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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

Stroke by Stroke

Henri Michaux

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To purchase Stroke by Stroke

Title: Stroke by Stroke
Author: Henri Michaux
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 1979/1984 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 160 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Stroke by Stroke - US
Stroke by Stroke - UK
Stroke by Stroke - Canada
Saisir - France
Par des traits - France
  • Translated by Richard Sieburth
  • Translation of Saisir (1979) and Par des traits (1984)

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Our Assessment:

(-) : attractive, mystifying

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 7/5/2006 Susan Salter Reynolds

  From the Reviews:
  • "These are accompanied by Michaux's strangely moving little line drawings, part insect and part kanji" - Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Stroke by Stroke consists of two volumes of Henri Michaux's drawing-dominated books. There is some text -- explanation, poetic variations on the themes -- but it is the striking black-ink drawings that dominate.
       In the first volume he describes coming to his bestiary:

Insects, especially insects, were happening to me. Intrigued, I became more and more of a bug. Even though I thought they had completely slipped my mind.
       Many of the pictures are of animals and insects, mostly roughly drawn, rarely just a single creature on a page, as Michaux prefers to show transitions and groups.
       There's a sense of scrawl to the drawings, the black ink too thick for precise detail, and yet their very roughness makes them more evocative. Influenced by Chinese ideograms, there's a sense of double-meaning -- as well as that of the personal hand-writing behind the images, a distinctive style connecting creator and content.
       Michaux has little interest in precise realism:
What is a resemblance without dissemblance ?
     A drawing with no fight in it is a bore.
     It is incomplete.
       Among his ambitions is specifically: "To disobey form." Tension is almost always present in the pictures -- the sense of motion he tries to capture, for example.
       The first volume is called Grasp -- an attempt, among other things: "To grasp the underlying." From there he moves to Stroke by Stroke, more focussed on action ("Gestures rather than signs"), looking to transform, release, approach, explore -- all "stroke by stroke".

       It's an appealing and attractive volume, if occasionally frustrating (though that frustration of communication is an essential part of what he is trying to convey). The imagery is striking, the text limited but intriguing. Worthwhile.

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Stroke by Stroke: Henri Michaux: Other books by Henri Michaux under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French poet and painter Henri Michaux lived from 1899 to 1984.

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© 2006-2010 the complete review

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