Nature and Art in the Aesthetics of Malraux's L'Espoir:

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  • This article was downloaded by: [USC University of Southern California]On: 03 October 2014, At: 21:51Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Symposium: A QuarterlyJournal in Modern LiteraturesPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vsym20

    Nature and Art in theAesthetics of Malraux'sL'Espoir:C. L. Chuaaa University of SingaporePublished online: 05 Sep 2013.

    To cite this article: C. L. Chua (1972) Nature and Art in the Aesthetics of Malraux'sL'Espoir:, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, 26:2, 114-127, DOI:10.1080/00397709.1972.10733166

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00397709.1972.10733166

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  • C. L. CHUA

    NATURE AND ART IN THE AESTHETICSOF MALRAUX'S LJESPOIR:

    Andre Malraux is reliably reported to consider the novel L'Espoir(1937) his "highest achievement,"! but critical opinion divides sharplyabout this novel's aesthetic merits. Thus, Claude Mauriac pronouncesL'Espoir a "roman rate," criticizing it for being "trop depouille.i""Halting, uncertain, fragmentary," adds Nicola Chiaromonte.f W. M.Frohock, in a detailed discussion of the novel, deplores the "confusions,loose ends, [and] diffuseness" caused by Malraux's "intention to makepropaganda."4 And Denis Boak, whose reading of the novel is other-wise laudatory ("the finest roman engage of the century"), finds that"formally L'Espoir is untidy."5

    This array of adverse opinion is formidable, and were Malrauxalone in his regard for L'Espoir, one might dismiss it as the indulgentfondness of an author for his creature. The book, however, is notwithout its advocates. Gaetan Picon, for one, calls it "the poem of thenovel."6 The novelist Montherlant wished that he could have writtenit himself." And Jean Carduner in a meticulous examination ofMalraux's cinematic technique and tragic rhythms, argues that "L'Es-pair . . . n'est pas un roman bacle.?"

    With no pretensions of making a final settlement in this criticaldisagreement, we wish to examine three aspects of L'Espoir whichwe feel will shed new light on Malraux's aesthetic method and intent inthis novel. These three aspects concern the novel's chronologicalstructure, the imagery used in its character portrayal, and the resolutionof the novel's conflicts. In all three aspects, Malraux seems to adopt anartistic method in which the elements of nature and art play importantcollaborative roles. Examination of Malraux's method and scrutinyof his statements made elsewhere lead us to the view that Malraux'sconscious intent in L'Espoir is less politically motivated than generallysupposed." This study thus aims to create a perspective in which theartistic unity of the novel may become more readily apparent.

    Turning first to the structure of L'Espoir, we notice a markedparallel between, on one hand, the chronology and mood of major

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  • C. L. CHUA 115

    divisions of the novel's action and, on the other hand, the seasonaldivisions of nature's annual cycle-there seems to be a successivemovement in the novel through a cycle beginning in a lyric summer,passing into a chilling autumn, then a despairing winter, and finallyending with an affirmation of hope in spring. (Malraux divides thenovel into titled parts, and some of the parts are again dividedinto subtitled sections.) Part One of L'Espoir, which falls into twosubtitled sections, begins in summer and closes in autumn. The firstof these sections. "L'Illusion lyrique," corresponds to the season ofsummer; the second, "L'Exercice de l'Apocalypse," corresponds toautumn.l?

    Chronologically and historically, "L'Illusion lyrique" begins on thesummer night of July 18, 1936, when the Spanish proletariat rose todefend the Republican government against the Nationalist militarycoup.'! It ends on August 15,1936, when Badajoz fell to the Nationalistforces. In terms of the mood here, the popular rising bursts into apassionate summer efflorescence finding its highest expression in alyrical "Apocalypse de la fraternite" (p. 530)' Characteristic of thismood is the heady street singing that seems to burst out in all theSpanish towns (p. 440), the exalted martyrdom of anarchists like Puig(p. 461), and the swaggering bravado of Magnin's "jubilant" airmen(p. 476). Strokes of good fortune favoring the Republicans increasethis sense of elation: for instance, the capitulation of the Montanabarracks where the Republican officer firing the cannon cannot aim it(p. 463), and the defense of the Sierras where Manuel and the peasantmilitia muddle through to victory (pp. 480-491).

    The torrid summer emotionalism of the first section shades into asomber autumnal chilling of hope in the second section, "L'Exercicede l'Apocalypse." Here the novel deals with the Republican failure toorganize the emotions of the Apocalypse into a viable political system.A case study of this failure is made by focusing the narrative upon theRepublican siege of Toledo's Alcazar and the ensuing death ofHernandez, a director of that siege. The lyrical street singing of theprevious section is supplanted by a "chant funebre" (p. 535); Toledoreeks with the "odeur de viande pourrie" (p. HI); and the landscapeis autumnal-"couverte de moissons" (p. HO). Chronologically, thissection describes the close of the siege during the autumn of 1936:Toledo was taken by the Nationalists on September 23.

