André Malraux

André Malraux: Towards the Expression of Transcendence

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    André Malraux
    Book Description:

    The two principal axes of inquiry are Malraux's ongoing quest for a dimension of transcendence within human life and, at lest as compelling, his search for the most appropriate and effective means by which to express a changing awareness of just what that dimension might be.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6107-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-5)

    However self-accusatory an explanation may traditionally be considered, I shall nevertheless begin with one. For it may obviate some potential admonishment if I admit from the outset that the justification for the fragmented format of this volume in fact derives in the first instance from Malraux himself. In the essay “Néocritique” which he attached to Martine de Courcel’sMalraux: être et dire, Malraux posited the emergence of a new literary genre – the colloquium. Such a development would be the necessary and inevitable corollary of a modification in our situation in the world, in our perception of time and space....

  5. CHAPTER ONE On “Le Miroir des limbes”
    (pp. 6-12)

    After some nine years of fragmented publication in individual volumes, and after a considerable amount of modification of those earlier versions, the definitive edition of the monumentalMiroir des limbesfinally appeared in 1976. Critical reception was not entirely favourable: “Des méditations sibyllines, des divagations pythagoriciennes, des révélations d’hypothèses enfantines… Que tout cela est allégorique, ténébreux, confus, démesuré!”² Although these words are in fact taken from a review of Victor Hugo’sLégende des siècles, which appeared inLe Journal des débatsover a century ago, they were pointedly revived by one reader of Malraux to characterize public comment onLe...

  6. CHAPTER TWO On the Present Tense
    (pp. 13-19)

    Although it is not particularly original to observe that the large majority of Malraux studies have concerned themselves primarily with his vision of the world – be it spiritual, social, or political – such an observation should perhaps disturb us more than it seems to. For Malraux, from his very first appearance on the literary and cultural scene, continuously demonstrated an intense preoccupation with art, with style, and with structure. More specifically, he chose from the outset to be novelist rather than philosopher. Rare indeed, however, are those as acutely perceptive as Julien Green, who noted laconically in the first...

  7. CHAPTER THREE On Eroticism
    (pp. 20-26)

    In 1933 André Malraux was awarded the Prix Goncourt for a novel,La Condition humaine, in which a major theme – possiblythetheme which reverberates most widely throughout the novel, essentially in Ferral, Valérie, and Clappique, but also metaphorically in Tchen and reflectively in Gisors – is that of eroticism. In fact, so powerful was the compulsion to communicate themeaningfulnature of the erotic act that Malraux was at pains to eliminate one chapter concerning Clappique, subsequently published separately in the periodicalMarianne,¹ probably in part because its voyeuristic overtones were too facile and callow for his purpose....

  8. CHAPTER FOUR On Free Indirect Style
    (pp. 27-31)

    Malraux’s commitment to the realization of the illusion of immediacy in his novels has already been investigated in an earlier chapter with regard to the present tense. Although, as we have seen, that particular device, utilized throughoutLes Conquérants, is continued in intermittent form thereafter, Malraux also exploits to the same end, and with considerable effect, a further device, that of free indirect style.

    Free indirect style avoids many of the restrictions and pitfalls of the somewhat cruder devices of present tense and first person narratives, but retains for the reader the advantages of virtually direct access to a character’s...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE On the Comic
    (pp. 32-40)

    It seems reasonable to contend that any diachronic consideration of Malraux’s comic substance must in some way take as its starting point a concern for the term “farfelu.” Commentators have often pointed out the consistency with which the term recurs from the first texts to the last, but it may well be that many have been insensitive to its re-evaluation at different periods in Malraux’s itinerary. What I shall attempt to do in the pages that follow, having extracted from Malraux’s own etymological indications relating to the word “farfelu” two key reference points, is, quite simply, to monitor and interpret...

