Friday, March 11, 2005

Who's Andre Malraux?

I had never heard of Andre Malraux until I saw Jay Nordlinger mention a piece on Malraux by historian David Pryce-Jones.

Knowing Pryce-Jones a bit, I figured it was worth reading. The first paragraph:

Intellectuals by and large disgraced the twentieth century. With rare exceptions, they whored after strange gods, of which the most odious and overwhelming was power. Writers, artists, philosophers, historians, even musicians and architects, enthusiastically committed their talents to the service of one cause or another. This treason of the clerks spread like an epidemic, diminishing the world’s hard-won stock of wisdom and morality, and civilization is still reeling from it.

You know it's gonna be good.

Malraux, as it turns out, was 'probably the most celebrated novelist to emerge between the wars.' He was also an author who blatantly invented meetings with world leaders and his presence at historic events to raise his profile and secure privilege.

What is all too real in the novels is the love of violence and the belief in power. In a scene that sealed his international reputation, he described how Chiang Kai-shek and his men had suppressed revolution in Canton by stuffing Communists into the boilers of railway engines. No such atrocity in fact occurred. Nor had Malraux then visited China, but typically the invention of the novel transmuted into widespread assumption that Malraux was reporting his experience—an assumption he encouraged with some of his habitual dark mutterings.
Politicizing literature and fictionalizing politics, Malraux became a most complete and public representative of the treasonable clerks of the Thirties.
The Soviets gladly enrolled this willing acolyte in their cause. In 1934 he went to Berlin on a mission to plead for Dimitrov of the Comintern, accused of burning down the Reichstag. Hitler refused to meet him, but Malraux later claimed (as usual, falsely) to have met Goebbels. That same year, at a Moscow Writers’ Congress, he was able to declare, “I believe in the Soviet humanism to come, a humanism that is analogous to but not the same as that of Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance period.” The Soviet artist, he thought, was free to do what he wanted...There was virtually no limit to his drivel: “The enormous strength of the Soviet force from the outset is that it is the type of civilization from which Shakespeares emerge.”

Malraux manufactured a meaningless incident into awesome heroics at the end of WWII after spending years happily living in Vichy and later insinuated himself into de Gaulle's good graces.

In the end he was a hopelessly venal man, a 'dealer', according to Pryce-Jones who lusted for limelight and power who cared nothing for the truth and did a lot of damage influencing the feeble-brained by romanticizing totalitarianism. And for this Malraux has been buried in the Pantheon, the stately national mausoleum where France honors its great dead.

May his generation never come again.

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