On the evening of June 21, 1935, thousands of people converge on the Maison de la Mutualite in Paris, where the Congress for the Defense of Culture is opening. The large hall, containing three thousand seats, is full, and outside a crowd gathers around loudspeakers that have been set up so that those unable to enter can at least follow the speeches. Tickets must be bought, and the audience is largely composed of writers and intellectuals from the most diverse horizons and political parties. Close to two hundred and fifty writers, from thirty-eight countries, have been invited, constituting the most brilliant audience ever assembled. For five days they meet at 3 P.M. and 9 P.M.
On the platform, Andre Gide, E. M. Forster, Julien Benda, Robert Musil, Jean Cassou, E. E. Kisch, Jean Guehenno, Edouard Dujardin, and Andre Malraux. With their differing political, literary, and philosophical opinions, they are a good representation of the stakes at this historic gathering; to defend freedom of the mind against the threat of war and fascism. The organization of the Congress, in which the French delegation is naturally the most numerous, is chiefly owing to the speaker who most fascinates the audience by his eloquence and fire: Andre Malraux.
<p>“The humanism we want to create, and which finds its former expression in the line of thought running from Voltaire to Marx, lays claim above all to man’s true awareness. To be a man is to reduce one’s pretense to a minimum,” he declares, at a time when he believes that “communism restores to the individual his fertility.”