Tropic of Capricorn

ISBN: 0802151825
ISBN 13: 9780802151827
By: Henry Miller

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About this book

Banned in America for almost thirty years because of its explicit sexual content, this companion volume to Miller’s Tropic of Cancer chronicles his life in 1920s New York City. Famous for its frank portrayal of life in Brooklyn’s ethnic neighborhoods and Miller’s outrageous sexual exploits, The Tropic of Capricorn is now considered a cornerstone of modern literature.

Reader's Thoughts

Kanika Sood

Tropic of Cancer is a thick thick that most of the times I couldn't see where I was going. Are you rewarded for reading through Henry's Hailstorm of fancy words and metaphors? Not really. The way I see it, Miller wrote a page or two of the story and then felt obliged to append it with three or four pages of philosophical ramblings (uh,cribbing). All female characters are receptacles for his semen, all African-Americans are despicable, all wives are domestic potatoes, subject to thoughtless cheating and abortions. Like an earthquake, the author starts from a central idea and goes so far from it and in so many directions that the reader is obliviated from the epicenter. And he repeats pages on pages of stuff so manyyyy times. I had to reread a lot of sections, Google a lot of words. This is not a good book. It is like vomit, voluminous and disorganized.

Jeffrey Keeten

I am so thoroughly healthy and empty. No dreams, no desires. I am like the luscious deceptive fruit which hangs on the Californian trees. One more ray of sun and I will be rotten. Henry MillerThe first thing, if you are lucky, that you discover about Henry Miller is that you shouldn't introduce him to your wife, your sister, your mother or any other female that you care to leave unsullied. He is like a bloodhound once he catches the scent of a female that he has not had carnal knowledge with. It wasn't that Henry made the best of first impressions, but give him time, give him an evening with a nun, and she'll be at the altar the next morning, still trembling from a night of degradation, renouncing or reaffirming her vows. Henry fought with his wife, the first wife, the one with the shovel face, like two piranhas caught in a barrel. If you have read any of Henry's books you know that he shares his life, everything, even the stuff that makes him look like a lout."When I got home my wife was awake and sore as hell because I had stayed out so long. We had a hot discussion and finally I lost my temper and I clouted her and she fell on the floor and began to weep and sob. The girl upstairs came running down to see what was the matter. She was in her kimono and her hair was hanging down her back. In the excitement she got close to me and things happened without either of us intending anything to happen. (I didn't believe that part for a second.) We put the wife to bed with a wet towel around her forehead and the while the girl upstairs was bending over her I stood behind her and lifting her kimono. I got it into her and she stood there a long time talking a lot of foolish soothing nonsense. Finally I climbed into bed with the wife and to my utter amazement she began to cuddle up to me and without saying a word we locked horns and we stayed that way until dawn. I should have been worn out but instead I was wide awake, and I lay there beside her planning to take the day off and look up the whore with the beautiful fur whom I was talking to earlier in the day. After that I began to think about another woman, the wife of one of my friends. Henry is a man that is never satiated. One conquest launches him on a quest for the next one. With a clap on my shoulder and a squeeze Henry always has a new story that has me shaking my head. By comparison, I feel like my life is as boring as a Methodist sermon. Henry is living for all of us. Like every other fool I know...I've lent Henry money. Lent, that is rich, I'm still deluding myself. He doesn't repay a loan. He makes you forget you lent it to him in the first place. I remember one night when a mutual friend of ours explained the circumstances with Henry. "If you need a little money I'll raise it for you. It's like throwing it down a sewer, I know, but I'll do it for you just the same. The truth is, Henry, I like you a hell of a lot. I've taken more from you than I would from anybody in the world." Henry just grinned as our friend's hat passed around, and even people that had known him less than an hour tossed in a bit of green. It wasn't until we were leaving, weaving our own snake trail out the door, that my friend discovered that along with the money, Henry had also absconded with his hat.I was with Henry the night he met the nymphomaniac Paula. "She has the loose jaunty swing and perch of the doubled-barreled sex, all her movements radiating from the groin, always in equilibrium, always ready to flow, to wind and twist, and clutch, the eyes going tic-toc, the toes twitching and twinkling, the flesh rippling like a lake furrowed by a breeze. This is the incarnation of the hallucination of sex, the sea nymph squirming in the maniac's arms.", Needless to say I left by myself, but not before Henry touched me for a Jackson. I have never figured out if Henry is a coward or the bravest of the brave. He rejects the life that I spend so much of each day trying to build for myself. He didn't tell me this, but I found it in one of his books. "I realize quietly what a terribly civilized person I am-the need I have for people, conversation, books, theatre, music, cafes, drinks, and so forth. It's terrible to be civilized, because when you come to the end of the world you have nothing to support the terror of loneliness. To be civilized is to have complicated needs, And a man, when he is full blown, shouldn't need a thing." The thing of it is Henry couldn't be Henry except for the existence of people like myself who are always willing to buy him a drink and marvel at his stories. He is living off the efforts of "civilized" men and women. He doesn't have to own anything, because someone will always give him what he needs. "He had neither pride, nor vanity, nor envy. About the big issues he was clear, but confronted by the petty details of life he was bewildered." The Nasty GeniusThe thing of it is, despite his best efforts, Henry Miller became a useful member of society. He published books describing a life so unencumbered that even those of us perfectly satisfied with our soft lives, eking out a possession laden life of soulless corporate kowtowing, have doubts that we have chosen our lives wisely. Henry met this woman named June who hauled him off to Paris. JuneI don't get to hear his stories first hand anymore. I have to buy his books to find out what he has been up to. I miss Henry. He had me gaze upon the greener pastures on the other side of the fence, but he couldn't convince me to jump over and stay over. Every so often, despite his better financial circumstances, I still get a note from him with a plea for a few dollars for old time's sake. I, the dutiful enabling friend, always send him what I can spare.

