- Dictionnaire André Malraux ed. par Jean-Claude Larrat
Weighing in at over 1200 pages and formatted in two columns per page, with the text in nine-point characters, it is clear that the production costs of this volume were a greater consideration for the publisher than the user-friendly nature of the product. These physical limitations aside, some of the entries dealing with specific works by Malraux provide a valuable intellectual framework for undergraduate students to develop their analyses of the texts. The essay on La Tentation de l’Occident, for example, provides a lucid overview of [End Page 618] the binary oppositions that lie at the heart of the text and that would feature, in one form or another, in Malraux’s subsequent works: East versus West; otium versus negotium; the individual versus the collective. This succinct and critical appraisal of the text is no doubt aided by its brief epistolary form. Such an approach is rather less successful when it comes to the treatment of a sprawling narrative such as L’Espoir. In this case the brevity of the entry on the novel itself is compensated by the fact that there are supporting entries, such as those on the conflict depicted, the geography, key themes, and major fictional characters. This is, however, where the limitations of this kind of format become apparent. Having to flick from one part of this substantial tome to another in pursuit of a coherent perspective on something like a major text, simply underlines the unrealistic nature of such an ambition, especially as the many entries on a major work may be written by a variety of contributors. As the editor himself acknowledges (rather optimistically), once the responsibilities for the entries had been determined, the contributors were free to bring their own views to bear on Malraux’s life and work, thus leaving it to the reader to establish a dialogue between the various contributions on cognate issues. One of the positive aspects of this project, however, is the fact that the editor has recruited contributors from within a new generation of Malraux scholars, and from institutions around the globe, whose contributions are written with verve and a healthy disregard for the orthodoxies of established Malraux criticism. Given the universalist nature of Malraux’s concerns, it is inevitable that sooner or later some of his utterances will connect with the preoccupations of the day. The entry on Islam is one of the longest and provides a commendably nuanced appraisal of Malraux’s sensitivity to Islam: his anxiety concerning its potential as an ideology and his admiration for it as a source of spirituality and artistic creation. Other entries, such as those dealing with the arcana of the publishing world of Malraux’s youth, will interest only the most diehard of Malraux scholars. But, as those who have taught on Malraux will appreciate, this dictionary will be a particularly useful tool for those undergraduates grappling with his novels of revolution.