Monday, 29 March 2010

HENRY MILLER

American writer whose autobiographical novels had a liberating influence on mid-20th century literature. Because of the frank portrayals of sexuality, Miller's major novels have been banned in several countries. In the 1960s Miller became one of the most widely read US authors. In his autobiographical works Miller created a myth out of his own life, about a free-spirited, penniless American writer who has a number of affairs and spends his time between New York and Paris.
"The bulk of my readers, I have often observed, fall into two distinct groups: in the one group those who claim to be repelled or disgusted by the liberal dosage of sex, and in the other those who are delighted to find that this element form such a large ingredient." (from The World of Sex, 1965)
Henry Valentine Miller was born in New York, N.Y, the first child of German-American working-class parents. Miller had also a younger sister, Lauretta Anna, who was mentally handicapped and whom he often had to defend from the other kids who would make fun of her. Miller's father, Heinrich Miller, was a tailor. Louise (Nieting) Miller, his mother, never showed much affection toward her son - she used to hit her children, also Miller's sister.
At school Miller was a very good pupil. At the age of seventeen Miller visited a brothel for the first time, and contracted gonorrhea. He attended the college of the City of New York and left after two months. In STAND STILL LIKE THE HUMMINGBIRD (1962) the author explained that it was Spenser's Faerie Queene which decided the issue for him. "To think that this huge epic is still considered indispensable reading in any college curriculum! Only the other day I dipped into it again, to reassure myself that I had not made a grave error of judgment. Let me confess that today it seems even more insane to me than when I was a lad of eighteen. I am talking, be it understood, of "the poets' poet," as the English call him. What a poor second to Pindar!" Miller had been a voluminous reader from his childhood. At that time his favorites were Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Elie Faure, whose study, History of Art, had been translated into English by one of his father's customers. Miller worked briefly for a cement company, took then odd jobs, and started in 1909 an affair with Pauline Chouteau, who was 37-years old. He travelled throughout South West USA and Alaska with money, which was intended to finance him through Cornell. In 1913 he went to work at his father's tailor's shop. Heinrich Miller's drinking had increased. In 1917 Miller married Beatrice Sylvas Wickens, a amateur pianist, and became a father. He had also a brief affair with his mother-in-law.
From 1920 to 1924 Miller worked at the Western Union Telegraph Company, but then left his family and lived a with June Mansfield Smith, a Broadway dancer, who encouraged Miller in his writing aspirations. The relationship inspired Miller's early novels MOLOCH and CRAZY COCK (the latter published in 1991 posthumously). Later Miller returned to this period in the trilogy THE ROSY CRUCIFIXION. Miller did not seriously begin to write until he was 40, although he had published essays and short stories in a magazine in the late 1910s. CLIPPED WINGS, which he wrote in 1922, was rejected my the publishing company Macmillan. June worked occasionally as a waiter, but her restless life style, which first had fascinated Miller, made him miserable. In 1930 he moved to France. In Paris he become a familiar sight with his olive-green overcoat, wide-brimmed grey felt hat, and protruding bottom lip. Miller was penniless, but he met Alfred Perlés, an Austrian writer, who paid his rent and his cafe bills. Also Anaïs Nin, who entered his life in 1931, supported him. In the fall of his second year in Paris Miller wrote: "I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive." Miller's early books were published almost exclusively by the Obelisk Press, founded by Jack Kahane, who wrote erotic novels under the pseudonyms of Cecil Barr and Basil Carr. After living two years at Clichy, Miller moved in autumn to the Villa Seurat in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
With his friend Gilberte Brassaï, born Gyula Halász, who gained fame as a photographer, Miller shared love of the city at night. "I have found my counterpart in dear Halász," he said to his literary agent, Frank Dobo, "a "wanderer" like me, who sets out on an exploration with no other aim but continual investigation." Miller also wrote an article on Brassaï, 'The Eye of Paris', stating: "Perhaps the difference which I observe between the work of Brassaï and that of other photographers lies in this - that Brassaï seems overwhelmed by the fullness of life."
"If it [Sexus] was no good, it was true; if it was not artistic, it was sincere; if it was in bad taste, it was on the side of life."
During this time Miller came under the influence of surrealism, Céline, and the literary circle, which included Lawrence Durrell and Anaïs Nin. He created sensation with his classic first works, TROPIC OF CANCER (1934) and TROPIC OF CAPRICORN (1936), which offered a vivid picture of bohemian life in Paris and New York. The books were banned for nearly three decades in the U.S., before decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their literary value. The triangular relationship between Miller, June and Nin formed the basis for several of Nin's journals and the film Henry and June (1990). When the English writer George Orwell travelled to Spain to report on the Civil War, he stopped in Paris. He met Miller, who told him that he was a pacifist. Miller's major works from this period include BLACK SPRING (1936), based on his childhood's experiences in Brooklyn, and THE COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI (1941), inspired by his visit to Greece in 1939.
With the outbreak of World War II Miller returned to the USA. At the age of 48 he still felt that he had failed as a writer. At John Steinbeck's birthday in Monterrey he made love to one of the guests on the lawn. In 1942 he moved to California and lived from 1947 in Big Sur on California coast. "It is my belief that the immature artist seldom thrives in idyllic surroundings," wrote Miller in BIG SUR AND THE ORANGES OF HIERONYMUS BOSCH (1957). "If an art colony is established here it will go the way all the others. Artists never thrive in colonies. Ants do. What the budding artists needs is the privilege of wrestling with his problems in solitude - and now and then a piece of red meat." In 1944 Miller married Janina Martha Lepska, a young philosophy student, who was over 30 years his junior. Their marriage ended after seven years. "I live all alone like a monk, a celibate, an exile," Miller wrote to his old friend Brassaï. (Brassaï's archives contain 168 letters from Miller.) However, Miller found soon a new companion, Eve McClure, an artist, whom he married in 1953.
In 1957 Miller was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He wrote prolifically, revisited Europe numerous times and painted water colors. Miller had began to paint in the 1920s and continued to produce watercolors until the final days of his life. Grove Press published Tropic of Cancer in 1961 and the book gained a huge popularity. Miller was not enthusiastic about his imago, when his readers hailed him as the grand old man of sex. At that time he did not see himself as an "outlaw writer" and in interviews he tried to direct the discussion from sex to other subjects, without much success. In the early 1960s Miller had affair with Renate Gerhardt, a German translator. When she founded a publishing company, Miller helped her financially. Most of his life Miller had lived without regular income, but when his books started sell, he bought a house on Ocampo Drive 444 in the Pacific Palisades, which looked like it belonged to a movie star. He also had to hire accountants and lawyers to plan taxes. In 1969 the feminist writer Kate Millet attacked Miller in his book Sexual Politics, and two years later Norman Mailer defended him in The Prisoner of Sex. Miller died in Pacific Palisades on June 7, 1980. He was married five times. In 1967 he married a young Japanese cabaret singer, Hiroko "Hoki" Tokuda, who refused to have sex with the old writer. They divorced in 1977. She later ran a Tokyo night-club called 'Tropic of Cancer'.
"Henry was so enthralled by women that he sought to demystify their mysterious parts through the violent verbal magic of his books. The violence is rooted in a sense of self-abnegation and humiliation before them. He is, as the Freudians would say, counterphobic.'' (Erica Jong in The Devil at Large, 1993)
Miller's later books include THE AIR-CONDITIONED NIGHTMARE (1945), a critical view of the United States, QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY (1956), depicting his life as a penniless writer in Paris, and THE ROSY CRUCIFIXION trilogy (1965), which traced the crucial years of the narrator-hero in the United States during which he struggles to became a writer. "I'm a desperado of love, a scalper, a slayer. I'm insatiable," Miller wrote in the first part, Sexus. "I eat hair, dirty wax, dry blood clots, anything and everything you call yours. Show me your father, with his kites, his race horses, his free passes for the opera: I will eat them all, swallow them alive." In 1952 appeared Miller's study of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose rebelliousness attracted him. Miller's works helped to push back the boundaries of censorship in the 1950s with D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover and William Burroughs's The Naked Lunch. He also influenced the Beat Movement writers. Miller's last love was Brenda Venus, an actress; his letters to her were published in 1986.
