All art is a revolt against man’s fate

So said Andre Malraux, French adventure and statesman, and author of the 1933 novel Man's Fate.  I read this quote in Don Watson's Obama essay in The Monthly (June), and it's stayed with me. I think it's profoundly true.

Art and revolt seem synonymous in modernism, but what about grand old art, trundling in the broad furrows of classicism, or floating in the current of conformity? Yes, even this kind of art is revolting in its way.

Whatever other fates we can think of - the fate of meaninglessness in tragic isolation, the fate of biology in the black comedy of marriage - the commonest fate is death. Art - all art - is a revolt against death.

It's a way of recording what's constantly slipping away from us. It's an attempt to fix in space and time what is fundamentally unfixable. It's an attempt to aggrandise what we know is subject at last to indignity. Art is a shot at eternity.

I wonder if our general cultural failure at memento mori accounts for our (general) lack of interest in art. Or perhaps, vice versa.  When we entrust eternity to scientists and cosmeticians, art is aimless and death becomes revolting.