The Colossus of Maroussi

ISBN: 0811201090
ISBN 13: 9780811201094
By: Henry Miller

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About this book

The Colossus of Maroussi is an impressionist travelogue by Henry Miller, written in 1939 and first published in 1941 by Colt Press of San Francisco. As an impoverished writer in need of rejuvenation, Miller travelled to Greece at the invitation of his friend, the writer Lawrence Durrell. The text is inspired by the events that occurred. The text is ostensibly a portrait of the Greek writer George Katsimbalis, although some critics have opined that is more of a self-portrait of Miller himself.[1] Miller considered it to be his greatest work.

Reader's Thoughts


First of all, I'm not sure why this is so often referred to here and on Amazon as a 'travelogue'. It's a Henry Miller book. Sure, one that just happens to involve a journey to Greece but a Henry Miller book first and foremost.It's sort of impossible to discuss this book without discussing Whitman. I feel pretty confident saying that Miller was trying to use the same romantic & expansive nationalistic heraldry for Greece that Whitman did for the USA. At Miller's best, he is Whitmanesque and he does do - at times - for the (adopted) Greek spirit what Whitman did for the American spirit. At his worst, and his worst does come up more often than I expected, it's a hackneyed Whitman wannabe, littering the page with superfluous adjectives and images, and you forget what it is he was perseverating about. I found myself getting actively angry at his self-indulgence at times.The racism seems pretty toothless but is still worth mentioning, as others have. I didn't find it particularly objectionable but perhaps that's just the benefit of reading this so long after the fact. And though he has plenty of words for Americans, his meaner tone is maybe for the English. Basically, he spends a lot of time praising the Greeks at the specific expense of many other nationalities. His A game is something to behold. I'm not particularly interested in overly experimental prose but when he begins discussing the jazz greats like Miles Davis his prose turns improvisational and with snappy rhythms that demand a beat behind it. Also, his meta-rants about baseball and wall street (that is, he's talking about talking about these things) are also well-crafted and memorable. Katsimbalis, the Colossus in question, is an interesting device. So much time is spent in a story praising a storyteller at length, that the whole thing gets very meta-textual and you can't help but wonder if the writer Henry Miller is trying to emulate the hero, though clearly the character Henry Miller would never be so immodest as to attempt any such thing. Though, circling back, whereas it is not a travelogue, it does make the reader think about taking a trip.


thus far i am unsure how i feel about this book. i have never read anything by Miller before except for "The Crucible", but that was in high school so it almost doesn't count. It's nice to have the collective Greek ego stroked by non-greeks. after all, it's about time the rest of the world FINALLY realizes our greatness, understands our culture and matches beautiful words to the physical beauty of our landscape. some of the passages made me smile and made my heart fill with, um, pride? but,i must say at times it was almost to point of being absurd! Miller has a great gift to go off on a tangent, then stray from the original subject exponentially which each subsequent sentence. this can go on for pages! this is not only when he talks about Greece, but any subject. i just finished a chapter where he looks through a telescope and starts dissing Saturn. it's almost 2 full-pages of how repulsive the planet is and how it should be ashamed to call itself a planet. i will admit it's probably the funniest thing i've read in a while, but i'm not so sure Miller intended it to be so comedic. i have to hand it to him, for never having visiting saturn, he certainly has a lot to say about it! i am finding it difficult to get myself to read the book so i can finish it. i am not sure if it's because i am sort of bored with it or because i am wasting valuable time on facebook.june 4, 2009. i finally finished this damn book. i will say it was a struggle and didn't keep my attention as much as i wanted it to. Miller is master of metaphors. i realized this book is just a more boring early version of Zorba. i definitely liked Zorba better.

