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Andre Malraux

Biography

  • Malraux was born in Paris in 1901, the son of Fernand-Georges Malraux and Berthe Lamy
  • During the 1930s, Malraux was active in the anti-fascist Popular Front in France. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War he joined the Republican forces in Spain, serving in and helping to organize the small Spanish Republican Air Force. His Squadron España, became something of a legend after his claims of nearly annihilating part of the Nationalist army at Medellín.
  • At the beginning of the Second World War, Malraux joined the French Army. He was captured in 1940 during the Battle of France, but he escaped and later joined the French Resistance. In 1944 he was captured by the Gestapo. He later commanded the tank unit Brigade Alsace-Lorraine in defence of Strasbourg and in the attack on Stuttgart.
  • After the war, he served in a series of high-level government jobs in France.
  • Some have suggested that Malraux may have invented some of his biography. According to the New York Times, “He had a formidable capacity for mixing up the real, whatever that is, the desirable, the probable, the possible and the imaginary,” said Olivier Todd, author of “Andre Malraux,” a revealing new biography that chronicles not only the minor lies, the name-dropping, the self-aggrandizement, but also the more troubling holes in Malraux’s story, notably his dubious Resistance activities, which won him apparently undeserved glory and medals.
  • Malraux died in Créteil, near Paris, on 23 November 1976.
  • He is best known for La Condition Humaine (Man’s Fate) in 1933.

Man’s Fate

  • A major argument advanced by Malraux is the conflict between “man’s fate” versus choosing one’s own meaning. Malraux was heavily influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Each of the main characters serves as a meditation on the relationship between being controled by both external circumstances or internal psychological compulsions on the one hand, and freely choosing one’s actions.
  • Charles Glicksberg wrote that “Malraux introduces Existentialist heroes who … suffer intensely from the malady of alienation…. For them God is dead. Alone with themselves, shut up within the cell of their own ego[s], they face a universe that is without a glimmer of ultimate meaning…. It is despair that drives them to revolt and it is despair that defeats them. But though they are dragged under in the end, their revolt grants them a moment of vision that presents a victory, however brief, of the human spirit.”

Art

  • The answer to an uncaring universe is the creation of art.
  • Malraux stated that all art is a revolt against man’s fate, and art is a means of transcendence. “Art,” he once said, “is an anti-destiny.”
  • Malraux embraced the absurd, but believed that art provided the opportunity for humans to exalt and create themselves.
    • “A man becomes truly Man only when in quest of what is most exalted in him. True arts and cultures relate Man to duration, sometimes to eternity and make of him something other than the most favored denizen of a universe founded on absurdity.”
  • Malraux wrote, “The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that, from our very prison, we should draw from our own selves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.”
  • Art= the chance to express our humanity and to find personal sense of truth.
  • What is art?
    • self-expression of an idea, concept, emotion
    • deliberate
    • a communication of the self
    • ambiguous, with multiple possible interpretations and reactions
  • Malraux’s tragic realization affirms the autonomy of art, the created work as the sovereign source of meaning. But the void the writer encounters and wrestles with is never conquered; struggle as he may, he cannot, like his imaginary creations, rise above the phenomenal world that screens the absolute.
  • Henry Peyre writes “Malraux’s criterion for a great work, to which he has himself frantically tried to live up, is Nietzschean: a work is great through its ability incessantly to question the validity of the world, par son aptitude à remettre le monde en question….”