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Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984

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Henri Michaux defies common critical definition. Critics have compared his work to such diverse artists as Kafka, Goya, Swift, Klee, and Beckett. Allen Ginsberg called Michaux “genius,” and Jorge Luis Borges wrote that Michaux’s work “is without equal in the literature of our time.” This anthology contains substantial selections from almost all of Michaux’s major works, mo Henri Michaux defies common critical definition. Critics have compared his work to such diverse artists as Kafka, Goya, Swift, Klee, and Beckett. Allen Ginsberg called Michaux “genius,” and Jorge Luis Borges wrote that Michaux’s work “is without equal in the literature of our time.” This anthology contains substantial selections from almost all of Michaux’s major works, most never before published in English, and allows readers to explore the haunting verbal and pictorial landscape of a twentieth-century visionary.


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Henri Michaux defies common critical definition. Critics have compared his work to such diverse artists as Kafka, Goya, Swift, Klee, and Beckett. Allen Ginsberg called Michaux “genius,” and Jorge Luis Borges wrote that Michaux’s work “is without equal in the literature of our time.” This anthology contains substantial selections from almost all of Michaux’s major works, mo Henri Michaux defies common critical definition. Critics have compared his work to such diverse artists as Kafka, Goya, Swift, Klee, and Beckett. Allen Ginsberg called Michaux “genius,” and Jorge Luis Borges wrote that Michaux’s work “is without equal in the literature of our time.” This anthology contains substantial selections from almost all of Michaux’s major works, most never before published in English, and allows readers to explore the haunting verbal and pictorial landscape of a twentieth-century visionary.

30 review for Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Darkness Moves is an artistic and tortuous journey through human life and psyche. Life is the big fight: “Abrah! Abrah! Abrah! The foot has failed! The arm has broke! The blood has flowed! Gouge, gouge, gouge, In the big pot of his belly there’s a great secret You hags all around us crying into your handkerchiefs, We’re amazed, amazed, amazed We’re watching you We’re looking for the Great Secret, too.” So Henri Michaux fights reality in order to know its Great Secret and to turn it into his absurd, surreal Darkness Moves is an artistic and tortuous journey through human life and psyche. Life is the big fight: “Abrah! Abrah! Abrah! The foot has failed! The arm has broke! The blood has flowed! Gouge, gouge, gouge, In the big pot of his belly there’s a great secret You hags all around us crying into your handkerchiefs, We’re amazed, amazed, amazed We’re watching you We’re looking for the Great Secret, too.” So Henri Michaux fights reality in order to know its Great Secret and to turn it into his absurd, surreal and abstract tales. And his fine tales are like exotic insects: “…insects with huge eyes like graters and latticework corselets like miners’ lamps, others with murmuring antennae; some with twenty-odd pairs of legs that looked more like staples… Finally, there were transparent ones, bottles with hairy spots, perhaps: they came forward by the thousands – glassware, a display of light and sun so bright that afterward everything seemed ash and product of dark night.” And life is also a labyrinth: “The prison opens on a prison The corridor opens another corridor…” And what is man? “Man – his essential being – is only a point. It is this point alone that is swallowed up by Death. That’s why he must be careful not to be encircled.” So we keep fighting and we keep moving through the labyrinth of life trying to escape and not to be encircled…

