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

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<ul><li><p>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</p><p>Symposium: A QuarterlyJournal in Modern LiteraturesPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Nature and Art in theAesthetics of Malraux'sL'Espoir:C. L. Chuaaa University of SingaporePublished online: 05 Sep 2013.</p><p>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</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,</p><p></p></li><li><p>sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 21:</p><p>51 0</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p><p></p></li><li><p>C. L. CHUA</p><p>NATURE AND ART IN THE AESTHETICSOF MALRAUX'S LJESPOIR:</p><p>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</p><p>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.?"</p><p>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.</p><p>Turning first to the structure of L'Espoir, we notice a markedparallel between, on one hand, the chronology and mood of major</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 21:</p><p>51 0</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>C. L. CHUA 115</p><p>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?</p><p>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).</p><p>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.</p><p>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</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 21:</p><p>51 0</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>I16 Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM</p><p>(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.</p><p>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).</p><p>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</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 21:</p><p>51 0</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>C. L. CHUA Il7</p><p>Malraux's part to use the rhythms of nature to collaborate with apattern in art for a specific intent.</p><p>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.</p><p>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).</p><p>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)'</p><p>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</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>USC</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f So</p><p>uthe</p><p>rn C</p><p>alif</p><p>orni</p><p>a] a</p><p>t 21:</p><p>51 0</p><p>3 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>118 Summer I972 SYMPOSIUM</p><p>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."</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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, u...</p></li></ul>