André Malraux and India
in Marg, Volume 69, Number 1, September-December 2017
translated by Devika Singh and William Snow
In one of the metaphysical dialogues in his Antimémoires, Malraux says that "the deepest conflict of thought is perhaps that which raises the idea of reincarnation against actual death". In this conflict at the heart of Indian civilization-that of Brahmanism and Vedism versus Buddhism-the latter's message points specifically to the possibility of breaking the cycle of reincarnations, of "breaking free from the wheel of life and death". I believe that Malraux does not take sides in this conflict, but that he interiorizes it, that he turns it into a form of dialogue with himself, since he seems caught between a feeling of nothingness, of a return of all things to ashes, of the irreversible passing of time and an admiration for the challenge to death constituted by the life of forms created by men, with its migrations, its transformations and its continual rebirths.
In a way, I feel that he accepts an individual's wanting to be like a creator with regard to his own existence, in order to struggle against fate and death; at least this is how he behaved with himself. He was most probably haunted, like Chateaubriand, by the Western idea of individual glory while performing his biography to turn it into legend, to erase the difference between what he was living and what he was dreaming. He found in Indian thought another metaphysics, and a form of salvation, for the poetic interplay with identity that runs through his entire oeuvre.