Salomé Jashi

Recommend to everyone interested in Greece. However, I was never into it, but this book is driving me to explore this country. Whatever Henry Miller describes in any book he has written, stirs me, motivates me, inspires me and makes me happy out of just reading him. Here's a paragraph from the beginning of the book: '...'By God, yes, I like it,' I was saying to myself over and over as I stood at the rail taking in the movement and the hubbub. i leaned back and looked up at the sky. i had never seen a sky like this before. It was magnificent. I felt completely detached from Europe. i had entered a new realm as a free man - everything had conjoined to make the experience unique and fructifying. Christ, I was happy. But for the first time n my life I was happy with the full consciousness of being happy. It's good to be just plain happy; it's a little better to know that you're happy; but to understand that you're happy and to know why and how, in what way, because of what concatenation of events or circumstances, and still be happy, be happy in the being and the knowing, well. that is beyond happiness, that is bliss, and if you have any sense you ought to kill yourself on the spot and be done with it. And that's how I was - except that i didn't have the power or the courage to kill myself then and there. It was good, too, that I didn't do myself in because there were even greater moments to come, something beyond bliss even, something which if anyone had tried to describe to me I would probably not have believed. I didn't know then that i would one day stand and Mycenae, or at the Phaestos, or that i would wake up one morning and looking through a port hole see with my own eyes the place I had written about in a book, but which i never knew existed nor bore the same name as the one I had given it in my imagination. Marvellous things happen to one in Greece - marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth. Somehow, almost as if He were nodding, Greece still remains under the protection of the Creator. Men may go about their puny, ineffectual bedevilment, even in Greece, but God's magic is still at work and, no matter what the race of man my do or try to do, Greece is still a sacred precinct - and my belief is it will remain so until the end of time.'

LeeAnn Heringer

I have to admit that previously I've tried to read one of Henry Miller's "Tropics of…" and failed because it felt so dated. Yes, I know he was doing language experimentation and word jazz before any of the beats. But this travelogue of Greece made his riffs more relevant to me. He's very anti-capitalism, particularly as embodied by the corporation -- you could probably take some of the passages from this book and read them at a rally for the Occupy Movement or Blockage the Google Buses and if you didn't attribute them to Henry Miller, no one would know the words were almost 70 years old. But in this book, he's talking about a topic he really loves, Greece and the Greek people, and that offsets some of his curmudgeon-ness.I surprised myself by really enjoying this book.

Jenny Beth

This is the best thing that Henry Miller ever wrote, besides some of his letters, some pornography, and some of the foppish essays he did about his paintings. it's the best travel writing, the best book about greece, the best everything. It gives me hope as a prolific pedestrian pervert that i may write something singularly beautiful one day if i go to visit friends somewhere nice and a war breaks out.

Rick Skwiot

Some critics call "The Colossus of Maroussi"--Henry Miller`s account of his trip to Greece on the eve of World War II--the greatest travel book ever. But, like all great travel books, it's much more than mere depiction of beautiful landscapes, missed connections, bad weather, and surly waiters--though Miller recounts those as well. Rather, the book stands as a compelling paean to the Greek spirit, to liberty, and to life--as well as a barbaric yawp prefiguring the coming cataclysm.The Canadian critic Northrop Frye once said that the "story of the loss and regaining of the framework of all literature." That certainly applies well to travel literature, where the journey often occurs within the narrator as well as over the Earth, and in particular to The Colossus of Maroussi. At its core lies Miller's spiritual transformation through welcomed encounters with warm-hearted, generous, high-spirited Greeks, particularly the "colossus" Katsimbalis."I love these men, each and every one," writes Miller, "for having revealed to me the true proportions of the human being...the goodness, the integrity, the charity which they emanated. They brought me face to face with myself, they cleansed me of hatred and jealousy and envy."Like most of Miller's writing, from the joyous novel "Tropic of Cancer" to his trenchant essays, this book succeeds thanks to his freewheeling iconoclasm, his divine madness, and his inimitable language:"...Out of the corner of my eye I caught the full devastating beauty of the great plain of Thebes which we were approaching and, unable to control myself, I burst into tears. Why had no one prepared me for this? I cried out...We were amidst the low mounds and hummocks which had been stunned motionless by the swift messengers of light. We were in the dead center of that soft silence which absorbs even the breathing of gods...Through the thick pores of the earth the dreams of men long dead still bubbled and burst, their diaphanous filament carried skyward by flocks of startled birds."Here, as always, we see Miller as primitive shaman, awed and humbled by nature and humanity, disdainful of modernity and materialism: "Mechanical devices have nothing to do with man's real nature--they are merely traps which Death has baited for him."He underscores this view of us, as animals caught in a steel maze of our own making, by his frequent metaphoric mixing of nature's fecundity and manmade tawdriness, as when he describes the approach to Delphi:"This is an invisible corridor of time, a vast, breathless parenthesis which swells like the uterus and having bowelled forth its anguish relapses like a run-down clock."No, this is not your grandmother's travel writing, with its propriety, politeness, and "realistic" depictions, but word-pictures of an emotional landscape. That's the essence Miller strives to show: his subjective, experiential, inner reality. The subject here is Henry Miller, and what matters most is how these objects--the world--affect him.As a result, this 1941 literary bombshell, ostensibly about Greece, documents Miller's memories of New York inspired by a view of Athens, provides a lengthy disquisition on jazz when he's confronted by a French woman who disdains the chaos of Greece, and paints a disquieting, mad, and ominous picture of Saturn when he climbs to an observatory and views it through a telescope. He tells us his dreams and daydreams and what he wished he would have said. Everything is fair game; the seeming digressions frequent and fabulous.This is still nonfiction, but Miller's imaginative life at the time of his travels is real, and thus an important part of his narrative. In the end it all hangs together like a sumptuous tapestry woven by an inspired madman--which perhaps it is. We come away understanding more about the taste of Greek water, the quality of Greek light, and the magnificence of the Greek spirit than from reading all the objective reporting on Greece in the Library of Congress. He captures it all as it arrests him.Traveling at times with Katsimbalis, the poet Seferiades, and/or Lawrence Durrell, Miller moves from Athens and Corfu to Knossus and Delphi as if in search of dead Greek gods--and finds them reincarnate.We are lucky enough to travel with him, enduring treacherous seas, precipitous mountain passes, and heroic debauches, as well as feasting on the simple food, viewing the sublime beauty, and feeling the brotherhood and humanity that come to Miller like beneficent Peloponnesian sun wherever he turns. It is a trip I will make over and over again.

