André Malraux

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
André Malraux (1974)

André Malraux ([ ɑ̃d'ʁe mal'ʁo ] * November 3, 1901 in Paris , † November 23, 1976 in Créteil , Val-de-Marne ) was a French writer , screenwriter , film director , adventurer and politician .

Family background

Malraux suffered from Tourette's syndrome since childhood . In 1905 his father Fernand, a bank clerk, his wife Berthe, née Lamy, and the family left. Fernand Malraux remarried and had two sons from this marriage, Roland (1912-1945) and Claude (1922-1944), who were both involved in the Resistance from 1942 and were arrested by the Germans in March 1944.

André Malraux married his first wife Clara Goldschmidt in 1921, a Jew from Magdeburg . Malraux always led a very sophisticated and lavish lifestyle, even financial setbacks such as the loss of his wife's fortune on the stock exchange in 1923 (see also German inflation 1914 to 1923 ) could not dissuade him. Friends, especially later his publisher Gaston Gallimard , repeatedly helped him out of financial difficulties. When he died, Malraux left millions in debt.

In 1938 he separated from his first wife Clara, with whom he had a daughter (Florence, * 1933), and lived with Josette Clotis. With her he had two sons, Pierre-Gauthier (1940–1961) and Vincent (1943–1961; officially fatherless). Since Malraux was still married to Clara when Pierre-Gauthier was born, his half-brother Roland was officially registered as the father.

Josette had a fatal accident in a train accident in 1944. From 1945 Malraux lived with Madeleine , the widow of his half-brother Roland, and their son Alain. The divorce from Clara was not announced until 1946, he married Madeleine in 1948. His two sons Pierre-Gauthier and Vincent died in a car accident in 1961. In 1966 he separated from Madeleine, lived with Louise de Vilmorin from 1967 (who had briefly been engaged to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from 1923 ) and after her death in 1969 with her niece Sophie de Vilmorin (1931-2009).

The young Malraux

After primary school, Malraux wanted to attend the renowned Lycée Condorcet , but was not accepted in 1918. Then he was a bookseller, u. a. for René-Louis Doyon, who put him in contact with writers such as Max Jacob , Paul Morand , Jean Cocteau and Raymond Radiguet . Malraux began to deal intensively with modern art and also worked for the renowned art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler . From 1920 he published several articles on modern literature and art.

In order to rehabilitate himself financially, Malraux went to Angkor in French Indochina in 1923 , where he stole a ton of hewn stones and three bas-relief fragments from the temple of Banteay Srei . He was arrested on December 23, 1923 and sentenced to three years in prison on July 21, 1924 in Phnom Penh . With the help of Marcel Arland , his wife Clara managed to mobilize well-known writers such as André Gide , François Mauriac , André Breton , Louis Aragon and Max Jacob in favor of Malraux. This resulted in the sentence being reduced to one year and eight months on October 28, 1924 and suspended on probation. After a short stay in France, the Malraux couple spent most of their time in Saigon in 1925 . There Malraux was involved as a journalist against the French colonial regime under Governor Maurice Cognacq . Despite a short visit to Hong Kong and Macau to do some shopping, Malraux did not visit the Republic of China . That Malraux had contact with the Chinese revolutionaries, especially communists, is only a myth that has been carefully cultivated - also by Malraux himself.

The writer

Back in France, he began his first literary essays and novels in 1926, which also brought him further friendships with prominent writers such as André Gide and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle . Malraux was influenced by Dostoevsky , Nietzsche , Spengler and Gide. Between 1928 and 1937 he published his four great novels: Les Conquérants in 1928 and La Voie royale in 1930 with Grasset , Gallimard , whose editorial committee he joined in 1928, La Condition humaine in 1933 and L'Espoir in 1937 . All four novels have an adventurous and exotic background:

  • Les Conquérants is about the uprisings in Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China.
  • La Voie royale is based on Malraux's experience in Cambodia.
  • La Condition humaine is set against the background of the revolutionary uprisings in the Shanghai area .
  • L'Espoir is based on Malraux's experience in the Spanish Civil War .

