Saturday, January 8, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 10 (Andre Malraux)


Man's Fate
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Malraux, Andre
Man's Fate


Purchased at the Fordham University Bookstore for a course called The Individual vs. the Institution. According to a red stamp on the inner cover, I bought it in 1990 for $7.95. Seems expensive for a paper back at that time, but what do I know. The academic book market is quite a racket. Not quite the racket that higher education has become, but certainly an aider and abettor.

I am trying to imagine someone trying to write a book in 2011 with a title like this. C'est impossible, je pense. You might be able to pull it off with a long subtitle, like: "Man's Fate: Why We No Longer Use The Word 'Man' To Mean 'The Human Race," (Which is a Good Thing), Yet Persist In Our Belief That Our Lives Are Pre-ordained By Some Being Or Consciousness or Plan Over Which We Haven't the Least Bit of Control (Not Such A Good Thing)." It'd probably have to be filed under Self-Help, too.

My literary preference has always tilted towards the philosophical and this books is certainly a novel of ideas, a classic example of the existentialist novel, right up there with The Stranger and Nausea. I remember enjoying this book in college. I never read any of his other novels and kind of forgot about Malraux altogether.

A few years ago I was watching a documentary on Henry Langlois, the founder of the Cinémathèque Française, the informal university of the French New Wave. Later in his career, Malraux became the Minister of Culture in France and decided to fire Langlois as the head of the Cinémathèque. This caused a major public scandal which lead to protests, sit-ins and demands for his head. I believe even the Cannes film festival shut down in protest. Eventually Malraux backed down and returned Langlois to his position.

from Man's Fate

Ch'en was becoming aware, with a revulsion verging on nausea, that he stood there, not as a fighter, but as a sacrificial priest. He was serving the gods of his choice; but beneath his sacrifice to the Revolution lay a world of depths beside which this night of crushing anguish was bright as day. "To assassinate was not only to kill, alas..."

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