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December 10, 1938 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1938-12-10

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ty river, and of the Ural and the Don.
He sang of the Dnieper and the Ob.
'Now sing me the song of the Cos-
sacks,' said Sergei; for Levin was a man
of fine voice.
So Levin sang of the Cossack wars and
the legends of the Steppes.
When I heard, my belly trembled;
My lips quivered at the voice:
Rottenness entered into my bones,
And I trembled in myself, that I might
In the day of trouble.
When he cometh up unto the people,
He will invade them with his troops
O bursting song! O blinding sound!
But why make these complaints?
The weariness is over; Over indeed
for some who never again
Need even trouble to rise. For who
can redeem a man's black death-
shed blood when once it has fallen
upon the ground before his feet?
'Why did Anna Lennev's son die?'
said Levin suddenly.
'He loved a woman,' said Sergei.
And though he strew the grave with
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard ...
It was deathly silent, everywhere. The
wind still blew, but it seemed to be a
quiet wind, almost a dead wind. In the
east the first signs of day began to ap-
'Did you ever eat an ant?' Levin
queried. 'I ate an ant once. They taste
sour. Can't remember just how it hap-
pened. It was when I was a little boy
and lived near the sea. Have you ever
seen the sea, Sergei?'
'No,' replied Sergei.
'The sea is beautiful in the winter
time. I once saw a battle on the shore,
The ice was covered bright red when
the soldiers were through fighting. It
was as red as the sun over there,'
'Did you think it was a beautiful sight
as beautiful as the sun over
'Oh it was a beautiful sight, Sergei
Sergei, I am going to be a soldier
and fight in the army of the Czar!'
And on and on the sanyi sped. The
horses were taking their own gait now,
and they carried along at a fine pace.
'And I shall bury the dead,' said Ser-
gei sadly. 'I shall bury the old man as
I buried his sinful wife. I shall bury the
men you slay, Levin, and by God's good
grace the people that I know and love
shall later bury me, deep in the heart
of my native Russia.'
While on and on the sanyi sped.
While on. . and,. .on....
For medical aid for Spain!
For bread for starving China!
Nor knoweth the fool he does not
The wheel whereon he turns.
And on and on the sanyi sped, and Le-
vin held the reins.
(Continued frofn Page 7)
to examine it critically. Although form
and content are actually inseparable,
I believe It best to isolate both elements
from the whole of the work and study
them each separately in order to learn
more about the whole. Before proceed-
rig to matter of technique, several ax-

loms can be stated. Language is com-
posed of symbols. Technique is the
function of ordering symbols for means
of communication. This sense of order
is deeply ingrained in all individuals and
societies, since a bertain amount of order,
is physiologically necessary for survival.
A median point may be assumed to lie
between the two poles of technique-
.freedom and order-where both are al-