These novels established Malraux's reputation as an early existentialist . In La Voie royale in particular , Malraux's novel, which has the most philosophical depth, he anticipated some of Sartre's theses. Sartre once referred to Malraux as "his John the Baptist ". The heroes of Malraux's novels are examples of the dignity of human existence and evidence of human freedom. Malraux describes human nature as being shaped by feelings of fear and disgust as well as hope. Hope connects people to common actions. And fear, which is the constant companion of man, drives him to act. The most important thing for people is the responsibility they have towards themselves - and not towards something. Man chooses himself because life has no end. But it ultimately fails, because it is not man who makes something of his life, but life makes something of him. Eroticism, games, terror, adventure and revolutionary actions are only substitute solutions by means of which the human being tries to get out of his tragic structures of existence, out of his human condition . What distinguishes man is the awareness of his death, the irrefutable proof of the absurdity of existence. Even before Albert Camus , Malraux postulated the absurdity of life. However, it is precisely this absurdity of life that gives meaning to human actions and helps the individual to achieve true life.

What is bad is not death, but decay, submission to civil order. A meaningful death is better than a meaningless life. The tragedy of death consists solely in the fact that it turns man's life into fate. Like Sartre, the early Malraux saw a contradiction between morality and politics. There is no such thing as a fair party. But without morality there is no way in politics either, because politics is always measured against morality. It is only for the sake of moral goals that a person is ready to die for a cause. Death is always a victory for senselessness, but what counts is that man has never given in and is never inferior. Only victory counts, not life. However, suicide is not a way out because it is only self-deception.

The political revolutionary and resistance fighter

Sensitized early on by his wife Clara, Malraux began to campaign actively against fascism and therefore became involved with the French Communist Party (PCF). In 1933 he appeared as a speaker at the first meeting of the Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, chaired by André Gide . He met Leon Trotsky , but then turned to Stalinism . In 1934 he and Gide went to Berlin , ruled by the National Socialists, to obtain the release of the communist leaders Georgi Dimitrov and Ernst Thälmann . In the summer of 1934 he visited Moscow and took part in the first Soviet writers' congress, at which socialist realism was made a guiding principle. At that time he met u. a. Joseph Stalin . In 1935, together with Gide and the Soviet publicist Michail Kolzow, he organized the Congrès international des écrivains pour la défense de la culture , which was partially financed with funds from Moscow.

In 1936 Malraux visited the Soviet Union to advertise his project for a cultural encyclopedia, for which "progressive authors" should write. At first he intended to win the writer Maxim Gorky as co-editor, he visited him in the company of Koltsov, who was considered a confidante of Stalin , in the Crimea . But the seriously ill Gorky refused. Malraux proposed Nikolai Bukharin , the former editor of the government organ Izvestia , for this position without realizing that a show trial had long been prepared against him on behalf of Stalin .

From the summer of 1936, Malraux was actively involved in the Spanish Civil War for the republican side. He shared an office with Leopold Kohr , George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway . Immediately after the start of the war in July 1936, he organized the establishment of the España squadron , whose command he also held, although he could not fly himself. After their integration into the official Republican units in November 1936, he went to the United States in 1937 with the English writer Ralph Bates to raise funds for the Republican side. This ended his direct involvement in the Spanish Civil War, which he revived in his novel L'Espoir and in the film Sierra de Teruel (1938/39).

The German-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 leads to a break with the communists. From then on, Malraux was viewed as an enemy in Moscow. In autumn 1939, during his interrogation by the NKVD , the arrested writer Isaak Babel was tortured to extract the confession that Malraux had recruited him as a “spy” for France. Malraux was more and more the adventurer who could hardly fit into a social existence and who wanted to give meaning to his own life through his commitment. For Malraux, self-actualization was more important than service in the class struggle . Malraux showed great disgust for discipline and the need to obey. He was only interested in the energy and willingness of the Communist Party to act.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Malraux, who was only assigned to the auxiliary service, wanted to report to the armored forces, but was not accepted. From April 1940 he served as a soldier in the motorized cavalry and in June 1940 he was captured by the Germans. In November 1940, thanks to his half-brother Roland, he managed to escape.

Until March 1944, he lived mostly in princely villas in southern France. Many, including Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie , Claude Bourdet and Sartre, tried to persuade him to participate in the Resistance . Malraux refused, as he only expected liberation from the Soviet Union and the English.

It was not until March 1944, three months before the invasion of Normandy, that Malraux tried to join the Resistance in the Corrèze department under the name of Colonel Berger . Arrested by the Germans in July, he did not regain his own freedom until France was liberated in August 1944. There were doubts about his work in the Resistance and the circumstances surrounding his capture and liberation. In any case, there was no question of a leading resistance fighter until August 1944. In September 1944 he took command of the Alsace-Lorraine Brigade , which was officially a French unit involved in the fighting in the Vosges and Alsace . Again, there is disagreement about Malraux's real function and meaning.

