April 20, 2017

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By Geoffrey T. Harris (auth.)

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Extra resources for André Malraux: A Reassessment

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Nonetheless myths die hard, and Malraux's revolutionary career in China is no exception, largely because Malraux himself did nothing to expose it as a myth; on the contrary, he actively encouraged it. Even before the publication of Les Conquerants, which to many read like an eye-witness account of the events in Canton, Malraux would pass himself off in public as a onetime 'people's commissar in China' (commissaire du peuple en Chine). 18 In intellectual circles he became more expansive and in August 1933, in reply to an article on his novels by Robert Brasillach, Malraux wrote: 'At the time when "at the NRF, young people were discovering revolutionary action" I was actively engaged in it; and if they discovered the Chinese revolution, I believe it is because I had just come back from China' (A l'epoque ou 'a la NRF, des jeunes gens decouvraient ['action revolutionnaire' j'y participais; qumzt ala decouverte de la revolution chinoise, je crois que s'ils l'ont Jaite, c'est parce que je revenais de Chine).

30 Andre Malraux: A Reassessment Meanwhile other writers such as Joseph Kessel and Paul Morand contrived to escape the realities of postwar Europe by writing exotic novels inspired by their own globetrotting. In 1923 Malraux embarked upon the first of two adventures in the Far East which arguably combined a revolt against Western society with a quest for exoticism, and which certainly put a considerable distance between him and the milieu he had frequented since 1919: 'We became the first members of our generation to move away from intellectual revolt and to transform our disgust into meaningful actions' (Nous aurons ete les premiers de notre generation ii sortir de la revolte, ii transformer notre degout en gestes graves), 13 wrote Malraux's wife subsequently.

In the meantime the situation in southern China was reaching crisis point and by 21 June 1925, four days after Malraux's and Monin's paper first appeared on the streets of Saigon, Hong Kong and Canton were paralysed by a general strike organised by the Kuomintang. On 23 June (the events described in Les Conquerants begin on 25 June) British and French marines shot dead over fifty demonstrators in the Shameen district of Canton including a number of officer cadets from the Whampoa military academy recently established by the Russians.

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