André Malraux (1901 – 1976) was a French novelist, art theorist and Minister of Cultural Affairs.
"I wanted to destroy the notion of autobiography. The part of oneself that allows one to say ‘I’ is profoundly irrational", said André Malraux, who has just published Lazare, fragments of the second volume of his Antimemoirs (Gallimard). One day in the autumn of 1972 Malraux collapsed and was taken to the Salpêtrière; two weeks later the doctors diagnosed sclerosis of the peripheral nerves of the brain. He came close to death and encountered an “I-without-self; a life without an identity”.
He considers the fact that he is sitting, alive and well, in his country-house at Verrières-leBuisson as a resurrection. Although Lazare is inspired by this encounter with death and intermittently treats the personal experience, Malraux uses it primarily as a basis for meditating upon dilemmas that transcend the individual.
Both in the book and in our conversation he speaks of his personal experience with a wry dismissiveness. “When it happened, the first thing I felt was great surprise, and then a certain irony. I would never have thought that death was of such little importance. But I want to s tress the fact that we must never forget that physical suffering is all-important. For someone who had suffered physical pain it would have been a completely different experience. It was an event, but it was scarcely suffering.