Spring 1949 • Vol. XI No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1949 |

The Ductile Universe of Henri Michaux

Reading Michaux makes one uncomfortable. The world of his poems bears some relation to that of everyday, but it is hard to determine what. If we try to reassure ourselves by cal ing it fantasy, we have to ignore the scalpel which is playing about our insides. On the other hand, the term satire at first seems equally inappropriate, for the point d'appui is hidden, and no obvious appeal to law, convention, or common sense provides a focus for an attack on human ways. And to call Michaux's world obsessive or neurotic, as we may also be tempted momentarily to do, is to disregard the pervasive wit, a wit which is too keen, and implies too much control, to confirm a psychiatric explanation. What makes his writings so difficult to categorize is not his concern with the self's wobblings and grapplings, which Proust has made familiar enough; rather it is his habit of casting psychological insights into physical instead of mental terms, or into a system of images which at first appear arb

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