Henri Michaux

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Henri Michaux
Henri Michaux.jpg
Born(1899-05-24)24 May 1899
Namur, Belgium
Died19 October 1984(1984-10-19) (aged 85)
Paris, France
OccupationPoet, journalist and painter
CitizenshipBelgian, French (from 1955)
GenreSurrealism, asemic writing
Notable worksMy Properties (1929); Plume (1938); Miserable Miracle: Mescaline (1956).

Henri Michaux (French: [miʃo]; 24 May 1899 – 19 October 1984) was a Belgian-born French poet, writer and painter. Michaux is renowned[1] for his strange, highly original poetry and prose, and also for his art: the Paris Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York had major shows of his work in 1978 (see below, Visual Arts). His texts chronicling his psychedelic experiments with LSD and mescaline, which include Miserable Miracle and The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones,[2] are well known. So are his idiosyncratic travelogues and books of art criticism. Michaux is also known for his stories about Plume – "a peaceful man" – perhaps the most unenterprising hero in the history of literature, and his many misfortunes. In 1955 he became a citizen of France,[3] and he lived the rest of his life there. He became a friend of Romanian pessimist philosopher and French citizen Emil Cioran around the same time.[4] In 1965 he won the grand prix national des Lettres, which he refused to accept, as he did every honor he was accorded in his life.



In 1930 and 1931, Michaux visited Japan, China and India. The result of this trip was the book A Barbarian in Asia.[5][6][7] Asian culture became one of his biggest influences. The philosophy of Buddhism and calligraphy later became principal subjects of many of his poems and inspired many of his drawings. He also visited Ecuador and published a travelogue book of the same name.[8] His travels across the Americas finished in Brazil in 1939, and he stayed there for two years.

Visual arts[edit]

Michaux was a highly original visual artist, associated with the Tachiste movement in the 1940s and 50s. His work often makes use of dense, suggestively gestural strokes that incorporates elements of calligraphy, asemic writing, and abstract expressionism. The Museum of Modern Art in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York both had major shows of his work in 1978.


  • Cas de folie circulaire (1922)
  • Les Rêves et la Jambe (1923)
  • Fables des origines (Disque vert, 1923)
  • Qui je fus (1927). Who I Was
  • Mes propriétés (Fourcade, 1929). My Properties
  • La Jetée (1929)
  • Ecuador (1929). Ecuador: A Travel Journal, trans. Robin Magowan (1970)
  • Un certain Plume (Editions du Carrefour, 1930; revised 1938 and 1963 as Plume). A Certain Plume, trans. Richard Sieburth (New York Review Books, 2018)
  • Un barbare en Asie (1933; revised 1945). A Barbarian in Asia, trans. Sylvia Beach (1949)
  • La nuit remue (1935). The Night Moves
  • Voyage en Grande Garabagne (1936). Voyage to Great Garaban
  • La Ralentie (1937)
  • Plume précédé de Lointain Intérieur (1938; revised 1963). Plume preceded by Faraway Within. 1963 edition includes the "Postface"
  • Peintures (GLM, 1939). Paintings
  • Au pays de la Magie (1941). In the Land of Magic
  • Arbres des tropiques (1942)
  • Épreuves, Exorcismes (1940-1944). Ordeals, Exorcisms
  • Ici, Poddema (1946)
  • Peintures et dessins (Le point du jour, 1946)
  • Meidosems (Le point du jour, 1948). Meidosems: Poems and Lithographs, trans. Elizabeth R. Jackson (1992)
  • Nous deux encore (10 Lambert, 1948)
  • Poésie pour pouvoir (René Drouin, 1949)
  • Passages (1950)
  • Mouvements (recueil) (1952)
  • Face aux verrous (1954)
  • Misérable Miracle (La mescaline) (1956). Miserable Miracle, trans. Louise Varèse (1963)
  • L'Infini turbulent (1957). Infinite Turbulence, trans. Michael Fineberg (1975)
  • Paix dans les brisements (1959)
  • Connaissance par les gouffres (1961). Light Through Darkness, trans. Haakon Chevalier (1964)
  • Vents et Poussières (1962)
  • Désagrégation (1965)
  • Les Grandes Épreuves de l'esprit et les innombrables petites (1966). The Major Ordeals of the Mind, trans. Richard Howard (1974)
  • Vers la complétude saisie et dessaisies (GLM, 1966). Yantra, partial trans. Louise Landes-Levi (Siglio, 2011)
  • Façons d'endormi, façons d'éveillé (1969). Ways of Sleepers, Ways of Wakers
  • Poteaux d'angle (1971). Tent Posts, trans. Lynn Hoggard (1997)
  • En rêvant à partir de peintures énigmatiques (Fata Morgana, 1972). Dreams Like Enigmatic Paintings, trans. Michael Eales (2018)
  • Émergences, Résurgences (Skira, 1972)
  • Bras cassé (Fata Morgana, 1973)
  • Moments, traversées du temps (1973). Moments, Crossings of Time
  • Quand tombent les toits (1973)
  • Par la voie des rythmes (Fata Morgana, 1974)
  • Idéogrammes en Chine (Fata Morgana, 1975). Ideograms in China, trans. Gustaf Sobin (2002)
  • Coups d'arrêt (1975)
  • Face à ce qui se dérobe (1976)
  • Les ravagés (Fata Morgana, 1976)
  • Jours de silence (Fata Morgana, 1978)
  • Saisir (Fata Morgana, 1979)
  • Une voie pour l'insubordination (Fata Morgana, 1980)
  • Affrontements (Fata Morgana, 1981)
  • Chemins cherchés, chemins perdus, transgressions (1982). Paths Looked For, Paths Lost, Transgressions
  • Les commencements (Fata Morgana, 1983)
  • Le jardin exalté (Fata Morgana, 1983)
  • Par surprise (Fata Morgana, 1983). By Surprise, trans. Randolph Hough (1987)
  • Par des traits (Fata Morgana, 1984)
  • Déplacements, Dégagements (1985; posthumous). Spaced, Displaced, trans. David and Helen Constantine (1992)
  • Rencontres (with Paolo Marinotti) (1991; posthumous)
  • Jeux d'encre. Trajet Zao Wou-Ki (1993; posthumous)
  • En songeant à l'avenir (1994; posthumous)
  • J'excuserais une assemblée anonyme... (1994; posthumous)
  • À distance (Mercure de France, 1997; posthumous)
  • Sitôt lus. Lettres à Franz Hellens. 1922-1952 (Fayard, 1999; posthumous)
  • Paul Klee (Fata Morgana, 2012; posthumous)
  • Donc c'est non, lettres réunies, ed. Jean-Luc Outers (Gallimard, 2016; posthumous)
  • Coups d'arrêt suivi d’Ineffable vide (Éditions Unes, 2018; posthumous)

Selections prepared by Michaux[edit]

  • L'Espace du dedans (1944; revised 1966). Selected Writings: The Space Within, trans. Richard Ellmann (New Directions, 1951; 1968)
  • Ailleurs (1948). Compiles Voyage en Grande Garabagne (1936), Au pays de la Magie (1941) and Ici, Poddema (1946)
  • La Vie dans les plis (1949). Life in the Folds, trans. Darren Jackson (2016)

Compilations in English[edit]

  • Michaux, trans. Teo Savory (Unicorn Press, 1967)
  • Henri Michaux: A Selection, trans. Michael Fineberg (1979)
  • Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984, ed. David Ball (University of California Press, 1994)
  • Someone Wants to Steal My Name and Other Poems, ed. Nin Andrews (2004)
  • Stroke by Stroke, trans. Richard Sieburth (2006). Compiles Saisir (1979) and Par des traits (1984)
  • Toward Totality: Selected Works, 1929–1973, trans. Louise Landes-Levi (Shivastan, 2006)
  • Thousand Times Broken: Three Books, trans. Gillian Conoley (City Lights, 2014). Compiles 400 Men on the Cross, "Peace in the Breaking", and Watchtowers on Targets
  • Storms Under the Skin: Selected Poems, 1927-1954, trans. Jane Draycott (2017)

Further reading[edit]

  • Bäckström, Per. Enhet i mångfalden. Henri Michaux och det groteska (Unity in the Plenitude. Henri Michaux and the Grotesque), Lund: Ellerström, 2005.
  • Bäckström, Per. Le Grotesque dans l’œuvre d’Henri Michaux. Qui cache son fou, meurt sans voix, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007.
  • Bowie, Malcolm. Henri Michaux: A Study of His Literary Works. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.
  • C L Campos, "Michaux, Henri" in Anthony Thorlby (ed). The Penguin Companion to Literature. Penguin Books. 1969. Volume 2 (European Literature). Page 534.
  • Müller-Yao, Marguerite Hui. Der Einfluß der Kunst der chinesischen Kalligraphie auf die westliche informelle Malerei, Diss. Bonn, Köln 1985. ISBN 3-88375-051-4
  • Müller-Yao, Marguerite. "Informelle Malerei und chinesische Kalligrafie", in: Informel, Begegnung und Wandel. (hrsg von Heinz Althöfer, Schriftenreihe des Museums am Ostwall; Bd. 2), Dortmund 2002. ISBN 3-611-01062-6.
  • Wedewer, Rolf. Die Malerei des Informel. Weltverlust und Ich-Behauptung, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 2007. ISBN 3-422-06560-1.


  1. ^ "His work is without equal in the literature of our time." Jose Luis Borges, Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology 1927-1984, p. ix.
  2. ^ Paz, Octavio (9 August 2002). "Journeys into the Abyss". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  3. ^ [1] Archived 26 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine "Henri Michaux, French painter and poet". Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Emil Cioran – A Century of Writers (1999) | Türkçe Altyazılı – YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  5. ^ [2] Archived 26 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine "A Barbarian in Asia". Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  6. ^ [3] Archived 26 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine "A Barbarian in Asia". 31 May 2016. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  7. ^ [4] Archived 6 November 2021 at the Wayback Machine "The World of Michaux". Archived from the original on 6 November 2021. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  8. ^ [5] Archived 26 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine "Ecuador". Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.

External links[edit]