Malraux laid to rest in the Pantheon of heroes

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The Independent Online
The mortal remains of Andre Malraux, France's first minister of culture and polymath extraordinaire, were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris on Saturday night, the 20th anniversary of his death, with all the quasi- religious solemnity an avowedly secular state can muster.

Borne by six members of the Republican Guard, from a plinth guarded by four Egyptian stone cats - Malraux's love of cats was legendary - his coffin was laid in the centre of the cold, stone building to await burial tomorrow alongside such French luminaries as Jean Monnet and the Resistance leader, Jean Moulin. Pupils from one of the many schools named after Malraux carried large photographs depicting his life and work, which they placed on the ground in shafts of red, white and blue light.

Malraux, who combined in one lifetime the roles of revolutionary, writer, resistance fighter, politician, orator and cultural ambassador, became the 72nd "great man" of France to rest in the Pantheon.

In early summer Jacques Chirac announced Malraux would be elevated to the Pantheon, unleashing a crescendo of publicity that by last week dominated hoardings, bookshops, and the French media. Very few ventured even a whisper of criticism.

But some claimed he had been blind to the cruel reality of Chinese Communism and that his "elitism" as De Gaulle's culture minister had fostered a pernicious divide between "high" and "low" culture in France. But in his tribute, modelled on Malraux's oration to Jean Moulin 22 years ago, President Chirac said Malraux's "eclectic tastes" knew "no hierarchy". And of his politics, he said Malraux "embodied Gaullism ... as De Gaulle wanted it to be, not of the right, not of the left, but of France".