    In the next part of the novel, entitled "Le Manzanares," the presidingmood of the action corresponds to a bleak winter of uncertainty andprivation depicted through the Nationalist siege of Madrid. TheRepublican air force is depleted and loses morale-as the flight ofLeclerc illustrates (pp. 667-684). The Republican intellectuals fall preyto doubt (like Scali) or become paralyzed into despairing inaction

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  • I16 Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM

    (like Alvear); Miguel de Unamuno's death seems to foreshadow thefate of all intelligent men of good will (pp. 750-53). Throughout"Le Manzanares," which deals with the twilight of the Apocalypse,the mood of anguish is appropriately supplemented by the dominantimagery of darkness and conflagration. Darkness so permeates thefirst nine chapters that it leaves the impression of a long dark nightof conflict (although historically these chapters cover a period fromabout September 29 to November 9)' Thus the first chapter begins atsunset and is followed, in the second chapter, by an account of a nightraid on Palma; Scali then has his confrontation with Leclerc, and atI I P.M. that same night he consults with Garcia, after which he visitsAlvear; meanwhile Guernico agonizes over the Christian dilemmawith Garcia, and Manuel attends a candle-lit council of war; in theninth chapter, the International Brigade fights in the West Parkduring a fog-filled night. The element of fire combines with darknessto turn Malraux's Madrid into a Bosch-like inferno during the Nation-alist bombing raids. The whole town "disparaissait derriere sonincendie" (p. 775); in the distorting conflagration, "la peau etaitrouge, l'asphalte [... ] rouge, et le sang brun clair" (p. 722); fire is agrotesque "ennemi gesticulant de mille tentacles comme une pieuvrefolle" (p. 768); it is "l'heure au les Walkyries choisissent entre lesmorts" (p, 760). This mood of agony and doubt is in keeping with thechronology of "Le Manzanares" which begins after the autumndebacle of Toledo and continues through midwinter-December 2(1936) being the dateline of its closing chapter.

    The final part of the novel, entitled "L'Espoir," begins with achapter datelined February 8 (1937), and as the old year passes intothe new, there is a renewal of hope when Jaime Alvear, an airmanblinded during the siege at Toledo, begins to recover his sight. Thenew Republican army (represented through Manuel and his reor-ganized troops) wards off the Nationalist offensive with the aid of theInternational Brigade. Eventually, the novel closes with a descriptionof the crucial Battle of Guadalajara and the decisive Republican victoryat Brihuega on March 18, 1937. In keeping with this mood of victoryand the accompanying resurgence ofhope, spring arrives, and the novelcloses to the sounds of the spring thaw: "[On] n'entendait que lebruit des fontaines. Le degel avait commence; l'eau coulait" (pp.856-57).

    The novel can be said, then, to pass through a cycle of successiveevents that is analogous in mood and in chronology to the cycle of theyear's seasons. That major divisions in the structure of the novelcorrespond to the changing moods of the seasons would seem toindicate that this analogy is no mere historical coincidence, butpremeditated art. This would seem to indicate a conscious effort on

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  • C. L. CHUA Il7

    Malraux's part to use the rhythms of nature to collaborate with apattern in art for a specific intent.

    Another area of L'Espoir which shows a similar collaborative useof nature and art is its character portrayal. In the imagery Malrauxuses for the brief, shorthand descriptions of his myriad characters,there is a repeated reliance on similes and metaphors drawn from therealm of nature (usually the animal world) as well as the realm ofart.

    For example, Colonel Ximenes' limp is compared to that of an oldduck (pp. 4~6 and 847). Schreiner is a nervous wolf cub (p. 491).Marcelino resembles a hawk (p. yoo). The Duchess of Alba is comparedto a hippopotamus by Lopez, who looks like a macaw (pp. 468-69).Magnin's airmen are nicknamed the Pelicans (p. 477). Vargas looks likea skinned rabbit as he steps out of his uniform (p. 52~). Scali, whoresembles a cat (p. 520), questions a sparrow-like enemy pilot (p. ~49)'Alvear is "un vieux rapace [...J deplume" (p. 699). Garcia's eyestwinkle like a squirrel's (p. 603). And Siry and Kogan, lacking acommon language, communicate by whistling bird calls (p. 710).