Jaime Acuña

La obra maestra de Henry Miller. Yo tengo la edición de la editorial Cátedra, traducida por Carlos Manzano. Verborrea excesiva de principio a fin; torrente de vida hecha verbo; falsa autobiografía que desborda los límites del amor propio, por exceso y por defecto al mismo tiempo; compendio de "four letters words"; sexo, mucho sexo, descrito de la forma más audaz y contagiosa. ¿Qué ocurriría si un típico norteamericano medio se pusiese a escribir una novela francesa? Trópico de Capricornio es la respuesta.Henry Miller se saca de las mientes un alter-ego que se llama igual que él, pero que es totalmente distinto. Hay que leerla como Miller la escribió, soltando metralla. Si con Trópico de Cáncer Miller lanzó "un escupitajo en la cara del arte", con este segundo Trópico (que es parte de una trilogía que incluye ambos Trópicos y Primavera negra, que no he leído) quiso sumirnos en su propio caos ("desde el principio no fue sino caos"). La leí hace muchos años y me impresionó su fuerza. Y su lirismo. Y que, bajo toda esa rabia torrencial, toda esa jodienda descarada, toda esa charlatanería de vendedor a domicilio, se encontraba una sincera novela de amor.

Brent Legault

Should have been banned for its banality rather than its sexual content. I recently reread the first page and counted five cliches.* I'd've found more had I the strength to continue. Miller had pluck, sure, and ballsful of bravado. But talent? I might've wanted to drink with him in some Dijon bordello, listen to one or two of his stories outloud (his novels certainly read like they were dictated) but his written words are weak and watery. Of course, he couldn't see that, blinded as he was by his outsized ego.*More than five, actually: "given up the ghost" "dead certainty" "I was my own worst enemy." "bored me to tears" "sympathetic to a fault" "a change of heart" "at first blush"There were many other soft cliches and tired turns of phrase, all on page one. I checked other pages, just in case he was making a pre-post modern comment of some kind, but no, no. His writing, in all of his books (the eight or so that I've read, anyway) is replete with laziness (intermingled with bits of careless genius).

