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books

Richard Howard on Henri Michaux

IN THE DECADE BETWEEN 1956 and 1966, Henri Michaux, who had been publishing verse, prose, and drawings since 1927, produced six little books concerning his experiences with mescaline and other, mostly psychedelic, drugs. Several of these volumes, including this first one, are “illustrated” by the author’s astonishing drawings, which frequently afford a more direct account than his discursive writing of the exploratory voyages Michaux inveterately undertook beginning in the late ’20s. These brief texts, often (as in the case of Miserable Miracle) written during the experiments with mescaline and reproduced with the same fidelity as the drawings, which resemble electrocardiograms, indecipherable grass writing, and then word landscapes, are difficult to read and have very little to do with prevailing notions of pleasure and even ecstasy typically promoted in the literature of addiction. I

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