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At this precise time, a young communist named Mao Zedong popularized the idea of land reforms and focused his attention on the issue of poverty among peasant class. He convinced his fellow communists that the only solution to all problems lied in strengthening the agricultural sector by introducing land reforms. He worked ceaselessly for the peasants but his party was driven to remote corners of North China during the Long March. This action, taken by Chiang government, was a clear indication of the paranoia and insecurity that were building in nationalist forces (Peoples: Rise). Mao continued to fight government's oppressive rule even while in exile and this lasted till 1937 at which point, Japan invaded China and the nationalist-communist conflict came to an end.
In 1920s, Malraux was present in China and observed the political dynamics of the country. The oppression and communist popularity affected his deeply and 1927 revolution thus served as an inspiration for his novel, Man's Fate. As mentioned earlier, Malraux did not focus on the revolution alone but tried to discuss other related issues as well. He wanted his readers to understand how these political forces worked and the impact they had on human condition. The novel focuses on the oppressive nature of Fate and man's repeated struggles to fight destiny and create some hope for himself. This theme runs throughout the novel where we see few important characters fighting for what they believed in- not to create a new political system but to create a better future for themselves. We come across Ch'en, a terrorist, Kyo Gisors, a communist supporter, Katov and Kyo's father, Old Gisors. Man's Fate is not one person's view on the episode; instead it's an impartial third person narrative. The protagonist Kyo supports communism because he is genuinely concerned about the well-being of Chinese peasants who were mistreated and exploited by the pre-revolt Chinese regimes. He believed that communism could save the poor since Nationalist group had simply destroyed the country. On one occasion, he looks at the destruction of the city of Hankow and wonders, "Was it possible that Hankow, the city to which the Communists of the entire world were looking to save China, was on strike? [...] if Hankow was not what everyone believed it was, all his people were already condemned to death. May too. And himself" (139) Kyo sides with communism because he wants to restore the peasant's sense of self-respect and dignity. But he is more intensely involved with Chinese politics. Kyo is an Asian with genuinely concern for the poor and he was "not restless. His life had a meaning, and he knew what it was: to give to each of these men whom famine, at this very moment, was killing off like a slow plague, the sense of his own dignity. He belonged with them: they had the same enemies. A half-breed, an outcast, despised by the white men and even more by the white women, Kyo had not tried to win them: he had sought and had found his own kind." (65)
This book is exclusively about Asians and Asian reaction to communism. For Malraux, communism was the one and only force that could save the poor. For Malraux, it was the hope for something different and better that drove them to Communism as the author notes about Ch'en, "everything had pushed him into political activity: the hope of a different world, the possibility of eating, though wretchedly (he was naturally austere, perhaps through pride), the gratification of his hatreds, his mind, his character. This activity gave a meaning to his solitude" (65) Kyo and Ch'en endorse communism because they are passionately idealistic.
The ending is particularly disturbing as we see man losing to his fate. But at the same time it offers a philosophical view on the problems of human condition. Katov's acceptance of life as it is- constitutes a positive response because by accepting Fate, he is welcoming life with all its beauty and ugliness.
Duiker, William J. The Twentieth Century. 2nd Ed. Wadsworth Publishing. Belmont, California. 2002.
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John Cruickshank. The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction, 1935-1960: Oxford University Press. London. 1962.…[continue]
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