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Man's Fate
by Andre Malraux




 
To: ALL Date: 07/26 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:53 PM MAN'S FATE by Andre Malraux First of all I find this title to be a strange translation of the French LA CONDITION HUMAINE (the human condition). But I am ready to take the plunge. Here is a little background information taken from a graduate course taught by one of my favorite professors at Indiana U. where I got my Master's, Charlotte Gerrard. Malrau led a mysterious life. He traveled in Asia including Cambodia and China. On his return to France he published three novels, one of which was MAN'S FATE. For this novel he received LE PRIX GONCOURT (the French Pullitzer). During his life, he fought for the Communist cause, against Facism. During WWII, he was so impressed with Charles DeGaulle that he wanted to be in his government. Prior to WWII, he commanded a tank in the Spanish Civil War against the Facists. He also wrote books on art. His writing style is one of non description. He tries as much as possible to not write more that the characters see. He is a precursor to existentialism. He puts the reader into the head of the characters. Please excuse the choppy style. I was translating from my notes (taken on Nov. 7, 1969). I will post more when I have finished rereading this book. To tell you the truth I don't remember ever having read it before, but I know I did because I see my hand-written notes in the margin. I think I have no recollection of it because I read it so fast the first time. Jane who has 50 pages to go. =============== Reply 1 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/26 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:21 PM Thanks Jane, for the interesting backgrounder. I bought Andre Malraux's THE VOICES OF SILENCE sometime in the late 1970's. It's about art and I tried valiently to read it, but gave up not even halfway through it. I can safely say that as of this writing I have retained nothing from that experience. I didn't even realize Malraux wrote novels until MAN'S FATE popped up here. Just got it out of the library and anticipate starting it this pm. Thanks for the post Ruth =============== Reply 2 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/27 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:08 AM greetings MADEMOISELLE JANE.. thanks for the bio information...coincidentally i ordered the book from the library...anxious to read MALRAUX... gail..hp..a passionate reader in the wee small hours of the morning... =============== Reply 3 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/27 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 10:03 AM Jane, Ruth & gail: I'm midway through MAN'S FATE and am enjoying it a great deal, though not without some rough going in spots. The roughest going was the second chapter, or section. After the book's pulse-pounding opening, of the young revolutionary trying to steel himself to kill the sleeping man, I was overwhelmed to be dropped squarely into the *internal* lives of so many characters who were (a) new to me, and (b) of so many different backgrounds and ideologies at a complicated time in history, i.e. a revolution. It was almost as if Malraux self-consciously wanted to avoid the book being "just" a thriller and tried to get a lot of scene-setting and motivation in quick. Once the action started up again, though, the story really took off for me. Some powerful, heart-rending stuff. Jane's teacher is right, I think, about Malraux's gift for getting inside his characters' heads. Even the panoramic scenes of fighting and other violence are rendered through the perceptions of discrete individuals, rather than mob fashion like a movie director doing a crowd scene. Though I don't read French, it seems to me the language holds up extremely well in translation--the odd rendering of the title aside. Has anybody read Malraux in the original? Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 4 of Note 69 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/27 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:57 PM Dale, I am reading MAN'S FATE in the original. I also have an English copy that I refer to now and then to see how the words have been translated. I find it interesting that Malraux's writing is much more spare than the English translation. I find that the translator will explain something in four or five sentences that Malraux wrote in two. Other than that, the translation I have is pretty good. Jane who will always read the French original when it is available. =============== Reply 5 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/27 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:36 PM Jane & All: My favorite part, so far, of Malraux's MAN'S FATE...from the point of view of the character called Old Gisors, a retired sociology professor at the University of Peking (and long-time opium addict), whose son Kyo is one of the organizers of the Chinese insurrection. (Any novelist who can combine aging, parenthood, addiction, and politics so seamlessly has my admiration...) *** He got up, opened the drawer of the low table where he kept his opium tray, above a collection of small cactuses. Under the tray, a photograph: Kyo. He pulled it out, looked at it without any precise thoughts, sank bitterly into the certainty that, at the point he had reached, no one knew anyone--and that even the presence of Kyo, which he had so longed for just now, would have changed