Gaullist politician and art journalist

In the fall of 1944, Malraux joined Charles de Gaulle's movement as a left-wing Gaullist . In August 1945 he first met de Gaulle. From then on both showed each other great respect and admiration. From November 1945 to January 1946 he was de Gaulle's Minister of Information, with Raymond Aron as his cabinet director. When de Gaulle founded the Rassemblement du peuple français (RPF) as his party in 1947 , Malraux became head of the press service (until 1953). In the years 1947 to 1958, when de Gaulle had retired from politics, Malraux returned to his great old passion, art. Malraux wrote books on art: La Psychologie de l'art (1947–79) and Musée imaginaire (1953–55).

After he and Mauriac and Sartre had opposed torture in Algeria in the spring of 1958 , de Gaulle's return to politics in the summer of 1958 radically changed Malraux's life. In June 1958 he was appointed Minister of Information, in January 1959 the Ministry of Cultural Affairs was created and he became Minister, an office which he held until de Gaulle's resignation in 1969. He initially complained about the "ridiculous budget" available to him. In 1962, after an attack by the OAS , he had to move out of the previous house and accepted de Gaulle's offer to use his second service residence , the Pavillon de la Lanterne in Versailles, which President Nicolas Sarkozy later chose as his residence.

As Minister of State, Malraux traveled the world and was received by prominent statesmen, from John F. Kennedy to Jawaharlal Nehru to Mao Zedong . He promoted modern art (exhibition on Pablo Picasso ; Marc Chagall was allowed to design the ceiling of the Opéra, André Masson that of the Théâtre National de l'Odéon ); he also promoted controversial writers such as Jean Genet . He is considered the father of the Maisons de la culture , the first in 1964 in Bourges , who aimed to bring people more into contact with art. Malraux also did a lot for the preservation of old cultural objects and for the resurrection of Paris as the “City of Light”. As Minister of Culture, he took care of the cleaning of the facades - the deepest intervention in the cityscape since the Haussmannization in the middle of the 19th century.

However, his allegiance to de Gaulle also earned him the enmity of many, especially that of Sartre. Malraux and Sartre were the two antipodes among leading intellectuals in the early 1960s. Malraux's daughter Florence signed the call for conscientious objection (manifesto of 121) in connection with the Algerian war in 1960, which led to the break between father and daughter (until 1968). In May 1968, Malraux saw only a lyrical illusion, but in 1969 he worked with Sartre and Mauriac for Régis Debray , who was trapped as a revolutionary in Bolivia. Towards and after the end of his political career, Malraux devoted himself to his autobiography and continued his work on art. Badly marked by alcoholism and drug abuse, he fell seriously ill several times. Malraux died on November 23, 1976. Twenty years later, his ashes were transferred to the Panthéon at the instigation of Jacques Chirac , the then French President .



Malraux's influence on art after 1945 (Le Musée imaginaire) cannot be overestimated. It is unclear how strongly the influences of Marcel Duchamp and André Malraux are distributed. Daniel Spoerri with his Musée Sentimental , Marcel Broodthaers with his Adler Museum (1968-72) should be mentioned here. The imaginary Museum for Modern Art Munich , founded in 1991 by Hans-Peter Porzner , was geared towards the analysis of the art business (art industry art).


