Author: André Malraux
First published: La Condition humaine, 1933 (English translation, 1934)
Locale: Shanghai, China
Plot: Social realism
Ch'en (shehn), a Chinese terrorist dedicated to the revolution. In an attempt to kill Chiang Kai-shek with a bomb, he blows himself up but fails in his mission.
Kyo (kyoh), a communist organizer of French and Japanese parentage. He is tormented by thoughts of his wife's freely confessed adultery. Arrested by König, he kills himself with a cyanide tablet given him by Katov.
Gisors (zhee-SOHR), Kyo's old French father, who resembles an ascetic abbot. After the revolutionary plot fails, he returns to Japan to teach painting.
May, Kyo's sensual German wife, a physician with advanced views on marriage relationships. The communist plot having failed and Kyo being dead, she goes to Moscow to practice medicine.
Baron de Clappique (deh klah-PEEK), a French adventurer and unscrupulous businessman; König's friend who permits Kyo to be arrested instead of warning him to hide. The Baron, in disguise, escapes China on a French ship.
Katov (kah-TOHV), an experienced Russian revolutionist and former convict. His kindly face, mischievous eyes, and upturned nose do not reveal his coldly murderous nature. Arrested by König, he generously gives Kyo the cyanide tablet he has provided for himself, and he is executed.
Hemmelrich (ay-mehl-REEK), a cowardly German revolutionist whose wife and child are killed in the destruction of his shop by Chiang's police, who later shoot Hemmelrich.
Ferral (feh-RAHL), a French businessman who decides to support Chiang. Angered by Valérie's duplicity, he releases forty birds and a kangaroo in her room. He returns to France on the liner that also takes the Baron.
König (koo-NEEG), chief of Chiang's police, who foils the communist plot and executes the revolutionary group.
Chiang Kai-shek (shyahng kay-chehk), leader of the Blue forces.
Valérie (vah-lay-REE), Ferral's deceitful mistress.