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The Space Within by Henri Michaux

The Space Within

by Henri Michaux

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A solid volume, which could have been improved if whoever made the selections (the translator, Richard Ellmann?) had been a bit more ruthless and aimed for excellence rather than comprehensiveness.

That said, I seem to have had a very different reading experience than many others. Michaux's quasi-existentialist bits I found deeply boring, and the same can be said for the moments that verge towards surrealism. But his creation of worlds just slightly off the coast of our own was fascinating--basically, I read him as post-Gulliver rather than post-Kafka; post-Erewhon rather than post-Breton. And it didn't make me uncomfortable, it just made me interested in a variety of different shades: sadly, happily, angrily and so on. For instance, one of my favorite passages,

"Here, bleeding on the wall, alive, red or half infected, is the wound of a man; of a Mage who has put it there. Why? Out of asceticism, the better to suffer from it; for, if it was on his person, he would not be able to refrain from curing it by means of his thaumaturgic power, which is natural with him to the point of being entirely unconscious. But in this way he keeps it for a long time without its closing up. This process is common. Strange wounds, suffering on deserted walls, that you come upon with loathing and nausea..."

Could easily be read as high existentialism. It could be read as late surrealism. And I choose to read it as a wonderful, slightly scary imaginative investigation of morality. Anyone who can support three readings so easily deserves to be better read. As a special bonus, this edition has the French, which is often much more elegant than Ellmann's usually very good translation. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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