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The Way of the Kings (Hesperus Modern Voices) Paperback – June 1, 2005
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... and those butterfly wings also flapped on a different vector, from once being in a place where you associated Cambodia with the place where the people came that might harm you, to being in Musee Guimet in Paris, in 1971, looking at all the stone Khmer heads, and having my companion tell me how she had walked along the "way of the kings" at Angkor Wat, and observed all the headless statues, which I would finally be able to do 22 years later. And the nexus of those two vectors made the book leap off the table into my hands.
This was one of Malraux's earlier works, published in 1930. More than half the novel is largely autobiographical, and involves a young Frenchman, Claude Vannec, literally shipping out for the Far East in the early 1920's, in order to make his fortune, by stealing archeological artifacts and selling them for profit (as opposed to hauling them back for "conservation" purposes and storing them at a national museum.Read more ›
How the author of the foreword could describe the novel as a "fierce critique of colonialism" is truly baffling. The southeast asians are so thoroughly dehumanized that most readers will think of Conrad. Malraux, though, has nothing like Conrad's control of narrative.
One thought: The novel concludes with a kind of extended death scene, a meditation on last moments more characteristic, ironically, of the cultural wisdom found in the traditions that its heroes are vandalizing.