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André Malraux, French author, adventurer, and statesman

André Malraux DSO (3 November 1901 – 23 November 1976) was a Frenchmarker author, adventurer and statesman.


Malraux was born in Parismarker during 1901, the son of Fernand-Georges Malraux and Berthe Lamy (Malraux). His parents separated during 1905 and eventually divorced. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Berthe and Adrienne Lamy in the small town of Bondy. His father, a stockbroker, committed suicide in 1930. Andre had Tourette's Syndrome during his childhood, resulting in motor and vocal tics.

At the age of 21, Malraux left for Cambodiamarker with his new wife Clara Goldschmidt. In Cambodia, he undertook an exploratory expedition into the Cambodian jungle. On his return he was arrested by French colonial authorities for removing bas-reliefs from one of the temples he discovered. Banteay Sreimarker (The French government itself had removed large numbers of sculptures and artifacts from already discovered sites such as Angkor Wat around this time). Malraux later incorporated the episode into his second novel La Voie Royale.

Malraux became very critical of the French colonial authorities in Indochina, and during 1925 helped to organize the Young Annam League and founded a newspaper Indochina in Chains.

On his return to France, he published The Temptation of the West (1926) which had the format of an exchange of letters between a Westerner and an Asian comparing aspects of the two cultures. This was followed by his first novel The Conquerors (1928), then by The Royal Way (1930) which was influenced by his Cambodian experience, and then by Man's Fate (La Condition Humaine). For La Condition Humaine, a novel about the 1927 failed Communist rebellion in Shanghai, written with obvious sympathy for the Communists, he won the 1933 Prix Goncourt.

During the 1930s, Malraux was active in the anti-Fascist Popular Front in France. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War he joined the Republican forces in Spainmarker, serving in, and helping to organize, their small air force. His squadron, called "Espana", became something of a legend after his claims of nearly annihilating part of the Nationalist army at Medellín. According to Curtis Cate, his biographer, he was slightly wounded twice during efforts to stop the Falangists' takeover of Madridmarker, but Hugh Tomas denies this. He also toured the United Statesmarker to raise funds for the Spanish Republicans. A novel influenced by his Spanish war experiences, Man's Hope, (L'Espoir) was published during 1938.

The types of aircraft sent to Spain by France, through Malraux's acquaintances, were considered obsolete by the standards of 1936. This decision by the French Ministry of Defense was based on the fear that modern types would easily be captured by the Germans fighting for Franco. This has created the impression that Malraux acted actually as an agent of the Popular Front government and in particular, its minister P. Cot who was a strong anti-fascist but whose prime minister Leon Blum has chosen a cautious diplomatic manner. They were mainly Potez 540 bombers and Dewoitine D.372 fighters. The very slow Potez 540 rarely survived three months of air missions, moving some 80 knots against enemy fighters flying at more than 250 knots. Few of the fighters proved to be worthy, some even delivered intentionally without guns or gun-sights. They were surpassed by more modern types introduced by the end of 1936 on both sides. Malraux's efforts were the only attempt of the French government to support the Spanish Republic air force.

Pictures with Malraux standing next to some Potez 540 bombers — and even inside one of them in a pilot's costume — were circulated widely by the Republic government as proof that France was actually on their side, at a time when France and the United Kingdom had declared official neutrality concerning the Spanish conflict. It is known, however, that Malraux was not a pilot himself and had never flown a plane despite carrying the (apparently honorary) title of the Squadron Leader of 'Espana'.

Malraux, it is worth noting, never claimed at any time in his life to have piloted an aircraft. The allegation that he did is probably the result of careless, sensationalist journalism. He was, however, a very active participant within the Republican cause. His commitment to the Republicans was, like that of many other foreign volunteers, purely personal: there was never any suggestion that he was there somehow at the behest of the French Government. He was, of course, very aware of Republicans' inferior armaments — the outdated aircraft were just one aspect of the problem — and part of his activity included a journey to the U.S. to raise funds.

Malraux's motivations for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War are questioned by Antony Beevor in The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Quoting from the Russian State Military Archive, Beevor raises suspicions that "he had recruited the pilots and technicians himself in France. Most of them have come here in order to make good money." In Beevor's own words, "Malraux stands out, not just because he was a mythomaniac in his claims of martial heroism — in Spain and later in the French Resistance — but because he cynically exploited the opportunity for intellectual heroism in the legend of the Spanish Republic."

Other biographical sources, including those who knew Malraux personally in Spain, would however cast serious doubt on these opinions. Here, as in many other instances, accounts of Malraux's life tend to vary considerably. His active involvement in major historical events brought him determined adversaries as well as strong supporters. The resultant polarization of opinion has unfortunately affected the objectivity and reliability of much that has been written about his life. For example, the Russian Military State Archive would be a very doubtful source for reliable comment about Malraux's activity in Spain since he had been very critical of some of the policies of the Stalinist regime of the time.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Malraux joined the French Army. He was captured in 1940 during the Battle of France but escaped and later joined the French Resistance. He was captured by the Gestapomarker during 1944 and underwent a mock execution. He later commanded the tank unit Brigade Alsace-Lorraine in defence of Strasbourgmarker and in the attack on German Stuttgartmarker. He was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, the Croix de Guerre. He was also awarded the British Distinguished Service Order for his work with British liaison officers in Corrèzemarker, Dordognemarker and Lotmarker, and after Dordogne had been liberated, leading a battalion of former resistance fighters to Alsace-Lorrainemarker where they fought alongside the First Army.

