Henri Michaux

Henri Michaux

Just a few years after Mário de Andrade traveled through the Amazonas, a hitherto unknown author from Belgium was drawn to Latin America. In the third chapter of my study on the Hummingbird’s Poetics I turn to Henri Michaux, who to this day is stylized by scholars as a great literary outsider. As with Mário de Andrade, the trip was sponsored for Henri Michaux. In Paris he had met the rich Ecuadorian author Alfredo Gangotena, who then invited him to stay in his homeland. As a failed medical student, Henri Michaux registered as a sailor, and after his first major voyage to Latin America, many more were to follow – for example to Asia – which Henri Michaux also portrayed comprehensively in his prose.

This third chapter of my study provides the contrast foil to the Latin American travelers Gabriela Mistral and Mário de Andrade. Henri Michaux was in no way interested in knowing about the continent, his literary project revolves rather around the uncertainty of knowledge. But this project is also to be seen as contradicting the tradition of European travelogues, which the texts I am interested in oppose in many different ways.

In my reading I concentrate on Henri Michaux as an experimental author. Experimentation is the central process that guides my reading and has already been identified in research as an important category in the multifaceted work of Henri Michaux – who was both an author and a painter and is best known for his self-experiments with mescaline.

Henri Michaux Portrait
henri michaux portrait

The traces of Henri Michaux’ trip to Ecuador are less well understood; unlike Gabriela Mistral and Mário de Andrade, precise documentation is missing. But his travel diary Ecuador, published by Gallimard in 1929, shows that Latin America also became a laboratory for the Franco-Belgian avant-garde.

Above all, the animalistic worlds of experience of his travels attract the writer and also shape my reading, in which I interpret his micro-narratives and micro-experiments through the lense of Animal Studies.

Links and Resources on Henri Michaux

Poetik des Kolibris - Marília Jöhnk

Book Poetik des Kolibris

Latin American travel prose by Gabriela Mistral, Mário de Andrade and Henri Michaux. Free e-book, PDF file (open access)

henri michaux archiv

Archive Henri Michaux

Official website providing information about the latest publications and events related to Henri Michaux and archival holdings.

corporeite des formes breves paris

Forme brève, visualité et récit de voyage dans Ecuador d'Henri Michaux

My presentation at the conference on small forms at the University of Paris-Nanterre.