Michel Butor in 2002
|Born||Michel Marie François Butor|
14 September 1926
|Died||24 August 2016 (aged 89)|
|Alma mater||University of Paris|
|Notable works||La modification|
Michel Marie François Butor was born in Mons-en-Baroeul, a suburb of Lille. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, graduating in 1947. He has taught in Egypt, Manchester, Thessaloniki, 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 have associated his novels with the nouveau roman, but Butor himself 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. In his 1967 La critique et l'invention, he famously said that even the most literal quotation is already a kind of parody because of its "trans-contextualization."
For decades, he chose to work in other forms, from essays to poetry to artist's books to unclassifiable works like Mobile. Literature, painting and 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.
Butor was a close friend and colleague of Elinor Miller, a French professor at Embry Riddle University. Butor and Miller worked collaboratively on translations and lectures. In 2002, Miller published a book on Butor entitled Prisms and Rainbows: Michel Butor's Collaborations with Jacques Monory, Jiri Kolar, and Pierre Alechinsky.
His works include:
La littérature, c'est l'expérimentation sur le langage.
La citation la plus littérale est déjà dans une certaine mesure une parodie. Le simple prélèvement la transforme, le choix dans lequel je l'insère, sa découpure (deux critiques peuvent citer le même passage en fixant ses bords différemment), les allégements que j'opère à l'intérieur, lesquels peuvent substituer une autre grammaire à l'originelle et naturellement, la façon dont je l'aborde, dont elle est prise dans mon commentaire
A whole ideology of ownership and transmission is implied by the commercial promotion of books and a certain kind of discourse in newspapers, schools and universities, with its emphasis on greatness, uniqueness, and influence-- often via quotation-- as a one-way process. This ideology has received a battering for many years now at the hands of authors such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges (Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote) and Butor himself.