“The world has become like the world in my books,” wrote Andre Malraux. The 30s of the XX century were the time of global upheaval and change in Western society. The world was perceived as absurd, and the fate of man as random and nonsensical. Inspired by new literary styles, Andre Malraux turned to existential themes and mythology much earlier than other writers. Many of them, including Camus, called him their teacher. In his novels, Malraux described life as the constant risk, struggle, and suffering of human spirituality, or the revolution of existence, where wars and upsprings engulfed society. The magic of his prose is in the blend of absurd, the search for Absolute Happiness, and realism.
Some of Malraux’s heroes were true believers of God — death for them is not the end of everything but the beginning of living; others, instead, inclined to the pure materialist position and denied the soul’s existence. What is the use of soul if there is no God? Analyzing these two roads, Malraux argues that the absence of a goal in life liberates action. This is because if there is nothing, then you can encroach on everything (the so-called “temptation of Lucifer”: if a person is an empty shell, he has nothing to lose).
I seek the crucial region of the soul where absolute Evil and fraternity clash.
However, there are many ways to put your life at stake, many forms of risk. Young Malraux chose the path of exploration, knowledge, and art, leaving school at 17 and never enrolling in college for further education. Despite this, he became one of France’s most respected intellectuals and art historians. He studied Oriental languages and spent some time traveling Asia, where he founded a newspaper for youth. Malraux went to Spain in 1937, where he joined the forces fighting the fascist regime — not because he believed in the course; he was never a fighter (though he served in a tank unit). He loved Nietzsche, Pascal, Sartre, and Camus, but Marxist ideas have always been alien to him. Still, he fought for France, for his country and people. Gestapo captured Malraux in 1944, and even though he underwent a mock execution, he was still alive when members of the resistance rescued him. After that, he worked with Charles de Gaulle and became the Minister of Cultural Affairs.
What a crazy springboard of life!
What a rotation of fate!
Life is nothing more than a stone which is thrown into the ocean, but if you know this, you put the trajectory at stake.
His curiosity with the ideas of Blaise Pascal emerged in statements about death, which Malraux gladly shared through his books, endowing his heroes with words such as: “Imagine millions of people chained and sentenced to death, some of whom are killed every day in front of the rest so that those who remain alive could see the destiny of their own kind… This is the image of our living.” And this is also the essence of the absurdity because death is irrefutable proof of the absurdity of life.
Perhaps that’s why all of Malraux’s heroes were busy looking for the special kind of grail: Absolute Happiness. Something, a thing or idea, perfect in itself and irresistible, which can be grasped only by the hesitant and transient individual. As soon as God was dead, people were left with revolution being their only hope. But they still had to believe in the ideas of revolution, while many of them didn’t believe in anything. The opium of pure action — the war in vain — was temporarily replaced by the Marxist faith, before this, in turn, also faded away. The reconciliation with history (after the war) offered a more beautiful path, another method of liberation from the world of absurdity, and Malraux chose it. Culture and art became his salvation. Andre Malraux explained it so: “History tends to transform fate into consciousness, and art into freedom. That means art, with a tremor of an elderly hand, will take revenge on the painful and absurd world, forcing it to immortality.”
…Men are perhaps indifferent to power. What fascinates them in this idea, you see, is not real power; it’s an illusion of being able to do exactly as they please. The king’s power is the power to govern, isn’t it? But man has no urge to govern — he has an urge to compel, as you said. To be more than a man in a world of men. To escape man’s fate, I was saying. Not powerful, but all-powerful. The visionary disease, of which the will to power is only the intellectual justification, is the will to Godhead – every man dreams of being God. — from Man’s Fate.
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