Sanabel Atya

American Beauty رواية السيد هنري تُذكرني بفيلم من إنتاج هوليوود اسمه كلاهما يهدف لإزالة القشرة الخارجية المُحيطة بالمجتمع الأمريكي،والتي تمنح هذا المجتمع صورة لامعة لبقية العالم.. هدفهما فضح المجتمع الأمريكي،، فضح اللاإنسانية والبعد اللاأخلاقي في المجتمع الأمريكي. صورة مغايرة تماماً عما نراه في السينما الأمريكية.أراه قد عرّج على المجتمع الأمريكي منذ نشأته "المضروبة أساساً" حتى يوم كتابة كتابه هذا. فأولاً، هو مجتمع لص..اعتمد السرقة في بناء ذاته لأعوامٍ طويلة جداً لقرون!ثانياً، لم يحترم الآخر.. رأى نفسه هو الأعرق بجنسه الأبيض القادم من وراء البحار.. ومن السخيف جداً أن يعترض الأمريكان وامم العالم على نظرية الجنس الآري التي قال بها وقام بها هتلر، دون أدنى إشارة للتمييز العنصري الذي قام به الأوروبيون "المقتحمون" لتلك القارة الجديدة على مر عصورٍ طويلة !!ثالثاً، اليوم أمريكا.. رأسمالية عن سبق الإصرار والترصد، البقاء لمن يملك مالاً، رأسمالية قبيحة.. تُخفي وراءها العديد من الجياع الذين قلما نراهم في الواجهة الأمريكية.رابعاً، ذكر اللاحضارة الأمريكية، تماماً كما كنتُ أقول.. القارة الأمريكية بالمجتمع الحالي.. خالية من الحضارة بلاد لا تملك حضارةً أو تاريخاً عريقاً يضرب في عمق التاريخ... إنها ذات حضارة زائفة، تجمع من أعراقٍ عدة..لبناء هيكلاً لبلدٍ جديد، استمرت تلك الأعراق في العنصرية المتبادلة أعواماً. وأشك في أنهم قد اتفقوا يوماً !"كان علي أن أذهب لأغرق نفسي في خليج مكسيكو ليتوفر لي عذر للاستمرار في هذا الوجود الحضاري الزائف"*أعجبني ما قاله، عن أن المدن الأوروبية مهما تطورت و واكبت العصر،إلا أن المدينة القديمة الطابع القديم التاريخي يبقى ضارباً في عمق الأرض..على العكس من أمريكا.. التي تهدم القديم أولاً بأول لقصور عالياتٍ وناطحاتِ سحاب.هنالك نقطة صراحة صُدمت بها، فلم أكن أعلم أن المجتمع الامريكي نبذ اليهود ذات يوم.. كنتُ أظنّ أنه رحب بهم وجداً.. لكن يبدو أن اليهود قد نبذوا من كافة المجتمعات..حتى الصديقة منها اليوم،، المهم الآن، صاروا "الكل في الكل" والسيطرة لهم في دولة رأسمالية بامتياز، أليسوا هم رأس المال العالمي!أخيراً استخدامه للمسميات بلُغة الشارع،،فمن الواضح جداً أنه يقصد هذا.. وإلا كيف سيزيح الستار عن "الواجهة الجمالية لأمريكا" دون التلفظ بألفاظ الشارع.. التي تُقال في كل حين.. ولكنها تُنكر في الأدب. فمن النادر أن يقوم كاتب بذكرها كما ترد في الشارع! ملحوظة// طبيعي أن الأمريكان قد منعوا كتبه لسنينٍ خلت، كيف لا، وقد رأوا الحقيقة المُرّة التي يخشونها؟!! ومَن منا يقبلُ بالحقيقة المُرّة؟!!!////أود أن أفر هارباً صوب فجر دائم بسرعة وقسوة لا يتركان حيزاً للندامة،للحسرة أو التوبة.أودُّ أن أبزّ الإنسان الخلّاق الذي هو لعنة على الأرض كي أقف من جديد على شفير هوةٍ لا يمكن تجاوزها ولن تقوى أقدرُ الأجنحة على نقلي عبرها. حتى لو أضحيتُ حديقةً بريةً لا يؤمها غير الحالمين الكسالى، فلن أكف عن الاستراحة هنا في الحماقة المنظّمة لحياةٍ راشدةٍ مسؤولة.يجب أن أفعل هذا كذكرى لطفلٍ خُنق وكُبت بإجماع الذين استسلموا.أتبرأ من كل ما ابتكره الآباء والأمهات.أنا عائد إلى عالمٍ أصغر حتى من العالم الهيليني القديم،عائد إلى عالم أستطيع فيه أن ألمس بذراعين ممدودتين،عالمٍ مكونٍ مما أعرف وأرى وأُردك من لحظة إلى لحظة.كل عالم آخر لا معنى له بالنسبة إليّ،وغريب وعدائي. حين سأتجاوز العالم البرّاق الأول الذي عرفته طفلاُ من جديد لا أريد أن أبقى هناك بل سأشقُ طريق العودة إلى عالمٍ أشدُّ بريقاً من الذي هربت منه. أما ماذا يشبه هذا العالم فلا علم لي، ولستُ حتى متأكداً من أني سأعثرُ عليه، لكنه عالمي ولا شيء دونه يأسرُني.لا شيء يمكن تغييره إلا بتغيير القلب/ ومن يستطيع أن يغير قلوب البشر؟أروع فرصة تمنحها الحياة هي أن نكون إنسانيين.


