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The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller

The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)

by Henry Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Unforgettable, raucous, dazzling,fun, at times zany, poignant, shot through with deep insights, as prescient as Cassandra in some moments. Miller underwent a revelatory experience in the tomb of Agamemnon which would change his life forever. "I say the whole world fanning out in every direction from this spot was once alive in a way that no man has ever dreamed of..." But don't just take his word for it. As he urges in this book, go there and see for yourself!
( )
  linda.lappin | Jun 23, 2014 |
This is part of my mental library, as I read this in college and no longer have it, but it was great.
  markcohen | Aug 29, 2012 |
On the recommendation of his friend and fellow author Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller set out for Greece in 1939. After a decade of frenzied writing in which both “Tropic of Cancer “and “Tropic of Capricorn” were composed, Miller’s intention was really nothing more than to relax in preparation for a journey to Tibet in which he planned to, in a popular phrase Miller himself would have despised, “find himself.”

“Colossus of Maroussi” is pure prosopography, which isn’t of course to say that he does not give flashing insight into the individual lives of others. In fact, the colossus of the title – a Greek poet by the name of George Katsimbalis – has a personality which sometimes threatens to marginalize Miller’s. We also meet as a minor character the poet George Seferis long before he became the first Greek to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

At one point, while Durrell and Miller are staring up into space, Durrell calls him a Rosicrucian. This is no lie. Not only does Miller have a preternatural affinity for the mystical and transcendent, but the various meditative bits of philosophy and courageously inventive speculative prose that dot the book are beautifully conceived, written in a kind of ecstatic encounter with the holy. Speaking of Rosicrucians…

“Saturn is the symbol of all omens and superstitions, the phony proof of divine entropy, phony because if it were true that the universe is running down Saturn would have melted away long ago. Saturn is as eternal as fear and irresolution, growing more milky, more cloudy, with each compromise, each capitulation. Timid souls cry for Saturn just as children are reputed to cry for Castoria. Saturn gives us only what we ask for, never an ounce extra. Saturn is the white hope of the white race which prattles endlessly about the wonders of nature and spends its time killing off the greatest wonder of all – MAN.”

To call this a travelogue is to tremendously devalue it. While its subject of the putative love of Greece and the Greek people, Miller’s approach is more reminiscent of Julian of Norwich’s “Revelations of Divine Love” or Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain.” For him, Greece was a religious experience, and all the more precious because it was purely accidental. Miller was a mortal Antaeus whose powers seem like they would have been irrevocably sapped when he was finally compelled to bring himself back to the United States, something he only did because he saw the writing that Hitler was scrawling on the European political wall. ( )
2 vote kant1066 | May 9, 2012 |
A Millerian travel book, is of course, not really a travel book at all. Miller's memoir of his time spent in Greece as it waits on the brink of war forgoes the frothy mouthed bombast of the Tropic books, but retains its moods of exaltation, this time directed at the rich beauty of the ruins and the warmth and hospitality of the people whom Miller encounters. His encounters with Greeks who have lived in America, and who extol its virtues to him expecting enthusiastic agreement are, of course, disappointed when Miller airs his views.

Miller's characterizations of his enigmatic friend Katsimbalis are equally entertaining, and the appendix of Durrell's letter where he tells Miller of how Katsimbalis made the cocks crow throughout Athens is striking. Some of Miller's best writing is here. His free jazz prose poem retort against a Frenchwoman who expresses her distaste for Greece is pure surrealism when Agamemnon becomes the personification of Boogie Woogie and births Louis Armstrong. Equally great is Miller's recounting of his visit to the astronomical observatory, where he describes the sight of the stars as "an effulgent rose window shattered by a hand grenade."

And not a lick of sex in the whole book. Take that, Kate Millett. ( )
1 vote poetontheone | Feb 12, 2012 |
This book is supposed to be a glorification of paganism, There are digs at Christianity, but they are purely non-logical, purely outbursts of Miller's sensitivitized emotions, and so nothing like, say, Norman Douglas' or James Branch Cabell's. Miller seemed to be carried away by unreasonable paroyxms to me, and I did not appreciate the book. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jan 11, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Millerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gerritsen, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sans Betty Ryan - jeune femme qui habitait la même maison que moi, à Paris - jamais ne serais allés en Grèce.
I would never have gone to Greece had it not been for a girl named Betty Ryan who lived in the same house with me in Paris.
There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy.
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Book description
When Henry Miller visited Greece with his friend Lawrence Durrell, his experiences amounted to a complete rebirth. In this intensly personal account he pays homage to the idea of Greece, the poetry of its light and landscape and the humanity of its people. - from the back cover
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811201090, Paperback)

It has preceded the footsteps of prominent travel writers such as Pico Iyer and Rolf Potts. The book Miller would later cite as his favorite began with a young woman’s seductive description of Greece.

This book about Greece, by the author of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn is incandescent with his feeling for a great people and their past.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Just before the outbreak of World War Two the writer Henry Miller, who had been living in Paris after the publication of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, took a boat to Greece in the heat of summer to meet his friend Lawrence Durrell. The rebirth he experienced there inspired one of the great travel books of our times. Miller later described his exploration of the ancient places of Athens, the islands, Crete and the Peloponnese as the high water mark in lifes adventures thus far. With a poetic imagination and passionate prose, he captures the elemental splendour of the country and paints vivid portraits of people he meets, including an extraordinary storyteller he names the Colossus. Rooted firmly in a particular time yet still fresh and vital, the book is also an unrestrained meditation on life, to be read and savoured."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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