    Just as frequently, Malraux associates his characters with imagerythat stems from the arts. Langlois, who is described at one point asresembling a badger (p. 828) also looks like Don Quixote (p. 8;7).Magnin, who looks like a seal (p, ~ 29), carries himself like an eques-trian statue (p. 83~). Similarly, Alvear compares himself to Priam(p. 707). Some visiting Russians at Toledo resemble "figures occiden-tales du Moyen Age" (pp. ~95-96); and Golovkine "avait [...J lafigure bosselee des paysans dans les sculptures gothiques" (p. ~95).Guernico might be a Velasquez portrait (p. 690), Alvear a Greco(p. 698). Ramos is a Roman bust (p. 481); Marcelino has the face of a"medaille venitienne" (p. 499)'

    The catalogue of examples could continue, but we can consider thepoint made: there is repeated reliance upon animal and art imagery inMalraux's technique of character depiction in this novel.P It is almostas if Malraux felt that these two kinds of imagery captured somethingbasic in his characters. And indeed through the character Shade(whose narrative point of view dominates a number of chapters),Malraux indicates that the animal element is a fundamental part of life:"il n'attachait plus d'importance qu'a ce qu'il appelait idiotie ouanimalite, c'est-a-dire a Ia vie fondamentale: douleur, amour, humil-iation, innocence" (p. 474). It is at first vexing to find madness joinedwith the animal element in Shade's formulation of fundamental life.But then we think of Dostoyevsky's Idiot and remember that Shadehad earlier said: "Le fou copie l'artiste, et l'artiste ressemble au fou"(p. 470).13 Madness, in this sense, evidently implies a certain heightenedintensity of vision that is associated with art (just as madness for

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  • 118 Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM

    Dostoyevsky was associated with an impossibly transcendentalgoodness). Art and nature, then, like the interacting opposition ofYin and Yang, are here the two basic terms of "la vie fondamentale."

    How fundamental art and nature are to L'Espoir itself can befurther seen through an examination of the novel's resolution and thesymboIs and images Malraux uses to body forth this resolution.

    The final part of L'Espoir is its denouement. Malraux had titledthis part "Les Paysans" in earlier editions, but in 1947 he retitled it"L'Espoir." By so doing, he signals clearly his purpose to focus herethe main intent of the novel and to resolve the political and psycho-logical tensions created previously. This resolution is not a politicalone: it is, rather, a metaphysical realization of the human condition.

    Throughout the novel, Malraux's characters wrestle with theproblems of dehumanization, efficiency, and intellectualism in theframework of a mechanized war where the participants must apparentlychoose between personal fulfillment (Ctre) and the creation of a lastingpolitical state (faire).14 Idealists like Hernandez, who insist on individualautonomy, cannot command the efficiency to organize a revolutionaryaction, as his failure at Toledo illustrates. (The anarchists are extremeexamples of this dilemma.) The Communists like Manuel, who areefficient in organization, undergo a gradual dehumanization. (Pradasis the extreme example.) Humanist intellectuals like Scali feel theirfaith in man eroding when confronted by the brutalizing arbitrarinessof revolutionary action. (Alvear and Unamuno mark the extremes ofthis disillusion with action.)

    In "L'Espoir," Malraux poses these problems symbolically anddramatically in the opening chapter; he then offers three progressivelyilluminating epiphanies pointing to a resolution, each epiphanyreiterating and elaborating upon the others.P This series of epiphaniesbegins with Attignies' rescue from the sea, progresses to Magnin'sdescent from the mountain at Linares, and culminates in Manuel'sfusion of man, nature, and art, following the victory of Brihuega.

    After a brief factual preliminary, Chapter One dramatically posesthe problem of dehumanization through the figure of Karlitch viewedfrom Scali's intellectual perspective. Karlitch becomes more of akiller as the war continues (p. 789)' He welcomed the outbreak of warbecause it meant for him a return to his profession of machine gunner(p. 496). Gore is so much a feature of everyday living to Karlitch thathe finds a hanged man a most fearsome thing, explaining: "Avec dusang, tout est naturel. Les pendus ne sont pas naturels" (p. 790)'Doubtless a peaceful death in old age would be an atrocity! Karlitch'striumphant laughter constantly sets Scali's nerves on edge (p. 789),for Scali's Florentine humanism has steadily lost ground before hisencounters with war-lovers like Karlitch (p. 496). Scali, echoing the

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  • C. L. CHUA 119

    words of Alvear's disillusion, thinks to himself: "C'est du joli, lanotion de l'homme, en face de l'homme engage sur la vie et la mort"(p.69)

    But counterpointing Karlitch's descent into brutality, Malrauxplaces jaime's emergence out of the blindness that struck him duringa raid on Toledo. Jaime's trust in the possibility of recovering his lostvision, "cet espoir sans cesse renouvele" (p. 789), gives the thematickeynote of hope for this Part. Throughout the espisode, Jaime insiststhat he sees lights: "Je vois les lumieres, [... ] Les lumieres tournent.[... ] Les lumieres s'arretent. [... ] Voila qu'elles repartent, leslumieres" (pp. 788-90, passim). Eventually, his companions realizethat Jaime does see lights. Significantly, these lights are a merry-go-round at a children's fair. Thus Jaime recovers a childlike vision ofnature which regards animals as Edenic friends of man: "des Mickeysenormes, des Felix-le-chat, des Canard-Donald" (p. 791).

    More important, this luminous wheel introduces the symbol of therenewing circle. Not only does it emblemize the cycle of jaime's lossand recovery, but it is also analogous to the archetype of nature'sseasonal death and rebirth (a pattern which already informs thechronological structure of the novel). In this episode, then, Malrauxstrikes his thematic keynote of hope through this symbol of cyclicrenewal, a symbol that will recur in Magnin's descent from the moun-tain and in Manuel's final epiphany.

    The first in the series of epiphanies shifting the novel from thepolitical to a more fundamentally metaphysical level occurs in theepisode immediately following Jaime's recovery. It centers in theconsciousness of Attignies,aGerman political commissar withMagnin'ssquadron. When his airplane is shot down, he undertakes a journey toobtain help for his comrades. During this journey, he experiences amoment of illumination which transcends politics.

    In his journey, Attignies passes through a long tunnel whichenvelops him in darkness (analogous to Jaime's blindness) and whichseems to take him into the bowels of the earth: "Attignies n'etait-ilpas mort sur la route? [... ] II glissait a ce monde calfeutre desprofondeurs de la terre" (796). Attignies undergoes a kind of death,crossing a Lethean river: "La vie se diluait. [... ] Le commissairepolitique glissait immobile et sans poids, bien au-dela de la mort, atravers un grand fleuve de sommeil" (p. 797). But suddenly Attignies,whose nickname happens to be Siegfried (p. 566), emerges from deathand darkness into light: "la lumiere du jour qui se rapprochait et qui,1a route obliquant, se deploya soudain, eveilla tout son corps, comme sila lumiere eut ere glacee" (p. 797). To Attignies, this almost mysticalexperience has been a confrontation with "Ie mystere de la vie"(p. 797), an important element in Malraux's picture ofhuman existence.l"

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  • 120 Summer 1972 SYMPOSIUM

    If we look at the configuration of events leading up to Attignies'experience, we notice that it comes only after Attignies' involvementwith the exodus of the Malaga peasants. From his airplane, Attignieshad viewed these peasants with detachment (p. 791). But when theplane is shot down, he perforce joins the peasants, first taking theplace of a farm girl in a cart (p, 795), subsequently borrowing a mulefrom an old man (p. 796). It is then that he passes through the tunnel,penetrating into the earth and experiencing "le mystere de la vie."Only when Attignies descends from his airborne height to the conditionof the man who tills the soil does this mystery of life appear. When itappears, it takes the form of the familiar death-rebirth archetypecommon in agricultural religions. Malraux seems to imply that becausea peasant works nearer to nature, he is more earth-conscious and thuscloser to fundamental life-after all, Malraux had originally entitledthis part of the novel "Les Paysans."17 And in this episode we see againhow Malraux depends on symbols associated with nature to movehis novel towards an exploration of the fundamental in life.

    Like a leitmotiv, Attignies' glimpse of the mystery of life is repeatedand elaborated by Magnin's "descent from the mountain." Here thenarrative changes from the staple historic tense to a reliance upon theimperfect. As if to underline this tense shift, the two brief transitionalpassages immediately following this one are in the present. It is almostas if Malraux wished to stop time, to create an effect of fundamentalityand eternity: indeed as Magnin approaches the mountain, he feels thathe is entering "une Espagne eternelle" (p, 826).18 Of course, from thepoint of view of the airman making a forced landing, the rockyterrain seems to be a "sol sans espoir" (p. 826); but once Magnin,like Attignies, joins the caravan of peasants and makes his way up themountain, he catches sight of an apple tree: "Ses pommes n'avaientpas ete cueillies; tombees, elles formaient autour de lui un anneauepais, qui peu apeu retournait al'herbe. Ce pommier seul etait vivantdans la pierre, vivant de la vie indefiniement renouvelee des plantes,dans l'indifference geologique" (p. 827).

    The ring of seed-bearing fruit which will renew life is an imagisticrecapitulation of Jaime's ring of light. But at this point, ascending themountain, Magnin is not fully aware of the tree's significance. It isonly when he descends the mountain, bringing back with him his deadand wounded fellow airmen, that the tree loses its "indifferencegeologique" and offers him a message of hope. It is a hope that comesas a contradiction to Scali's intellectual despair; for Scali feels hiscommitment to action becoming meaningless, and his Spain is acountry of death symbolized by a twisted machine gun on a loadedcoffin (p. 834).