...and Cancer is separated from Capricorn only by an imaginary line.Henry Miller’s second book is a strange and sometimes bewildering but often exhilarating exploration of his early years, before heading to Paris. He pays homage to Dadaism and Surrealism, but not as influences so much as discoveries after-the-fact; discoveries of like-minds who he never knew existed until he was already like-minded.The narrative is dense, compacted, sometimes a single paragraph will extend over several pages, and stylistically shifts gear, sometimes mid-sentence, between a kind of almost traditional yarn-spinning story-telling mode and rambling inner monologues on the idea of the self and society and almost anything, where metaphors and similes crash one upon the other in waves and spurts ... ejaculation after ejaculation; and there is an orgasmic variety of exultation to these moments which does become overwhelming. I mean, an orgasm that goes on too long can become painful... I admit to preferring the periods of this book that were in the more traditional mode, and sometimes had to will myself to stop beginning to scan through the more heavily internalised moments, but there’s also a sense that these moments are meant to wash over you, that the thrusts of Miller’s narrative hips can also rock you to sleep as much as fuck you.Nobody understood what I was writing about or why I wrote that way. I was so lucid that they said I was daffy.The ‘Miller’ of the ‘I’ of this story is facing a kind of existential dilemma, a process of self-discovering, but not in a very typical manner. Late in the novel, Miller uses a metaphor to describe his process as going from skating to swimming to being a stone. The ‘self’, as learned by-product of ‘otherness’—something we are taught to be—is regarded with great suspicion and like of living, or vitality. This is the skating along the surface, something he used to do as a child to get by. Coming to some sort of realization of this allows one to swim, to be in it and of it. But, finally, in a Zen-like nirvanic construction, the self becomes free from its exteriors and knowledge of itself. The stone, a motif Camus’ early work also plays with. ...He (Roy Hamilton/Macgregor) was appealing ... to the germ of the self, to the being that would eventually outgrow the naked personality, the synthetic individuality, and leave me truly alone and solitary.Some interesting and heavily counter-intuitive (and Dadaist) developments occur through this. To be selfish in the ordinary sense is to be overly concerned with others, since it is to others that you bring yourself to be selfed, for example. An ethics begin to form around the individual as singular biological event that is in itself an ethic, at least, that’s what it demands by not demanding anything. To be ‘...fixed in a reality which permits the thought that nothing is fixed...’Living is more important than life.It’s a challenging proclamation in our times maybe even more so than his own. This kind of dehumanising/humanising project that Miller proclaims is more important than saving lives or eating. It is the opposite of Polonius in ‘Hamlet’, which is the kind of standard product we are brought up with, where we are given an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts that change with the tides of the Twittersphere, and end it all with a rounding ‘to thine own self be true’. This is the spell that is put upon you, that must be broken. It’s all these details that bewilder this Miller, and all the rest of us in our more lucid moments, I suppose, and part of the expression of this bewilderment is in the substance, and part in the style. Far from being nihilistic, and at least influenced to some degree by Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, there is a great celebration of what it is to be completely real and in the moment of human life. To say Yes. To not desire other than through your immediate need and craving. Miller makes it clear in his denouement that his essential concern is not to do with eternity or God or justice, but that it’s human vitality, and the capacity of man to express that vitality....what a man does is of no great importance, it’s what he is that counts.There is only an imaginary line between the Tropics, that is, how we name them, how we make them be. It is tempting to think otherwise, because we can imagine how the world would still circle the sun in the same way if we ceased to be here drawing our lines all over the place to track such things, but the tracks are our tracks. And Miller is not reductive of this, in the end. When he is despairing of his urban landscape at one point, he suddenly realises that the landscape is just as human as he is. The lamp post he was staring dismally at is......not a thing of iron—it is a creation of the human mind... It is a human lamp post.Optimism and delight in the most ordinary aspects of man stripped down to his core is the end point, and a kind of acceptance of the idea of humanity in all its frailties. You can even says Yes and No at the same time ... just do ‘more than is expected of you.’


