“THE TEMPTATION OF THE WEST”: ANDRE MALRAUX BOOK FROM 1926 ON CHINA AND THE WEST

July 19, 2010 at 9:48 am | Posted in Art, Asia, Books, China, France, Globalization, History, Literary, Philosophy | Leave a comment

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The Temptation of the West

Andre Malraux (Author)

Robert Hollander (Translator)

French writer and politician André Malraux (1901-1976) was generally regarded as one of the most distinguished novelists of the 20th century.

Malraux’s analysis of Eastern and Western cultures:

After his second return from Indochina in 1926 he published his first major book, La Tentation de l’Occident (The Temptation of the West).

Malraux first important book, this book, LA TENTATION DE L’OCCIDENT (1926), explored the parallels between Eastern and Western culture. The work was set on the early stages of the Chinese revolution and focused on the exchange of letters between a young European and a young Asian intellectual.

Malraux lamented the potential influences of Western culture, using China as an example, with The Temptation of the West (1926). In this work, the character of Ling says that many Chinese thought they could retain their cultural identities after being exposed to European influence and technology. Instead, that influence results in the “disintegrating soul” of China, a country newly “seduced” by music and movies.

Malraux’s first novel, Les Conquérants (The Conquerors), was published in 1928. Set in Canton in 1925, it deals with the attempts of Chinese Nationalists and their Communist advisers to destroy imperialist influence and economic domination. The hero of the book provides a vigorously drawn portrait of the professional revolutionary.

LES CONQUÉRANTS (1928) dealt with a revolutionary strike and its European organizers in Canton.

Malraux continued on revolutionary themes in La Condition humaine and L’ESPOIR (1937).

These were followed by an adventure story, LA VOIE ROYALE (1930), set in the Indochinese jungle. The book was largely a dialogue on death; it was one Malraux’s main themes. “The mystery of life appears to each one of us as it appears to almost every woman when she looks into a child’s face and to almost every man when he looks into the face of someone dead”, Malraux once said.

In 1933 appeared Malraux’s most celebrated novel, La Condition humaine (Man’s Estate, Man’s Fate). Set in Shanghai, the novel describes the 1927 Communist uprising there, its initial success and ultimate failure. The novel continues to illustrate Malraux’s favorite theme: that all men will attempt to escape, or to transcend, the human condition and that revolutionary action is one way of accomplishing this. In the end there is failure, but man attains dignity in making the attempt and by his very failure achieves tragic greatness.

Following the Soviet Union’s signing of a nonaggression pact with Germany, Malraux broke with the Communist cause. He was captured twice while fighting with the French army and underground resistance movement, but he escaped and would become a military leader. In 1943 he published his last novel, Les Noyers de l’Altenburg (The Walnut Trees of Altenburg).

The feel of this book is very different from that of Malraux’s earlier novels. The narrator, captured by the Germans in 1940, reflects on his father’s experiences before and during World War I – as an agent in central Asia, at a meeting of intellectuals in Germany, and while fighting on the Russian front. Malraux explores the fundamental problem of whether men are essentially the same in different epochs and different civilizations.

This last novel, Les Noyers de l’Altenburg (1943), poses the possibility of art as a force against destiny, a theme implicit in some of his early work.

In Les Voix du silence (The Voices of Silence, 1951), Malraux develops the idea that in the modern world, where religion is of little importance, art has taken its place as man’s triumphant response to his ultimate destiny and his means of transcending death.

Product Details:

· Paperback: 154 pages

· Publisher: University Of Chicago Press

· February 1 1992

· Language: English

· ISBN-10: 0226502910

· ISBN-13: 978-0226502915

The Temptation of the West

Andre Malraux (Author)

Robert Hollander (Translator)

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