So this novel feels so much like a French novel of the 1930s. And it is. It’s ruminative and thoughtful and harrowing in it’s own right. It also feels like a slightly juvenile novel, not really in it’s idea or in it’s execution, but in that way that socialist novels can often feel…politics upfront, narrative second.
So I decided to read this because while reading the Ralph Ellison collection of essays he mentions Malraux many times as one of the transformative writers he discovered in his youth that guided his thinking and his ideas. And I get that and respect that; in fact, I would have been equally as enamored when I was 20 if I found it then. It’s erudite but accessible, and it’s politics are attractive, if glaring.
The novel itself is about a German Communist revolutionary who is captured by the Nazis and placed in a concentration camp in the early 1930s. While there he is kept in solitude, which gives him time to think about the consider his condition. He does so, and then as he gets out he considers his life after.
It’s interesting to consider how his revolutionary thinking dictates his life and his actions. He has that kind of drive (especially away from a suicidal impulse) to stay alive to keep up his revolutionary practice. This also would have been very vivifying for me when I was younger: external purpose.
Interestingly to me this feels like a counternarrative to the Arthur Koestler novel “Darkness at Noon” which sort of tells the opposite story of a fallen Communist arrested by his party.