For further reading: Happy Rock, ed. by B. Porter (1945); Art and Outrage by L. Durrell and A. Perlès (1959); Henry Miller by A.K. Baxter (1961); Henry Miller and the Critics, ed. by G. Wickers (1963); Henry Miller by K. Widmer (1963); Henry Miller by G. Wickers (1966); Henry Miller: Colossus of One by K.C. Dick (1967); The Mind and Art of Henry Miller by W.A. Gordon (1967); The Literature of Silence by I. Hassan (1968); Form and Image in the Fiction of Henry Miller by J.A. Nelson (1970); Henry Miller grandeur nature by Brassaï (1975); Genius and Lust by Norman Mailer (1976); Orpheus in Brooklyn by B. Mathieu (1976); Always Merry and Bright: The Life of Henry Miller by J. Martin (1978); Henry Miller rocher heureux by Brassaï (1978); Henry Miller Bibliography with Discography by Michael Hargraves (1980); Henry Miller - A Life by Robert Ferguson (1991); The Happiest Man Alive - a Biography of Henry Miller by Mary V. Dearborn (1991); The Devil at Large by Erica Jong (1993); Conversations With Henry Miller, ed. by Frank L. Kersnowski, Alice Hughes (1994) - Note: Film Henry and June (1990), dir. by Philip Kaufman, starring Fred Ward and Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros. - Suom.: Muita Millerin suomeksi käännettyjä teoksia ovat mm. Opus pistorum ja Yksityinen kirjeenvaiht sekä kokoelma Engström, Saarikoski, Ilmari (trans.) Durrell, Lawrence - Miller, Henry - Perlés, Alfred: Kirjeitä, 1968
SELECTED WORKS:
TROPIC OF CANCER, 1934 - Kravun kääntöpiiri (suom. Pentti Saarikoski, 1962) - film 1970, prod. Tropic Productions, dir. Joseph Strick, starring Rip Torn, James T. Callahan, Ellen Burstyn, David Baur
ALLER RETOUR NEW YORK, 1935
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT ALF?, 1935
BLACK SPRING, 1936 - Musta kevät (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1968)
SCENARIO, 1937
MAX AND THE WHITE PHAGOCYTES, 1938
THE COSMOLOGICAL EYE, 1939 - Kosmologinen silmä (teoksista The cosmological eye, The wisdom of the heart, Remember to remember, suom. Kalle Varila, 2001)
HAMLET, 1939 (with Michael Fraenkel)
TROPIC OF CAPRICORN, 1939 - Kauriin kääntöpiiri (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1967)
THE WORLD OF SEX, 1940
THE WISDOM OF THE HEART, 1941 - Kosmologinen silmä (teoksista The cosmological eye, The wisdom of the heart, Remember to remember, suom. Kalle Varila, 2001)
THE COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI, 1941 - Marussin kolossi (suom. Pentti Saarikoski, 1962)
SUNDAY AFTER THE WAR, 1944
MURDER THE MURDERER, 1944
THE ANGEL IS MY WATERMARK, 1944
THE PLIGHT OF THE CREATIVE ARTIST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1944
SEMBLANCE OF A DEVOTED PAST, 1944
SUNDAY AFTER THE WAR, 1944
THE AIR-CONDITIONED NIGHTMARE, 1945 - Ilmastoitu painajainen (suom. Pentti Saarikoski, 1964; Petri Leppänen, 2007)
HENRY MILLER MISCELLANEA, 1945
THE AMAZING AND INVARIABLE BEAUFORD DELANEY, 1945
MAURIZIUS FOREVER, 1946
OF, BY AND ABOUT HENRY MILLER, 1947
REMEMBER TO REMEMBER, 1947 - Kosmologinen silmä (teoksista The cosmological eye, The wisdom of the heart, Remember to remember, suom. Kalle Varila, 2001)
VARDA, THE MASTER BUILDR, 1947
THE SMILE AT THE ROOT OF THE LADDER, 1948 - Hymy tikkaiden juurella (suom. A. K. M. Taipale, 1960)
SEXUS, 1949 - Ruusuinen ristiinnaulitseminen: Sexus (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1970)
THE WATERS REGLITTERIZED, 1950
