This book defines what it means to live a totally free existence, a life wallowing in art and free of the constraints of time and money. Miller's amazing writing style and incredible vision make this one of the great books of the last century. The backdrop of this book is a civilization teetering, about to collapse. The squalid street life of 1920's Paris flows through this book with amazing force. Miller lives a parasitic existence whose only purpose is to write and read and eat and screw. His mind freely wanders and dares to go where it will because Miller's character-narrator has nothing to lose. I tried to achieve this level of freedom at one point in my life and this book was an inspiration to succeed. Miller's savage and dynamic prose stands in stark contrast to the whiney and irrelevant Lost Generation writers such as F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway who are sliding back into a well-deserved obscurity. This book will live as a pean to intellectual freedom and contempt for a pre-cast existence. Read it now.Shannon
This one was hard to rate. It is a worthy read for so many reasons: the tales of Paris in the window of time woven into the lives of intellectual bohemians spun so marvelously in both crass and captivating language. However, sensitive souls beware. It was a contributing factor (one of many) to a crisis of faith in my early twenties. The honest depravity of the male characters and the author himself confirmed all my worst suspicions of males being utterly inhuman and by far a lesser sex.Zorena
It' such as shame that this book has such wonderful prose and then seems to drop the C bomb about a hundred times just for the sake being able to do it. It became so tiresome I had to struggle to finish this and I just couldn't seem to be able to get past that enough to be able to enjoy the book.I think it will be awhile before I attempt any of his other books.matt
Hank's a horny dude from nowhere Brooklyn who loves lowlifes and reads Proust.Hank's wife leaves him for a woman and he quits the country to go run around Paris as a freewheeling urchin.Hank writes dementedly eloquent insights as to the state of his Being.Hank writes a shocking, pornographic classic that is banned on arrival.Hank lives to see vindication.Go, Hank, go!E.
When I read this for the first time I thought the world was opening up and eating people. I wanted to get drunk and go on a hooker spree, to move to Paris and generally debauch for the rest of my 20's....Then I realized I kind of wanted to do all this anyways but with Miller's aid I could and even better I could disguise the whole thing as "literary." I struggled through Capricorn, through The Books in My Life, through a number of Miller's personal letters and musings. I even made a pilgrimage to Big Sur. Then I picked up Richard Brautigan or "Cannary Row" or something and I realized I could skip Paris. I could skip Europe entirely. I could just drink wine on a bench in my back yard, throw on an old Bill Broonzy CD and stare at the sun. I could even meet a nice girl and keep her around for a while. No need for crabs or lice or bed bugs at all. No sir, just soft northern california sunlight and grassy knolls. That was it. The dirty big city Miller hangovers were gone.....Still, for a few months there, Miller was really really doing it for me. At the time it was true life changing stuff.5 stars.John Doe
George Orwell wrote an essay about this book called, “Inside the Whale.” The title alludes to the Jonah story in the bible. In that story Jonah rejected his responsibility, ran, and was swallowed by a whale. He finally accepted his responsibility and returned to the world. In contrast, Orwell’s Miller doesn’t want to leave the whale. God’s punishment ironically is Miller’s safe and comfortable oasis. Miller can attempt to triumph over god in this way because he has chosen an ironic stance towards his life. God’s punishment is only a punishment for a serious person. A serious person makes the world’s values and causes his values, his causes. Such a person feels happy and safe in the world, has plans, wants to buy a condo in the suburbs, etc. The unserious person, on the other hand, is alienated by the world’s values and from its causes. Slavery, wars, poverty, racism, the rate race—inside a whale at the bottom of the ocean with a ton of blubber insulating you on every side is not such a bad way to ride out a nuclear winter. Clearly, Miller is not a Jonah. Jonah is a criminal guilty of a specific crime. For Miller, the world is guilty and the best a person can hope for is not to be an accomplice, etc. Orwell is really smart and his insight is really helpful. But, he makes it clear that he is not a Miller fan. I, on the other hand, am a fan.Stela
