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Henri Michaux
Born 24 May 1899(1899-05-24)
Namur, Belgium
Died 18 October 1984 (aged 85)
Paris, France
Occupation Poet, journalist and painter.
Genres Surealism, Fantastic style.
Notable work(s) My Properties (1929); Plume (1938); Miserable Miracle: Mescaline (1956).

Henri Michaux (24 May 1899 - 18 October 1984) was a highly idiosyncratic Belgian-born poet, writer, and painter who wrote in the French language. He later took French citizenship. Michaux is best known for his esoteric books written in a highly accessible style, and his body of work includes poetry, travelogues, and art criticism. Michaux travelled widely, tried his hand at several careers, and experimented with drugs, the latter resulting in two of his most intriguing works, Miserable Miracle and The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones.


In 1930-1931 Henri Michaux visited Japan, China and India. The result of this travel is the book A Barbarian in Asia. Oriental culture became one of his biggest influences (the philosophy of Buddhism and the Oriental calligraphy later became the principal subject of many of his poems).

He also traveled to Africa and to the American continent, where he visited Ecuador and published the book Ecuador. His travels across the Americas finished in Brazil in 1939, and he stayed there for two years.

Michaux is best 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, and he lived the rest of his life there along with his family. In 1965 he won the National Prize of Literature, which he refused to accept.


  • 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
  • Rolf Wedewer, Die Malerei des Informel. Weltverlust und Ich-Behauptung, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 2007. ISBN 3-422-06560-1

Taylor, John: "A Multifarious Writer, A Unified Quest (Henri Michaux)", 'Paths to Contemporary French Literature', volume 1, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2004, pp. 247-251.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Henri Michaux (24 May 1899 — 18 October 1984) was a Belgian writer and painter.


  • A man who knows neither how to travel nor how to keep a journal has put together this travel journal. But at the moment of signing he is suddenly afraid. So he casts the first stone. Here.
    • Preface to Ecuador (1929)
  • No, I have already said it elsewhere. This earth has had all the exoticism washed out of it. If in a hundred years we have not established contact with some other planet (but we will), or, next best, with the earth's interior, humanity is finished. There is no longer a means of living, we explode, we go to war, we perpetrate evil of all sorts; we are, in a word, incapable of remaining any longer on this rind. We are in mortal pain; both from the dimensions as they now stand, and from the lack of any future dimension to which we can turn, now that our tour of the earth as been done to death. (These opinions, I know, are quite sufficient to have me looked down upon as a mind of the fourth order.)
    • Ecuador (1929)
  • It is almost an intellectual tradition to pay heed to the insane. In my case those that I most respect are the morons.
    • Ecuador (1929)
  • A mind of a certain size can feel only exasperation toward a city. Nothing can drive me more fully into despair. The walls first of all, and even then all the rest is only so many horrid images of selfishness, mistrust, stupidity, and narrow-mindedness. No need to memorize the Napoleonic code. Just look at a city and you have it. Each time I come back from the country, just as I am starting to congratulate myself on my calmness, there breaks out a furor, a rage... And I come upon my mark, homo sapiens, the acquisitive wolf. Cities, architectures, how I loathe you! Great surfaces of vaults, vaults cemented into the earth, vaults set out in compartments, forming vaults to eat in, vaults for sex, vaults on the watch, ready to open fire. How sad, sad...
    • Ecuador (1929)
  • You can love a woman. To admire her is hard. You are not dealing with something important.
    • Ecuador (1929)
  • It is preferable not to travel with a dead man.
    • La Nuit des Bulgares in Plume (1938)

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