While Malraux's life-long quest was to seek new values in man's perennial and shared struggle against an overwhelming fate, his early protagonist, particularly the assassin, turns to destruction and terrorism in a frenzied search for absolutes. This attempt to identify with the very fatality that has the power to destroy him is especially developed in Tchen, who embodies a despairing fascination with totalistic nihilism that Malraux must overcome in his search for a new notion of man. Tchen's initiation to murder in La Condition humaine marks a transgression of a taboo that thrusts him into what Georges Bataille calls the realm of the "sacred." His attempt to reconcile life and death by identifying with his victim irredeemably isolates Tchen from other, uninitiated men. Transformed by murder, he leaves the reality of revolution for the inhuman world of cosmic existence and individual death. Seeking to escape the human condition, he becomes obsessed with killing Chang-Kai-shek in order to kill himself and thereby "possess" his fate. But the illusion of such an escape dies with Tchen. Even his admiring disciples repudiate his nihilistic temptation as Malraux begins to seek in human fraternity the foundations of a new humanism.
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Smith, Roch C.
"Tchen's Sacred Isolation—Prelude to Malraux's Fraternal Humanism,"
Studies in 20th Century Literature:
1, Article 5.