nothing, would only have rendered their separation more desperate, like that of friends whom one embraces in a dream and who have been dead for years. He kept the photograph between his fingers: it was as warm as a hand. He let it drop back into the drawer, took out the tray, turned out the electric light and lit the lamp. Two pipes. Formerly, as soon as his craving began to be quenched, he would contemplate man with benevolence, and the world as an infinite of possibilities. Now, in his innermost being, the possibilities found no place: he was sixty, and his memories were full of tombs... Five pellets. For years he had limited himself to that, not without difficulty, not without pain sometimes. He scratched the bowl of his pipe; the shadow of his hand slipped from the wall to the ceiling. He pushed back the lamp a fraction of an inch; the contours of the shadow became lost. The objects also were vanishing: without changing their form they ceased to be distinct from himself, joined him in the depth of a familiar world where a benign indifference mingled all things--a world more true than the other because more constant, more like himself; sure as a friendship, always indulgent and always accessible: forms, memories, ideas, all plunged slowly toward a liberated universe. He remembered a September afternoon when the solid gray of the sky made a lake's surface appear milky, in the meshes of vast fields of water-lilies; from the moldy gables of an abandoned pavilion to the magnificent and desolate horizon he saw only a world suffused with a solemn melancholy. Near his idle bell, a Buddhist priest leaned on the balustrade of the pavilion, abandoned his sanctuary to the dust, to the fragrance of burning aromatic woods. Peasants gathering water-lily seeds passed by in a boat without the slightest sound. At the edge of the farthest flowers two long waves grew from the rudder, melted listlessly in the gray water. They were vanishing now in himself, gathering in their fan all the oppressiveness of the world, but an oppressiveness without bitterness, brought by opium to an ultimate purity. His eyes shut, carried by great motionless wings, Gisors contemplated his solitude: a desolation that joined the divine, while at the same time the wave of serenity that gently covered the depths of death widened to infinity. *** I think this Malraux guy is a force to be reckoned with. Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 6 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/28 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:08 AM Jane, Interesting that you should say that about the French being more spare than the English translation. I'm only about 30 pages in, but the rather flowery, kind of old-fashioned style of writing puts me off a bit. I was wondering how it compared to the French original. Whose translation do you have? Another interesting bit on the translation thing. The book I have was translated by Haakon Chevalier. At first I was amused merely by the name's combination of nationalities. Then, both Leif and I realized it was familiar. After a time of puzzling over where we had run into this name before we remembered the PBS (was it a series or a single program?) about J Robert Oppenheimer. Someone by the name of Haakon Chevalier (can there possibly be two people with that name?) figured in the business with Oppenheimer and the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Anyone know anything about this? Do you know him as a French translator Jane? I'm composing this on line. First thing when I get off I'll see if I can find him in any of my reference material. Ruth, home from LA, ready to post about the Keinholz show tomorrow =============== Reply 7 of Note 69 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/28 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:07 AM Ruth: Actually, I went to grade school with a couple of guys named Haakon Chevalier. Fortunately one of them spelled his first name with a single "a" or the teacher would've had the dickens telling 'em apart. Seriously, though...I just noticed my translation of MAN'S FATE is by Chevalier too, about whom the Homeworker Helper database says this: *** Haakon Chevalier was a well-known French translator, a friend of Oppenheimer's, and a key player in the "Oppenheimer Case." Talking with Oppenheimer after the start of the atomic program at Berkeley, he said he had a friend who wanted to arrange for Oppenheimer to talk with people at the Soviet consulate about scientific matters. Oppenheimer reported the conversation to security officers but said he had heard it take place with someone else. Questioned later, he admitted he had lied. That he had been in Paris also brought sharp criticism at his security hearing before the Atomic Energy Commission. *** Is it my imagination, or have far more European writers and scholars moved in military, diplomatic, and intelligence-gathering circles than those elsewhere? Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 8 of Note 69 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/28 From: ACCR69A JOSEPH BARREIRO Time: 12:14 PM Dale - I have just about finished MAN'S FATE, about 20 pp to go. I see it as a novel more about ideas than as a pot-boiler, or rather as about ideas in the context of action. It did prompt me to dig up some historical background on the Shanghai revolution. No surprise, Paul Johnson in MODERN TIMES points to the money trail which Malraux talks about in the character of Ferral. I am surprised that Chou En Lai's name never appears in the text. I also downloaded some info from Homework Helper that I will review after I've finished the novel. Malraux himself was a complicated and colorful character, one of the larger-than-life personalities that populated the early and middle part of this century's historical record and which our post-war generation seems to lack. Joe B =============== Reply 9 of Note 69 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/28 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 7:23 PM Dale, Thanks for the info. So it WAS the same guy! BUT, BUT, BUT -- You went to school with TWO Haakon Chevaliers in Shanghi, Alabama? You have GOT to be pulling my leg Ruth =============== Reply 10 of Note 69 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/28 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:02 PM WOMEN as portrayed in MAN'S FATE I find it interesting that Malraux did not portray the women in this book in a very sympathetic manner, but neither did he show their partners/husbands in a good light. There are three main couples: May and Kyo Gisors, Hemmelrich and his Chinese wife, and Ferral and his mistress Valerie. It seems that May and Kyo have set up a marriage based on sexual freedom, but when May takes Kyo at his word that it is OK to go to bed with a colleague and indeed does, Kyo is jealous and upset. He states that it is her business, but his actions show otherwise. "...it seemed to him that he was watching May die thus, watching the form of his happiness absurdly disappear like a cloud absorbed by the gray sky. As though she had died twice - from the effect of time, and from what she was telling him." Hemmelrich is miserable because he is burdened with a wife and child and is only liberated after they are brutally murdered during the reprisal for the revolution. He only begins to grieve when he goes back to close the door of his shop. "His shoulders thrust forward, he pushed ahead like a barge-tower towards a dim country of which he knew only that one killed there, pulling with his shoulders and with his brain the weight of all his dead who, at last! no longer prevented him from advancing." Ferral receives a letter from Valerie in which she tells him, "I refuse to be regarded as a body, just as you refuse to be regarded as a checkbook." As part of his revenge, Ferral decides to hire a geisha for his satisfaction at which time he makes his most damning statement, "...but if he had never in his life possessed a single woman, he had possessed, he would possess through this Chinese woman who was awaiting him, the only thing he was eager for: himself." Malraux is brutally honest about all of these relationships and the most PC person around can't find fault with him I think. Do we feel any sympathy for Ferral. I think not? Such candor. Jane the fan of French literature. =============== Reply 11 of Note 69 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 07/28 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:08 PM Yes Ruth, My translation is by the one and only Haakon M. Chevalier. An example of the liberties that he takes is in part seven at the end of the first paragraph. Malraux says, "Everything separated them: what he thought of them, what they thought of him, their manner of dress. Two races." Chevalier translates and adds, "Everything separated them: what he thought of them, what they thought of him, their manner of dress: almost all were dressed with an impersonal carelessness, and Ferral was wearing his wrinkled tweed suit and the gray silk shirt with a soft collar from Shanghai. Two races." Jane wondering what Malraux thought of the translation. =============== Reply 12 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/29 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:14 AM Sigh. I think its Haakon's fault entirely that I'm about to throw in the towel on this one. Anyone want to talk me out of it. Ruth =============== Reply 13 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/29 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:12 AM Jane, That translation is not a translation at all. It's absurd. It's more like a rewrite for people who are reading-between-the-lines impaired. I haven't started this one yet. I read it decades ago and don't know who the translator is. Probably old Chevalier. Maybe Maurice would have done a better job. Sherry =============== Reply 14 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/29 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:30 AM Hi, Jane: Enjoyed your note. "Brutally honest" is definitely the right descriptor for Malraux's treatment of his characters, I think. I'm a lot less clear, though, on the chicken-or-egg aspect of this in connection with the book's political setting. Do you think Malraux sees the bleakness of their emotional and romantic lives as fallout from the revolution, or at least the repression and inequities that lead to one, or are homo sapiens a pretty sorry lot from the get-go, and at least a revolution gives them a chance to be useful? In MAN'S FATE, I get signals of both. Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 15 of Note 69 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/29 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 8:40 PM Malraux holds each of his characters up in judgement according to how he copes with the "conditions" of his existence. The two characters who contrast with the many unredeemable characters are Kyo and Katov who are dedicated to a cause directed to the improvement of the human condition. Set against the decaying city of Shanghai at the time of the Shanghai uprising adds to the bleakness of their lives. Barb Hill in Oregon =============== Reply 16 of Note 69 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 07/29 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:05 PM Dale, mon ami, I think that Ferral has always been a cold-hearted person, and that he was only interested in the revolution because it was harming him economically. Hemmelrich and Kyo were of course victims (is that the right word?) of the times. Jane in rainy !! Colorado =============== Reply 17 of Note 69 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 07/29 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:38 PM Jane: This is a pretty dry book, which for want of a better target, I'll blame on that Norwegian song and dance man, Haakon Chevalier. However, dryness aside, shouldn't we consider the fact that the author (at the time he wrote this) was a raging Marxist, and up to his lean, French butt in dialectical analysis and revolutionary ardor? Aren't we missing something here by ignoring the rather substantial (if incredibly outdated) politics that were at work here? Dick in Alaska, where Marxism is now only a form of discrimination based on the public school grading system =============== Reply 18 of Note 69 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/29 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 10:42 PM So dry I needed a transfusion of Perrier every time I picked it up, Dick. I have thrown in the towel and I do note that no one tried to talk me out of it. Ruth, planning on Richard Feynman for tonight's reading =============== Reply 19 of Note 69 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 07/30 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:21 PM Sir R., Take it away. Please do post about the Marxism in this work. I was looking at my college notes again last night during the commericial-filled Olympics and my professor chose to follow the theme of death and how each of the characters faced his/her death. This is an interesting topic for someone to develop. I also like the accents that Malraux used for several of the characters, and I don't know if this is true of the English translation. For example, Tchen said "nong" instead of "non" and another character dropped syllables when he was speaking French but didn't do this in Chinese. Jane who would also like to discuss the existential aspects (Steve??) of LA CONDITION HUMAINE.  
To: ALL Date: 09/07 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 1:57 AM MAN'S FATE by Andre Malraux Well, I've finally managed to read this, and having looked through the notes am finally ready to add my mite, such as it may be. I came into MAN'S FATE with rather more preconceived attitudes than I bring to the average work of fiction. The very title of the book (or its original, La Condition Humaine) signals that here is a work that takes itself very seriously indeed -- written by an author determined to bring the reader the living Truth itself. So as I began I pretty much figured I was in for a sterile exercise in Marxist theorizing, where the characters exist only as puppets to make political points, and challenged Malraux to prove me wrong. To some extent, I'm happy to report, he did. I have to agree with those who thought MF rather dry and stodgily written, and the character of Ferral, the French official, is all too obviously a symbol of capitalism and foreign exploiters of China. However, I found the earlier and later parts of the novel, dealing with the insurrection and the following reprisals to be wholly interesting and often gripping. (Particularly the scene in the prison where the wounded, defeated revolutionaries wait to be taken off to be executed, and the Russion Katov gives his cyanide to two comrades that they might be spared death by torture.) MF is, to some degree, a work of subtle propaganda, but there's a good deal more to it than that. Any modern reader's enjoyment of MF is necessarily compromised by the knowledge of what resulted from the revolution whose early battles the novel depicts. Certainly Kyo, Katov Ch'en, and the rest could hardly fail to be appalled at the many tens of millions of lives that have been destroyed by the cause they took up with idealism and ultimately, and without regrets, died for. (I wonder what Malraux himself thought of the totalitarian monster he did his bit to help spawn? Ideologues of all stripes are good at rationalizing away inconvenient facts that threaten their beliefs.) While reading, one must often remind one's self that at the time of the events depicted, and the book's writing, that the outcome was very much in doubt and that those who fought the old regime could have no inkling of the unimaginable tyranny to which the rev- olution would give birth. I found MAN'S FATE of most interest as a study of people caught up in some of the most extreme situations imaginable and what motivated them to act as they did. This is all the more intriguing for being so far removed from our everyday experience -- how many of us can easily imagine such total commitment to a cause that we would not hesitate to die for it? Malraux shows what seems to be an honest glimpse into the hearts, minds and lives of some who did make that commitment, and pay the price for doing so, and thereby transcends the historical limitations of his book's setting and achieves at least some measure of