Life in the Folds

Henri Michaux


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Life in the Folds by Henri Michaux, translated by Darren Jackson / ISBN 9781939663061 / small 168-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press


Life in the Folds, originally published in French in 1949, is the Belgian-born author and artist Henri Michaux's (1899-1984) most direct exploration of the many forms of suffering, a laboratory of fantastical, destructive energies in which the poet presents his methods for dealing with the world around him. The first two sections offer such items as the Slapping Gun and the Man Sling (in the section "Freedom of Action") to the scenarios that call for defensive measures such as the "Constellation of Jabs" and the visceral "Blow of Fatigue" (in the section "Apparitions"). Also included is one of Michaux's more complex fantastical-anthropological travelogues, "Portrait of the Meidosems," an account of the ways and manners of a population of vague ectoplasmic figures, anguished filaments of sorts that struggle to exist but are never allowed to sit still. This volume charts a turning point in Michaux's life and in the world, where his earlier depictions of visualized psychology and suffering found representation in a traumatized Europe. Imbued by the war years, the Occupation and the horror of the concentration camps, Life in the Folds bears the scars of Michaux's own personal catastrophe--the loss of his wife, who had died of "atrocious burns" the previous year--and concludes with the autobiographical text, "Old Age of Pollagoras," a wearied testament uttered before a haunted "plain of death."

Henri Michaux (1899–1984) was born in Namur, Belgium, the son of a lawyer. After contemplating careers in the church and in medicine, Michaux enlisted in the French merchant marine and traveled around the world. These travels inspired his first two books, Ecuador and A Barbarian in Asia. After settling in Paris, Michaux devoted himself to writing and painting and was soon known all around France—and eventually the world—for his work in both disciplines.

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