lowed the maximum of exercise com-
measurable with the existence of the
The general form of Malraux' novels
is strict, dramatic in structure. He sets
his scenes almost as carefully as a play-
Wright: in Man's Fate each section is
headed by the date and time of day or
night. At all times the environment of
the action and the character with whom
he is dealing is precisely noted. And
each section is told through the medium
of one character.
His novels have a beginning, a middle,
and an end that are exactly defined.
Expository material is skillfully woven
into the body of the narrative: the at-
tack is always abrupt: the story begins
upon the first page. An example of
this can be quoted from Man's Fate,
where the terrorist Ch'en is about to
kill a man. The very first lines follow:
"Should he try to raise the mos-
quito-netting? Or should he strike
through it? Ch'en was torn by an-
In Man's Fate the attack is posed
as a question: Can the Chinese Revolu-
tion be successfully organized? The
middle, or the crisis, comes with Kyo's
visit to the Communist officials in Han-
kow, and his thoughts: "The Revolution,
so long in parturition, has reached the
moment of its delivery: now it would
have to give birth or die." The resolu-
tion comes in the execution yard, where
the groans of the wounde men seemed
to run into one another like rats, and
where Kyo lay face down on the ground,
his shoulders shivering uncontrollably,
fumbling at his belt buckle for the cya-
nide tablet which it concealed. Here
the 1927 Revolution died.
This structure is perfectly formed,
and it is difficult to make any criticism
of it. Any effort toward firmly des-
ciplining the novel form should be wel-
comed, and it is possible that Malraux'
work will have much influence on other
writers. To indicate his technical su-
periority, it is only necessary to com-
pare his work with the long, rambling
novels of Thomas Mann, whose severe
structural faults are easily apparent.
Even Joyce, who uses such a detailed
skeleton in Ulysses, cannot escape criti-
cism: the bones show too often.
Malraux' prose style is in conformity
with his dramatic structure. It is as pre-
cise and sharp as the poetic diction of
T. S. Eliot. My knowledge of French
is somewhat limited, but reading Les
Conquerants in the original has con-
vinced me that the translations have
been made with artistry and accuracy.
The style is unmistakable, either in
Frenh or in English. Malraux has been
fortunate in the choice of two transla-
tors, Stuart Gilbert and Haakon Che-
valier. Chevalier is the finer of the two,
and his translation of Man's Fate may
well become a classic: it conveys the
characteristics of the French and is
transcribed with much beauty. An
objection can be raised at this point:
some of Malraux' precision may be due
to the nature of the French language,
which no less than the Anglo-Saxon has
definite characteristics. This is an-
swered by quoting the Symbolists, who
flourished on the French language and
made a vague, romantic, and personal
diction of it.
Proceeding on the same basis to an
examination of Malraux' content, I am
going to state several principles, by
means of which the validity of his ideas
may be .determined. The old argument
of Art versus Propaganda is fortunate-
ly buried, although several neat gentle-
men, reviewers for the Sunday Supple-
ments, no doubt, still bravely occupy
their imagined No-Man's Land, un-
aware that the battle has passed to
other and more fertile fields.
Art is a social function. It follows
from this that society conditions the

expression of the artist. Society nour-
ishes the individual, unless, of course,
that society is corrupt. In general, to
produce great literature, a man, must
be integrated with society. For, as I
have indicated, the Faustian Man is
dead, and few men of intelligence are
willing to continue beating his body
back to life,
The social function of Malraux' art

is plain. He has taken a great step to-
ward the development of Communist
culture, for, as he himself states: . . .
"Communism restores to the individual
all the creative potentialities of his
nature." His writing is conditioned by
a form of society which now exists in
the Soviet Union and which shall even-
tually unite the 'world. Malraux has
found his own potentialities through
Socialism, and he is integrated with a
society with which the future of history
rests. The truth and justice of history
cialist morality impart a high ethical
tone to his work, one that is more clear
and has more dignity than that of any
writer who may still feel himself spiritu-
ally united with a corrupt society.
In order to forestall the cry of "Straw
man!" about these principles, we may
use them to determine the validity of
the ideas of several other writers with
whom I have previously compared Mal-
raux. T. S. Eliot has been cited for
precision of form. But Eliot's ideas
are those of feudalistic society, of the
dominance of the Church. The so-
ciety with which he is so firmly ip-
tegrated has been dead for almost 500
years, and the elements of it which re-
main are thoroughly corrupt. There-
fore, Eliot's ideas are invalid. But,
since form and content are inseparable,
how can the form be excellent and the
content false. Looking back to the
definition of language, it can be seen
that Eliot's difficulty lies in a confu-
sion of symbols. His symbols have no
correspondence with reality, and be-
cause of this his technical equipment is
put to false uses. Part of Eliot's work
is valuable, however, for its, severe
criticism of that myth of bourgeois so-
ciety, the "pure individualist." Both
Mann and Joyce are guilty, to a lesser
extent, of this confusion of symbols.
Mann's Humanism is ill-defined, has
many loose ends and only a partial ex-
istence in reality. Criticising bourgeois
society, still unable to accept Commun-
ism, he is now looking to the past in an
attempt to integrate himself with a so-
cial order. But Mann's quest is not yet
over ..
I have very briefly shown how this
method of criticism may be applied to
other writers. But Malraux is under
discussion, and as yet his morality has
not been given exact statement. Quot-
ing from the execution scene . . .:
"O prison, place where time cease-
time, which continues elsewhere - - .
NO! It was in this yard, separated
from everyone by the machine-guns,
that the Revolution, no matter what
its fate or place of resurrection, was
receiving its death-stroke; wherever
men labor in pain, in absurdity, in
humiliation, they were thinking of
doomed men like these, as believers
pray; and, in the city, they were be-
ginning to love these dying men as
though they were already dead. In
all the world that this last night
covered over, this place of agony was
no doubt the most weighted with
virile love . . . He had fought for
what in his time was charged with
the deepest meaning and the great-
est hope; he was dying among those
with whom he would have wanted to
live; he was dying, like each of these
men, because he had given a mean-
ing to his life. What would have been
the value of a life for which he would
not have been willing to die? It is
easy to die when one is not alone ...
How, already facing death, could he
fail to hear this murmur of human
sacrifice crying to him that the virile
heart of men is for the dead as good
a refuge as the mind? . . . The silence
had become so great that the ground
resounded each time his foot fell
heavily upon it; all of the heads, with
a slight movement, followed the
rhythm of his walk, with love, with
dread, with resignation ...

