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The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder (1948)

by Henry Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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325468,441 (3.92)6
First published in 1959, this touching fable tells of Auguste, a famous clown who could make people laugh but who sought to impart to his audiences a lasting joy. Originally inspired by a series of circus and clown drawings by the cubist painter Femand Léger, Miller eventually used his own decorations to accompany the text in their stead. "Undoubtedly," he says in his explanatory epilogue, °'it is the strangest story I have yet written. . . . No, more even than all the stories which I based on fact and experience is this one the truth. My whole aim in writing has been to tell the truth, as I know it. Heretofore all my characters have been real, taken from life, my own life. Auguste is unique in that he came from the blue. But what is this blue which surrounds and envelopes us if not reality itself? . . . We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is."… (more)
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Another examination of the human psyche by the master of examination. Here Henry Miller shares with us his ardent gaze upon joy and sorrow, apprehension and courage, failure in success, and success in failure. Lovely. ( )
  psybre | Jun 2, 2009 |
Miller uses an elegant, melifluous style to tell a simple little story about a clown. This is the epitomy of a little gem.

My edition was illustrated with Miller's own paintings, a choice I found questionable after reading the epilogue. Miller's inspiration came from specific works by Miro, Chagall and others, while his own clown paintings have a more tenuous relationship with the tale. Still, I love his Clown with two mouths (one smiling, one frowning). ( )
  A_musing | Jul 26, 2007 |
This was my first ever book by Miller. And what a nice introduction it was. A sweet, short story about a clown just trying to be himself and live in the moment. ( )
  Thalia | Aug 17, 2006 |
Showing 3 of 3
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Millerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Henningsen, BirgitTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henriques, CéliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miró, JoanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Nothing could diminish the lustre of that extraordinary smile which was engraved on Auguste's sad countenance.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

First published in 1959, this touching fable tells of Auguste, a famous clown who could make people laugh but who sought to impart to his audiences a lasting joy. Originally inspired by a series of circus and clown drawings by the cubist painter Femand Léger, Miller eventually used his own decorations to accompany the text in their stead. "Undoubtedly," he says in his explanatory epilogue, °'it is the strangest story I have yet written. . . . No, more even than all the stories which I based on fact and experience is this one the truth. My whole aim in writing has been to tell the truth, as I know it. Heretofore all my characters have been real, taken from life, my own life. Auguste is unique in that he came from the blue. But what is this blue which surrounds and envelopes us if not reality itself? . . . We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is."

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Book description
‟Questa è la sola storia vera che io abbia raccontato fino adesso,” dice Miller nell'epilogo scritto per questo bellissimo racconto. Un'affermazione strana perché si tratta forse della sua unica storia di fantasia pura. Ma Miller chiarisce: ‟I miei personaggi sono tutti reali, presi dalla vita, dalla mia vita, mentre Augusto è l'unico che nasce dal regno della fantasia. Ma che cos'è questo regno della fantasia che ci circonda e assedia da ogni parte, se non la realtà stessa?”. Nella storia di Augusto, il clown geniale e disperato che recita ogni sera ‟il dramma dell'iniziazione e del martirio”, Miller ha voluto parlare del vero artista e del suo faticoso percorso. Il sorriso ai piedi della scala, poetica e geniale biografia immaginaria di clown richiestagli da Fernand Léger, influenzata dai meravigliosi quadri sul circo di Rouault, Miró, Chagall, Seurat e Max Jacob, è stato scritto nel 1947-48, un periodo di trasformazione profonda nell'opera milleriana, negli stessi anni di Plexus e di I libri della mia vita, ed è anche un'introduzione alle opere della maturità.
‟Ai piedi d'una scala tesa verso la luna, Augusto si sedeva in contemplazione, fisso il sorriso, perduti lontano i pensieri. Questa simulazione d'estasi, che egli aveva portato a perfezione, faceva sempre una grande impressione sul pubblico: pareva il sommo della stravaganza.”
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