The way of the kings by Andre Malraux
Translator Howard Curtis
Andre Malraux is one of the major figures of pre and post war French fiction .That said he wasn’t just a writer but also a statesman as part of De Gaulle government as minister of information and cultural affairs .He also spent time in early in his life with his wife spent time Indo china but he fell foul of the local authorities at the time and joined the republican forces during the Spanish civil war and for the French resistance during the second world war .
The book starts on a liner heading to Indo china two men meet a young man Claude this guy is youngster in some ways maybe an early gap year wanting adventure and in some ways an easy way to the top ,he meets an older chap a dutch man who is an explorer that is off to darkest Siam enthralled by the old mans tales and also his many talks of women he has met as well ,so this man Perken persuades his young friend to join him although he doesn’t take much persuasion,I was reminded of Richard in Alex Garlands the beach another young man wanting the more adventurous side of Indo -china .So on the face of it is it a book in the vein of Conrad Heart darkness .But also I suppose you can compare it too Francis ford Coppola Apocalypse now which in turn is an homage to Conrad’s book and the action in that is also set in Indo china .The recent extended redux cut we see a french family living in the wild parts of Vietnam talk about Frances part in Indo china history .This part of the world even inspired this years Prix Goncourt winner whose book was a history of french involvement in indo china .
So the men set of you have a feeling that there is something going to go wrong with this trip from the start .But like in heart of darkness get drawn in by the beauty they see wonderful statues As the men come closer we sense a sense of manhood and comrades .
The obsession overwhelmed him once again ,like an attack of fever he could question about the fearsome game to which he was about to bind his life .
Claude first meets Perken
Maybe you feel this is in part from Malraux own experiences in the area he travelled with his wife in the mid twenties but he fell foul of the authorities .This book was written five years after that .THE first part of the book is told by Claude but as things get worse in the jungle it is Perken that takes over the narration .later in the book the men spilt lose there guides and bad injuries .I found this a pleasant read one evening the book would fall into what Meike from Peirene press calls a two-hour book to read instead of watching a film 170 pages long and the boys own feel in the early parts really got me into the book as some one who used to write his own jungle adventure stories as a young kid I enjoyed this book .The book is translated by the ever reliable Howard Curtis.
Have you read Malraux ?
Do you have a favourite jungle based story ?