23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2000
Even if you speak French, this book is an indispensible source on the great, 20th. century poet Henri Michaux. One of the important things that David Ball establishes is the chronology of Michaux's publishings. Michaux often published a string of small books between major collections - the major books overlapping, partially containing and redacting the earlier books in a highly complex and confusing way. In some cases, the larger work even duplicates the title of a smaller work. Ball untangles this gnarly time-line once and for all.
This is the most extensive selection in English from all phases of Michaux's long poetic career. It includes excerpts from his prose works - the travel writings and the mescalin writings, although nothing was taken from A Barbarian in Asia and Miserable Miracle. There are some plates that provide a view of Michaux's often superb graphic art.
The translations stand up pretty well against Richard Ellman's in Selected Writings (also highly recommended); however, this is a much larger work. Ball is perhaps on the literal side as a translator, a respectable choice. Probably, the only way to translate a poet impeccably, is to have a team of accomplished poets working in direct collaboration with the living poet who also speaks the second language well. And, of course, that's not the case, here. As far as I know, among major 20th. century poets translated into English, only Jorge Luis Borges was tranlated in this arcadian manner. That said, there's nothing wrong with these translations, except that David Ball, though possessed of a good ear, is not himself a poet, or trying to use a translation of a poem as an occasion to write another poem. Again, this is a respectable choice. In a sense Michaux is easy to translate. His language, though highly individual, is clear and direct (except when he's creating his bombastic new words). It's this language and conscience (John Ashberry's critical insight) in service in service to a deep and powerful visionary faculty, that makes Michaux one of the truly great poets of the 20th. century.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2005
This early 20th century psychonaut is the latest embodiment of the Poet Maudit, intuitively following the program set out by Baudelaire and brilliantly brought to fruition by Rimbaud and Lautreamont and added to substantially by the surrealists. It is, however, Michaux's connection to the author of Maldoror that draws me to him, and as in Ducassean texts, Michaux's writings reveal numinous monsters aplenty, strange landscapes, psychic flora and fauna that are noted, illuminated from all sides, catalogued in precise detail. A selection of the art is given as well. These are good to excellent translations, as noted in the previous review. The selection and chronology makes this book stand out over the New Directions standard that we've long depended on for our picture of Michaux.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2008
Michaux is a genius. He should be read many times. His language and images are haunting and thrilling. His work is very inspirational and insightful.
The translation is also excellent.
I can highly recommend him.