Henry Miller: Excerpts on a Traumatized Existence

(Every once in awhile, I think I’d like to pass along stories I thought were particularly interesting Passive Voice style. Like this one.)

From Solidarity Hall:


Henry Miller was the prophet of the modern man—particularly, the modern American man. He was the prophet of a traumatized existence—not traumatized physically, but in every other way: psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It’s a crying shame that in many ways he suffered the same fate as D.H. Lawrence before him. He took it for granted the carnal lifestyle in which he was immersed, and therefore he spoke of his escapades freely. It proved to be too much for the scrupulous, and he was branded obscene—a pornographer in fact. This misapprehension shows through even in the acclaim his work received once it was no longer banned in the United States. … These are the folks who would look at the Sistine Chapel and remark only on Adam’s nudity. They take the rind and discard the fruit.

What fruit? Well that, clearly, is my real purpose here. Explore these few excerpts from his most characteristic work, Tropic of Capricorn, and judge for yourself the character of the work.

On alienation and aggression

I am desperate. But I am not lost. No, there is a reality to which I belong. It’s far away, very far away. I may walk from now till doomsday with head down and never find it. But it is there, I am sure of it. I look at the people murderously. If I could throw a bomb and blow the whole neighborhood to smithereens I would do it. I would be happy seeing the fly in the air, mangled, shrieking, torn apart, annihilated. I want to annihilate the whole earth. I am not a part of it. It’s mad from start to finish…Kill them all, Jews and Gentiles, young and old, good and bad.

Personally, he sounds too precious to me. Maybe he needed to get out of New York City, but there seems to be millions there who don’t have his problem. And did he really mean, “I will never again sell anything, even if I have to starve…I want to prevent as many men as possible from pretending that they have to do this or that because they must earn a living.”? Meglamania is too weak a word.