During the war he worked on a long novel, The Struggle with the Angel based on the story of the Biblical Jacob. The manuscript was destroyed by the Gestapo after his capture in 1944. A surviving first part titled The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, was published after the war. He would never write another novel.

Malraux and his first wife divorced during the 1940s. His daughter from this marriage, Florence (b.1933), married the filmmaker Alain Resnais.

Malraux had two sons by his second wife Josette Clotis: Pierre-Gauthier (1940-1961) and Vincent (1943-1961). During 1944, while Malraux was fighting in Alsacemarker, Josette died when she slipped while boarding a train. His two sons were killed during 1961 in an automobile accident.

After the war, General Charles de Gaulle appointed Malraux as his Minister for Information (1945-1946). During this post-war period, Malraux also worked on the first of his books on art, The Psychology of Art which was published in three volumes over the period 1947 to 1949. The work was subsequently re-published in one volume, somewhat revised, as The Voices of Silence (Les Voix du Silence). Malraux became a Minister of State in De Gaulle's 1958-1959 government and France's first Minister of Cultural Affairs from 1959 to 1969, serving during all of De Gaulle's presidency. Among many other initiatives, he created maisons de la culture in a number of provincial cities and worked to preserve France's national heritage.During 1960 Malraux began, as editor, the series Arts of Mankind, an ambitious survey of world art that spans more than thirty large illustrated volumes.

During 1948, Malraux married Marie-Madeleine Lioux, a concert pianist and the widow of his half-brother, Roland Malraux. They separated in 1966.

During the 1960s, Malraux published the first volume of a trilogy on art entitled The Metamorphosis of the Gods, with the second two volumes (not yet translated into English) appearing shortly before he died.He also began publishing a series of semi-autobiographical works, the first of which was Antimémoires. One of these, Lazarus, is a reflection on death after one of his own final illnesses. Malraux died in Créteil, near Parismarker, on 23 November 1976, and was buried in the Verrières-le-Buisson (Essonne) cemetery. In honor of his contributions to French culture, his ashes were moved to the Panthéonmarker in Paris during 1996, on the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

An international Malraux Society was founded in the United States in 1968. It produces the journal Revue/Malraux/Review. There is also an active association based in Paris, the Amitiés internationales André Malraux. In addition there is a very useful academic website of research and information dedicated to André Malraux and topics such as literature, art, religion, history and culture.


Man is dead, after God”. Malraux, The Temptation of the West. (1926)

‘The artist is not the transcriber of the world, he is its rival.’ Malraux, L'Intemporel (3rd volume of The Metamorphosis of the Gods.)

'In a world in which everything is subject to the passing of time, art alone is both subject to time and yet victorious over it'. Malraux in a television program about art, 1975.

"Art is an object lesson for the gods." Malraux, The Voices of Silence

From La condition humaine [Man's Fate] (1933)

  • If a man is not ready to risk his life, where is his dignity?

  • The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our own nothingness.

"The art museum is one of the places that give us the highest idea of man.” ("The Voices of Silence")

"There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman."

"What is man? A miserable little pile of secrets." Anti-Memoirs (1968), pp. 6, 24

Selected biography of works about Malraux

Partial bibliography of Malraux's works

  • Lunes en Papier, 1923 (Paper Moons, 2005)
  • La Tentation de l'Occident, 1926 (The Temptation of the West, 1926)
  • Royaume-Farfelu, 1928 (The Kingdom of Farfelu, 2005)
  • Les Conquérants, 1928 (The Conquerors, 1928)
  • La Voie royale, 1930 (The Royal Way or The Way of the Kings, 1930)
  • La Condition humaine, 1933 (Man's Fate, 1934)
  • Le Temps du mépris, 1935 (Days of Wrath, 1935)
  • L'Espoir, 1937 (Man's Hope, 1938)
  • Les Noyers de l'Altenburg, 1948. (The Walnut Trees of Altenburg)
  • La Psychologie de l'Art, 1947-1949 (The Psychology of Art)
  • Le Musée imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale (1952-54) (The Imaginary Museum of World Sculpture (in three volumes))
  • Les Voix du silence, 1951 (The Voices of Silence, 1953)
  • La Métamorphose des dieux (English translation: The Metamorphosis of the Gods, by Stuart Gilbert):
    • Vol 1. Le Surnaturel, 1957
    • Vol 2. L'Irréel, 1974
    • Vol 3. L'Intemporel, 1976
  • Antimémoires, 1967 (Anti-Memoirs, 1968 - autobiography)
  • Les Chênes qu'on abat, 1971 (Felled Oaks or The Fallen Oaks)
  • Lazare, 1974 (Lazarus, 1977)
For a more complete biography, see the site of the Amitiés internationales André Malraux.


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