The Tropic of Cancer, Wikipedia says, "also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith. This event occurs once per year, at the time of the June solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun to its maximum extent."The sun at its zenith, that is, in its full splendour, “tropic” being the word of reference here.On the other hand, Henry Miller emphasizes the second word when he explains the title of his novel as follows: "It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch.” The phrase becomes thus slightly oxymoronic and can be read as a metaphor of Paris. Indeed, the City is the main character of this extraordinary book: Paris, shining like the sun at its zenith when it promises the grandeur to the young artist who enters it, but revealing itself as an incurable disease while the same artist actually begins to live in it. Published in 1934 in Paris (where else?), the novel triggered a huge scandal because of its language and nonconformist approach to some taboo themes for that time, especially related to sex. Prohibited in USA and UK for many years (three decades!) because of the same old confusion between ethics and aesthetics that seems to lead to many interpretations of art works even nowadays, considered immoral and obscene, it is fortunate it did not become a book only to read about instead of a book to enjoy reading. Especially when, as Samuel Beckett once said, it is one of the greatest modernist writings in the universal literature. And in a truly modernist way the novel begins, by considering Literature dead and its writer a forgotten, otiose God ("Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God."), to replace them with a spitting artist who scoffs at the old values without the ambition to create new ones ("This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty…"). A book without a narrative line, following the stream of consciousness of the narrator, who records his time in Paris with his bohemian friends, in order to capture - what? The condition of the Artist, always looking for something very "trivial", like food, shelter or sex? The contrast between living and creating? The mirage of the City? All of them and more, in order to stress the idea that life creeps into the creation, that there is nothing you have to remove from Art as non-artistic or prohibitive, not even the crap, the clap, the cunt, the syphilis, the whores and so on. In a book destined to be "absolutely original, absolutely perfect," whose theme is the Artist and his Creation, there isn’t anything that cannot be told or have to be avoided. The Narrator himself is merely a man who struggles and makes many mistakes as a human being, who steals from a prostitute and deceives his friends, but he is also the Artist that observes the world and gives us a fair image of it. It is not a coherent image in the beginning, but a puzzle whose pieces are thrown negligently towards the reader:- Fulgurant visions of some characters, masterfully evoked in a few words, like Van Norden, suggestively characterized as "cunt-struck"; or Moldorf compared with a "vase without a rubber plant" (note this: not a plant, a rubber one!); or Fanny, who laughs like a fat worm (how the heck do worms laugh? – like Fanny, of course!); or Claude that "had a soul and a conscience; she had refinement, too, which is bad – in a whore"; or Kepi who "has absolutely no ambition except to get a fuck every night"; or count Waldemar von Schwisseneinzug who has dandruff eyes (imagine this, if you can!).- Ironic notes about food or the lack of it - there is a whole page where almost every word is a synonym or reminder of food (lunch, belly, eat, meal, chicken, plate, vegetable, etc.) to end with the upside-down image of the City as a huge organism eaten by disease.- Description, in a tone that later will be equalled only by Bukowski, of the menial jobs the narrator has to get in order to survive: as a proof-reader, when the narrator realizes, ironically, that "It requires more concentration to detect a missing comma than to epitomize Nietzsche's philosophy. You can be brilliant sometimes, when you're drunk, but brilliance is out of place in the proofreading department. Dates, fractions, semicolons – these are the things that count"; as a fake journalist - pseudonymous writing in newspapers; as an English teacher, when he tries to spice the students’ classes with the subject of the coupling of the elephants.- Tragi-comic scenes: Carl tries to seduce a rich old woman but he cannot stomach to have sex with her; the proof-reader Peckover is gravely hurt in an accident but he can only think about the loss of his false teeth; the narrator steals the hundred francs he had paid a Norwegian whore for services rendered; and the icing on the cake (yours to guess the scene behind the quote if you didn’t read the book): "Imagine these bloody no-accounts going home from the concert with blood on their dickies!"Above all this there is the intriguing love-hate relationship between the narrator and the City, since Paris is viewed like a huge organism that traps, enchants, promises and deceives: a stage, an obstetrical instrument used for artificial birth, a place where everyone lives and no one dies; a heart palpitating after being removed from a warm body; an illusion of being at home; a