    However, just when Scali gives way to despair, the narrative point

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  • C. L. CHUA IZI

    of view shifts to Magnin who sees the apple tree again. Descendingthe mountain now, he rides a peasant's mule (like Attignies in thetunnel); he explores around an obscuring rock and hears the mountaintorrents (an audial image that will recur in Manuel's epiphany). The"bruissement d'eau vivante," sounding like "la vie retrouvee," breaksthe mournful silence; and this time, as Magnin sees the circle of apples,he realizes that "cet anneau pourrissant et plein de germes semblait etre[... ] le rhythme de la vie et de la mort de la terre" (p. 835, italics added).In the light of this paradoxical illumination, Magnin begins to see lifenot as a surrender to death but as a continual rebirth in a naturalcycle which involves all earthly things.19 It is from this essentiallyelegiac stance that Magnin views the cortege of wounded men and, incontrast to Scali, sees the twisted machine gun in the likeness of aliving branch: "le cercueil passa avec sa mitrailleuse tordue comme unebranche" (p. 835). Later in the scene, the machine gun, which toScali symbolizes the misery of Spain, becomes transformed into awreath in Magnin's imagination, thus reiterating the earlier image ofthe tree's circle of fruitfulness (p. 836). Magnin then realizes, in animage recapitulating Attignies' journey into the earth, that "la profon-deur des gorges OU ils s'enfoncaient maintenant comme dans la terrerneme s'accordait al'eternite des arbres" (p. 835). And suddenly, likethe dying apples filled with seed, the wounds of his men denote hope,life, and consequence: "Mais cette jambe en morceaux, [... ] ce braspendant, ce visage arrache, cette mitrailleuse sur un cercueil [... ] toutcela etait aussi imperieux que ces roes blafards qui tombaient du ciellourd, que I'eternite des pommes eparses sur la terre" (p. 835).

    Although the descent from the mountain gathers force largelythrough symbols drawn from nature, its effect depends also upon anundercurrent of art imagery that evokes a feeling of permanence, ofthe present repeating the past and the then preserved in the now.Thus the apple tree is described as a Japanese wash painting-"ensilhouette japonaise" (p. 8Z7); and the whole scene for Magnin seemsto be a preconceived "tableau" (p. 834)' Even the actors undergo atransfiguration into art objects, further evoking a sense of permanenceand repetition in their actions. For instance, Pujol looks like "un petitguerrier sarrasin [... ] avec le raccourci des statues a haut piedestal"(p. 8z8), while Magnin resembles a "statue equestre" (p. 835). More-over, we suspect that Malraux planned the spatial organization of thisscene with Tintoretto's The Wqy to Golgotha in mind and thus intendedto have it affect us as an iconic allusion to the Christian myth of deathand resurrection. We infer this from a comment of Malraux's aboutTintoretto's painting: "Eisenstein has employed this movement, buthorizontally and on two planes, in the deck scene of the Potemkin. I haveemployed it myself-butdescending-in the funeral sceneofL'Espoir."20

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    In this episode, then, Malraux's aesthetic effect does not dependonly on natural symbols (as it does in Attignies' episode). Thesesymbols collaborate with imagery drawn from art to embody the themeof permanence and man's victory over meaninglessness in his existence.Through the interplay of images and symbols, Malraux shapes theepiphanic perception of Magnin wherein human action regains meaningand death is defeated: "Ce n'est pas la mort qui, en ce moment, s'accor-dait aux montagnes: c'etait la volonte des hommes. [... ] Et toutecette marche [... ] semblait moins suivre des blesses que descendredans un triomphe austere" (p. 836).

    But the final illumination of L'Espoir is fittingly Manuel's, for he isthe novel's main character. And in some respects his epiphany reachesbeyond Magnin's. Whereas Magnin's character remains constantthroughout the book, Manuel changes from a carefree cinema soundtechnician into a responsible military commander. In this respect,L'Espoir resembles a Bildungsroman.s- Manuel's change bears directlyupon the problem of efficiency and dehumanization, for as Manuelbecomes a more efficiency and dehumanization, for as Manuel becomesa more efficient soldier he feels more alienated from his fellow men(p. 774). However, Manuel does attain a final synthesizing visionwhich, more than Magnin's, involves a poignant alliance of nature andart.

    Throughout the novel, Manuel has been associated with nature.He habitually holds a piece of wood in his right hand-a ruler, anutshell, a sprig of fennel, a switch of pine (e.g., pp. 620, 771). Thisis a nervous habit, of course; and when he becomes a full-fledgedsoldier, he weans himself from it.

    Manuel is also an artist. No ordinary sound technician, he is anaccomplished singer and organist (pp. 697, 848). But again, whenManuel becomes a proven officer (after the Battle of Guadalajara),he feels himself severed from music: "J'en ai fini avec la musique.[... ] Tout c;:a venait d'une autre vie" (p. 848). He considers that hislife of revolutionary and military discipline precludes a life in art:"Une autre vie a commence pour moi avec le combat" (p. 848).

