Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Manuel (mahn-WEHL), a sound engineer in the film industry when the novel opens. He is a handsome, jovial, and idealistic young man whose political convictions have led him to join the Communist Party. When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, he becomes a soldier in the Republican army, and because of his leadership qualities, he quickly climbs through the ranks to become a high-ranking officer. Generous and outgoing at the outset of the novel, Manuel becomes increasingly detached as the realities of command force him to make brutal and occasionally inhuman decisions in the name of efficiency. An able and courageous commander at the novel’s end, he has lost some of his humanity.

Colonel Magnin

Colonel Magnin (mah-NYEEN), a French aviator, volunteer for the Spanish Republic, and head of the Republic’s International Squadron. Tall, mustachioed, and philosophical by nature, Magnin is a shrewd observer of people and an excellent judge of character. He combines a passion for flying with an idealistic devotion to the cause of the Republic and the principles of individual liberty and social justice for which it stands. Although it is his responsibility to mold a motley assortment of foreign volunteers and mercenaries into an effective fighting force, he is skeptical of those like the communists who are obsessed with discipline.


Garcia (gahr-SEE-ah), the head of the Spanish intelligence service. He is a corpulent, robust, and good-natured man who, in Magnin’s view, gives the impression of being a wealthy landowner. An anthropologist before the war and a famous intellectual, Garcia is a man of extraordinary culture and learning. As the author’s principal mouthpiece within the novel, Garcia provides an overview of the meaning of the struggle, analyzes the role of the intellectual in revolutionary politics, and addresses with great insight the metaphysical and moral quandaries inevitably brought by war.

Captain Hernandez

Captain Hernandez (ehr-NAHN-dehs), a career army officer who...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although there are dozens of characters in this epic novel, Manuel may be seen as its protagonist. In fact, the book could be read as Manuel’s Bildungsroman, showing his transformation from a rather irresponsible and playboyish sound technician into a lieutenant colonel in nine months’ time. In Manuel, the reader watches an individual’s love of adventure deepen into an appreciation of fraternity in communal risk-taking and turn into a realization that structure and organization are essential for military and political victory. Malraux also uses Manuel’s development to illustrate the potential loss of humanistic values that may accompany the gain in ability to act efficiently. Manuel himself is acutely aware of this problem. He himself overcomes the virtuous scruples of a woman whom he has loved for several years and efficiently seduces her, but finds that he can no longer feel for her. Again, after he court-martials some deserters and sends them to a firing squad, Manuel loses his voice. Thus Malraux explores some excruciating problems attendant upon the evolution of a character from carefree artist to efficient military commander.

Magnin, too, is a prominent character, present in many scenes of the book. Superficially, he could be thought of as a projection of Malraux himself. Nevertheless, although intelligent and aware, Magnin is not so deeply troubled as are Manuel and several of the other characters. Magnin is generally cheerful, practical,...

(The entire section is 427 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Boak, Denis. André Malraux, 1968.

Chua, Cheng Lok. “Nature and Art in the Aesthetics of Malraux’s L’Espoir,” in Symposium. XXVI (1972), pp. 114-127.

Frohock, Wilbur Merrill. André Malraux and the Tragic Imagination, 1952.

Horvath, Violet. André Malraux: The Human Adventure, 1969.

Thompson, Brian, and Carl Viggiani, eds. Witnessing André Malraux: Visions and Re-visions, 1984.