Born in Paris in 1901, Georges André Malraux was raised, after the separation of his parents in 1905, by his mother, grandmother, and an aunt, who at times exposed him to Parisian opera and theater, but he spent his summers with his father in Normandy in another cultural and ethnic ambiance. He failed to gain admission to the Lycée Condorcet, which caused him to give up his secondary education altogether. During his adolescence he devoured French and foreign literatures, from classical Greek to medieval French, The Arabian Nights, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Balzac, Dostoevsky, Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Cubist poetry. He educated himself through secondhand books sold along the Seine and visits to the Louvre. He sporadically attended classes at the School for Oriental Languages and became a “habitué” of the Museum of Oriental Art Guimet, learning much of Western and Oriental art.
In the 1920s he traveled to many European cities as well as to exotic Indochina, where he spent two years (1923-24). The Indochinese experience determined, to a large extent, the direction of his career. He joined an archeological expedition from Phnom Penh in search of the famous Khmer temple of BanteaiSrey, some of whose artifacts he took to study, to offer to the Guimet Museum, or to sell to finance the expedition. The result was a prison sentence, from which he extricated himself and returned to France. Returning to Indochina in 1925, he was largely responsible for the launching of the journal Indochine that denounced French injustices toward the Annamite population.
In 1929 he traveled to Persia (where he was particularly enchanted by Isfahan), visiting Iraq and Syria on his return. This was as much an intense period of discovering worlds, cultures, and modes of thinking other than French and European as one of self-discovery and intellectual effervescence.
Echoes of his adventures and travels resound in the works of the first part of