Well.. certainly you can’t stand indifferent to this book. It has no certain plot because, there are instead, a series of experiences of the author who is narrator, protagonist and Henry Miller the writer at the same time. He is indeed a passionate man, not only with his love interests (which by the way he never doubts in manipulating, using, admiring or describing their sexual encounters in a very raw and sometimes exaggerated way), but he is also very passionate In his way of living with his ideals and perceptions of the world. He shows himself honest and cynical, and he never doubts in revealing his deepest intentions or darkest thoughts; what makes you say he is definitely nuts (in a “good” way or maybe not so much!). And that is the deal, he enjoys and takes great pride in his peculiar nature. He finds disgusting the American society, the social conventions and ambitions everybody seems to accept without any doubt.Sometimes it seems he has lost the sense of situations or the logic of his thoughts, but in other cases he manages to write memorable pages with astonishing acuity and fresh points of view. He seems to write to himself, to accomplish the book he always mentions and the one he considers will be the way of capitalizing his potential in terms of exoneration. I found myself pretty identified when he goes through the fields of self-discovery and despite of the excessive stories he is jumping on, I must thank for the many reflections this book has awakened in me.i dont's speak english so forgive if there were too many mistakes


This was the first Henry Miller book I ever read, and until I read The Rosy Crucifixion, I considered it his best. Most readers and critics seem to focus on the sexual aspects of Miller's work, or else the profanity, or that his work was autobiographical, and they tend to say that his work isn't relevant to a 21st Century audience. I disagree; while his language might be more suited to an audience from an earlier time, and his cynicism and sexual explicitness might put readers off (personally, I think his sex scenes were poorly written and the least important aspect of his work), his ideas, especially concerning his life as an artist, are more relevant and illuminating than anything the publishing industry has vomited out in the last twenty years.

Olivier Goetgeluck

“My understanding of the meaning of a book is that the book itself disappears from sight, that it is chewed alive, digested and incorporated into the system as flesh and blood which in turn creates new spirit and reshapes the world.”


Mr. Miller, I'm afraid I'm going to have to call shenanigans on this one. The blurb on the back of your book describes it as a "cornerstone of modern literature." I respectfully disagree, Mr. Miller, for I think your book is complete bullshit.Now, you almost had me at the beginning. You know, that part where you were talking about that job you had where you hired and fired people all day long. I could get that. I found it amusing. And later, where you banged your buddy's sister in the vestibule right underneath him as he slept? Classic, wonderfully written. And that last bit, where you talk a bit about your retarded sister? Sentimental and lovely. Then there was the coda, which, though a bit repetitive, was still decent. All of that was great.It's the in-between parts that I couldn't swallow, Mr. Miller. I've heard that stream-of-consciousness can be done well and I've read a few things where I've almost been convinced of it myself, but this spread you've set out before me? It's rotting, Mr. Miller. There are maggots living inside. You might have been able to shock the world with your overuse of the word "cunt" back in the day, but you haven't shocked me, Mr. Miller. You haven't even impressed interested me. I will try you again, Sir. Next time, though, clean up your act. Come up with a plot, outline it if you have to. I won't stand for this sort of thing again. Two strikes, you old bastard. Two strikes is all you get.

