Opening of the Malraux Garden at the University of Dhaka
On 26 April 2014, the Malraux Garden was inaugurated at the University of Dhaka, at the initiative of the Alliance française, and before Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq,
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Below is the speech given by Ambassador of France to Bangladesh HE Mr. Michel Trinquier on that occasion.
Honourable Minister of Liberation War Affairs, Mr. AKM Mozammel Huq,
Honourable Vice Chancelor of the University of Dhaka, Prof. AAMS Arefin Siddique,
Mr. Bernard-Henri Lévy,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today on the occasion of the opening of the Malraux Garden at the University of Dhaka.
Here in Bangladesh, André Malraux, the author of The Human Condition, the commander of a squadron in the Spanish civil war, the French resistance fighter, General de Gaulle’s Minister for Culture, hardly needs any introduction.
The opening of the Malraux Garden is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and further strengthen the friendship between France and Bangladesh in honoring the memory of a Great Frenchman and Citizen of the World, who was always ready to place his fame and influence in the service of causes he regarded as just and worth defending. I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka for agreeing that a part of this renowned institution should be devoted to the memory of André Malraux. Let me also thank Alliance française de Dhaka, who initiated this project.
It is indeed fitting that the one place in Dhaka bearing the name of André Malraux should be on the premises of this university. For it is here that on 21 April 1973, on his visit to Bangladesh, Malraux gave his first speech. It is here that he uttered the words featuring on the plaque adorning the Malraux Garden: “Students of Dhaka, today I am speaking for the first time in the only university in the world where the dead outnumber the living.” ("Etudiants de Dacca, je parle aujourd’hui pour la première fois, dans la seule université du monde où il y a plus de morts que de vivants!"). If anyone outside Bangladesh had been fully aware of the traumatic events of 71, that person was André Malraux.
As a culture - and freedom - loving people, we French people are proud that such a towering figure should also belong to the history of Bangladesh and be dear to the hearts of many Bangladeshis. All those who lived through the darkest hours of the Liberation War will remember how Malraux’s call to come to the help of the Bangladesh independence movement gave them reasons to hope. In the vigorous pronouncements of André Malraux, in his call to arms, in his letter to President Nixon, they knew they had found a spokesman who was forcefully defending their cause in the international arena.
In France, one of the very first to answer Malraux’s call was a young 22-year-old philosophy student of the Ecole Normale supérieure de la rue d’Ulm, the Elite Higher Education Establishment, who wrote him on 21 September 1971 to ask for a meeting. His name was Bernard-Henri Lévy, who has since then become one of France’s leading intellectuals and honors us with his presence today. A few weeks later, Bernard-Henri Lévy left for Kolkata and covered the Liberation War for the French newspaper Combat before being shortly associated with the first administration of Bangladesh.
After his return to France, he published the one and only book in French about the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1973. A Bengali edition of this book, published by Alliance française de Dhaka, is now available in Professor Shishir Battacharja’s translation. This is Bernard-Henri Lévy’s first visit to Bangladesh since 1971 and it is fitting that it should be for the opening of the Malraux Garden and the Bengali translation of his book. I may add that in the 900 page Malraux dictionary recently published in France, the "Bangladesh" 10 page entry is signed by Bernard-Henri Lévy. Such connections are meaningful indeed.
To conclude, I hope that the newly opened Malraux Garden will enable generations of students and visitors to remember that in 1971, 5,000 miles away, in Paris, there was someone who cared for the plight of their forbears. Although he did not have the chance to physically fight for their cause, he defended it with the weapon he yielded best, the pen and the voice.
Long live Franco-Bangladeshi friendship, long live the Malraux Garden.