    However, this apparently radical separation of Manuel from theworlds of nature and art (which symbolizes his growing dehumani-zation and efficiency) is less complete than it seems. For when Manuelbreaks his habit of handling a stick, he adopts a wolfhound whichsymbolically continues his connection with the world of nature: "IIcaressa le chien. [... ] II le caressait souvent: il ne tenait plus rien danssa main droite" (p. 848). Intuitively, then, Manuel turns to nature foraid as he senses the growing rift between himself and humanity; hebehaves like a drowning man clutching at straws: "Plus il se sentaitsepare des hommes, plus il aimait les animaux" (p. 846). And in the

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  • C. L. CHUA 123

    final chapter of L'Espoir, we see how Manuel arrives at an epiphanicunderstanding of life through a rediscovery of nature and art. It is thisunderstanding that saves Manuel from losing his human balance andtoppling into the brutal depths of a Karlitch.

    Malraux fills the final chapter of L'Espoir with audial imagerydrawn from nature. The sounds of renascent spring accompany Manuelduring his rediscovery of life: "Manuel n'entendait que le bruit desfontaines. Le degel avait commence; l'eau coulait sous les chevaliersde pierre, [... ] entre les portraits" (pp. 856-57). The audial images ofnature, we notice, are interspersed with visual images of art-thestatues and the canvases. And as Manuel approaches the center oftown, Malraux mingles audial imagery drawn from the art of musicwith the sounds of nature's spring: "un autre bruit se melait a celuide l'eau, cristallin comme lui, accorde a lui comme un accompagne-ment: des notes de piano" (p. 857). An unknown soldier is pickingout the tune of a romance, then another, and yet another-"il entendaittrois pianos" (p. 857). The music does not celebrate a military orpolitical victory; instinctively the soldiers choose a folk ballad ratherthan the Internationale-"Pas question d'Internationale" (p. 857). Thispeasant music, sprung from centuries of man's life on the Spanishearth, mingles harmoniously with the notes of spring. It is this duetof spring torrent and folk music, this harmony of nature and art, thatworks a rebirth in Manuel. (One remembers that Orpheus andPersephone are permitted to return from Hades.) Manuel rediscovershis former self which had loved music and which he had given up forlost: "Manuel avait dit [... ] qu'il etait separe de la musique, et i1s'apercevait que ce qu'il souhaitait le plus, en cet instant [... ], c'etaiten entendre" (p. 857).

    This rebirth of his love for music, this renascence of his formerself, returns Manuel to his barracks, where he finds a collection ofBeethoven records. These records, needless to point out, reiteratethe circular symbols of death-rebirth that Malraux used earlier. AsManuel listens, his dog listens too, and in an imagistic fusion of natureand art, Malraux writes: "Le chien-loup ecoutait, allonge comme ceuxdes bas-reliefs" (p. 858). Listening to the records, Manuel undergoeshis moment of illumination and awakens to the full horror of hisdanger: "Comme le somnambule qui soudain s'eveille au bord dutoit, ces notes descendantes et graves lui jetaient dans l'esprit laconscience de son terrible equilibre - de l'equilibre d' OU on ne tombeque dans Ie sang" (pp. 857-8). But, at the same time he realizes thathe can recover and resurrect his past self through music: "la musique[... ] donnait toute sa force au passe" (p. 857). This leads him to theconclusion that his present state of being is as different from what hewill be as it is from what he was, that, in short, man is a creature of

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  • Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM

    infinite metamorphosis: "Manuel deviendrait un autre homme, inconnude lui-meme, comme Ie combattant d'aujourd'hui avait ete inconnu decelui qui avait achete une petite bagnole pour faire du ski dans laSierra" (p. 858). Living, then, is not a state but a flux; the state of warand warrior is not permanent, what is permanent is life's rhythm ofchange: "On ne decouvre qu'une fois la guerre, mais on decouvreplusieurs fois la vie" (p. 858). Thus the concluding paragraph ofL'Espoir is a one-sentence tour de force in which Malraux gatherstogether the antithetical oppositions of past and present ("cette villequi jadis avait arrete les Maures") and of sky and earth ("ciel et [... ]champs"); within the temporal and spatial perspective of thesecontrasts, Malraux joins the rhythms of man's artistic creativity("ces mouvements musicaux") to the cyclical rhythm of nature'sreturn to life ("au bruit des ruisseaux"), and this dual rhythm affirmsthe primacy of fundamental hope within the flux of incidental loss:

    Ces mouvements musicaux qui se succedaient, roules dans sonpasse, parlaient comme eut pu parler cette ville qui jadis avaitarrete les Maures, et ce ciel et ces champs eternels ; Manuel entendaitpour la premiere fois la voix de ce qui est plus grave que le sang deshommes, plus inquietant que leur presence sur la terre,-la possi-bilite infinie de leur destin; et il sentait en lui cette presence meleeau bruit des ruisseaux et au pas des prisonniers, permanente etprofonde comme Ie battement de son cceur.