paradise in the spring, a place for varieties of sexual provender; something that "grows inside you like a cancer"; a mad slaughterhouse, the navel of the world, more eternal than Rome or Nineveh; a whore that " from a distance (…) seems ravishing, you can't wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. " Because "one can live without friends, as one can live without love, or even without money, that supposed sine qua non. One can live in Paris – I discovered that! – on just grief and anguish."Of course, in such a desecrated world the Artist’s epiphanies are Miller-style: "When I look down into this fucked-out cunt of a whore I feel the whole world beneath me, a world tottering and crumbling, a world used up and polished like a leper's skull."Sketchbook
Henry Miller performs a cunning stunt. There is no odious P.C. here, which one must deplore. This faux-memoir isnt "sexy," but it is a vomit of hilarity. I long for the Baz Luhrmann musical version. Meantime, plunge in, whacckkk it, and then slurp a gonarrhea cocktail. Btw, don't eat the ham sandwich in the bidet.Rajeev Singh
Less of a book and more of a hodgepodge of raves and rants from a man who couldn’t accept life as it is: this sounds a bit too scathing but bears more than an element of truth in it. Raves and rants abound but they are so unabashedly honest, so slanderously abusive, so nakedly, sordidly libertine and at times, so beautifully poetic that one feels like going back to revisit some of the passages whose gist wasn’t lucid on the first attempt but turned out to be heavily-imbued with meaning on the second and the third. The cover of the book (my copy) shows a woman in the buff with a prominent derriere, a smoulderingly-inviting come-hither look but an almost transgender expression on the half-turned face. It left me a little red-faced at the bookshop’s counter but I went ahead as boldly as Miller himself would have done when he chose to have his book out in the public domain, only to be condemned mercilessly and banned for its shock-value and violently-candid libertinism.The word ‘cunt’ is used innumerable times and the references to women – mostly whores – wouldn’t be palatable for a reader with a feministic bent of mind: such is the objectification of the female body. But if it is seen from a pure, honest libertine’s point of view (taking a cue from Marquis de Sade) – as opposed to hypocritical prudes – Miller is quite right in suggesting that a whore should be ‘a whore from the cradle’ rather than a blend of fake feminine refinement and cold detachment from a sexual act which they perform with ‘eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling’ while the man is slugging away with his machine.A whore who is vociferous, who moans and groans with abandon and spews out stuff that a patron wants to hear in such critical, pre-orgasmic moments is one who is admired by Miller for being true to her vocation. Indeed, this might be the crudest example to show it but a vocation demands total submergence of a person in it for it to have any value.It’s hard to remember the names of the women in the book – all of them come under the broad classification of ‘cunt’ – and I found their respective relationship with Miller quite confusing and non-differentiable. Tania finds mention a lot in the memoir with Miller’s jealousy at her lying down with an undeserving man.Occasionally, Miller delves into reflections and musings on life, existentialism, the human condition, nihilism, fatalism and many aspects of philosophy which I do not know the names for. Walt Whitman is held in the highest esteem while Goethe is vilified with innuendoes. Paris is both censured and praised - sometimes in the same breath – and the sullied underbelly of the city: the red-light area (inevitably), the humdrum street-existence, the poverty and hunger which stand heavily at odds with the opulent image of Paris that most people harbour, is all brought out with Miller’s nakedly-delivered wisdom.I found Miller’s metaphors and similes too mired in literary fog and often disgusting: ‘polished as a leper’s skull,’ ‘the smile of a fat worm’ and so on; but his writing is not the kind that can be understood and appreciated all at one go. Hence, the knocking and re-knocking at doors that require all your intelligence and patience to reveal what they have in store.Being a writer from the early 20th century, Miller too could not fail to be touched with Gandhi’s ideals but he chooses to refer to it with a revolting example of a fake Gandhian who is out visiting whores in Paris. The incident of his making a fool of himself is both humorous as well as stomach-wrenching but aside from the wry humour, what he says about Gandhi is true. The Indian edifice indeed stood on a tenuous foundation which was held in place by the Mahatma but as soon as the great man would exit, the opposing forces of caste, creed and colour would re-assert themselves and the society would start to implode. Quite a far-sighted assessment from a man who understood India from