Malraux, André

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Malraux, André

Malraux, André (äNdrāˈ mälrōˈ), 1901–76, French man of letters and political figure. An intellectual with a broad knowledge of archaeology, art history, and anthropology, Malraux led a remarkably adventurous life. He traveled to Indochina looking for Khmer statuary and later visited such locales as Russia, Persia, Afghanistan, Burma, Malaysia, and the United States. He witnessed the struggle in China (1927) between the Communists and Nationalists, described in his novel The Conquerors (1928), helped to organize the Republican air force and commanded a squadron of volunteers in the Spanish civil war, and was a founder of the World League against Anti-Semitism. A French tank commander during World War II, he was captured by the Germans but escaped and became a resistance leader. Malraux served (1945, 1958) as minister of information under Charles de Gaulle. An enthusiastic adherent of de Gaulle, Malraux was later (1959–68) his minister of cultural affairs; as such he was largely responsible for the restoration of many Parisian landmarks, the establishment of the Orchestre de Paris, the funding of various literary works, and the creation of regional art centers. His writings on de Gaulle include Fallen Oaks (1971, tr. 1972).

Malraux's outstanding social novels, which reflect the tumult of his time, include La Condition humaine (1933; tr. Man's Fate, 1934), concerning the Shanghai uprisings, and L'Espoir (1938; tr. Man's Hope, 1938), set in Spain during the civil war. Amid violence and political chaos, his heroes struggle to maintain their dignity and humanity. Among his writings on art and civilization are Les Voix du silence (1951; tr. The Voices of Silence, 1953); The Metamorphosis of the Gods (tr. 1960), drawn from several of his works, including Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale (3 vol., 1953–54); and Le Triangle noir (1970), studies of Goya, Laclos, and Saint-Just. In these works Malraux portrays art as an outgrowth of past art rather than a reaction to contemporary stimuli.


See his Anti-memoirs (1967, tr. 1968); memoir by C. Malraux (1967); biographies by R. Payne (1970), P. Galante (1971), J. Lacouture (1973, tr. 1976), C. Cate (1997), and O. Todd (2001, tr. 2005); studies by V. M. Horvath (1969), T. J. Kline (1973), W. M. Frohock (1974), H. Bloom, ed. (1988), G. T. Harris (1996), and J. F. Lyotard (2001).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Malraux, André


Born Nov. 3, 1901, in Paris; died Nov. 23, 1976. French writer and political figure.

The son of the director of a Parisian agency of an American bank, Malraux studied at the Institute of Oriental Languages in Paris. His first literary efforts (for example, Paper Moons, 1921) brought him success in avant-garde circles. Between 1923 and 1927 he made several trips to Southeast Asia, during which he became friendly with Chinese revolutionaries. His Asian travels nurtured Malraux’s reflections on the crisis of Western civilization in the 20th century (the essay “The Temptation of the West,” 1926, and “To the Youth of Europe,” 1927). They also provided the material for his first novels (The Conquerors, 1928; The Royal Way, 1930; and Man’s Fate, 1933).

Although he was an active participant in the international movement of the 1930’s that defended culture against fascism, Malraux shared neither the philosophy of Marxism nor the ideology of the communists with whom he worked. In 1935 he dedicated the novella Days of Wrath (Russian translation, 1935) to the courage of those incarcerated in Hitler’s prisons. During the national revolutionary war in Spain (1936-39), Malraux, in whose lyrical reportage (Man’s Hope, 1937; Russian translation, 1939) the war’s first year is memorably described, commanded a squadron of foreign volunteer pilots fighting on the side of the republic. He was taken prisoner in 1940, after France’s defeat in World War II. In 1943 he joined the Resistance Movement, leading a partisan unit that was soon turned into an army brigade.

Malraux’s retreat from revolutionary humanism, the first signs of which appeared around the late 1930’s and which was expressed indirectly in the novel-essay The Walnut Trees of Altenburg (1943), became complete in 1948 with the speech “Address to the Intellectuals,” a manifesto of the “cold war” in culture. After serving as a member of De Gaulle’s first government (1944-46), Malraux directed the propaganda services of the Gaullist party. From 1959 to 1969 he was minister of culture. During this period he was no longer active as a writer, although he did publish many works on the philosophy of art (for example, The Voices of Silence, 1953), as well as memoirs (Anti-Memoirs, 1967, and Felled Oaks, 1971).

Having borrowed a great deal from Pascal, Nietzsche, and Spengler, Malraux in turn anticipated to a great degree the quests of the French existentialists J.-P. Sartre and A. Camus. His heroes endeavor to find the meaning of life first by testing themselves in solitary undertakings, then in revolutionary brotherhood with the oppressed and those who rebel against their fate. In the final analysis, however, Malraux’s heroes repudiate efforts to remake society and set their hopes on art, which is interpreted in the writer’s later works as compensation for lost faith in the divine. Despite the failure to form an ideology and the tragic metaphysics that mark all of his books, Malraux is among the recognized masters of 20th-century French literature because of such great works as Man ’5 Fate and Man’s Hope.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.