REVIEWSrnThe Condottierernby John LukacsrnAndre Malraux: A Biographyrnhy Curtis GaternNew York: Fromm;rn451 pp., $29.95rnWe live in an age when biographvrnflourishes, contrary to earher expectations.rnThe reason for this is the declinernof the novel and the rise of popularrninterest in all kinds of history, and biographyrnbelongs within history. The problemrnis “all kinds”: for appetite may be fedrnby a wide variety of junk food. We arcrnnow inundated with biographies andrnautobiographies that are illegitimate,rnsleazy, twisted, often obscene and fraudulent.rnCurtis Gate’s Malraux is of a differentrnorder. It is an excellent work, thisrnbiography of a very interesting man.rnMalraux was a writer and a 20th-centurrncondottiere. That makes him interestingrnenough. The problem is that, unlikernin the case of other writers or artists,rnthe man is more impressive than hisrnworks. The corpus of his writings is enormous;rnbut his many novels are, at best,rnideological period pieces, and I wonderrnwhether his grand books about art willrnsurvive beyond coffee-tables where, becausernof their beauty, the’ sureK belong.rnLike much of French literature—andrnphilosophy—of the last 50 years, the oldrnFrench irtue of clarity is not ver apparentrnin them, though there is a fairrnamount of French wit, not necessarily ofrnthe superficial sort. Malraux was an intensernman, with an extraordinarily quickrn(and sometimes incisive) mind. Some ofrnhis aphorisms are good, but they give thernimpression of having been thrown off inrnthe course of a rapid conversation—or,rnrather, monologue. But then Malrauxrnwas a man of action. I lis life is a series ofrnstruggles (and wounds): in hidoehinescrnjungles, in prisons, in Arabia, in Spain, inrnWorld War II; struggles with critics andrncommunists, with politicians and wom-rnT o .S U B .S t R I B Krn1 – 800 – 877 – 5459rnen, and—perhaps—with himself.rn”Part Peek’s Bad Boy, part Joan of Are”rnsomeone wrote in the New Yorker aboutrnMalraux—that was silh-. In an excellentrnreview of Gate’s book, Simon Leys in thernNew York Revieii’ of Books asks whetherrnMalraux was a phony and answers, yesrnand no. I agree, though I would say nornrather than yes, since a phony is necessarilyrnan opportunist, which Malraux wasrnnot. In his introduction, Gate puts itrnwell: “A consummate exhibitionist? Norndoubt.” But in his letters there is “norntrace of epistolary coquetr’…. They arernthe letters of a tense, time-rationed intellectual,rnfor whom action, in a noblerncause, and an anguished search for humanrnsignificance in a godless cosmosrnwere far more important than fiction.”rnThe strength of Gate’s book is in his consummaternacquaintance with the detailsrnand the atmosphere of Parisian intellectualrnand social life in the 1930’s, andrnagain after 1945 when Malraux becamerna principal aide to General De Gaulle.rn(The signs arc that his conversion tornGaullism was a result of Malraux’s con-rnictions, unblemished by opportunism.)rnHe was brave, though I vyould likernto know more of the episode when hernsprang up with a toast to Trotskv at arncongress in Stalin’s Moscow in 1934.rnThe evidence for that is from his firstrnwife’s memoirs. She was a difficultrnwoman, and not entirely reliable. Malraux’srnrelationship with women is interestingrnenough to be essential (I wouldrnhave liked to read more about his decisionrnto marr his brother’s widow afterrnthe war). I le w as very handsome, whichrnwas not onl- an asset when it came tornwomen: it helped him to stand out in arncrowd of unkempt and dowdy intellectuals,rntogether with this ability to speakrnstartlingly, rapidly, and well. He was attractixernrather than admirable; impressiveK’rninteresting rather than interestingh’rnimpressive; he pretended that art wasrnthe proposition of his life, whereas it wasrnhis life that was an artistic proposition.rnNot an easy subject for a serious biography,rnyet Gurtis Gate has succeededrner- well.rn]ohn Lukacs is the author of the forthcomingrnThe I litler of I listory (Knopf)rnand A Thread of Years (Yale UniversityrnPress).rnNaomi’s Secretrnby Karina RollinsrnPromiscuities: The SecretrnStruggle for Womanhoodrnhy Naomi WolfrnNew York: Random House;rn286 pp., $24.00rnNaomi Wolf is nice. She is attractive,rnshe has a daughter, she is een married.rnTo a man. A far cry from the rabidrnman-haters associated with modern-dayrnfeminism. Her voice has been hailed asrnone of moderation; she celebrates “powerrnfeminism,” professing that women arernnot helpless. She goes out of her way tornsa}’ how much she likes men. But beneathrnher diplomatic veneer of likablernmoderation lies a worldview as radicalrnas that of her more militant feministrncolleagues.rnHer last book. Fire with Fire, was nothingrnless than a battle plan for women tornbreak down the “patriarchy,” of whichrnthey are victims. In Promiscuities: ThernSecret Struggle for Womanhood, MissrnWolf trots out the female victim scenariornagain, supported by anecdotes ofrnher, and her girlfriends’, coming of age inrnthe San Francisco of the 1970’s. Americanrnsociety. Miss Wolf says, does notrnvalue and respect “female desire,” thusrnno one teaches girls how to becomernwomen, resulting in today’s mayhem ofrnconfused girls’ unwanted sex, disease,rnand babies. Additional support comesrnfrom interspersed history and socialstudiesrnlessons, explaining how otherrncultures and epochs treated womenrnand sex.rnHer favorite example of female victinihoodrnis the “shadow slut,” and shernintroduces several from her adolescence.rnShe recounts how a girlfriend, at 12 orrn13, put on makeup and unbuttoned partrnof her top in the bathroom during a familyrndinner at a restaurant. When she returnedrnto the table, her grandmotherrntold her to wash off the makeup, and herrnlittle brother giggled. While the ego of arnteenage gid is easily bruised, even Freudrnshould have trouble defining this as arnlife-altering experience. Leave it to Missrn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn