Howard Buten

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Howard Buten as Buffo, 2008

Howard Buten (born 1950, Detroit, Michigan) is an American author living in France. He is also a psychologist, a clown, and a violin player. He is the author of five novels, the first of which, entitled When I Was Five I Killed Myself, was published in 1981 and turned into a film under its French title Quand j'avais cinq ans je m'ai tué in 1994.

As a young man Howard Buten encountered a child with autism and this sparked a lifelong interest in the disorder. He has worked on autism as a researcher, clinical psychologist, therapist, and founder of a clinic for the autistic in Paris, France.

He is also a theatrical clown (graduate of Ringling Bros) with the stage name Buffo, who is quite well known in France.[1] He got his start in acting at a very young age, re-enacting scenes from his favorite stories, along with his childhood friends/neighbors.

Buten's first and best known novel, When I Was Five I Killed Myself, is largely unknown in his home country, but has sold more than a million copies in France. He was made Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a prominent literary honor, in 1991.


  • When I Was Five I Killed Myself [fr] (also published under the title Burt) (1981)
  • Le Cœur sous le rouleau compresseur [fr] (1984)
  • Monsieur Butterfly (1987)
  • Il faudra bien te couvrir... (1989)
  • Histoire de Rofo, clown (1991)
  • C'était mieux avant (1994)
  • Ces enfants qui ne viennent pas d'une autre planète (1995)
  • Quand est-ce qu'on arrive? (2000)
  • Il y a quelqu'un là-dedans, des autismes (2003)
  • Buffo par Buten (2005)
  • Through the Glass Wall: Journeys Into the Closed-Off Worlds of the Autistic (Bantam, 2004)
  • I Understand that If Not Completely Satisfied I Will Be Issued a Full Refund (1996)


  1. ^ Buffo, Buten & Howard, documentary 2009, Swissfilms, at

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