‘Malraux’: One Man’s Fate

Christopher Hitchens reviews Olivier Todd’s newest biography, ”Malraux: A Life” in The New York Times:

Malraux184 ISAIAH BERLIN once described someone whom I will not name as ”that very rare thing: a perfect charlatan.” Admit that this ostensibly lethal criticism contains a note of reluctant admiration, and you have the tone of Olivier Todd’s newest biography, ”Malraux: A Life” (which has been translated from the French by Joseph West). André Malraux was one of the most prolific self-inventors of the 20th century, and it is ”the Malrucian legend,” as much as the life itself, that is Todd’s subject.

And in the end:

The end was not glorious. Malraux’s facial tic was accompanied by a black dog of depression, and he became dependent first on alcohol and then on a succession of medications. His family life deteriorated horribly. When the end came, in November 1976, two sprays of red flowers were delivered to the cemetery. One was from the French Communist Party, which he had fawned upon in the 1930’s and turned upon in the 1940’s. The other was from the restaurant Lasserre: grand scene of many of his dinner-table revolutions. On his bedside table, after his death, it was found that he had scrawled the words: ”It should have been otherwise.” A more apt, if lenient, epitaph might be located in ”La Condition Humaine”: ”Ce n’était ni vrai ni faux, c’était vécu.” ”It was neither true nor false, but what was experienced”.

Read more here.