THE ORIENTAL-OCCIDENTAL DIALOGUE IN THE NOVELS OF ANDRE MALRAUX
MIRABILE-TUCCI, NINA SARAH
Doctor of Philosophy
In La Tentation de l'Occident, written in 1926, the Chinaman Ling created a dividing line between the Orient and the Occident by saying that the Oriental wanted "to be" and that the Occidental wanted "to do." Ling's delineation of Orient and Occident, which can be defined as Yin Yang or "etre et faire," will form the basis of Malraux's attempt to fuse these two antithetical parts of the human psyche in order to create a new mode of being for Western man in the Oriental and Occidental trilogies. The task will be taken up by men of heroic stance who undergo shamanic initiation, thereby earning the right, in Malraux's viewpoint, to guide others. The Oriental trilogy (La Voie Royale, Les Conquerants, La Condition Humaine) will be treated as a Yin experience (etre) or a descent into the darkness of "time out of mind" in which Malraux freely experiments with various aspects of Oriental thought with the goal of creating a new balance between "etre et faire" through various paths of endeavor that would be acceptable to Western mentality: through isolated action in the jungles of Cambodia (Claude, Perken), through political action (Garine), through an effort to reintegrate the individual into concerted group activity while yet retaining his individuality (Kyo, Hemmelrich, Katow). The ultimate message of the Oriental experience, as it is mirrored through the shaman Gisors, is that Malraux's answer to Oriental absorption into the divine, though still on an abstract level, is Fraternity, or absorption into the human family. The Occidental trilogy (Le Temps du Mepris, L'Espoir, Les Noyers de l'Altenburg), or the Yang experience (faire), represents a coming back to "time within mind." The return to the relative sphere of existence changes the face of "etre et faire" from a purely metaphysical investigation which took place in the absolute freedom of cosmic timelessness in the Oriental trilogy, to an ethical investigation in which human action implies all the responsibilities involved in the encounter with one's fellowman in the immediate, existential, and historic moments of life. The practicality of the division of "etre et faire," as it represents the ethics of two groups, is explored (the anarchists and the purists versus the Communists in L'Espoir). The balance between "etre et faire," as it manifests itself in single individuals at different stages of life, is also reviewed (Manuel, Alvear). In its broadest terms, however, a detailed study of the characters of the Occidental trilogy shows that Malraux has arrived at a tentative solution for the West which treads a parallel path with the Orient. Although each man has an individual path, his doing is grounded in the Being of Fraternity. Kassner's intuition of Self, coupled with the intuition of a cosmic union with all men, is expanded in L'Espoir to take in individuals from the four corners of the globe, and culminates in the insight of the narrator of Les Noyers who is the shaman-writer Malraux, that although he is conscious of his own identity, he is also absorbed into the eternal flow of human history. On the individual level, this knowledge of self creates the desired balance between what a man "is" and what he "does" (Yin Yang). On a cultural level it will bring East and West together from which could arise a new value for modern man.