4. Henri Michaux

I first met the words of Henri Michaux in 1996 and keep returning to them when I need to deviate from any attempt at coherence (I want to write gaps and discontinuities as I inhabit sounds and books). For my writing, his words mean the limits that I can push.  And with great evocations / creations of sounds. I’m currently attempting a translation of a fragment from ‘Ordeals, Exorcisms’ entitled Creakings – dreadful, absurd, exhilarating – which I’m going to use in my next book. But for now, I’ve just come across this:


First Canto

I heard words in the darkness. They had the gravity of perilous situations involving important personages in the dead of the night.

They were saying – these words – in the obscure shadow.
They were saying confusedly. They were all saying “Woe! Woe!” and did not cease, crying always “Woe! Woe!”


Then a voice burst out which was not recognizable and the flowers of life began to stink, and the sun was no more than a memory, an old mat put behind a door that you won’t go through again, and men, almost losing their faith, were silent, were silent with a silence which takes your breath away, the kind that comes in summertime, at evening in the country, when after the last birds, and then the last insects, of the day have gone in, and before those of the night have come, a tomblike silence suddenly falls.

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