  2. 4 out of 5

    S̶e̶a̶n̶

    I write so that what was true should no longer be true. Prison revealed is a prison no longer. If there is a fault to this book it is that it exists at all. Michaux needs defragmentation, not further splintering. To be sure, a noble effort was made here to create an anthology, and yet Michaux resists anthologizing at all turns. He was too all over the place in subject, scope, and form. A consummate explorer of the inner realms, he wielded many forms of expression to communicate his journeys. I write so that what was true should no longer be true. Prison revealed is a prison no longer. If there is a fault to this book it is that it exists at all. Michaux needs defragmentation, not further splintering. To be sure, a noble effort was made here to create an anthology, and yet Michaux resists anthologizing at all turns. He was too all over the place in subject, scope, and form. A consummate explorer of the inner realms, he wielded many forms of expression to communicate his journeys. He sought to penetrate to the core of being itself. What greater purpose can one pursue through art. An editor can't effectively condense a lifetime of this pursuit into a single volume. Not only then (in this English-language collection) is there an artificial construct of translation surrounding Michaux's words, but there is also the interference of a third party through the act of selection and arrangement. Nonetheless this book exists and I read it, so I am complicit in the grand conspiracy. I took three months to read it to allow time for evolution of the gills I require for deeper water ahead.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    "No melão, batia um coração." Na badana deste livro há um texto, de um tal Jean-Charles Gateau, dizendo que Michaux fala à nossa intimidade e na sua obra nos reconhecemos e aos nossos medos e demónios. Creio que ainda não alcancei a (in)sanidade necessária para sentir estes poemas - que só me parecem delírios de um louco... "MALDITO Dentro de seis meses o mais tardar, ou se calhar amanhã, estarei cego. É a minha triste, triste vida que continua. Os que me puseram neste mundo hão-de pagar-mas, dizia "No melão, batia um coração." Na badana deste livro há um texto, de um tal Jean-Charles Gateau, dizendo que Michaux fala à nossa intimidade e na sua obra nos reconhecemos e aos nossos medos e demónios. Creio que ainda não alcancei a (in)sanidade necessária para sentir estes poemas - que só me parecem delírios de um louco... "MALDITO Dentro de seis meses o mais tardar, ou se calhar amanhã, estarei cego. É a minha triste, triste vida que continua. Os que me puseram neste mundo hão-de pagar-mas, dizia eu comigo antigamente. Até hoje ainda não pagaram. Porém, eu agora tenho de apartar-me dos meus dois olhos. A sua perda definitiva há-de livrar-me de atrozes sofrimentos, é tudo o que se pode dizer. Uma manhã terei as pálpebras cheias de pus. Depois é só o tempo de fazer inutilmente algumas experiências com nitrato de prata, e acaba-se com eles. Há nove anos, a minha mãe disse-me: «Preferia que não tivesses nascido.»" "O falo, neste século, tornou-se doutrinário."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    Not quite a Surrealist, not really a Huxleyesque mescaline psychonaut, Michaux is one of those artistic outliers for whom the 20th century has to shift a little to fit. His writings tweak the Cartesian split with a myth of subjectivity that’s entirely plastic, with the skin between inside and outside stretched or folded in as psychic circumstances demand. His menagerie of weird creatures and imaginary lands teeter between avant-garde lit and primitive myth; in a way his writings are all versions Not quite a Surrealist, not really a Huxleyesque mescaline psychonaut, Michaux is one of those artistic outliers for whom the 20th century has to shift a little to fit. His writings tweak the Cartesian split with a myth of subjectivity that’s entirely plastic, with the skin between inside and outside stretched or folded in as psychic circumstances demand. His menagerie of weird creatures and imaginary lands teeter between avant-garde lit and primitive myth; in a way his writings are all versions of a myth for a people that consists of exactly one. This is a full selection of Michaux’s work, the largest I think in English, but it left me wanting to read the individual books in their entirety. I guess that’s a mark of its success.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    My favorite work of Michaux is a short story written as a letter: I Am Writing To You From A Distant Country, a haunting description of a place faraway and very surreal but with the human touches that make his work far from nonsense. It ends with the lovely sentence: "When will I at last see you again..." My favorite work of Michaux is a short story written as a letter: I Am Writing To You From A Distant Country, a haunting description of a place faraway and very surreal but with the human touches that make his work far from nonsense. It ends with the lovely sentence: "When will I at last see you again..."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edita

    I write to go through myself all over. Painting, composing, writing: going through myself. That is the adventure of being alive. […] My imaginary countries: like buffer-States for me, so as not to suffer from reality. […] In the past, whenever I had a bad experience, I was only in difficulty for the short time I had to face it alone. As soon as I had found a character (when I had “retreated” into him), my difficulty disappeared and so did my suffering (at least the worst of it, the intolerable part) I write to go through myself all over. Painting, composing, writing: going through myself. That is the adventure of being alive. […] My imaginary countries: like buffer-States for me, so as not to suffer from reality. […] In the past, whenever I had a bad experience, I was only in difficulty for the short time I had to face it alone. As soon as I had found a character (when I had “retreated” into him), my difficulty disappeared and so did my suffering (at least the worst of it, the intolerable part). It’s up to you now! That’s why the foreign country was the occasion, the provocation for characters, to whom I gave the job from then on—both of having pleasure and of suffering from foreign, hostile, people and things.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Mousseau

