n French Studies in Southern Africa - Image de soi, voyage vers l'Autre : Malraux-Baudelaire

Volume 2005, Issue 35
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



The striking resemblance between a portrait of Baudelaire drawn from a photo by Nadar and a photo of Malraux dating from the time of his Prix Goncourt was the starting point for this article, which explores the relationship between the two authors. Whether the similtarity of Malraux's pose is the result of a conscious choice or not is unknown. The fact remains that Malraux admired Baudelaire and said so on more than one occasion in his works. The photograph seems to testify to such admiration.

The study is divided into three phases. The first covers aspects of the life of both authors, which offer uncanny similitude. In particular, two instances receive special attention for they had a profound impact: travel to the East and a trial. Should the lives of artists constitute a valid point of departure for the understanding of their works? Here, it is assumed that they do.
The second phase of the study explores Baudelaire and Malraux's ideas on art. Malraux's famous concept of "musée imaginaire" seems to stem from Baudelaire's work. To exemplify this, the study makes reference to "Les Phares", a poetic expression of Baudelaire's own "imaginary museum". It emerges that Malraux offers a "positive" version of Baudelaire, as in the gestuel used in photography.
The third phase refers to Malraux's citations of Baudelaire, specifically in and . In the focus is on Baudelaire's relationship with the arts, quite logically due to the nature of Malraux's own thoughts in his first book devoted to this field. In , the only book he wrote entirely on literature, the focus is on the contrasting general and specific aspects of Malraux's references to Baudelaire. The general comments help little in exemplifying the exact nature of the relationship between the two authors, but the specific references lead to what seems to be at its core. Three quotations from are examined in depth. Their unexpected interconnection is highlighted. Finally, in revealing Malraux's own vision of Baudelaire through a complex network of meanings and interpretation, this study confirms the similitude suggested by the photographs.

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