Cecilia W Yu

I read the first few was boring....then I skipped chapters hoping he would get more interesting..he didn't....kept was still boring...towards the end...he is pathetically sentimental, self-indulgent and boring...I think it is because he was mooching off his wife while trying to shag someone else's wives in order to mooch off them too...and too much mooching off the labours of women while being an annoying left bank Parisian bum, made him go "cunt, cunt, cunt" a lot...but it did not make him an interesting writer with a plot or indeed a man whose rant an intelligent thinking, post-modern woman could stand...given his misogyny and his endless rants....without a plot.Like Bukowski, rather Bukowski copied him...he tried to give the impression of being good in bed and all that....but uses too many words and in short, I consider this genre of writing ...EARLY Dick-lit.!However if you randomly pick out a phrase or two ...he had very interesting way of using the english language fusing it with Americanism. But not enough synergy to make this pulp of a Dick lit. interesting....Oh henry...a freaking socialist croissant commie cliche? least you were not a puritan protestant prude...I suppose we should we grateful for that...but lets call a spade a spade....he giggolo-ed his socialism came into good use!Those were the days, when simple not-so-well-travelled women got impressed by some guy who got his book banned (in Turkey? big whoppie!) just by using the word "cunt" modern times mediocre writers have to at least get a Fatwah...something that the wimpy croissant munching Henry probably wouldn't be able to would require commitement and conviction that he prided himself on not possessing an ounce of! Zzzz. lol.:)

Lynne King

Seeing Jeffrey's excellent review reminded me how much I admired some of Miller's works, especially his letters to Lawrence Durrell and the Colossus of Maroussi.

