraux and his critics, on his creation of a Bolshevik hero, on his philosophy of art, and on his treatment of violence and of Asian man. Includes introduction, chronology, and bibliography.

Cate, Curtis. André Malraux: A Biography. New York: Fromm International, 1995. A solid, scholarly effort. See the helpful preface in which Cate assesses previous biographies. Includes detailed notes and bibliography.

De Courcel, Martine, ed. Malraux: Life and Work. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976. Divided into sections on Malraux’s life and work. The first section includes essays on his early novels and his experience in Indochina and in Spain. The second section explores Malraux’s “unity of purpose through art and action,” the myth he established of himself as a writer, and his philosophy and creative process. With a chronology, notes, and bibliography.

Harris, Geoffrey T. André Malraux: A Reassessment. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. A good, updated look at Malraux’s works. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Harris, Geoffrey T. André Malraux: Across Boundaries. Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000. Focuses on the slippage between genres that...

(The entire section is 429 words.)