    He grabowerates him and grabacks him to the ground; He rads him and rabarts him to his drat; He braddles him and lippucks him and prooks his bawdles; He tackreds him and marmeens him Mandles him rasp by rip and risp by rap. And he deskinnibilizes him at the end. The other hesitates; he is bittucked, unapsed, torsed and ruined. He'll be done for soon. He mendles and marginates himself... but in vain, The far-rolling hoop falls down. Abrah! Abrah! Abrah! The foot has failed! The arm has broke! The blood has fl He grabowerates him and grabacks him to the ground; He rads him and rabarts him to his drat; He braddles him and lippucks him and prooks his bawdles; He tackreds him and marmeens him Mandles him rasp by rip and risp by rap. And he deskinnibilizes him at the end. The other hesitates; he is bittucked, unapsed, torsed and ruined. He'll be done for soon. He mendles and marginates himself... but in vain, The far-rolling hoop falls down. Abrah! Abrah! Abrah! The foot has failed! The arm has broke! The blood has flowed! Gouge, gouge, gouge, In the big pot of his belly there's a great secret You hags all around us crying into your handkerchiefs, We're amazed, amazed, amazed We're watching you We're looking for the Great Secret, too. - The Big Fight, pg. 3 * * * While circulating through my accursed body, I came to a region where the parts of myself were few and far between; to live there, you had to be a saint. In times gone by, I had truly aspired to sainthood, but now that illness was forcing me into it, I struggled against it and I still struggle, and it's obvious that I'm not going to survive like this. If I had been given the opportunity, fine! but to be forced into it - no, I just can't stand it. - A Saint, pg. 11 * * * And aller, aller et allero And bitch! Sarcospell on Sarico, Andoran for talico, Or'll andora your adogo, Adogi. Crass, crass like Chicago, And ass-kicks to poverty. - Articulations, pg. 18 * * * An ant doesn't worry about an eagle. The furor, the ferocity of the tiger means nothing to him, the ferocious eye of the eagle does not fascinate him, not in the slightest. In an anthill, there is never any question of eagles. Little waves of light don't worry a dog at all. However, a microbe who sees the light coming in (parts of the rays just a bit smaller than it is, but numerous, numerous and hard) gets desperate when it feels the innumerable beats that are going to dismember it, shake it to death - even the cursed gonococcus that does so much to complicate relationships between men and women is seized with despair, and, against its will, gives up its difficult life. - Everybody's Little Problems, pg. 32 * * * As I was shaving this morning, spreading and pulling up my lips a bit to get a tighter surface that would resist the razor nicely, what do I see? 3 gold teeth! And I've never been to the dentist in my life! Oh, oh! And why? Why? To make me doubt myself, and then to take my name of Barnaby away from me. Ah! they're pulling hard on the other side, hard, hard. But I'm ready too, and I hold on to IT. "Barnaby," "Barnaby," I say softly but firmly, and then on their side all their efforts are reduced to nothing. - They Want to Steal My Name, pg. 51 * * * In the night In the night I have united with the night With the endless night With the night. Mine, queen, queen of mine. Night Night of birth Filling me with my cry My flowering spikes. You, invading me with howl howl swells all over ocean swells smoking dense and bellowing, are the night. Here lies the night, relentless night. And its brass band, and its beach, Its beach drinking, with its weight king, sinking things beneath, Beneath it, beneath thinner than a thread Beneath the night The night. - In the Night, pg. 56 * * * Life, a labyrinth, death, a labyrinth Labyrinth without end, says the Master of Ho. Everything hammers down, nothing liberates. The suicide is born again to new suffering. The prison opens on a prison The corridor opens another corridor: He who thinks he is unrolling the scroll of his life Is unrolling nothing at all. Nothing comes out anywhere The centuries, too, live underground, says the Master of Ho. - Labyrinth, pg. 88 * * * I also have my man-sling. You can shoot them far, very far. You have to know how to deal with them. And yet it's hard to shoot them far enough. To tell the truth, you never can shoot them far enough. They come back to you forty years later sometimes, just when you thought you could breathe easy at last, whereas they're the ones who breathe easy, coming back with the measured step of a man who is in no hurry, who was still there five minutes ago, who was going to come right back. - The Man-Sling, pg. 146 * * * Face not saying not playing not say yes, not no. Monster. Dark space. Face reaching, moving, passing, slowing, budding toward us... Lost face. - The Unfinished, pg. 151 * * * How much less hateful men would be if every one of them did not wear a face. * * * At the age of eighty, I still dreamed of being granted plant status. * * * "Do not come," said the shark, and he ate him. The shark was a man-eater, but the era was polite. * * * Inside the melon, a heart was beating. [...] - from Slices of Knowledge, pg. 172 * * * In silence, stoned to death by their thoughts Still another day on a lesser level. Shadowless gestures What century must we look at, to see? Ferns, ferns, they might be sighs, everywhere, sighs The wind scatters the loose leaves Strength of stretchers, eighteen hundred thousand years ago people were already born to rot, to die, to suffer We've already had days like this so many days like this days that swallows up the wind day of unbearable thoughts I see men motionless lying in barges Out of here. Whatever else, out of here. The long knife of the wave will stop the Word. - The Day, the Day, the End of Days, meditation on the end of Paul Celan, pg. 236

