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Miserable Miracle

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  142 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
"This book is an exploration. By means of words, signs, drawings. Mescaline, the subject explored." In "Miserable Miracle," the great French poet and artist Henri Michaux, a confirmed teetotaler, tells of his life-transforming first encounters with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. At once lacerating and weirdly funny, challenging and Chaplinesque, his book is a breathtaking ...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Gallimard Education (first published 1956)
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Dec 27, 2014 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: because of his sense of infinity
Recommended to Mariel by: the evening did me good
You go from little death to little death for hours on end, from shipwreck to rescue, succumbing every three or four minutes without the least apprehension, only to be gently, marvelously resuscitated once more. A deep sigh, which speaks volumes to those who know, is the only intimation of new rescues, but the voyage continues, a new death is preparing from which you will emerge in the same way. It is as though you had another heart whose systole and diastole occurred fifteen or twenty times an h
David Katzman
Feb 19, 2009 David Katzman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mental explorers with patience
Beautiful dwarves in skin-tight gold lamé pantsuits. Cats who scratch out dreams on your wooden leg. Pleistocene fists pounding frenetic rhythms across your naked skin. Heretic wishes left to their own devices. Soaring stories built second by second moment by moment until nothing is left but a wish a thought a syllable and a sill upon which sits the things left over, after, above and between, always between never complete, always left over, never beginning, only between the things, the shape of ...more
Eddie Watkins
When Henri Michaux was in his fifties he decided to try mescaline. Until this decision he was a veritable teetotaler. He didn’t even drink coffee. But he was an adventurous sort, a natural psychonaut, so in the name of a worthy experiment in consciousness he took mescaline. He didn't "enjoy" it, in fact it was rather torturous, but what it helped to open up in his mind he considered a miracle, hence Miserable Miracle.

I have yet to read this book in its entirety – to be frank, it gets repetitive
May 11, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: David Katzman
Being a 'weekend hippy' in the early 70s I consumed quite a lot of hallucinogens/psychedelics, mostly LSD but also 'magic mushrooms', pot of course and once mescaline. I still remember that trip, maybe because it was one of my first, it was a fairly gentle one I think, due to a smaller than normal dose but still spiked with amazing hallucinations - I remember staring at the pictures I discovered in the bathroom linoleum, which seemed like a load of Polaroid pictures of several families whose his ...more
May 15, 2010 Jere rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miraculous and miserable; maybe I'll read this book again, but I'll never take mescaline.
Andrew Bourne
Jan 19, 2008 Andrew Bourne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Vincent Zompa
Michaux is 57 years old. He does not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee, nor smoke tobacco. He practices moderation--abstinence really--in the use of all excitants.

So he takes mescaline, then, in the interest of comparative analysis, he tries hashish... thereafter moving on to a massive dose of mescaline, which juices the ability to write or analyze right out of his nerd's body, and ultimately results in a compulsion to push innocents into the Seine.

His thoughts on the color pink are 5-star or better
Apr 20, 2008 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The "writer takes drugs and tells the tale" summary does not do this justice, particularly if that conjures visions of Hunter S. Thompson. This reads almost more like travel writing where the space is internal and the behavioral/built culture is formed from the pharmacological/philosophical aspect of a given drug ... comparative ethnography of Mescaline and Hashish. Hardly surprising since Michaux has also written some excellent travelogues. The writing is occasionally terrifying (and terrifying ...more
David Marchese
It's legitimately psychedelic, which is to say parts of it are intensely interesting and others super boring. I can't see why someone who didn't at least have a stoner phase would like it. I can clearly see why someone who did would get a kick out of at least a few sections.
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NYRB Classics: Miserable Miracle, by Henri Michaux 1 6 Oct 29, 2013 08:52AM  
  • The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert
  • Mouchette
  • The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch
  • Novels in Three Lines
  • War and the Iliad
  • Prisoner of Love
  • The Book of Monelle
  • Nature Stories
  • The Hundred Headless Woman
  • The Book of My Life
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • Renoir, My Father
  • The Waste Books
  • The Passive Vampire
  • Locus Solus
  • Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
  • Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece
  • Le Parti pris des choses / Douze petits écrits / Proêmes
Henri Michaux was a highly idiosyncratic Belgian poet, writer and painter who wrote in the French language. Michaux is best known for his esoteric books written in a highly accessible style, and his body of work includes poetry, travelogues, and art criticism. Michaux travelled widely, tried his hand at several careers, and experimented with drugs, the latter resulting in two of his most intriguin ...more
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“On the edge of a tropical ocean, in a thousand reflections of the silver light of an invisible moon, among undulations of restless waters, ceaselessly changing...

Among silent breakers, the tremors of the shining surface, in the swift flux and reflux martyrizing the patches of light, in the rendings of luminous loops and arcs, and lines, in the occultations and reappearances of dancing bursts of light being decomposed, recomposed, contracted, spread out, only to be re-distributed once more before me, with me, within me, drowned, and unendurably buffeted, my calm violated a thousand times by the tongues of infinity, oscillating, sinusoidally overrun by the multitude of liquid lines. enormous with a thousand folds, I was and I was not, I was caught, I was lost, I was in a state of complete ubiquity. The thousands upon thousands of rustlings were my own thousand shatterings.”
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