A disappointingly superficial double-portrait of the
adventurer/author of Man's Fate, Voices of Silence, etc., and of
his first wife. Written in a style that often reads like a
translation, the narrative is skittishly organized, leaping back
and forward in time with little apparent reason, and rarely probes
the psychologies of its two subjects. Andre Malraux never lacked
self-confidence, whether he was plundering Khmer sculptures in the
jungles of Cambodia in the 1920's, organizing an anti-Franco air
squadron during the Spanish Civil War, or, as Charles de Gaulle's
Secretary of Cultural Affairs, commissioning Coco Chanel to
redecorate a wing of the Louvre. Clara Malraux, on the other hand,
was completely in her husband's thrall, overwhelmed by Andre's
brilliance and daring. In an especially revealing confession, Clara
compared herself with Zelda Fitzgerald: "She went mad," Clara
wrote. "It could have happened to me." It was only after the couple
parted that Clara was able to make a mark for herself as a writer
of both fiction and nonfiction. Meanwhile, the fact that Malraux
felt it necessary constantly to "revise" - many would say
"fabricate" - his life story as he got older obviously complicates
a biographer's work. Even granting this, however, Madsen is lax in
tracking down the truth. Far too frequently, he merely notes the
gaps in his subject's story or cites contradictory statements
without comment. For example, in describing the origins of
Malraux's The Conquerors, a novel that deals knowingly with China
during the 1925 Hong Kong general strike, Madsen merely dismisses
specular ions about its sources with a curt "the time he spent in
China in 1925 was to be the most mysterious period of his life." A
slapdash treatment of two intriguing figures who deserve greater
attention than they receive here. (Kirkus Reviews)
Andre and Clara Malraux had the world at their feet. Wealthy and
carefree, their life was a bohemian idyll spent frequenting the
hottest clubs and restaurants, and traveling and mingling with the
Paris literary set. But all this changed when the stock market
crashed and their fortune disappeared overnight. Penniless but
still craving adventure, Andre dreamt up a plan to travel to French
Indochina where they would collect temple treasures and sell them
for a huge profit in America. Against all the odds--jungle fevers,
inexperience, and uncooperative locals--they succeeded. But their
treasure hunt turned into a dangerous crusade when Clara and Andre
set up an anti-government newspaper in Saigon, defiantly exposing
colonial injustices, corruption, and the government's stifling of
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