  10. CHAPTER SIX On Tibetan Symbolism
    (pp. 41-47)

    In the half-light of a Shanghai bedroom, a man slowly approaches a naked Chinese prostitute. As he lowers himself towards her, his eye glimpses, momentarily, on the wall, a Tibetan painting representing two skeletons locked in an embrace. Fleeting, but so provocative, this curious little scene taken from Malraux’sLa Condition humaineseems to have gone largely unnoticed by critics and has never elicited to my knowledge an analysis of any depth. At best, readers point cursorily to the passage’s prophetically morbid quality, the lack of genuine contact, the very mortal reality that the flesh momentarily couches. And yet it...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN On the Renunciation of the Novel
    (pp. 48-59)

    As already observed in earlier chapters, the emphatic tone of the above exergual statement is repeated on other occasions by Malraux, as he insists on the vital importance for him of achieving immediacy in a novel:

    On peut analyser la mise en scène d’un grand romancier. Que son objet soit le récit de faits, la peinture ou l’analyse de caractères, voire une interrogation sur le sens de la vie; que son talent tende à une prolifération, comme celui de Proust, ou à une cristallisation, comme celui de Hemingway, il est amené à raconter – c’est-à-dire à rendre présent.²

    Indeed, right...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT On “Sierra de Teruel”
    (pp. 60-65)

    In an interview with Michel Droit in 1967, at the time of the publication of theAntimémoires, the first volume ofLe Miroir des limbes, Malraux insisted: “je suis très intéressé par la forme même desAntimémoires. En définitive, je n’ai jamais écrit un roman pour écrire un roman. J’ai poursuivi une sorte de méditation ininterrompue qui a pris des formes successives, dont celle des romans.”² He then went on to emphasize that the work was supported by “une architecture intérieure extrêmement forte.”³ Since the definitive publication ofLe Miroir des limbesin its entirety, the elements of that architecture...

  13. CHAPTER NINE On Feline Forms
    (pp. 66-72)

    “Est-il fée, est-il dieu?”¹ mused Baudelaire about that mysterious creature who/which is to be my central preoccupation through the pages which follow, insisting, as have so many others, on the multifacetedinsaisissablequality which seems above all to typify the representatives of that particular species. And it is textual investigation across Malraux’s writings of this same chameleon-like ability of the cat to take on very different avatars which brings one to posit an important and fundamental evolution in that writer’s vision of the world.

    There is no doubt that in terms of longevity the cat or felid, with a fossil...

  14. CHAPTER TEN On Death and Dying
    (pp. 73-81)

    In an invertebrate Godless world, such as that envisioned by many writers of this century, death has become both terribly final and dreadfully present. However, few authors have focused quite so unrelentingly on the subject as André Malraux in his unflinching novelistic quest for some new and positive value with which to confront the anguish of the Absurd.

    Indeed, even beyond his writings and reflections, Malraux’s own life seems to project increasingly a tragic ongoing encounter with the patent mortality of those he knew and often loved. The violent death of his grandfather, his father’s suicide, the fatal accident to...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN On Oratory
    (pp. 82-98)

    Rhetoric and oratory, the art of using words effectively and the practice of that art in public speech, are associated notions that have undergone a strange change in destiny since the halcyon days of Antiquity. In ancient Greece and Rome “chairs” in these disciplines were necessarily endowed in all large cities and their most eminent holders were celebrated unreservedly. Indeed, despite the gradual move away from elevated expression towards more common speech noted by historians of the subject, rhetoric remained a fundamental principle of education in most of Western Europe until well into the nineteenth century. It may even be...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 99-102)

    It is relatively banal to observe in general terms that creative art in the twentieth century poses more questions than it answers. But such a statement does nevertheless offer very real illumination when it is applied to the writings of André Malraux; for, in his work, increasingly, as his early concerns for immediacy are better integrated, particularly in the light of theSierra de Teruelexperience, an interrogative mode is fashioned to inform with ever greater coherence an interrogative exploration of the nature of transcendence in a dreadfully human twentieth century.

    Of course, Malraux himself recognizes clearly the fundamentally disruptive...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 103-114)
  18. Index
    (pp. 115-117)