Dolly Delightly

It is no mean feat to take-away from a book an erudition. Reading Henry Miller’s work schooled me into realising that there really is “only one great adventure and that is inward towards the self”. And, more importantly that inveterate boozing and smoking, carousing, quixotic philandering and riding life out “on the wind of the wing of madness” like one has “iron in the backbone and sulphur in the blood” is elementary in the success of that adventure; and the manumitting of oneself from the ne plus ultra drudgery of life. And for that, and the fact that his writing always remained "true, sincere" and "on the side of life" and he an old roué throughout, I love him: earnestly, completely. I read “Tropic of Cancer”, and subsequently the “Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy”, some years ago, and thus was ecstatic to find Miller in my favourite Oxfam. One of the things I discovered, by sheer coincidence, prior to reading “Tropic of Capricorn” was that both the aforementioned and “Tropic of Cancer” were Miller's choice sobriquets for his second wife June Mansfield Smith’s breasts. And for that I love him also. “Tropic of Capricorn” opens with a pronunciamento that, "Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos", a line of thought, that denotes the perspicuous resignation of the disillusioned. And Miller’s voice gets even more intractably dour a jot or two down the page when he confesses that, “Even as a child, when I lacked for nothing, I wanted to die: I wanted to surrender because I saw no sense in struggling. I felt that nothing would be proved, substantiated, added or subtracted by continuing an existence which I had not asked for.” The realisation about the innate lack of purpose and “the stupidity and futility of everything” reverberates throughout as Miller expounds at length about working dead-end jobs inimical to his creative freedom, being a myrmidon to his superiors at the redoubtable Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company of North America - a “hideous farce against a backdrop of sweat and misery… a waste of men, material and effort” - and ploughing against the “whole rotten system of American labour” while sitting behind his work-desk “hiring and firing like a demon”. Chronically impecunious despite full time employment with the Western Union and feeling no fealty to anyone or anything, Miller chronicles this time in his life, spent mostly with a retinue of factotums and waybills – all trapped in a system that was so rotten, so inhuman, so lousy, so hopelessly corrupt and complicated, that it would have taken a genius to put any sense or order into it, to say nothing of human kindness or consideration – with both animus and amity. Forced by his superiors to be “be firm, be hard!” instead of having “too big a heart”, Miller sticks it to the avaricious panjandrums and vows to be “be generous, pliant, forgiving, tolerant, tender”. Everything in “Tropic of Capricorn” is perched on a pedantically balanced scale, just as Miller’s prose, which jumps from fatalistic cynicism to Panglossian mirth, the sagacious to the fecund, the overzealous to the insouciant, the recidivistic to the enterprising, thereby mirroring his life which consists of nothing but “ups and downs…long stretches of gloom and melancholy followed by extravagant bursts of gayety, of trancelike inspiration.” And it is precisely this deft linguistic ability, albeit occasionally blemished by overindulgence in periphrasis and even unabashed flummery, to relay his variegated reminiscences so graphically and candidly that incites a sense of grandstand awe. Above all other subjects, however, Miller spends a lot of time lamenting and lambasting his homeland, the “monstrous death machine” where “nobody knows how to sit on his ass and be content.” His avid hatred of the US is documented with effusive graphic proclivity and an unapologetic conviction, for as he sees it he had never anywhere “felt so degraded and humiliated as in America”. Miller expectorates vehemently about the country he calls a “cesspool” where “everything is sucked down and drained away to everlasting shit”, before asserting that everything he had “endured was in the nature of a preparation for that moment when, putting on my hat one evening, I walked out of the office, out of my hitherto private life, and sought the woman who was to liberate me from a living death.” The woman sought was Miller’s second wife, June Mansfield Smith, the great nostrum who turned into an obsession leading to his emotional labefaction. June was the one who convinced Miller to jack-in his job and take up writing full time while she machinated a variety of schemes to support them financially, whether parading around dance halls, running a speakeasy or collecting money from services rendered. Writing of her elsewhere, Miller once noted: "I'm in love with a monster, the most gorgeous monster imaginable." And, she was a monster. Or to be more precise “a monstrous lying machine” one with a striking bloodless face, rouged lips, a penchant for Dostoyevsky and indiscriminate fucking. Intrepid, perfidious, prone to theatrical exaggeration and acidulous lies June became the archetypal femme fatal in Miller’s literary endeavours. Their connubial life was marked by volatility, mutual jealousies, June’s mercurial vagaries, and eventually their great big love was reduced to something like a “soft prick slipping out of an overheated cunt.” When the two first met, however, they were as one like “Siamese twins whom love had joined and whom death alone could separate.” But it was not to be. The inchoate despair comes to the surface in “Tropic of Capricorn” when Miller begins to realise that June is prone to “transformation; almost as quick and subtle she was as the devil himself”, later likening her to the “queen mother of all the slippery Babylonian whores,” for she was just as inconstant. Their love was intense, both in a spiritual and physical sense, with Miller once describing her in copulation like a wild creature “radiant, jubilant, an ultra-black jubilation streaming from her like a steady flow of sperm from the Mithraic Bull. She was double-barrelled, like a shot-gun, a female bull with an acetylene torch in her womb. In heat she focussed on the grand cosmocrator, her eyes rolled back to the whites, her lips a-saliva. In the blind hole of sex she waltzed like a trained mouse, her jaws unhinged like a snake's, her skin horripilating in barbed plumes. She had the insatiable lust of a unicorn,” but one he couldn’t tame. In turn, he became “possessed like a full blooded schizerino” while she taunted him by launching her powers “toward the fabrication of [herself as] a mythical creature” and whoring like a nymphomaniac on day release from AA because she simply didn’t “give a fuck about anything”. The two split eventually, and the ruptures in the relationship are documented toward the end of the book with melancholic retrospection, and thereafter in Miller’s later works. June remained a permanent fixture throughout Miller’s early years, indelibly looming over his life and his literature. Her spectres is firmly entrenched in the “Tropic of Capricorn”, but mostly the book is about Miller himself – the scatologist who is transfixed by shit, vermin, booze, fucking and disease, albeit one who has an inexorable knack for finding poetry in the grotesque. And he does, without fail, in “people's stories, the banal tragedies of poverty and distress, of love and death, of yearning and disillusionment”. Miller is not frugal with the scope of his subject matter either. He writes about everything from eating meat balls to eating pussy by way of St. Thomas Aquinas, who omitted from his opus “hamburger sandwiches, collar buttons, poodle dogs, slot machines, grey bowlers, typewriter ribbons, oranges sticks, free toilets, sanitary napkins, mint jujubes, billiard balls, chopped onions, crinkled doilies, manholes, chewing gum, sidecars and sour-balls, cellophane, cord tyres, magnetos, horse liniment, cough drops, feenamint, and that feline opacity of the hysterically endowed eunuch who marches to the soda fountain with a sawed off shotgun between his legs.” Not to mention the strip-teasers with nothing more than “a little patch to cover their twinkling little cunts”. And his turn of phrase remains truly unique with asides and observations such as: “The chaff of the empty soul rising like monkey chatter in the topmost branches of the trees,” and “ is a diarrhoea, a lake of gasoline, stagnant with cockroaches and stale horse piss,” or “the black frenzied nothingness of the hollow of absence leaves a gloomy feeling of saturated despondency not unlike the topmost tip of desperation which is only the gay juvenile maggot of death's exquisite rupture with life,” and “We are of one flesh, but separated like stars” and “Look at your heart and gizzard - the brain is in the heart.” Gems like these stud his stream-of-consciousness prose from start to finish. You might scowl or snigger as he wrestles with the salacious and the sad, but you will not be unaffected. As a follow up to “Tropic of Cancer”, Capricorn ruminates over the same old grounds, “speaking about what is unmentionable” and according to Miller “what is unmentionable is pure fuck and pure cunt” and must not be mentioned “otherwise the world will fall apart.” But of course sex is not the only unmentionable subject that Miller mentions, in fact, he pontificates on every topic that springs to mind while “rubbing elbows with humanity”, realising “truth is not enough,” watching men “scurrying through a cunty deft of a street called Broadway”, and claiming that “heartbreaks and abortions and busted romances,” are nothing in comparison to lousy coffee; and the result is this sagacious irreverent hulk of a picaresque. But I think Miller’s work is summarised best by the thought that in any great book “Each page must explode with the profoundly serious and heavy, the whirlwind, dizziness, the new, the eternal, with the overwhelming hoax, with an enthusiasm for principles or with the mode of typography.” Henry Miller’s work certainly does. © Dolly Delightly 2011