Matt Hobson

It is called the greatest travel novel simply because it captures the difference in philosophy between all places around the world and shows how the living of life itself is an entirely unique experience depending on where you live or have grown up. You can see clearly that Colossus of Maroussi was written by an ex-patriate wanting to be free of the American way. Miller writes in a whirlwind to the degree that I gave up attempting to keep characters clear and separate in my mind, especially given that most of them had Greek names that are wildly different from American simplicity. It's not the greatest travel novel ever, but it will pique your observational muscles for maximizing your travel experiences philosophically. This novel tries to do what Kerouac's On The Road finally did in keeping the reader with you through a dense and fast travel experience. It is not Miller's finest and I would recommend you go toward the Tropics unless you are keenly interested in the failing Greek economy and the magnificent outlook on life the Greeks still possess that Miller captures like Picasso captures all sides of a guitar.

Janez Hočevar

Miller's journey to Greece before the outbreak of the Second World War is a rough, poetic, cultural, philosophic hommage to Greece. It took me quite some time to grasp and comprehend what Miller wanted to say. His descriptions of Greece, of its people, of its art and of its past really compell the individual to ask himself/herself some important questions, like who we are, where are we going, what is our purpose in life. I have never experienced that in such a strong way like in Miller's Colossus of Maroussi. But what touched me the most is the feeling of passing, as Miller talks about Greece as it is (at the time when he was writting the Colossus of Maroussi) and how it it is going to change forever because of the war!!

John Ross

This book, which is generally categorized as a "travel book", was recommended to me as a "must read" prior to a trip to Greece. Overall, the book was a very worthwhile read, but like most things had pluses and minuses. On the minus side there were two drawbacks for me: (1) the paragraphs were almost all long, block (taking up most of the page and scant dialogue) and cumbersome beasts written in a 1940's style, and (2) it was a slow slog to get through the book's first 80 pages (it's first section of three). However, on the plus side of the ledger, the last two-thirds of the book were very enjoyable and insightful about the Greek character generally (note: the author LOVED the Greeks and their culture overall). Also, Henry Miller is an excellent writer and, as stated on the books back cover, "was the voice of a generation that opened the way to the counterculture movement. And at the end of this book he gives some very revealing personal insight into how his experience in Greece helped fashion his point of view of life. Overall, this was a travel book but much more as well.

Liza Bolitzer

I always think that i will like travel books when i return from traveling, but that has never been the case, especially when they are written by self centered wankers like Henry Miller.

Darran Mclaughlin

Superb book. Miller is such a life affirming writer. His philosophy is totally out of step with American culture and it seems he found his spiritual home in Greece. Having visited Greece for the first time myself last year I agree with his sentiments about the place. The Greeks have mastered the art of living, and refuse to enslave themselves to the tyranny of materialism. Miller is one of a kind. He is so open and forthright and seems to have few of the filters and restrictions the rest of have. No wonder he makes several remarks disparaging the English throughout this book as our national characteristics are precisely the opposite of what he finds admirable in people. There are few writers I enjoy who are this vital and optimistic. He has few antecedents in America, other than perhaps Walt Whitman, and it is impressive that he was recognised by writers of such different temperaments as Samuel Beckett, George Orwell and TS Eliot. His influence is easy to see in the likes of the Beats, Philip Roth and Joseph Heller.