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael A.

    I have not read a book quite like this before. It is a various collection of Michaux's writings, which are quite eclectic. In this book you will read poetry, travelogues of imaginary lands, the misadventures of Plume, a character plagued by misfortune who, in one story, ends up in a comically Kafkaesque situation involving ordering something "not on the menu" (despite the waiter bringing it to him). You will read trip reports of his usage of mescaline (he took the drug for 10 years). The tone of I have not read a book quite like this before. It is a various collection of Michaux's writings, which are quite eclectic. In this book you will read poetry, travelogues of imaginary lands, the misadventures of Plume, a character plagued by misfortune who, in one story, ends up in a comically Kafkaesque situation involving ordering something "not on the menu" (despite the waiter bringing it to him). You will read trip reports of his usage of mescaline (he took the drug for 10 years). The tone of the book ranges from earthy wisdom, pithy aphorisms, bad trips, descriptions of the art of mental institute patients, about 30 of his own artwork in the middle of the book. Subjects of the book include hallucinogens, death, how horrible having a face is. He has some meditations on aesthetics towards the back of the book. He creates monsters, has sex with caterpillars and fights of flies who try to do the same to him. But the centerpiece of the book, for me, is his short story "Space of Shadows", presumably written from the perspective of his dead wife - who tragically died in 1948 when her nightgown caught on fire. The aesthetic of this story and a few others are like the nightmares of Lautreamont. This particular one is like if Lautreamont wrote sci-fi. I don't think it would entirely be inaccurate to consider Michaux a surrealist author, but I think he is so much more - I think Darkness Moves is sui generis - it offers a lot more than surrealism does.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Worth it for the poems and some of the prose, which are some of the finest surrealist writing I've read. What's not worth it is anything even resembling nonfiction, which comes off as the worst sort of self-aggrandizing bullshit, and that goes double for the drug sections. You ever been in some college dorm room while some guy -- albeit an intelligent guy, one who does truly have a few things to say -- drones on about how much his outdoor mushroom trip changed his life? Yeah, that. Worth it for the poems and some of the prose, which are some of the finest surrealist writing I've read. What's not worth it is anything even resembling nonfiction, which comes off as the worst sort of self-aggrandizing bullshit, and that goes double for the drug sections. You ever been in some college dorm room while some guy -- albeit an intelligent guy, one who does truly have a few things to say -- drones on about how much his outdoor mushroom trip changed his life? Yeah, that.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sander

    'Man of Jasmine'. 'Man of Jasmine'.

  11. 4 out of 5

    August

    Fantastic collection. A great compilation of Michaux's work. I'll certainly revisit this book often. Fantastic collection. A great compilation of Michaux's work. I'll certainly revisit this book often.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Mennes

