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Reviewed by:
  • Witnessing André Malraux: Visions and Re-Visions, and: Intimate Memoirs, Including Marie-Jo's Book
  • Verena Andermatt Conley
Brian Thompson and Carl A. Viggiani , eds. Witnessing André Malraux: Visions and Re-Visions. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1984. 226 pp. $32.50.
Georges Simenon . Intimate Memoirs, Including Marie-Jo's Book. Trans. Harold J. Salemson. San Diego: Harcourt, 1984. 815 pp. $22.95.

"The key to my entire effort is questioning considered as a value in and of itself," said Malraux in an interview in L'Herne. Fourteen new essays, in honor of W. Frohock, one of the first scholars to introduce Malraux to America, often question the latter's very questioning, be it that of his Hegelian stance or of his excess through poetry. The essays approach Malraux across various ideologies and methodologies, concerning themselves mainly with problems of politics, history, [End Page 832] literary history, and writing.

Many essays refer implicitly or explicitly to W. Frohock. Norman Rudich contrasts two critical methods, Goldmann's and Frohock's, the former seeing art as a product of social relations and environment, the latter having art originate from an imminent source in the human heart. Attempting to link the two methods, Rudich concludes, perhaps somewhat hastily, that by examining the dialectic of the alienated individual who discovers in the politics of revolution the collective purpose that gives meaning to life and death, Malraux's creations, or aesthetic realizations, reproduce the most profound drama of our century. Thus, from the beginning of the volume, Malraux is cast both as pertaining to the dramatic and as someone mirroring and attempting to solve the major intellectual, political, and aesthetic conflicts of the twentieth century.

Several essays deal with Malraux's visions and his notion of the tragic. Mary M. Rowan, in "Asia out of Focus: Decoding Malraux's Orient," contends that Malraux's portrait of Asia depends on technical innovations drawn from cinema and is really based on an interior vision. Sergio Villani retraces the importance of the revolutionary character Saint Juste in Malraux's writings. Bert M. P. Leefmans discusses Malraux's notion of tragedy as linked to the Western concept of rise and destruction, death and rebirth. Taking as his point of departure a review of Faulkner by Malraux, Haskell M. Block distinguishes the difference in the tragic between the two writers: for him, Faulkner's nihilism is far from Malraux's tragic human dignity, which perhaps ought to be linked to narcissism.

Historical comparisons are made by Mary Jean Green in "Malraux's Sartre: Dialogue on the Far Side of Despair." She convincingly argues for what she sees as a chiastic development of the two thinkers: Malraux engages in politics before the war, during a time when Sartre is still apolitical, whereas in the postwar period the paradigm is reversed. Also, in the vein of literary history, Carl A. Viggiani compellingly casts Camus's difficult relationship with Malraux (who had helped Camus publish L'Etranger) in terms of a father/son or master/disciple problematic.

Walter Langlois's essay is the first of three dealing with L'Espoir. Langlois gives a detailed account of the political and historical activities that set the background for the novel. More paradoxical aspects of L'Espoir are disengaged by Nicholas Hewitt in "Authoritarianism and Esthetics." Hewitt contends that Malraux is much more concerned with the amoral, apolitical, metaphysical quest of the authoritarian adventurer-hero than with collective struggle. Similarly, in "L'Espoir and Stalinism," Robert Syre argues that the real Spanish revolution, a revolution led by the peasants, is overlooked by Malraux, who opts to support directly the "established" government of the Republic. In so doing, Syre shows, Malraux actually opted for authoritarianism over real populism. For Malraux, collective heroism in the abstract replaces the real political scene.

In an excellent article, Susan Suleiman writes about the position of women in Malraux's novels. Women are represented more as "figurantes" than as "figures." They give support to the adventurer-hero; it is through his erotic encounters that the latter acquires a sense of self-possession and the illusion of mastery. Even if Malraux does not identify with the extremist position of some of his heroes...


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