a distance.Miller is quite opaque at times – umpteen times actually – when his words seem to flow with reckless abandon without a cogent meaning to be derived from them. Many sections of the memoir are the prose-poem kind with a generous use of his extensive vocabulary that draws upon both street-slang and patrician eloquence in equal measure. He calumniates the so-called important people who run the world, the ‘colourless individuals’: the engineers, doctors, lawyers, money-lenders and the like. He attacks the education system which moulds young minds into a set type in order for them to melt into the bog of the teeming banality of the wasteland the world has become. His rebellion is that of a man who wouldn’t want the smallest slice of the commonplace life: he would live the way he wants to, even if it means mooching along the streets of Paris on an empty stomach while still able to get a hard-on, both a cause for celebration and an anatomical riddle to unravel.Many people would pick up the book for its sexual content as the cover itself suggests or as his entire oeuvre and his reputation indicate. Most characters in the book are sex-starved but even in their worst ramblings, they often spout profound truths for a reader who is patient and incisive. A man who wants loads of books and loads of ‘cunt’ might seem repulsive but it exposes the anguish that lies within many repressed people who are forced to eke out a dreary existence, trapped in a job they abhor. To get a bevy of cunts is their idea of both bliss and release: a libertine’s philosophy all the way but many seemingly innocent and polished people inhabiting the civilized world are great sensualists and even perverts from inside. Miller only reveals the darker side of factotums while cutting down on none of their perversions.Wael Mahmoud
Tropic of Cancer first published in 1934 in France, but this edition was banned in the United States until 1961.Tropic of Cancer is one of the most important and beautiful pieces of prose in the history of English literature, It isn't an ordinary novel, it's Miller's life in pairs, how he sees his friends, how he thinks about human being's big questions. What Miller is doing only is searching for food and if he finds it then he can give a "lay" and write some pages in his novel.In this beautiful prose we can't imagine completely his friends but we clearly know how Miller saw them, Many of his discussions are almost a nonsense except when he talking about literature, and his idea about becoming an inhuman instead of a human was the most brilliant one.This novel is a good example of the real literature which starts and ends with the language, It isn't possible to read a great novel which isn't written in a beautiful language, classic or modern or post-modern, realistic or surreal, love, action or thriller novel, the language is the most important thing.Talking about the language and the literature, i want to refer to a remarkable cross-purposes use of a word in two novels, in atonement we read the word "c***" for one time and the use of this word was the key of the whole plot of the novel, and the reader is suppose to feel its vulgarity. Here in tropic of cancer we read it hundreds of time, it's even means women in Miller's language and the reader suppose to feel it as an ordinary word.The novel not suitable for the morally conservative readers.الترجمة العربية للرواية - قرأتها منذ عدة أعوام - بواسطة أسامة منزلجي جيدة على مستوى نقل روح العمل إلى حد كبير ولكنها بالطبع لا تنقل جمال لغة ميللر.الرواية غير مناسبة للقراء المؤمنين بمفهوم الأدب النظيف بتاتاً, فميللر يستخدم الكلمات الواقعية التي قد تثير حفيظة القارىء أحياناً, خاصة عند نقلها للعربية.Katie Abbott Harris
I thought this fictionalized memoir was highly overrated, and mostly tedious. It is a tale of ex-pat Henry Miller's time in Paris - the people he meets, the money he spends, the places he stays, the books he reads, and the sex, sex, and more sex in which he participates. The prose is an erratic and meandering stream of consciousness, and I have to sheepishly admit that if it weren't for the gratuitous erotic sections and profanity, I would have stopped reading out of boredom. In saying all of this, the book DOES have great value and I still believe it to be worth reading. After being released in France in the 1930's, the novel was finally published in the United States in 1961 and promptly led to an obscenity trial. America's laws on pornography were tested, paving the way for future authors to do what they do best. For this reason, it is a truly important and landmark piece of literature and should be experienced, but don't expect too much.Trenton Judson