the human universality he so earnestly sought. --->>> All right, then ....on to Becker's ESCAPE FROM EVIL and the first reading list, at least as far as I'm concerned, will be done. Allen =============== Reply 1 of Note 23 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/07 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:48 AM Congratulations on making it through this one, Allen. It was not an easy read. I'm glad to hear you say it had it's interesting parts, though. I enjoyed your ruminations on history, revolutions and the consequences thereof, and of commitment to a cause. Thanks for giving those of us who threw in the towel on this one some interesting reflections. Ruth, noticing how late you stay up =============== Reply 2 of Note 23 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 09/08 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:51 PM I managed only a small part of this one, but it possess 'certain features of interest'. I noted the diverse nationalities of these rather tormented, alienated people who somehow came together to form a movement. Also, there was quite a lot of study of the characters as people, something you hardly expect on revolutionary territory. I found myself wondering how many people understood that business of the language records and how they got by with faked labels. I wouldn't have understood it myself if I hadn't read some references here and there to the way labels were stuck on each individual record. These were the old breakable 78s, too; wonder how they fared in actual life!! As a point of interest, a number of jazz pieces by German and German Jewish bands survived WWII because some enthusiast stuck labels from the Horst Wessell song over the true labels. The technology of small things has changed so much and had just as much effect as changes in weaponry technology. For instance, early Perry Masons have pivotal parts for steamer trunks and running boards. Cathy =============== Reply 3 of Note 23 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 09/13 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:24 PM Cathy, I found this way of sending messages via pairs of records intriguing, but on further reflection have decided that this is more likely to be a product of Malraux' imag- ination than a method that saw much actual use. (For those who have not read MAN'S FATE, AM has his revolutionaries communicating secrets by use of matched pairs of phonograph records, which the recipients were to play simultaneously. The words that could be heard from one record during the silences of the second made up the message.) The practical difficulties of just getting the system to work (starting the two records at just the right moment, synchronizing speeds, etc.) and its overall cost, unwieldliness and lack of reliability (those brittle old shellac discs are not the first thing I'd pick to send vital information) all argue against it. Besides, at the time Malraux wrote MF, his old comrades were still back in China fighting the good fight, and he would hardly give away any of their actual working methods if he could help it. This all strikes me more as a smokescreen AM is using so as not to even hint at the real ways the revolutionaries communicated. Malraux certainly had a remarkable career, not just with the Chinese Communists but in the Spanish Civil War and with the French Resistance. I'm sure I'd find a biography of the man of more interest than his own work. While read- ing MF I sometimes found myself wishing it had been written by someone without an ideological agenda to push, but this was the price of the book's authenticity -- it gains tre- mendously from the reader knowing that the story is being told by someone who took part in, or witnessed, or knew those who did, the events it depicts. (Cathy: an aside on the new meanings one can find on revisiting a book years after one's first reading; I con- sulted a history of the Resistance, SOLDIERS OF THE NIGHT by David Schoenbrun, that I read back in the early 80's to see what I could find out about AM's doings in that period. (He rated two brief mentions.) Quite incidentally I noted the term the French used for their armed encampments in the woods -- the "maquis." Allen =============== Reply 4 of Note 23 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 09/15 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:38 AM Did you read about Nancy Wake, the "white mouse" in code terminology? I found her career extraordinary. Sucked into the Resistance almost by accident, this tiny woman came to command one of those maquis groups. They were particularly pleased with her accuracy with a Sten gun (I believe that was the model type mentioned). It seems the relative weakness of her wrists counteracted the weapon's vicious recoil to some extent. Cathy

 

 
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Andre Malraux

 
It was almost as if Malraux self-consciously wanted to avoid the book being "just" a thriller and tried to get a lot of scene-setting and motivation in quick. Once the action started up again, though, the story really took off for me. Some powerful, heart-rending stuff.
Dale
 
The two characters who contrast with the many unredeemable characters are Kyo and Katov who are dedicated to a cause directed to the improvement of the human condition. Set against the decaying city of Shanghai at the time of the Shanghai uprising adds to the bleakness of their lives.
Barb Hill

 
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