just a short bio of Michaux clipped from the web:

Henri Michaux was born May 24, 1899 in the small Belgian town of Namur, the second child of Octave Michaux, a shopkeeper, and his wife Jeanne. The family moved to Brussels when Henri was two years old. Henri attended a countryside boarding school where he was an indifferent student and felt alienated from the other students.

He returned home to Brussels in 1910 to attend a Jesuit high school, where he studied Latin and developed an interest in Christian mystics. He also had passion for Chinese writing and the study of insects. Michaux’s university education was delayed two years by the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Michaux spent this period devouring a variety of eccentric literature, everything from the lives of saints to avant garde poets. Henri considered entering the priesthood, but eventually acquiesced to his father’s wishes to study medicine. Michaux enrolled in the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1919 as a medical student. Tired of medicine, Michaux dropped out after one year and joined the crew of a merchant ship in 1920.

Michaux traveled to various ports throughout North and South American and left the ship a year later, only days before it was involved in a fatal shipwreck. Back in Belgium, Michaux was forced into the military for a mandatory one-year term, but was released early due a heart condition. In 1922, while convalescing in the military hospital from his heart condition, Michaux discovered the works of Lautreament.

Michaux worked a number of miserable jobs while working on his writing and considered himself a total failure. It was difficult for Michaux to find a satisfactory poetic style and he flirted with several pseudonyms, feeling that putting his own name on the poem would be like stamping it ‘inferior quality.’ Michaux occasionally received some encouragement for his poetic efforts and had his first poem published in 1922 in the Le Disque Vert, the literary journal of Franz Hellens, who became an early supporter of Michaux. Shortly thereafter, Hellens hired Michaux as co-director of Le Disque Vert, where Henri edited the journal and several poetry collections by the authors who had appeared in the journal.

In 1924, Michaux left Belgium and moved to Paris to become a delivery person for Simon Kra’s publishing house. While there, the influential writer Jules Supervielle met Michaux and hired him as a personal secretary. Henri quickly became acquainted with the Parisian literati, including Jean Paulhaun who also encouraged Michaux. During this period Michaux discovered painting through the imaginative works of Klee, Ernst and Chirico.

In 1927, Michaux negotiated a semi-exclusive publishing deal with Gallimard and published his first book, Qui je fus, a stylistically varied collection of previously published poetry. Michaux later disowned the work and barred its republication during his lifetime. Later that year, Michaux traveled with fellow poet Alfredo Gangotena to South America, a journey that lasted over a year and gave raise to Michaux’s next book, Ecuador, a poetic anti-travel journal published in 1929.

After his parents death in 1929, Michaux traveled through North Africa, Turkey, Italy; ‘traveling against’ to free himself from the vestiges of European culture that confined him. Henri found the sort of freedom he sought when he traveled to Asia in 1932. He traveled through India, Nepal, Ceylon, China, Japan, and Indonesia for eight months taking impressionistic notes on the people and culture of each country. These notes were published in 1933 under the title A Barbarian in Asia and would later become controversial for its racist overtones.

With Night Moves, published in 1935, Michaux began to develop his mature style, characterized by an odd mix of horror, cruelty and humor, a preoccupation with the body, and an intense, introspective look into the workings of human consciousness to the complete exclusion of external reality.

Michaux also continued to travel in the mid-1930’s, visiting Spain, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. In 1935, Henri Michaux met Marie-Louise Ferdière, a married woman, and the couple carried on an affair for several years. Michaux traveled to South America in 1936 to attend a PEN Colloquium in Buenos Aires where he met Jorge Luis Borges, who introduced Michaux’s work to Latin America.

He had his first solo art show in 1937 at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. Henri enjoyed his first popular literary success with the publication of Plume in 1938, a sly, absurdly humorous work that solidified his growing literary reputation. Michaux’s increasing interest in art was evident in the 1939 publication of Peintures, a work that coupled his poems with his own abstract illustrations.

Later that year the Nazis invaded and occupied Paris. Michaux, being a Belgian citizen and unable to travel, holed himself in his house at Le Lavandou and worked on his writing and painting during the occupation. In 1941, the influential writer Andre Gide published Discovering Henri Michaux after the Nazis banned a Gide organized conference on Michaux earlier in the year.

Michaux married Marie-Louise in 1943. Unfortunately, due to the strict food rationing near the end of the war, his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which forced her into a long period of convalescence. Henri, perhaps in response to his emerging public profile, published a collection of excerpts from his previous works in 1944 under the title The Space Within. Tragedy struck again, when Michaux’s brother died in 1944. The following year he published Ordeals, Exorcisms, an abstract, allegorical evocation of his war times experiences.

In 1948, a year after Michaux’s wife recovered from her illness, she died from atrocious burns suffered when her robe caught fire. Michaux was devastated and began painting and writing at a furious pace. In 1948, he published Still Us Two about his relation with his wife and the aftermath of her death. The same year Michaux published Elsewhere, a collection of previously published imaginary travelogues. In 1949, Michaux published another work that combined his writing and illustration, Life in the Folds, about the Meidosems, imaginary fragile filament-like creatures that have ‘lost all consistency.’

Michaux had his first art retrospective held in 1951 at the Rive Gauche gallery in Paris. For reasons not entirely clear, Michaux became a French citizen in 1955. During the same period, he began to experiment with various drugs, primarily mescaline, as another means to explore the mechanisms of human consciousness. Rather than escape to an ‘artificial paradise,’ Michaux sought to clinically observe and record his first hand experiences with chemically induced anguish and ecstasy. His experimentation lasted 10 years until he tired of the experience, concluding that drugs were unreliable and he had ‘no gift for addiction.’

He wrote about his drug experiences in the books Miserable Miracle: Mescaline, Infinite Turbulence, Light Through Darkness and The Major Ordeals of the Mind, and Countless Minor Ones. Michaux became a minor celebrity in the counterculture when the Beats discovered these drug influenced works in the 1960’s.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s Michaux became known throughout the world as one of the preeminent writers in France, partly with the help of his admirers among the Surrealists, the Nouvelle Vague and the American Beats. In 1970’s, Michaux wrote about his dreams, composed aphorisms (a favorite literary form of his), produced some oblique art criticism on the art of mental patients and delved deeper into Eastern Mysticism.

When Michaux broke his right arm in the early 1970’s, he was forced into a new orientation with his body and life itself, an experience he details in Broken Arm, published in 1973. Near the end of his life, Michaux turned toward Eastern contemplation more and more, yet he did so to celebrate his own spirit rather than examine it, as he done most of his life. Henri Michaux suffered a heart attack and died on October 18, 1984.


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