Writer, publisher, war hero, French government minister, André Malraux was renowned as a Renaissance man of the twentieth century. Now, Olivier Todd–author of the acclaimed biography Albert Camus–gives us this life, in which fact competes dramatically with his subject’s previously little-known mythomania.
We see the adventurous young Malraux move from 1920s literary Paris to colonial Cambodia, Cochin China, and Spain in its civil war. Todd charts the thrilling exploits that would inspire such novels as Man’s Fate, but, just as fascinating, he also traces Malraux’s lifelong pattern of lies: claiming friendship with Mao, he was called to tutor Nixon, despite having met the Great Helmsman only once; a minor injury becomes in recollections a near-mortal battlefield wound; stories of heroism in the French Resistance omit to mention that Malraux joined up just a few weeks before the Allied landings.
With meticulous research, Todd separates myth from reality to throw light on a brilliant con man who would become a national hero, but he also lets us see Malraux’s genuine achievements as both writer and man of action. His real life and the one he embroidered come together in this superb biography to reveal how Malraux, the protean genius, became his own greatest character.
Olivier Todd was born in Paris in 1929. Educated at Cambridge and the Sorbonne, he has been a reporter, a columnist, and an editor at Le Nouvel Observateur and L’Express. He has also contributed to The Times Literary Supplement, the… More about Olivier Todd
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“Dashingly brilliant . . . Marvelously enjoyable . . . Todd, by turns elegant, sarcastic, disdainfully well read, pounces and plays with his hide-and-seek subject, writing in the present tense. The result is delightful reading.” –Kirkus (starred review)
“Wittily bracing . . . [Todd’s] use of the present tense throughout gives the narrative a lively tone, immersing the reader in Malraux’s frantic existence. Todd indelibly captures the writer’s enormous charisma.” –Publishers Weekly