André Malraux

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André Malraux, French author, adventurer, and statesman
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André Malraux (November 3, 1901 - November 23, 1976) was a French author, adventurer and statesman preeminent in the world of French politics and culture during his lifetime.


[edit] Biography

Malraux was born in Paris. His parents separated in 1905 and eventually divorced. He was raised by his mother, Berthe Lamy, and maternal grandmother, Adrienne Lamy. His father, a stockbroker, committed suicide in 1930.

Malraux studied Oriental languages at the École des Langues Orientales but did not graduate. At the age of 21 he left for Cambodia with his new wife, Clara Goldschmidt, a German Jewish heiress whom he married in 1921 and divorced in 1946. (They had a daughter, Florence, born 1933, who married the filmmaker Alain Resnais.) In Cambodia he was arrested and almost imprisoned for trying to smuggle out a bas-relief from the Banteay Srei temple.

He became highly critical of the French colonial authorities in Indochina and in 1925 helped to organize the Young Annam League; he also founded the newspaper Indochina in Chains.

On his return to France he published his first novel, The Temptation of the West (1926). This was followed by The Conquerors (1928), The Royal Way (1930) and Man's Fate (1933). For the latter, a powerful novel about the defeat of a communist regime in Shanghai and the choices facing the losers, he won the 1933 Prix Goncourt of literature. Included in his non-published work is Mayrena, a novel about the eccentric French adventurer Marie-Charles David de Mayrena, conqueror of the highlands of Vietnam and first king of the Sedangs.

In the 1930s Malraux joined archeological expeditions to Iran and Afghanistan. He founded the International Association of Writers for the Defense of Culture with Louis Aragon.

During the Spanish Civil War Malraux served as a pilot for the Republican forces. His squadron gained something of the status of a legend after nearly annihilating part of the Nationalist army at Medellín. He was wounded twice during efforts to stop the Falangist takeover of Madrid. He toured the United States in an attempt to raise funds for the Republicans. A novel about his Spanish war experiences, Man's Hope, appeared in 1938.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Malraux joined the French Army and served in a tank unit. He was captured in 1940 during the Western Offensive but escaped and joined the French Resistance. He was again captured by the Gestapo in 1944 and although he underwent a mock execution, was rescued by members of the resistance. He ended up leading Brigade Alsace-Lorraine in defence of Strasbourg and in the takeover of Stuttgart. He was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, the Croix de Guerre, and the British Distinguished Service Order.

During the war he worked on a long novel, The Struggle Against the Angel, the manuscript of which was destroyed by the Gestapo upon his capture in 1944. A surviving opening book to The Struggle Against the Angel, named The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, was published after the war. It would be his final novel.

He had two sons by Josette Clotis: Pierre-Gauthier (1940-1961) and Vincent (1943-1961). Josette was killed in an accident in 1944 while Malraux was fighting in Alsace, having slipped while boarding a train. Both their sons would die in a single automobile accident, seventeen years later.

After the war General Charles De Gaulle appointed Malraux as his minister of information (1945-1946). In the 1950s he wrote about art and aesthetics, creating the concept of the pan-cultural "Museum Without Walls" in such books as Voices of Silence. He again became minister for information in 1958, and France's first Minister of Culture from 1960 to 1969. During his term, he created the famous maisons de la culture throughout France, and worked to preserve national monuments.

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

An international Malraux Society was founded in the United States in 1968.

Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was one of his greatest admirers and held a dinner in his honour at the White House in 1961. The two became friends and would talk to each other only in French.

During the 1960's and 1970's, he wrote books about Picasso, whom he knew well, and de Gaulle, as well as an autobiography (Antimemoires). Malraux's last political engagement was in support of Bangladesh in its 1971 secession from Pakistan.

According to his biographer, Olivier Todd ('Malraux: A Life'), André Malraux had Tourette syndrome. In 1974 he wrote a moving memoir of one of his own final illnesses, Lazarus. He died in Paris on November 23, 1976.

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André Malraux

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