    It should be evident from this analysis of L'Espoir's final Part thatMalraux resolves here the central conflicts of his novel in a series ofprogressively more illuminating epiphanies and that he embodies theresolution to these conflicts through a collaboration of images andsymbols drawn from nature and art. In sum, therefore, examination ofthree important aspects of the novel leads us to conclude that thecollaboration of art and nature forms an integral part of Malraux'saesthetic method in L'Espoir.

    To speculate about the intent underlying this method, one maymost conveniently turn to an interview between Malraux and AlbertOllivier done in 1946.22 In this interview, Malraux speaks of therelations between the realm of nature and the realm of culture (ofwhich art is a part23). He appeals to a notion of fundamental lifecomprising these two elements. Indicating the importance of nature,Malraux says that there are in men "des sentiments eternels ; ceux quinaissent de la nuit, des saisons, de [... ] tout Ie grand domainecosmique et biologique" (p. 12.). The artistic genius ("Ie genie dupoete") mobilizes metaphors that originate from a particular artisticculture from which this genius springs and to which these metaphorsappeal. 24 These metaphors, however, owe their "permanence" and

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  • C. L. CHUA 12 5

    cross-cultural vitality ("chez les Hindous comme chez Homere") totheir basis in the realm of nature ;25 although Malraux is quick to pointout that culture (or art) is as necessary as nature, for, "ce domainecosmique ne prend toute sa force qu'en s'incarnant a travers lesmetaphores particulieres achaque civilisation" (ibid.). As an exampleof how this artistic incarnation operates in his own perception, Malrauxthen describes an instance which, aptly enough, stems from his Spanishexperience. In this illustrative vignette we see poignantly how thecultural and artistic conceit of resurrection draws a confirming forcefrom the natural "cercle eternel" of dewdrop and dawn to transfigurea scene of despair and death into one of hope and affirmation:

    Je me souviens d'avoir vu en Espagne rentrer un de nos aviateursblesses, dans un avion de chasse ensanglante, L'avion fut cachesous les oliviers. Le lendemain matin, la rosee perlait sur le sanga peine seche de la carlingue, le sang teintait chaque goutte, et ilsemblait que la resurrection de la rosee ait entraine la blessure dansson cercle eternel. La renaissance du jour prenait toute sa forcepathetique, parce qu'elle s'incarnait a la fois dans la terre, dans cetavion et dans ce sang. C'etait cette incarnation qui donnait a cespectacle un si saisissant accent; c'est la succession d'incarnationssemblables, trouvees par Ie poete, que vit la poesie.26

    From this interview, we glean Malraux's belief that the profoundestkind of poetic creation, that which appeals to all men of all times,depends upon an interplay between the realms of nature and culture.It seems evident from our examination of Malraux's use of nature andart in L'Espoir that a major portion of his method in the novel isactuated by the aesthetic belief stated in this interview. To this extent,then, we feel that the artistic intent of L'Espoir is not primarily topropound a political thesis. This is not to deny L'Espoir's greatimportance and interest as a mirror held up to the politics of its times.But to the extent that Malraux has consciously sought to draw hiseffects from the cosmic and cross-cultural realms he speaks of, by somuch does L'Espoir transcend the political dilemmas it reflects. Wehave seen that Malraux has sought this effect and achieved it in atleast three vital aspects of the novel. And perhaps it is because L'Espoirsucceeds in creating a metaphysical resolution out of its politicaltensions that Malraux does regard it so highly.

    In the light of our findings, L'Espoir does not appear to be a failednovel spoiled by political uncertainties and confusions but, on thecontrary, must be recognized as a highly ambitious work of art,metaphysical in scope, unified in method, intention, and achievement.

    University ofSingapore

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  • 126 Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM

    1. Cecil Jenkins, "Andre Malraux," in The Novelist as Philosopher, ed. JohnCruickshank (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 68.

    2. Malraux, ou le Mal du heros (Paris: Grasset, 1946), pp. 201, 121.3. "Malraux and the Demons of Action," in Malraux: A Collection of Critical

    Essays, ed. R. W. B. Lewis (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1964),pv r ro.

    4. Andre Malraux and the Tragic Imagination (1952; rpt, Stanford: StanfordUniversity Press, 1967), pp. 125, 104.

    5. Andre Malraux (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 134.6. "Man's Hope," Yale French Studies, No. 18 (Winter 1957), 4.7. Cited by Picon, p. 5.8. La Creationromanesque chez Malraux (Paris: Nizet, 1968), p. 127.9. See, for instance, Boak, pp. 133-34; Frohock, pp. 104-21.10. All references to L'Espoir are to the edition of Andre Malraux, Romans

    (1947; rpt. Paris: Gallimard, 1964).11. Dates of historical events are checked against Hugh Thomas, The Spanish

    Civil War (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961).12. G. O. Rees, "Animal Imagery in the Novels of Andre Malraux," French