  • Lunes en paper. Paris 1921.
  • La Tentation de l'Occident. Paris 1926, German The Lure of the West, Gutenberg Book Guild , Zurich 1950; The Lure of the Occident. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1966.
  • Les Conquérants. Paris 1928, German Conqueror , Kurt Vowinckel, Berlin 1929; The conquerors. German publishing company, Stuttgart 1953.
  • Royaume-Farfelu. Paris 1928.
  • La Voie Royale. Paris 1930; first Prix ​​Interallié 1930, German The Royal Route . Gutenberg Book Guild, Zurich 1950.
  • La Condition humaine. Paris 1933, Prix ​​Goncourt , German This is how people live . Europa Verlag, Zurich 1934, most recently This is how people live. La Condition Humaine. dtv, Munich 1999.
  • Le Temps du mépris. Paris 1935, German The Time of Contempt, Éditions du Carrefour, Paris 1936.
  • L'Espoir. Paris 1937, German Hope. German publishing house, Stuttgart 1954.
  • La Lutte avec l'ange. A. Skira, Geneva 1943, 1948 as Les Noyers de l'Altenbourg. in France, Ger. The fight with the angel. Gutenberg Book Guild, Zurich 1948.
  • Le demon de l'Absolu. 1946.
  • Esquisse d'une psychologie du cinéma. 1946, German sketch for a psychology of the cinema. Lettre International , 37, 1997.
  • Psychology de l'Art: Le Musée imaginaire . Paris 1947; German psychology of art. The imaginary museum . Woldemar Klein Verlag, Baden-Baden 1949, new edition. Campus, Frankfurt 1987.
  • Psychologie de l'Art: La Création artistique. Paris 1948, German Psychology of Art. The artistic design. Woldemar Klein Verlag, Baden-Baden o. J.
  • Psychology de l'Art: La Monnaie de l'absolu. Paris 1950.
  • Les Voix du silence. Paris 1951, German voices of silence. Droemer-Knaur, Munich 1956.
  • Le Musée Imaginaire de la sculpture mondiale: La Statuaire - Des Bas-reliefs aux grottes sacrées - Le Monde Chrétien. Paris 1952–1954.
  • La Métamorphose des dieux. 1957; again as Le Zusammenarbeitaturel.
  • Antimémoires . Paris 1967 (first part of Miroir des Limbes ), German anti-memoirs , German translation by Carlo Schmid , S. Fischer, 1968. ( No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list from March 10 to 16, 1969 )
  • Les Chênes qu'on abat ... 1971 (included again in La Corde et les souris ), English oaks that are felled . Translated by Carlo Schmid, S. Fischer, Frankfurt 1972.
  • Oraisons funèbres. 1971 (resumed in La Corde et les souris )
  • La Tete d'obsidienne. 1974, (taken up again in La Corde et les souris ), German The head made of obsidian. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt 1975.
  • Lazare. Paris 1974 (included again in La Corde et les souris ), German Lazarus. Ullstein, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-550-06271-0 .
  • Hotes of passage. Paris 1975 (taken up again in La Corde et les souris ), German guests in passing. Ullstein, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-548-20533-X .
  • La Corde et les souris. 1976 (second part of Miroir des Limbes ).
  • Le Miroir des Limbes. 1976.
  1. Antimémoires.
  2. La Corde et les souris and Oraisons funèbres.
  • The surnaturel. (published 1977, revised version of La Métamorphose des Dieux ).
  • L'Irréel. La Métamorphose des Dieux, 2 . 1975.
  • L'Intemporel. La Métamorphose des Dieux, 3 . 1976.
  • L'Homme précaire et la littérature . 1977.
  • «Non». Fragments d'un roman sur la Resistance . Édité by Henri Godard, Jean-Louis Jeanelle. Gallimard, Paris 2013.

Filmography (selection)

  • 1945: Hope (L'espoir) (novel, screenplay, direction and editing), before that in 1939 under the title Sierra de Teruel
  • 1974: Piège pour une fille seule (novel)


Web links

Commons : André Malraux  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: André Malraux  - Sources and full texts (French)


  1. Philippe Flandrin: Trésors volés: les dessous du trafic. Ed. du Rocher, 2011, ISBN 978-2-268-07205-0 , p. 272.
  2. Boris Frezinskij: Pisateli i sovetskie voždi. Moscow 2008, p. 358.
  3. cf. Frezinskij 2008, pp. 418-420.
  4. The Ralph Bates Project: The 1930’s ( Memento from September 15, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Vitaly Schentalinski : The resurrected word. Persecuted Russian writers in their final letters, poems, and records. Bergisch Gladbach 1996, p. 68.
  6. ^ Jean-François Lyotard: Signed: Malraux. (Biography) Zsolnay, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-552-04853-7 , p. 343.
  8. ^ Jean-François Lyotard: Signed: Malraux. (Biography). Zsolnay, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-552-04853-7 , p. 346.
  9. Honorary Members: André Malraux. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 15, 2019 .
  10. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Book of Members (PDF) . Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  11. ^ Museum of Modern Art, Eagle Department. Marcel Broodthaers: The first artist curator (1968–1972). Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  12. ^ Helmut Mayer: Walter Grasskamp on André Malraux. A museum made entirely of paper. A man of art, politics and marketing: Walter Grasskamp shows how André Malraux created his large picture theater on book pages. On the FAZ online portal. May 14, 2014. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  13. Todd destroyed Malraux's reputation as a former revolutionary and great resistance fighter. Malraux appears as someone whose first goal was to spread myths about himself.