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


Travel within.Vontade de viajar para dentro deste livro. Largar tudo e ir encontrar o Henry Miller numa das ilhas Gregas, onde, com toda a certeza, se deixou perder e há-de vaguear eternamente.


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

Anja Weber



Miller finally departs from his shock-therapy style of incorporating the obscene in order to leap from the earth, but in no way does this diminish his poise, as he frolicks for a year in Greece with Lawrence Durrell. This work is as fanciful and full of poppycock as any other great piece by the man whose work I love so dearly I had some of it tatooed on my belly... but here the often under-praised sooth-sayer concerns himself essentially with human happiness and the folly of self-imposed suffering of the modern west. Miller, I think, must have sounded dated sometimes even to his contemporaries, but he is rarely guilty of looking shallow in hindsight. His proclaimations in Colossus-- that we must endeavor ever-more-so to rid ourselves of our learned tendencies to mistake progress for happiness-- are as true today in the face of terrorism as they were when the work was concieved, at the onslaught of WWII. Some people have called this Miller's best work, but I won't say so, even if it is deliciously rhapsodic and delivers his best soliloqouy on the value of mirth and light in life. It is probably his most accessible work, and would appeal to the broadest of audiences, but when has that ever constituted "best" in the mind possessed of its own unique songs?


Hardly anyone I have ever met, unless they are a serious Henry Miller devotee or an avid reader of Greek travelogues, has heard of this book. It's a wild ride, demonstrating both the liveliness of the author, but also how alive the Greece and Greeks he knew were. My memory of it has faded over the something like 30 years (!) since I read it, but I still have a strong impression of light, of dancing, of the castigation of Germans, Americans, and Britons in favor of a more alive southern European type. (Ironically, or perhaps simply pointedly, Miller was 100% German-American.)

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.

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.'


This beautiful and nearly flawless travel memoir is marred by this unfortunate sentence on page 121: "On the way to the library, I made kaka in my pants." Wha? Here's this fabulous surreal narrative about Greece, and suddenly the narrator doesn't just shit himself, he "makes kaka?" Skip page 121.


Henry Miller's reputation as a writer needs little verification from the likes of me. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to be able to confirm the abilities of a truly great author. This example of his work is in some ways a peculiar one since it was written during a turning point in modern history, namely the Second World War, and was inevitably a turning point in Miller's own life as well.Henry Miller has not always had kind things to say about his native U. S. A. Here, in "The Colossus of Maroussi," he uses the American state as a kind of false backdrop for his discoveries in Greece. For Greece is the central geographical landscape on which he builds. Far from being a travelogue, however, it is a story of that ancient land and some of its people; Miller uses the fabric of Greek life to weave a story of mankind.His writing is distinctly dated today, but delightfully so. It is full of a poetic imagery that is almost entirely absent from the main stream of post-modern literature. As such, it is very complex writing which occasionally seems to be almost self-serving, as if the author was writing for no one but himself. In the main, it is a very accessible book that tries to reach out in pure, non-political terms to touch the essential core of what is man. At the present time, we could do well to review our own situation in life, and one way of doing so is by simply reviewing the literature on the subject. I recommend "The Colossus of Maroussi" as a place to start. Besides being the work of a truly formidable writer, it will take you to places you probably never dreamed existed.

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.

Henry Martin

When he was not tackling sex and philosophy, Henry Miller traveled. The Colossus of Maroussi is a book of those later times, when he, an "American Savage", entered the world of peace, beauty, and most of all, simplicity he was longing for while living in America. Nothing could prepare him for what he encountered in Greece, not the streets of New York, nor the streets of Paris. Although enamored with France, Miller's passion for Europe goes way further in this book, which at times reads more like L. D. novel than Miller's own. Yet, at the same time he manages to wrap himself in the beauty he encounters, dive in it without holding a breath and resourface a new, more complete being, spellbound by his experience. If only there were more writers like him -- ahh, wishful thinking. Most of all, this book shows Miller in a different light, not limited by his fame for writing about sex (actually, most of his books are not) he explores a new land, unknown to him until then. His ability to take the reader's hand and walk throughout the countryside, observe the people, customs and scenery, is combined with philosophy and his personal views (What else would you expect from Miller?). I have shared this book with many people who did not like Miller and their minds were changed forever. What more can be said? Nothing -- read the book and find out for yourself.


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!


I found much of this book unreadable. Occasional luminous passages and insights nestle between large swathes of nonsense in which Miller abuses the language. Self-centred, self-indulgent ramblings of a privileged white guy abroad. Gross.

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!!


I can’t believe it took me so long to finish this book; I started it in July in preparation for our trip to Italy & Greece. I was just picking it up here and there in between reading other things. The only other book I had ever tried to read by Henry Miller was Tropic of Cancer, when I was in high school; I found it . . . turgid . . . impenetrable even. I’m sure I was just too young for it, but ever since have felt like I just don’t get HM. But this book was fascinating and especially engaging since I was in Greece for part of the time I was reading it. It’s about his travels in Greece just before and during the early part of WWII. He became completely enamored of Greece, and explains why in this book. Things get a bit mystical—he goes completely off the deep end a few times—but it’s also entertaining and surprising (to me). It’s funny and self-deprecating. Much of what he says about war and politics sounds like someone just wrote it during the Bush administration. I also never thought I’d be reading about the peace that passeth understanding in a HM book, but there it is. He also wrote a book called The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, which I haven’t read, but I believe is story of his travels around the USA, and an explanation of why he despises this country. It would seem to be the obverse of The Colossus of Maroussi. At the end of the book, he’s on his way back to the States; he draws strength from Greece to face the dragon of America. “The moment I stepped on the American boat which was to take me back to New York I felt that I was in another world. I was among the go-getters again, among the restless souls who, not knowing how to live their own life, wish to change the world for everybody. . . . I felt as though I were already back in New York: there was that clean, vacuous, anonymous atmosphere which I know so well and detest with all my heart.” You don’t have to agree with him to be impressed by his strength of feeling, clarity, the way he could not possibly conceive of being ashamed or trying to soften how he feels for the sake of nicety, not apologizing for himself, his intelligence and individuality—can you tell I started to like the guy a little bit? Anyway, if you’ve been to Greece, the book is nice for reminiscing. If you haven’t: “People seem astounded and enthralled when I speak of the effect which this visit to Greece produced upon me. They say they envy me and that they wish they could one day go there themselves. Why don’t they? Because nobody can enjoy the experience he desires until he is ready for it. People seldom mean what they say. Any one who says he is burning to do something other than he is doing or to be somewhere else than he is is lying to himself. To desire is not merely to wish. To desire is to become that which one essentially is.”

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