    Studies, 9 (1955), 129- 42, studies Malraux's use of animal imagery as "an eco-nomical substitute for [...] detailed physical description" (p. 130) and concludesthat generally "an animal analogy is used to depreciate a personage" (p. 132)'Indeed, nature is usually inimical in Malraux's earlier novels-see Bertrand L.Ball, Jr., "Nature, Symbol of Death in La Voie R'!Yale," French Review, 35 (1962),390-95; Rene Girard, "Le Regne animal dans les romans de Malraux," FrenchReview, 26 (1953), 261-67. But after Le Temps du mepris (1935), Malraux portraysnature more sympathetically-see Violet Horvath, Andre Malraux: The HumanAdventure (New York: New York University Press, 1969), p. 224. As for artimagery, Ralph Tarica comments on this in "Ironic Figures in Malraux's Novels"in Image and Theme, W. M. Frohock, ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, 1969), pp. 38-73. Not dealing with art imagery in relation to characterportrayal, Tarica gives instances where art imagery creates "incongruity," "comiceffects," and "aesthetic distance" (pp. 50-56).

    13. Dostoyevsky's impact on Malraux has been great. For instance, in GaetanPicon's Malraux par lui-mime (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1953), Malraux speaks of"Dostolevski, dont la presence depuis quarante ans est ecrasantc" (p. 38).

    14. See L'Espoir, pp. 613-14; and Boak, p. III: "The central theme of thenovel can be summed up in the phrase etre et faire."

    15. Malraux's use of epiphany in Les Noyers de l'Altenburg has been extensivelyanalyzed by W. M. Frohock, Sryle and Temper (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Uni-versity Press, 1967), pp. 62-67.

    16. By Malraux's own account, this experience of apparent death and rebirth,this "retour sur la terre," was an important experience in his own life and onehe had tried to transmit several times (Antimemoires [Paris: Gallimard, 1967,]p. 98). W. M. Frohock had noted a shamanistic mysticism in Andre Malraux,pp. 137-49), and Malraux had commended his astuteness-see Haakon M.Chevalier, "Andre Malraux: The Legend and the Man," Modern Language QuarterlY,14 (1953), pp. 199-208.

    17. In Les Noyers de I'Altenburg, Malraux has a similar respect for the manwho works close to nature (cf. the character of Prade, the medieval woodcutterheritage of the Berger family, the German soldiers on the banks of the Vistula).This almost Tolstoyan attitude seldom occurs in Malraux's novels previous toL'Espoir.

    18. Rene Girard has noted L'Espoir's sense of spatial infinity in "L'Homme

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  • C. L. CHUA

    et le cosmos dans L'Espoir et Les Noyers deI'Altenburg d'Andre Malraux," P MLA,68 (1953), pp. 4!r55.

    19. Cf. Horvath, p. 243: "The tree is also symbolic of the organic unity ofmankind, the tragedy of the Fall, and the hope leading from unity back to unityvia the continuous cycle of destruction and re-creation."

    20. Andre Malraux, The Psychology of Art: Vol. II: The Creative Act, trans.Stuart Gilbert, Bollingen Series, No. 24 (New York: Pantheon, 1949), p. 224.Malraux's comment is a footnote, and although his discussion of Tintoretto re-appears in Les Voix du silence (Paris: Gallimard, 1951), pp. 442-44, the footnotedoes not. It is not clear whether Malraux was referring to L'Espoir the film orthe novel: even if he were speaking of the film, our point would still hold true,for although the media arc different the message is the same.

    21. See Boak, p. 1I2.22. Entitled "A propos de TArt et de la Culture'," this interview first appeared

    in Combat, 15 November, 1946. It is reprinted with two other interviews underthe collective title of "Lignes de force," Preuoes, 5 (March 1955), pp. 5-15. Ourtext is the Preuoes reprint.

    23. In Malraux's definition, "art, pensees, poernes, tous les reves humains"form man's culture-sec his "L'CEuvre d'art," Commune, ze annee, No. 23 (July1935), p. 1265.

    24. Cf. Malraux's discussion of "La Creation artistique" in Les Voix du silencewhere the artist progresses from "pastiche," to "scheme," to the realization ofhis own "style" (Voix, Part III, esp, chs. III-VI).

    25. Even in Les Voix du silence, where Malraux is an enthusiastic exponent ofautonomous art (as against copyism), he acknowledges the artist's debt to naturewhen, for instance, he discusses Renoir's transposition of the blue of the Mediter-ranean into the stream of Les Lauandieres : "Le bleu de la mer etait devcnu celuidu ruisseau des Lauandieres, La seve qui verdira les feuilles, l'arbre va la chercherdans les profondeurs de la terre; Renoir se servait du monde pour fecondcr sontableau, comme cinquante ans plus tot pour sc liberer de Courbet" (p. 278).

    26. "Lignes de force," p. 12. Interestingly enough, Malraux again refers tothis incident when he recalls his Spanish experience in .Antimemoires (pp. 598-99).

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