In his gem of an campus novel, 'changing places' (a genre that he and malcolm 'history man' bradbury all but invented in the early 1970s), david lodge introduces us to the hilarious game of 'humiliation'. one thinks of a work that YOU haven't read but you reckon everyone else has, and you win points for everyone who has indeed read it. in 'changing places', visiting Brit literatus Philip Swallow introduces the game at a dinner given by the dean of the literature faculty. At first, an ambitious thrusting don doesnt get it and pulls out all these obscure writers that no one else has read so of course he doesnt get any points. then the penny drops and he announces triumphantly ... Hamlet. he scoops the board of course but the confession is out and natch, how can the dean now even consider him for the next head of the engl lit dept.right. i have never read henry Miller. not one. nada. shock horror. Til i picked out colossus of M from the shelves here and i am captivated. the scales have dropped from my eyes in my adoration of larry durrell. (i can call him larry because he came to tea once and a swallow fell out of the nest and shortie L got a ladder and plonked it back in - and it lived and was not shoved out by its parents. also, mum has a postcard signed 'larry' trying to lure her to paris. mum said no, of course, but she kept the card.Miller on greece, and bags on corfu, is brilliant. He's invited out to corfu by Durrell whose "Letters were marvelous, and yet a bit unreal to me. Durrell is a poet and his letters were poetic: they caused certain confusion in me, owing to the fact that the dream and the reality, the historical and mythological, were so artfully blended. Later I was to discover for myself that this confusion is real and not due entirely to the poetic faculty."Miller makes friends with a lady and a splendid Greek 'character': "We immediately became firm friends. With Nicola I spoke a broken-down French; with Karamenaios a sort of cluck-cluck language made up largely of goodwill and a desire to understand one another."Has it ever been better put? I read it and re-read it and it made me weep that my Greek is not better and got me off my backside and place phrase books in every loo so as to force my education.Miller is that sort of muscular American writer that meets European culture and filters out the fey. Hemingway did that for Spain.What 'Colossus' has done is to shove into middle ground perspective the excessive spell i was under by the alexandria quartet, and for that alone Miller is to be saluted

Sabra Embury

Driving through Big Sur from San Francisco to LA, I stopped by the Henry Miller Memorial Library and bought The Colossus of Maroussi; it was recommended by the shop-keep as "Miller's favorite work written by himself." Tropic of Cancer was already in my pile of to-read, road-trip-reading material after recommendations for its "dense, sexual force." So I figured: Why not a phase? I need to know more about Miller, and the subversive style which has made him a legend. Colussus of Maroussi had me running a marathon after sitting still for a decade. A momentum had to be found to enjoy it, a runner's stride into the epic scenery of Greece, seen through the eyes of a confident observer, image by image, inscribed within pages of names, places and various hospitalities. Slowing down, or stopping was not an option; as Miller's heart raced--penning carbon copies of lists of paragraphs describing his days, my mind raced as well, to keep up with recollections of a time where he was obviously treated very well for just being himself. A great travel memoir for anyone interested in Greece, or a tedious a thicket of language for anyone interested more in the impetus of a good story, Colossus is an undeniable body of love, an Outsider exercise inputting positive images into the imagination; and it's a no-brainer why it's Miller's favorite work, showcasing a cavalcade of experiences, which are long-worth remembering.


Een vriend raadde me aan De kolossus van Maroussi te lezen en leende me zijn exemplaar. Toen ik aan dit boek begon wist ik niet zo goed wat ik ervan moest verwachten en het duurde een hele poos voordat ik echt door het verhaal gegrepen werd. Eigenlijk pas in deel drie, het laatste deel van het boek, kreeg ik de smaak te pakken. De schrijfstijl is erg mooi, maar eigenlijk gebeurt er het hele boek vrij weinig. Het is dan ook een non-fictie werk waarin Henry Miller zijn reis door Griekenland en de mensen die hij hier ontmoet beschrijft. Hij geeft een ontzettend mooie en gedetailleerde beschrijving van het land en haar inwoners, maar soms vond ik het stiekem wel een beetje saai.De verwijzingen naar bekende Grieken deed me beseffen dat ik nog best wat over de geschiedenis van dit land weet :p Ik ben zelf echter nog nooit in Griekenland geweest en hoop stiekem dat het aan mij lenen van dit boek een uitnodiging is om er naartoe te gaan;) Na het lezen van dit boek weet ik zeker dat ik een keer op vakantie naar Griekenland wil!


Delicious if you like passionate men who are passionate about Greece and probably stoned when writing.

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