The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the countless minor ones by Henri Michaux ; Translated by Richard Howard
New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. First American Edition. Stated. Hardcover. 170 pages ; 22 cm. $6.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Lenghty opinion of the book written by previous owner on flyleaf. No other markings elsewhere in book. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
No writer has done as much as Henri Michaux to give an accurate description of the drug experience. His experiments with drugs were undertaken primarily as explorations, by way of the abnormal, of the functioning of the normal mind. Michaux was not searching for escapist "highs." Throughout this account of his experiences, he stresses the necessity to keep alert a center of awareness, to watch and snatch from disorientation as many illuminating landmarks as the speed and chaotic nature of the phenomena allow.
Well informed about the clinical aspects of mental disturbances, Michaux establishes parallels between drug-induced and schizophrenic states. Acutely sensitive, superbly intelligent, and gifted with an incomparable command of language, he succeeds in making intelligible the disintegrative alienated mind, for example in a remarkable chapter describing a table built by a schizophrenic. Another chapter relates, analytically and lyrically, new space experiences. Finally, with the most delicate of shadings, Michaux investigates the various worlds of ecstasy: the erotic, the heroic, the religious.
In the last analysis, however, this book adds up to a hymn to what its author calls "the marvelous normal," that is, the unbelievably complex and efficient mechanism of the untampered-with human brain, sifting and shifting, choosing and organizing, determining and directing, in every instant filtering order out of chaos and duplicating that act of creation which culminates in the command: Let there be light.
Brilliantly translated by Richard Howard, recipient of the National Book Award for Poetry.
HENRI MICHAUX is one of France's most eminent poets and essayists. For six years he explored the world of drugs with scientific intent, stopping his experiments as soon as he felt he had reached the limits of exploration. He published the results of his experiences in a series of remarkable works, among them Miserable Miracle.
"I want to lift the veil from the 'normal,' the unrecognized, unsuspected, incredible, enormous normal. The abnormal first acquainted me with it, disclosing to me the prodigious number of operations which the most ordinary of men performs, casually, unconcerned, as routine work, interested only in the outcome and not in the mechanisms however marvelous, far more wonderful than the ideas he sets such store by, which are often so commonplace, mediocre, unworthy of the matchless instrument that reveals and plies them. I want to lift the veil from the complex mechanisms which make man, first and foremost, an operator." —From The Major Ordeals of the Mind
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