    With Michaux we get many people, or in certain cases many creatures – see “A Few Days of My Life Among the Insects” pg. 278. In fact, Michaux is quoted as stating: “We are not made for just one self. We are wrong to cling to it…There is not one self. There are not ten selves. There is no self. ME is nothing but a position in Equilibrium” (emphasis in original). It is often speculated we humans only use 10-20% of our brain powers, albeit such claims are unreliable. With Michaux we get 60% perhaps, With Michaux we get many people, or in certain cases many creatures – see “A Few Days of My Life Among the Insects” pg. 278. In fact, Michaux is quoted as stating: “We are not made for just one self. We are wrong to cling to it…There is not one self. There are not ten selves. There is no self. ME is nothing but a position in Equilibrium” (emphasis in original). It is often speculated we humans only use 10-20% of our brain powers, albeit such claims are unreliable. With Michaux we get 60% perhaps, but how to quantify such phenomena? Michaux was a savant I imagine. For one man to produce such disparate, palpable creations…delving his own psyche in some arcane, experimental alternate universe… Compared with other savants, e.g. contemporary figures like Glenn Gould (music) or Kim Peek + Daniel Tammet (in terms of memory & superhuman mental abilities)…take their gifts of composition, recall, patterning, and multiply it to the 53rd power & you approach something like Michaux’s imaginative output. We have, me thinks, a 5 Star rating.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    What a charming collection. There are lots of Michaux's "Plume" stories of a befuddled buffoon that are like an existential Jacques Tati movie. I love befuddled hardluck characters, and there's a good deal of those. Also, hallucinogen inspired writings, which can, of course, be awful because of the heavy handed profundity they are imbued with, but they often avoid that and are actually quite interesting meditations in a number of areas. A surrealist-friend but with fixations and ambiances quite What a charming collection. There are lots of Michaux's "Plume" stories of a befuddled buffoon that are like an existential Jacques Tati movie. I love befuddled hardluck characters, and there's a good deal of those. Also, hallucinogen inspired writings, which can, of course, be awful because of the heavy handed profundity they are imbued with, but they often avoid that and are actually quite interesting meditations in a number of areas. A surrealist-friend but with fixations and ambiances quite delightful and personal. The styles of writing collected range quite a bit, which is always a bit tough for me, especially with such short pieces, -->impulses to move around the book, identify central motifs, things like this, makes me wish this were like 8 small books. Bad habits. But the short stories and miscellaneous writings are wonderful taken on their own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Inspired insanity - dark and disturbing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rauan

    Lots of different types of poems here. Mostly in prose. An extremely hard-working poet. (this alone is inspiring). I imagine some of the early stuff's where Edson took encouragement for his sensibility. But this stuff rarely is just absurd in the way many of Edson's poems can. The section I enjoyed the most is late in the book. Late in Michaux's life. When he was in his last 70's. The poems about the paintings of mentally ill patients. Insane people's paintings. The poems "describe" them. Lots of different types of poems here. Mostly in prose. An extremely hard-working poet. (this alone is inspiring). I imagine some of the early stuff's where Edson took encouragement for his sensibility. But this stuff rarely is just absurd in the way many of Edson's poems can. The section I enjoyed the most is late in the book. Late in Michaux's life. When he was in his last 70's. The poems about the paintings of mentally ill patients. Insane people's paintings. The poems "describe" them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Physics of savagery, delight, and the sacred? "A savagery unknown as referring us to a delight, beyond all delight to the highest as to the innermost transgression, where the ineffable remains secret, sacred." Agreed. It seems like if you want to understand the American prose poem after Edson you have to read this. Maybe. Physics of savagery, delight, and the sacred? "A savagery unknown as referring us to a delight, beyond all delight to the highest as to the innermost transgression, where the ineffable remains secret, sacred." Agreed. It seems like if you want to understand the American prose poem after Edson you have to read this. Maybe.

  17. 5 out of 5

    vanya klecherova

    unfortunately here - http://books.google.com/books?id=9p4Q... , is only an excerpt from the book. i really like what i read, it's a pity that i can't find the complete book.... unfortunately here - http://books.google.com/books?id=9p4Q... , is only an excerpt from the book. i really like what i read, it's a pity that i can't find the complete book....

  18. 5 out of 5

    George

    This is one of the best gatherings of Michaux's work, showing his full force and breadth. This is one of the best gatherings of Michaux's work, showing his full force and breadth.

  19. 4 out of 5

    akemi

    i wish i had properties :(

  20. 4 out of 5

    Felicia

    Weird. Very weird.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Perifian

    The dream-logic katabasis in the aftermath of his wife's death is an immense piece of writing, but I'm not sure this is the best collection. The dream-logic katabasis in the aftermath of his wife's death is an immense piece of writing, but I'm not sure this is the best collection.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A perfect anthology.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Otis

  24. 5 out of 5

    Doruk çamlıbel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Asja Bakic

  27. 5 out of 5

    magical fucker

  28. 5 out of 5

    *^SoccerMom^*

  29. 5 out of 5

    anton

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pete Kopecek

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