|Cover artist||Maurice Girodias [ failed verification ]|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Followed by||Black Spring|
Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller that has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality" and as responsible for the "free speech that we now take for granted in literature."It was first published in 1934 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France, but this edition was banned in the United States. Its publication in 1961 in the U.S. by Grove Press led to obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography in the early 1960s. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the book non-obscene. It is regarded as an important work of 20th-century literature.
I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.— First passage excerpt
Miller wrote the book between 1930 and 1934 during his "nomadic life" in Paris. : 105–107 The fictional Villa Borghese was actually 18 Villa Seurat in Paris' 14th arrondissement. As Miller discloses in the text of the book, he first intended to title it "Crazy Cock". Miller gave the following explanation of why the book's title was Tropic of Cancer: "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." : 38
Anaïs Nin helped to edit the book. : 109 In 1934, Jack Kahane's Obelisk Press published the book with financial backing from Nin, who had borrowed the money from Otto Rank. : 108 : 116
In the 1961 edition, opposite the novel's title page is a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies—captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly.
The 1961 edition includes an introduction by Karl Shapiro written in 1960 and titled "The Greatest Living Author". The first three sentences are:
I call Henry Miller the greatest living author because I think he is. I do not call him a poet because he has never written a poem; he even dislikes poetry, I think. But everything he has written is a poem in the best as well as in the broadest sense of the word. : v–xxx
Following the introduction is a preface written by Nin in 1934, which begins as follows:
Here is a book which, if such a thing were possible, might restore our appetite for the fundamental realities. The predominant note will seem one of bitterness, and bitterness there is, to the full. But there is also a wild extravagance, a mad gaiety, a verve, a gusto, at times almost a delirium. : xxxi–xxxiii
Set in France (primarily Paris) during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tropic of Cancer centers on Miller's life as a struggling writer. Late in the novel, Miller explains his artistic approach to writing the book itself, stating:
Up to the present, my idea of collaborating with myself has been to get off the gold standard of literature. My idea briefly has been to present a resurrection of the emotions, to depict the conduct of a human being in the stratosphere of ideas, that is, in the grip of delirium. : 243
Combining autobiography and fiction, some chapters follow a narrative of some kind and refer to Miller's actual friends, colleagues, and workplaces; others are written as stream-of-consciousness reflections that are occasionally epiphanic. The novel is written in the first person, as are many of Miller's other novels, and does not have a linear organization, but rather fluctuates frequently between the past and present.
The book largely functions as an immersive meditation on the human condition. As a struggling writer, Miller describes his experience living among a community of bohemians in Paris, where he intermittently suffers from hunger, homelessness, squalor, loneliness, and despair over his recent separation from his wife. Describing his perception of Paris during this time, Miller wrote:
One can live in Paris—I discovered that!—on just grief and anguish. A bitter nourishment—perhaps the best there is for certain people. At any rate, I had not yet come to the end of my rope. I was only flirting with disaster. ... I understood then why it is that Paris attracts the tortured, the hallucinated, the great maniacs of love. I understood why it is that here, at the very hub of the wheel, one can embrace the most fantastic, the most impossible theories, without finding them in the least strange; it is here that one reads again the books of his youth and the enigmas take on new meanings, one for every white hair. One walks the streets knowing that he is mad, possessed, because it is only too obvious that these cold, indifferent faces are the visages of one's keepers. Here all boundaries fade away and the world reveals itself for the mad slaughterhouse that it is. The treadmill stretches away to infinitude, the hatches are closed down tight, logic runs rampant, with bloody cleaver flashing. : 180–182
There are many passages explicitly describing the narrator's sexual encounters. In 1978, literary scholar Donald Gutierrez argued that the sexual comedy in the book was "undeniably low... [but with] a stronger visceral appeal than high comedy". : 22 The characters are caricatures, and the male characters "stumbl[e] through the mazes of their conceptions of woman". : 24
Michael Hardin made the case for the theme of homophobia in the novel.He proposed that the novel contained a "deeply repressed homoerotic desire that periodically surfaces".
Music and dance are other recurrent themes in the book.Music is used "as a sign of the flagging vitality Miller everywhere rejects". References to dancing include a comparison of loving Mona to a "dance of death", and a call for the reader to join in "a last expiring dance" even though "we are doomed".
Other than the first-person narrator "Henry Miller", : 108 the major characters include:
O Tania, where now is that warm cunt of yours, those fat, heavy garters, those soft, bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your cunt, Tania, big with seed. I will send you home to your Sylvester with an ache in your belly and your womb turned inside out. Your Sylvester! Yes, he knows how to build a fire, but I know how to inflame a cunt. I shoot hot bolts into you, Tania, I make your ovaries incandescent. : 5–6
Upon the book's publication in France in 1934, the United States Customs Service banned the book from being imported into the U.S.Frances Steloff sold copies of the novel smuggled from Paris during the 1930s at her Gotham Book Mart, which led to lawsuits. A copyright-infringing edition of the novel was published in New York City in 1940 by "Medusa" (Jacob Brussel); its last page claimed its place of publication to be Mexico. Brussel was eventually sent to jail for three years for the edition.
In 1950, Ernest Besig, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco, attempted to import Tropic of Cancer along with Miller's other novel, Tropic of Capricorn , to the United States. Customs detained the novels and Besig sued the government. Before the case went to trial, Besig requested a motion to admit 19 depositions from literary critics testifying to the "literary value of the novels and to Miller's stature as a serious writer".The motion was denied by Judge Louis A. Goodman. The case went to trial with Goodman presiding. Goodman declared both novels obscene. Besig appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, but the novels were once again declared "obscene" in a unanimous decision in Besig v. United States.
In 1961, when Grove Press legally published the book in the United States, over 60 obscenity lawsuits in over 21 states were brought against booksellers that sold it.The opinions of courts varied; for example, in his dissent from the majority holding that the book was not obscene, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno wrote Cancer is "not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity."
Publisher Barney Rosset hired lawyer Charles Rembar to help Rosset lead the "effort to assist every bookseller prosecuted, regardless of whether there was a legal obligation to do so".Rembar successfully argued two appeals cases, in Massachusetts and New Jersey, although the book continued to be judged obscene in New York and other states.
In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Grove Press, Inc. v. Gerstein, cited Jacobellis v. Ohio (which was decided the same day) and overruled state court findings that Tropic of Cancer was obscene.
The book was banned outside the U.S. as well:
In 1935, H. L. Mencken read the 1934 Paris edition, and sent an encouraging note to Miller: "I read Tropic of Cancer a month ago. It seems to me to be a really excellent piece of work, and I so reported to the person who sent it to me. Of this, more when we meet."
George Orwell reviewed Tropic of Cancer in The New English Weekly in 1935.Orwell focused on Miller's descriptions of sexual encounters, which he deemed significant for their "attempt to get at real facts", and which he saw as a departure from dominant trends. Orwell argued that, although Miller concerns himself with uglier aspects of life, he is nonetheless not quite a pessimist, and seems to find that the contemplation of ugliness makes life more worthwhile rather than less. Concluding, he described Tropic of Cancer as "a remarkable book" and recommended it to "anyone who can get hold of a copy" Returning to the novel in the essay "Inside the Whale" (1940), George Orwell wrote the following:
I earnestly counsel anyone who has not done so to read at least Tropic of Cancer. With a little ingenuity, or by paying a little over the published price, you can get hold of it, and even if parts of it disgust you, it will stick in your memory. ... Here in my opinion is the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past. Even if that is objected to as an overstatement, it will probably be admitted that Miller is a writer out of the ordinary, worth more than a single glance....
Samuel Beckett hailed it as "a momentous event in the history of modern writing".Norman Mailer, in his 1976 book on Miller entitled Genius and Lust , called it "one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century, a revolution in consciousness equal to The Sun Also Rises ".
Edmund Wilson said of the novel:
The tone of the book is undoubtedly low; The Tropic of Cancer, in fact, from the point of view both of its happenings and of the language in which they are conveyed, is the lowest book of any real literary merit that I ever remember to have read... there is a strange amenity of temper and style which bathes the whole composition even when it is disgusting or tiresome.
In Sexual Politics (1970), Kate Millett wrote that Miller "is a compendium of American sexual neuroses", showing "anxiety and contempt" toward women in works such as Tropic of Cancer. : 295–296 In 1980, Anatole Broyard described Tropic of Cancer as "Mr. Miller's first and best novel", showing "a flair for finding symbolism in unobtrusive places" and having "beautiful sentence[s]". Julian Symons wrote in 1993 that "the shock effect [of the novel] has gone", although "it remains an extraordinary document". A 2009 essay on the book by Ewan Morrison described it as a "life-saver" when he was "wandering from drink to drink and bed to bed, dangerously close to total collapse".
The book has been included in a number of lists of best books, such as the following:
Critics and Miller himself have claimed that Miller was influenced by the following in writing the novel:
Tropic of Cancer "has had a huge and indelible impact on both the American literary tradition and American society as a whole".The novel influenced many writers, as exemplified by the following:
The novel was adapted for a 1970 film Tropic of Cancer directed by Joseph Strick, and starring Rip Torn, James T. Callahan, and Ellen Burstyn. : 147 The film was rated X in the United States, which was later changed to an NC-17 rating.Miller was a "technical consultant" during the production of the movie; although he had reservations about the adaptation of the book, he praised the final movie.
The typescript of the book was auctioned for $165,000 in 1986.Yale University now owns the typescript, which was displayed to the public in 2001.
Down and Out in Paris and London is the first full-length work by the English author George Orwell, published in 1933. It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities. Its target audience was the middle- and upper-class members of society—those who were more likely to be well educated—and exposes the poverty existing in two prosperous cities: Paris and London. The first part is an account of living in near-extreme poverty destitution in Paris and the experience of casual labour in restaurant kitchens. The second part is a travelogue of life on the road in and around London from the tramp's perspective, with descriptions of the types of hostel accommodation available and some of the characters to be found living on the margins.