Here is the truth of our time, and if
we do not learn it now we may be taught
most bitterly: only brotherhood, only
the love of men for men can save hu-
manity from the organized hatred which
threatens to destroy it.
It is from such high morality that
Malraux' content has grown. If what
he has written has been largely tragic,

it is certainly not without hope. The
overwhelming tragedy of Man's Fate
will some day turn to joy. And we
must remember the title of his latest
The legendary explorer, revolutnist,
and artist has become the very symbol
of our destiny.
(Continued from Page )
back to the radio and iooled with the dial
till some soft jazz drifted out. She sat
on the edge of the over-stuffed couch
and leaned slightly towards him, "And
besides, I said he wouldn't be back for
three weeks, if that's what's bothering
you." She said it softly as if she couldn't
disturb the music, and the effect on him
was immediate.
The drink felt warm in his stomach
and h started to feel pretty good again.
He began to feel lazy and he settled
back into the big chair and settled his
eyes on her. She held up the bottle and
he nodded his head, so she made him
up another drink. He felt just enough
conscience to make it all very interest-
ing. She was another man's wife, wasn't
she? He'd heard enough of these kind
of stories from his fellow swabs, always
of course about an officer's wife. Maybe
the others weren't worth bragging
about. Well, he wasn't a professional
adventurer by a long ways, but what
the hell's the percentage in turning
down a good thing when it comes your
way? None.
He motioned for her to come over,
and she came over with her drink in
one hand and crawled onto his lap. Her
fuzzy hair tickled his nose and the
whole thing was funny, humorous. He
wanted to laugh outright. He felt good,
He put his hand on the back of her neck
up close to her hair. Now he had her
tied down. 4
"Hurry up and finish your drink," he
Then all of a sudden a screech of
static blasted out the soft sound of the
music. It screeched and tore the musical
waves into bits, hollered like a cat. His
peaceful feeling dissolved; he swore and
she moved at last, reluctantly, to turn
the dial. She switched off the station
and for a moment there were no sounds
at all. Then . . . did he hear it? He sat
up. A footstep outside, light, scraping
.. another. He was sure of it. The
warm feeling left his stomach as his
brain started into motion.
He'd come! By god, that was the
frame-up partner. He'd come early and
was walking up and down outside. He
thought of the telephone call. This guy
was wondering whether it was time to
break in! Just then she found some
music again and it drifted into the
room as quietly as before, only his heart
was pounding out loudly now, his hands
were cold and he sat rigidly facing her,
She hadn't heard, or she hadn't let
on; she was the same as before. She
noticed the change in him, though, and
was about to say something when there
was a loud resounding knock on the
He froze. "I'm sunk, there he is!" he
almost yelled out loud. She looked
startled too; she glanced at him, then
toward the door. The knock came again,
louder than was necessary. She got up
and stood as if she were undecided as
to what to do. Then suddenly with a
quick pace she made for the door.
That was his cue. He was up out of the
chair and shot out through the dinette
into the kitchen. It was a long shot
gamble that there was a back way down
and that he could find it. He grabbed
the door and pulled. No; it was locked.

Oh, oh!-time! He fumbled under the
knob-and the key was there. They had
forgotten the key! He turned it and
bolted out the door into the darkness,
down a winding narrow flight of stairs
-down two stories, onto a brick walk.
He stumbled over a dark object, his
head grazed a wire clothes-line; then
there was a high board fence. He could-


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