CHAPTER 9
MALRAUX: THE VOICES OF SILENCE
(1901-1977)

Malraux had always been haunted by the concept of death and man's inability to alter his condition. Yet, despite his notion that death is man's tragic and absurd fate, Malraux was convinced he should and could brand his existence with meaning. The heroes of his novels are mostly active types: revolutionaries, explorers, intellectuals. They are infused with Promethean energy and courage, seeking to confront and overcome, and transform the world in order to transcend the metaphysical anguish that would otherwise corrode their existence. Malraux's protagonists are fascinated with life. They are passionately attached to the world in an active process. Each protagonist intends to make his mark during his worldly sojourn and thus dictate to destiny. Dangers become a means of proving his strength and will, a way of compelling him to dominate his fears. The hero of Man's Fate ( 1933) views life as something unique that must not be lost." A life is worth nothing, but nothing is worth a life." However, life must be lived with dignity, honor, and courage; acts must be faced with lucidity; terror must not be assuaged through illusion. To dominate feelings of defeat, the hero in Days of Contempt ( 1935) opts for what he terms "virile fraternity." 1 Malraux's views altered in The Walnuts of the Altenburg ( 1941), written when France was experiencing the agony of collapse. Fraternity was looked upon as a placebo--an illusion, a fantasy, but not a heroic act. Only man's power to create, his artistic endeavors in the Nietzschean sense, was capable of saving him from oblivion and giving definition and stature to his life. 2

Art seems to me to be a rectification of the world, a means of escaping man's condition. The great confusion stems from the fact that we believed--in our striking interpretation of Greek tragedies!--that by representing

-239-

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The Prometheus Syndrome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • Chapter 1: Prometheus 11
  • Notes 49
  • Section I Man as Creator *
  • Introduction to Section I 51
  • Chapter 2: Albertus Magnus 55
  • Chapter 3: Paracelsus 75
  • Chapter 4: Rabbi Judah Loew 97
  • Chapter 5: Goethe's Faustian Physics and Metaphysics (1749-1832) 133
  • Section II the Ordeal of Reason *
  • Introduction to Section II 155
  • Chapter 6: Voltaire's MicromÉgas 161
  • Chapter 7: Balzac's in Search of the Absolute (1799-1850) 185
  • Chapter 8: Hermann Hesse 207
  • Section III Toward Integration *
  • Introduction to Section III 237
  • Chapter 9: Malraux 239
  • Conclusion 267
  • Selected Bibliography 271
  • Index 279
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