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Miserable Miracle

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  231 ratings  ·  20 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 v ...more
Paperback, 179 pages
Published April 28th 2002 by New York Review of Books (first published 1956)
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David Katzman
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Eddie Watkins
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: David Katzman
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nancy Oakes
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I absolutely love the philosophical side of this book, beginning with the idea that Michaux has set out to "explore the mediocre human condition." Octavio Paz, in his introduction, relates that what Michaux discovered in this exploration was that man is not mediocre at all, since "A part of oneself -- a part walled in, obscured from the very beginning of the beginning -- is open to the infinite." I believe this absolutely. How this discovery was made is at this work's core. I do have to say that ...more
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Solange te parle
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Descriptions poétiquement décousues de trips sous psychédéliques. Michaux est attendrissant et réussit à rendre compte comme personne des états de conscience modifiée. Entre extase et perte de soi-même. (Mais lecture un peu absconse pour qui n'aurait aucun intérêt pour les substances...) ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very well-written account and simulation of mescaline. His experiences sound horrible! Maybe if he had elaborated on the insights he got on his trips it would have been better. However, the chapter on hash was great - very eloquent.
Daniel Polansky
I read this book.
Andrew Bourne
Jan 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Miraculous and miserable; maybe I'll read this book again, but I'll never take mescaline. ...more
Richard Wu
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bar none the most vestigial I’ve read to date is the INTRODUCTION BY OCTAVIO PAZ, which in no way disqualifies the superiority, in every aspect, of his translated subject to Huxley’s earlier, and by comparison relatively fraudulent treatment. Still, readers suffering aphantasia are encouraged to skip this volume entirely; the fun consists in imagining images:
Sometimes a glass stairway, a stairway like Jacob’s ladder, a stairway with more steps than I could climb in three entire lifetimes, a stai
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Difficult to parse at first, I stuck with this obtuse volume of prose until the final chapters, which provided a much more mature analysis of Michaux's mescaline experiences beyond "Everything sucks and I'm being tortured." (Seems the guy just needed a better setting than his stuffy apartment. Once he got out into the mountains, mescaline was much more fun.) The inner "silence" he mentions is one I myself have experienced on this medicine, so it was neat to see that reflected in someone else's e ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: w-europe
A subjective view of the mescaline and hashish experience with some insights into the mind, being and madness. Michaux likens mescaline to madness, and was deeply uncomfortable and disturbed during the trip; he seems a bit more comfortable with hashish but still experiences hallucinations, which is a rare reaction to that drug.

There is obvious familiarity with psychology and the text is pseudo-psychological in tone; pseudo, because he is untrained, not in a pejorative sense.

From p.77:

"There is
Mark Schmidt
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
I let others do drugs so I don't have to. Then they create something simultaneously wonderfully creative and alarmingly unnerving. This book is just that. The author takes you with him on his journey with the drug mescaline, a hallucinogen which elongates everything impossibly. This work is perhaps one of the greatest about the dream state or that blurry border between the conscious and unconscious, between the boring order of normal life and the unendurable erraticism of true chaos. ...more
Cary Stough
The Lemony Snicket of drug lit.

"Let's just say, I don't have much of a talent for addiction."

I admire Michaux for simultaneously writing a book about psychedelics and having a very bad time at it.
R.W. Spryszak
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Totally engaged. Weird. Obscure. Better than Huxley, this thing widens the frame around the doors of perception. Blows the wall away, to be more accurate. It may be difficult from one moment to the next, but that's how I like my souffles... ...more
Andreas Jacobsen
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.0
David Marchese
Sep 03, 2010 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Aneta Mikolajczyk
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Nov 04, 2019
Jonathan Hinckley
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Aug 09, 2020
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Aug 28, 2016
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Vesna Denić
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Jan 25, 2018
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Dec 27, 2015
Heidi Nemo
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Aug 26, 2008
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Christina DeAngelis
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Nov 13, 2018
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NYRB Classics: Miserable Miracle, by Henri Michaux 1 7 Oct 29, 2013 08:52AM  

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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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