n French Studies in Southern Africa - Athéna-Alexandre et l'inspiration farfelue dans l'oeuvre de Malraux

Volume 2010, Issue 40
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



This article explores the complex relationship between myths and the notion of "farfelu" in André Malraux's works, whose interest for Antiquity is overwhelmingly visible in his extensive writings on art and civilisation, especially the contribution of Ancient Greece to the foundation of Western civilisation. Against this background, the study concentrates on two great figures of the ancient world, the goddess Athena and Alexander the Great. The relation between the two is based on a tradition established from early days which saw artists depicting the young king under the characteristics of the goddess, a warrior figure of great youth and powerful attire. Malraux chooses the depiction rendered by Rembrandt in his painting to illustrate the cover page of his book , the second volume of . The study aims to understand this choice and more specifically the fact that the painting is reproduced in a truncated copy, showing only the top of the helmet of the goddess representing an owl, symbol of the city of Athens, and which exemplifies what Malraux calls the "farfelu". This notion is explained and then linked to various transposition of the myth of Athena in Malraux's works, both in his fiction and in his essays. The elaborate network of symbols and metaphorical transpositions serves as a foundation for the concluding argument, namely that the cover of unexpectedly constitutes a representation of Malraux's concept of creativity and mythical formation.

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