Reading this again 10 years after the first read - I couldn't ask for anything more. I could never identify with Cancer, mainly because of the Paris setting but also the idea that he had already jumped the precipice at that point. Here is before he left New York, in the depth of his confusion and trying to find a way to transcend it but always just digging himself further in - cut this with his childhood references and you have a document of not only what brooklyn and the city once was, but surprisingly how static life in the city truly is. People complain of details changing but the reality is the definition of New York is change and yet at the same time the lives and attitude of the people never change.There is so much more, but it doesn't really matter in a review becuase it is much too personal. I will say though as unamerican as Miller proclaims to be, ironically he is probably the epitome of the stream of consciousness roughneck american style that whitman started and was embraced by the next generation of the 50s/60s and now dominates all american literature - ie that auto-biograph crap that Opera pushes and the masses gobble up.

أحمد شاكر

ومع أني لم أنتهي من الكتاب، إلا أني أجدني مدفوعا برغبة غامضة للكتابة. مع العلم أني لم أقرر بعد هل سأكمله أم لا..بالأمس، كنت في حالة من عدم الاتزان؛ حالة ذهنية ونفسية شديدة السوء، لم تداهمني من قبل، ربما الاكتئاب هو السبب. المهم وأنا في تلك الحالة، وبينما أجوب شوارع وسط البلد مع صديقة لي، ضاع الكتاب. نعم ضا ع مدار الجدي في مكان ما. سأحكي لكم: صليت الظهر في زاوية صغيرة، ثم قابلت صديقتي. سألتني: كتاب جديد؟ قلت: لا. قديم، لكني أقرأ فيه. هنري يلهمني وأنا أكتب. كلمتها عن أهمية الكتاب، ثم ذهبنا وتناولنا الغداء، ثم إلي المقهي، ثم إلي مكتبة شهيرة؛ نتنزه وسط الكتب، ثم وقعت عيني علي نسخة معروضة من الكتاب، فجأة تذكرت. أوه.. أين الكتاب؟ كان معك (أجابتني) وخرجنا نبحث عن الكتاب. وأنا في حالة من الضياع والتشتت. وكأن ابني تاه مني. كنت قد تجاوزت 65 صفحة فقط من الكتاب. كنت أقرأ بتأن واستمتاع بالغين. هنري يسب أم أمريكا ويلعن من خلفوها. هذه هي فاتحة الكتاب. ويبدو أن هذه هي تيمة الكتاب كله. هنري حزين جدا في مدار الجدي علي حال الانسان المنسحق من فوق، ومن الآلة، ومن الشغل، ومن المخدرات، والجنس..هنري يبكي حاله، وحال أميركا، وحال العالم..هذا أول كتاب يضيع مني يا هنري، ماذا أفعل؟ سأذهب لدلتا فينوس كتاب صديقتك نن..

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