This may be one of the best books in the American cannon, and also, unfortunately, one of the most underrated. I read a lot of the reviews on the book before writing this and I found not very many that were thought out. I recall one reviewer giving up on the book because the "frenetic style was tiresome." Usually when someone has feelings like that, it is because they don't understand the literature and so their mind wanders. Another review noted that Miller's supposed "shock tactics" were outdated. Miller never meant to shock people, that is in your head. If you read the opening quote by Emerson, it states something to the effect that telling a true story about yourself is something near to impossible, this is Miller's attempt at doing that. He pulls no punches on the everyday vernacular that he must have used and imagined. This makes the story not only authentic, but also compelling. Miller's mix of philosophy and the impressionistic portrait that he paints of Paris make for a challenging and gorgeous read. Like Whitman, Miller finds beauty in all things and despite atrocious circumstances, he finds the will and the hope to enjoy his freedom. His style cries Whitman with its use of many objects to describe a single scene or feeling, but he has a different touch than Whitman that allows for the darker underbelly of human life that we so often discard because we lack the ability to understand the parts of ourselves that we have been taught to be shamed by. A must read for those who have read Whitman and really love him. Great companions to this book are: Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and Charriere's "Papillon."Michael
Tropic of Cancer is held in high regard by Authors that I respect. In particular, George Orwell (whose essay, “Inside the Whale”) has high praise for Miller's bravery, directness and honesty.Miller's foul language has lost the power to impress; modern readers will not feel the level of shock and awe experienced by previous generations. The book has so much critical adulation that I have spent a few weeks ruminating before expressing my own view.I don't like it....Oh, don't mistake me, I “get” it, I also understand that highbrow intellectual theory is bandied about in praise of the “style”. It leaves me cold.This is an excrescence of a book, but like finding a turd dotted with precious gems, if you can overcome your dislike you will be rewarded by a few flashes of brilliance.I have met parasitic characters like Tropic's “hero”; amoral, abusive, selfish, pretentious, hedonistic users beneath contempt, occasionally given to drunken introspection and momentary genius. If you run across a real life “Miller” in your travels give him a wide berth, he's just not worth it.Simona
Si è detto molto, troppo di questo romanzo di Miller. C'è chi leggendolo si è scandalizzato, chi come me lo ha adorato, amato. Ho adorato lo stile di Miller, il modo in cui racconta il suo vissuto, la sua storia, le avventure con i suoi amici, il suo flusso di coscienza sugli scrittori che ama e che detesta. Siamo a Parigi e il fatto stesso che sia ambientato in questa città, che amo alla follia, aggiunge più di un punto a suo favore. Dimenticate per un attimo la Parigi che avete imparato a conoscere e amare, la Parigi delle "Blinding lights" come cantano gli U2. La Parigi descritta da Miller è una Parigi sull'orlo dello sfacelo, della disperazione, contorniata da prostitute e barboni agli angoli delle strade con personaggi al limite che tentano di sopravvivere e di arrivare a fine giornata.Un romanzo arido, duro, forte, una piccola perla che vi invito a leggere.Suzie
I don't know what was more embarassing - reading this book in public and wondering if anyone knew how vile it was, or seeing how many passages my mother had underlined in college. Naughty! (In her defense, she said she had no choice . . . )This was one of those titles I'd heard a handful of authors drop, and thought I needed to know why. I'm still not sure I completely understand the fascination (though I'll grant he HAS beefed up my quotes section), but at least I can say I've read Henry Miller, right? His Paris memoir kept reminding me of Herman Hesse's "Goldmund and Narcissus" and Jack Keroac's "Dharma Bums" - that tortured Bohemian lifestyle that artists subject themselves to for the sake of their craft, all in the name of life and art. It leaves a sort of empty, bitter feeling in the gut - not something I look for in a good piece of literature, but not without merit, either. I know, at least, that this is not the kind of artist I ever want to become - so disgusted with the world and its hypocrisy as to believe that truth and beauty can only be found in the darkest corners of the human experience - promiscuity, scatological discourse, vulgarity, masochism and misogyny. You're right, Mom. Henry Miller really was just a dirty old man. I had to learn that for myself, though.There were a few pearls of wisdom I gleaned from Mr. Miller - I think his better moments were the ramblings, rather than his actual experience (see quotes). I didn't agree with a lot of his nihilist diatribe, and I rather felt that he really didn't, either. Maybe it was the hunger speaking. I appreciate his honesty and (however subtle) admittance that he's just as unenlightened as the rest of us. 2 stars because I didn't hate it, but I can't say I liked it either. Which might be just what he was going for.