Andre Malraux, La Condition Humane (1933)

Andre Malraux, Man’s Fate (1933) 371p.

“The stupidity of the human race is that a man who has only one life is willing to lose it for an idea.
It is very rare for a man to be able to endure [..] his fate as a man. [..]
All that men are willing to die for, beyond self-interest, tends obscurely to justify that fate by giving it a foundation in dignity: Christianity for the slave, the nation for the citizen, Communism for the worker. [..]
There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman.
Perhaps love is above all means which the Occidental uses to free himself from man’s fate.”

La Condition Humaine, for many one of the classics in the modern literary pantheon and I would agree, is about the struggle to reconnect to the world we lost, to find humanity in our soul, to live with dignity a life that knows no morals, to accept a path in life and to rise above it. At the end of our way there is death, and our companion is solitude, the road is narrow and we walk it alone. We escape this fate of man and find companion in the forgetfulness of alcohol, drugs and paid women. Or we strive to transcend our civic meaninglessness by becoming gods, and die for a higher ideology that serves mankind. This we dream to believe, but we are but dust in the wind, fond of thinkat we chose the direction in which we are heading. This power of the will is struck dead in an instant, it does not carry the force of our fate.

The existential reflection in Man’s Fate is the deepest representation of man’s thought. His struggle however is to overcome this isolated position in the world by action. And it is the ideological conclusion that drives man forward despite the reality of his existence. Unlike Dostoevsky’s writing, there is no sympathy provoked by or in the characters of Man’s Fate. But this is only to enforce the message that Malraux’ writing bears, that man is detached from the world, from the other, and that in this miserable reality we search and struggle to reconnect ourselves. Some reconcile themselves with the pity minded path that this brings us to, others prefer a chance for all or nothing, inevitably leading us to nothingness.

This is not a story about the cohesive bound of men that transcends the individual’s isolation. The collective bounds are betrayed and only the shared fate of death brings us closer to the other. This is perhaps in essence a Western tale, seen from the cultural relativist’s point of perspective, but it is the highest form of literature if you believe in the universality of man. Certainly, we are not the only ones to suffer from this solitude of the human condition, we share the fate of being thrown back into our own souls where we find both meaninglessness and the desire to become gods, were we find no love, but conquer women, where the force of submission is more powerful than that of love. And yet, the relentless desire of man would be nothing without the continuous hope to be loved. Man desires to matter in a world without meaning.

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