Henry Valentine Miller was an American writer and artist. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new type of semi-autobiographical novel that blended character study, social criticism, philosophical reflection, stream of consciousness, explicit language, sex, surrealist free association, and mysticism. His most characteristic works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn, and the trilogy The Rosy Crucifixion, which are based on his experiences in New York and Paris. He also wrote travel memoirs and literary criticism, and painted watercolors.
Lady Chatterley's Lover is a novel by English author D. H. Lawrence that was first published privately in 1928 in Italy and in 1929 in France. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books, which won the case and quickly sold three million copies. The book was also banned for obscenity in the United States, Canada, Australia, India and Japan. The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex and its use of then-unprintable four-letter words.
The Carpetbaggers is a 1961 bestselling novel by Harold Robbins, which was adapted into a 1964 film of the same title. The prequel Nevada Smith (1966) was also based on a character in the novel.
Tropic of Capricorn is a semi-autobiographical novel by Henry Miller, first published by Obelisk Press in Paris in 1939. A prequel of sorts to Miller's first published novel, 1934's Tropic of Cancer, it was banned in the United States until a 1961 Justice Department ruling declared that its contents were not obscene.
Maurice Girodias was a French publisher who founded the Olympia Press, specialising in risqué books, censored in Britain and America, that were permitted in France in English-language versions only. It evolved from his father’s Obelisk Press, famous for publishing Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Girodias published Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, and works by Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, John Glassco and Christopher Logue.
Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1947. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove later became an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Barnet Lee "Barney" Rosset, Jr. was a pioneering American book and magazine publisher. An avant-garde taste maker, he founded Grove Press in 1951 and Evergreen Review in 1957, both of which gave him platforms for curating world-class and, in several cases, Nobel prize-winning work by authors like Samuel Beckett (1969), Pablo Neruda (1971), Octavio Paz (1990), Kenzaburō Ōe (1994) and Harold Pinter (2005).
Obelisk Press was an English-language press based in Paris, founded by British publisher Jack Kahane in 1929.
The Rosy Crucifixion, a trilogy consisting of Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus, is a fictionalized account documenting the six-year period of Henry Miller's life in Brooklyn as he falls for his second wife June and struggles to become a writer, leading up to his initial departure for Paris in 1928. The title comes from a sentence near the end of Miller's Tropic of Capricorn: "All my Calvaries were rosy crucifixions, pseudo-tragedies to keep the fires of hell burning brightly for the real sinners who are in danger of being forgotten."
"Inside the Whale" is an essay in three parts written by George Orwell in 1940. It is primarily a review of Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller with Orwell discursing more widely over English literature in the 1920s and 1930s. The biblical story of Jonah and the whale is used as a metaphor for accepting experience without seeking to change it, Jonah inside the whale being comfortably protected from the problems of the outside world. It was published, alongside two other pieces by Orwell, 11 March 1940 by Gollancz in Orwell's first collection of essays, Inside the Whale and Other Essays.
Black Spring is a book of ten short stories by the American writer Henry Miller, published in 1936 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France. Black Spring was Miller's second published book, following Tropic of Cancer and preceding Tropic of Capricorn. The book was written in 1932-33 while Miller was living in Clichy, a northwestern suburb of Paris. Like Tropic of Cancer, the book is dedicated to Anaïs Nin.
Aller Retour New York is a novel by American writer Henry Miller, published in 1935 by Obelisk Press in Paris, France.
The Colossus of Maroussi is an impressionist travelogue by American writer Henry Miller that was first published in 1941 by Colt Press of San Francisco. Set in pre-war Greece of 1939, it is ostensibly an exploration of the "Colossus" of the title, George Katsimbalis, a poet and raconteur. The work is frequently heralded as Miller's best.
Book censorship is the removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational material – of images, ideas, and information – on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in the light of standards applied by the censor. Censorship is "the regulation of speech and other forms of expression by an entrenched authority". The overall intent of censorship, in any form, is to act as "a kind of safeguard for society, typically to protect norms and values [...] censorship suppresses what is considered objectionable from a political, moral, or religious standpoint."
Moloch: or, This Gentile World is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Henry Miller in 1927-28, initially under the guise of a novel written by his wife, June. The book went unpublished until 1992, 65 years after it was written and 12 years after Miller's death. It is widely considered to be of interest more as a study of Miller's artistic growth than as a worthy piece of fiction.
The following is a bibliography of Henry Miller by category.
Tropic of Cancer is a 1970 American drama film directed by Joseph Strick and written by Betty Botley and Joseph Strick. It is based on Henry Miller's 1934 autobiographical novel Tropic of Cancer. The film stars Rip Torn, James T. Callahan, David Baur, Laurence Lignères, Phil Brown and Dominique Delpierre. The film was released on February 27, 1970, by Paramount Pictures.
Fred Jordan was the business manager of the publishing house Grove Press and business manager and editor of the magazine Evergreen Review. He managed Grove's legal battles to publish uncensored versions of D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, Henry Miller's novel Tropic of Cancer, William S. Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch, and the Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow).
Miller's transcendental stance as a follower of Whitman and Thoreau becomes apparent in his essays 'Walt Whitman' and 'Henry David Thoreau'