‘Riding the Lines’: The Poetics of the ‘Chevauchements’ in Henri Michaux’s Drug Experiments

  • Mathieu Perrot


In 1954, at the age of 55, Henri Michaux was a well-published writer and a seasoned traveller. As a young man in the 1930s and 1940s, the Belgian poet and painter had voyaged across East Asia, Central and South America, which resulted in a large portion of his oeuvre: well-known accounts, both real and imaginary, of his trips abroad, fictional ethnographies, and numerous volumes of poetry. Then, in 1954, one year before he became a French citizen, Michaux embarked on another kind of voyage. He began to explore and systematically describe the effects of various illegal drugs — including hallucinogens such as the newly discovered LSD 25, psilocybin and the milder cannabis — on his impressions and artistic expressions. Starting with Misérable Miracle (MM, 1972), Michaux wrote five poetic essays relating what he had felt and learned from the drugs he used. In some of them, he included drawings made while intoxicated (forty-eight of these appear in MM). A year later, Michaux published his proposal that all scholars try narcotics, arguing that they open onto a specific type of knowledge not accessible to the sober mind (Michaux, 1957, p. 82).


French Citizen Numerous Volume Healthy Mind Imperfective Verb Synaesthetic Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Artaud, Antonin, 1947. Les Tarahumaras (Paris: Folio).Google Scholar
  2. Breton, André, 1985. Manifestes du Surréalisme (Paris: Folio).Google Scholar
  3. Butler, Samuel, 1872. Erewhon (London: Jonathan Cape).Google Scholar
  4. Ginsberg, Allen, 1983. ‘Henri Michaux’ in Raymond Bellour, ed., Henri Michaux (Paris: Éditions de L’Herne), pp. 35–6.Google Scholar
  5. Gourio, Anne and Dominique Legallois, 2004. ‘Henri Michaux, témoin halluciné’, in C. Dornier and R. Dulong, eds, Esthétique du témoignage (Paris: Éditions de la Maison des Sciences Humaines), www.crisco.unicaen.fr/IMG/pdf/Michaux_deniere_version.pdf.Google Scholar
  6. Gouttefangeas, Maud, 2010. ‘Le drame optique d’Henri Michaux. L’expérience hallucinogène et le music-hall dans Misérable Miracle et L’Infini turbulent’, Littérature 1(157), pp. 67–79, www.cairn.info/revue-litterature-2010-1-page-67.htm.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hussey, Andrew, 2008. Paris, ville rebelle: De 1800 à nos jours (Paris: Max Milo).Google Scholar
  8. Huxley, Aldous, 1954. Doors of Perception (London: Chatto & Windus).Google Scholar
  9. Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 2001. Tristes tropiques (Paris: Pocket).Google Scholar
  10. Loreau, Max, 1987. ‘La poésie à l’épreuve de la mescaline’ in Jean-Claude Mathieu and Michel Collot, eds, Passages et langages de Henri Michaux (Paris: José Corti).Google Scholar
  11. Martin, J.-P., 2003. Henri Michaux (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  12. Michaux, H., 1957. L’Infini turbulent in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 2 (2001) (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  13. Michaux, H., 1961. Connaissance par les gouffres, in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 3 (2004) (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  14. Michaux, H., 1963. Lointain intérieur in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 1 (1998) (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  15. Michaux, H., 1972. Misérable Miracle (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  16. Michaux, H., 1981. Poteaux d’angle, in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 3 (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  17. Michaux, H., 1985. ‘Par Surprise’, in Déplacements, dégagements, in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 3 (2004) (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  18. Michaux, H., 2001. Passages, in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 2 (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  19. Michaux, H., 2004. ‘L’adversaire interne s’exprime’, in Une voie pour l’insubordination, in Œuvres Complètes, vol. 3 (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  20. Paz, Octavio, 2002. ‘Introduction’, trans. Helen R. Lane, in Henri Michaux, Miserable Miracle, trans. Louise Varese (New York: New York Review Books Classics).Google Scholar
  21. Roger, J., 2000. Poésie pour savoir (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon).Google Scholar
  22. Roger, J., 2005. Ecuador et Un barbare en Asie d’Henri Michaux (Paris: Gallimard).Google Scholar
  23. Valéry, Paul, 1996. ‘Cahier B1910’ in Tel Quel (Paris: Folio).Google Scholar
  24. Wisard, F., 1994. ‘L’énonciation d’un témoignage’ in Bulletin de l’Institut de linguistique et des sciences du langage de l’Université de Lausanne, 14, pp. 14–15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mathieu Perrot 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathieu Perrot

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations