From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Life and work
Michel Marie Francois Butor was born in Mons-en-Baroeul. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, graduating in 1947. He has taught in Egypt, Manchester, Salonika, the United States, and Geneva. He has won many literary awards for his work, including the Prix Apollo, the Prix Fénéon and the Prix Renaudot.
Journalists and critics associated his novels with the nouveau roman, but Butor himself has long resisted that association. The main point of similarity is a very general one: not much beyond that, like exponents of the nouveau roman, he can be described as an experimental writer. His best-known novel, La Modification, for instance, is written entirely in the second person.
For decades now, he has chosen to work in other forms, from essays to poetry to artist's books to unclassifiable works like Mobile. Literature, painting, travel, are subjects particularly dear to Butor. Part of the fascination of his writing is the way it combines the rigorous symmetries that led Roland Barthes to praise him as an epitome of structuralism (exemplified, for instance, by the architectural scheme of Passage de Milan or the calendrical structure of L'emploi du temps) with a lyrical sensibility more akin to Baudelaire than to Robbe-Grillet.
His works include...
- Passage de Milan (1954)
- L'emploi du temps (tr. Passing Time) (1956)
- La Modification (tr. Second Thoughts) (1957)
- Degrés (1960)
- Histoire extraordinaire: essai sur un rêve de Baudelaire (1961)
- Les mots dans la peinture (1969)
- Improvisations sur Flaubert (1984)
- Improvisations sur Michel Butor: L'écriture en transformation (1993)
- L'utilité poétique (1995)
- Quant au livre: Triptyque en l'honneur de Gauguin (2000)
- Le Génie de lieu (1958)
- Mobile : étude pour une représentation des États-Unis (tr. Mobile: Study for a Representation of the US.) (1962)
- Portrait de l'artiste en jeune singe (1967)
- Matière de rêves (1975-1985)
- Retour du boomerang (1988)
- L'embarquement de la reine de Saba (1989)
- Transit A, Transit B (1992)