RIMBAUD, 1952
THE BOOKS IN MY LIFE, 1952
PLEXUS, 1952 - Ruusuinen ristiinnaulitseminen: Plexus (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1971)
NIGHTS OF LOVE AND LAUGHTER, 1955
A DEVIL IN PARADISE, 1956
THE TIME OF THE ASSASSINS, 1956 - Salamurhaajien aika: proosallinen tutkielma Rimbaud’sta (suom. Einari Aaltonen ja Seppo Lahtinen, 2000)
QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY, 1956 - Hiljaiseloa Clichyssa (suom. Seppo Loponen, 1968) - films: Stille dage i Clichy, dir. Jens Jørgen Thorsen, starring Paul Valjean, Wayne Rodda, Ulla Koppel, Avi Sagild, Susanne Krage; 1989, Jours tranquilles à Clichy, dir. Claude Chabrol, starring Andrew McCarthy, Nigel Havers, Barbara De Rossi, Stéphanie Cotta (an elderly American writer recalls the sexual encounters of his youth)
BIG SUR AND THE ORANGES OF HIERONYMUS BOSCH, 1957
THE RED NOTEBOOK, 1958
ART AND OUTRAGE, 1959
THE HENRY MILLER READER, 1959 (ed. by L. Durrell)
THE INTIMATE HENRY MILLER, 1959
TO PAINT IS TO LOVE AGAIN, 1960
NEXUS, 1960 - Ruusuinen ristiinnaulitseminen: Nexus (suom. Risto Lehmusoksa, 1972)
STAND STILL LIKE THE HUMMINGBIRD, 1962
JOSEPH DELTEIL, 1962
THE MICHAEL FRAENKEL-HENRY MILLER CORRESPONDENCE CALLED HAMLET, 1962
JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY, 1963
A PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE, 1963 - Yksityinen kirjeenvaihto (suom. Matti Rossi, 1964)
GREECE, 1964
LETTERS TO ANAIS NIN, 1965
THE WORLD OF SEX, 1965
ROSY CRUSIFIXION, 1965 (trilogy Sexus, Plexus, Nexus, U.S. edition published as whole)
JOURNEY TO AN ANTIQUE LAND, 1965
SELECTED PROSE, 1966
INSOMNIA OR THE DEVIL AT LARGE, 1966
ORDER AND CHAOS CHEZ HANS REICHEL, 1966
COLLECTORS QUEST, 1968
WRITER AND CRITIC, 1968
ENTRETIENS DE PARIS AVEC GEORGES BELMONT, 1970
ON TURNING EIGHTY, 1972
MY LIFE AND TIMES, 1972
REFLECTIONS ON THE DEATH OF MISHIMA, 1972
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF GREECE, 1973
LETTERS OF HENRY MILLER AND WALLACE FOWLIE, 1974
THE NIGHTMARE NOTEBOOK, 1975
FLASHBACK, 1976
GLIDING INTO THE EVERGLADES AND OTHER ESSAYS, 1976
THE INEFFABLE FRANCES STELOFF, 1976 (with A. Nin)
J'SUIS PAS PLUS CON QU'UN AUTRE, 1976
OUR AMERICA, 1976 (with A. Rattner)
HENRY MILLER'S BOOK OF FRIENDS, 1976
FOUR VISIONS OF AMERICA, 1977
SEXTET, 1977
HENRY MILLER:YEARS OF TRIAL AND TRIUMPH, 1978
LOVE BETWEEN THE SEXES, 1978
MY BIKE AND OTHER FRIENDS, 1978
THE THEATRE AND OTHER PIECES, 1979
JOEY, 1979
CORRESPONDENCE PRIVÉE DE HENRY MILLER ET JOSEPH DELTEIL 1935-78, 1980 (ed. by F.J. Temple)
NOTES ON AARON'S ROD AND OTHER NOTES ON LAWRENCE FROM THE PARIS NOTEBOOKS, 1980
THE WORLD OF LAWRENCE, 1980
HENRY MILLER READER, 1983 (ed. by J. Calder)
FROM YOUR CAPRICORN FRIEND, 1984
DEAR, DEAR BRENDA, 1986 (with Brenda Venus) - Rakas, rakas Brenda (suom. Margit Salmenoja, 1987)
LETTERS FROM HENRY MILLER TO HOKI TOKUDA MILLER, 1986
A LITERATE PASSION, 1987
THE DURRELL-MILLER LETTERS 1935-1980, 1988
HENRY MILLER'S HAMLET LETTERS, 1988
LETTERS TO EMIL, 1989
HENRY MILLER - THE PAINTINGS, 1991
NOTHING BUT THE MARVELOUS, 1991
CRAZY COCK, 1991 (foreword by Erica Jong) - Hullu kukko (suom. Heikki Salojärvi, 1992)
OCTET, 1991
MOLOCH, 1992 - Molok eli Tämä pakanallinen maailma (suom. Heikki Salojärvi, 1993)
HENRY MILLER, 1992
A DEVIL IN PARADISE, 1993
HENRY MILLER AND JAMES LAUGHLIN, 1995

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