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Tropic of Cancer (1934)

by Henry Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,023113858 (3.63)184
Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller's masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for 27 years after its publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American cesorship standards permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller's famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s.… (more)
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» See also 184 mentions

English (97)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (2)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (112)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
They might list this book as one of the best books of 20th century, but don't believe it :) When I started reading this book, I was deceived by high remarks about it. Foal language of the book quickly bores the mind. In brief, take my advice, don't read this book, unless you want to regret :) ( )
  Elgun.Hasanov | Mar 30, 2022 |
I came to Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer many decades after its 1934 release in France, and its subsequent banning in this country. After its ground-breaking obscenity trial, it was finally published here in 1961. So, add sixty years, and you get to when I finally got around to reading it. My late wife, Vicky, loved his writing. Now, because I have waited so long to read it, I will never be able to talk to her about why she liked him so much. He who hesitates is truly lost in this case. If I had to guess why she found the book so interesting, it wasn’t because of the vocabulary of cunt, pussy, twat, prick, and others—though Vicky liked the sometimes shocking and unusual—my guess is that she liked the freeform style, the very loosely-told story of people doing whatever they wanted to do, as well as the candid descriptions of sex. Another part of the book that had to attract her was the attitude of people thinking the hell with people’s opinions and society’s norms. This rebellion had everything to do with Miller’s life in Paris, as much of the book is a reporting on and a reflection of that time in his life.

When I drop back and look at the book from my viewpoint as a well-read old duffer in 2021, it doesn’t seem as rebellious and shocking, as I’ve seen and read that kind of a story so many times already. It’s harder to experience a groundbreaking piece of art as still fresh after it’s been repeated and played off of so many times. This reminds me of a time that Vicky and I watched Citizen Kane all the way through for the first time, and when the credits played at the end, we looked at each other and said, “So?” All the shots and effects that were truly groundbreaking when the film was released in 1941, we’d both seen countless times in countless movies. Later, someone was talking about what all the “first time ever” shots were in that film, and you had to be impressed, but perception is sometimes all about perspective.

Yet, it was interesting finding the life of Henry Miller in Tropic of Cancer. “What need I for money? I am a writing machine.” Reflecting on his life and art. “It is not difficult to be alone if you are poor and a failure. An artist is always alone—if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.”

There was a hard side that kept coming out in the novel. “The world is a cancer eating itself.” “People are like lice—they get under your skin and bury themselves there.” He also wrote about the whores that were answering a constant need for the book’s characters. “Who wants a delicate whore?” The following section probably caught the attention of the censors. “She used candles, Roman candles, and door knobs. Not a prick in the land big enough for her … not one. Men went inside her and curled up. She wanted extension pricks, self-exploding rockets, hot boiling oil made of wax and creosote. She would cut off your prick and keep it inside her forever, if you gave her permission. One cunt out of a million.”

I am left respecting Tropic for how Miller broke new ground, but I wasn’t sold on it as a book. Cunt, pussy, and prick got old and I was left with how people were being treated. Hard drinking, carousing, and whoring are exciting at first, yet tiring after a while, and poor as a spectator sport. The style was interesting in how it was so vague and loose, but whores, bedbugs, and always searching for sex and a bed for the night, wasn’t a story for my head at this time. But I will leave you with this fine line and summary of the book’s lifestyle. “All I ask of life, is a bunch of books, a bunch of dreams, and a bunch of cunt.” ( )
  jphamilton | Nov 12, 2021 |
I only read this book because of Miller's association with Anais Nin and having heard the controversy about it pretty much my entire life. I gave it a 4 star simply for how honest I felt it was about all the artistic (and wannabe artistic) ex-pats in Paris of the time and their interactions with the underground literati and darker corners and experimentation of living outside the "box." Also the 4 star because the classics in all genres should be read. Nin was a far better writer in my opinion and didn't drone on. Miller was a man of his time so I tried to read with an open mind. He tries to write like he's free of bourgeois society but he's conscious of it and thumbing his nose at in one way or another constantly so I scent a great deal of narcissism in his writing and very little sensuality for the love of actual sensuality and eroticism. It's like a lab experiment and he's imagining himself as Victor Frankenstein. ( )
  LuArcher | Jan 19, 2021 |
I don't get it, this book is so-so at best. Like "On the Road" this book is about a down and out guy who mooches his way through life. Ground breaking because he wrote this in the 30's ok. I can see why it was banned then, yet the story itself is not that great. Other than that it is unimpressive garbage. I didn't like the way Miller use French without interpreting it for us. So if you read it do it on a device that allows you to highlight and translate those sentences for you. ( )
  foof2you | Dec 21, 2020 |
Publicado por primera vez en París en 1934, debido a la censura no vió la luz en Estados Unidos hasta 1961, después de más de sesenta juicios.

Considerada por la parte de la crítica como la mejor de sus obras, en su primera novela se sitúa Miller en la estela de Walt Whitman y Thoreau para crea un monólogo en el que el autor hace un inolvidable repaso de sus estancia en París en los primeros años de la década de 1930, centrada tanto en sus experiencias sexuales como en sus juicios sobre el comportamiento humano.

Saludada en su momento como una atrocidad moral por los sectores conservadores -y como una obra maestra por escritores tan distintos como T.S. Eliot, George Orwell o Lawrence Durrell-, en la actualidad es considerada una de las novelas mas rupturistas, influyentes y perfectas de la literatura en lengua inglesa.

También publicado en tapa dura en nuestra colección Edhasa Literaria en la que están siendo publicadas una gran parte de sus obras como: Trópico de Capricornio, Primavera negra, Sexus, Nexus, Plexus, ...
  ArchivoPietro | Oct 26, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
How shocking Tropic of Cancer was when I got hold of a smuggled copy in the late thirties; how merely charming it is now, redolent of a Paris in which the coffee and Gauloises were alike more aromatic than they’ve been since the war, a genuine vie de bohème, the physical act of love as fresh as if the French had just invented it. Miller unbuttoned the fly and tore open the placket with a fiercer gust than Lawrence (who was still mother’s boy) or Joyce (who let language get in the way). Today’s naked generation has learned nearly everything from him – everything, that is to say, except his bookishness, his capacity for recapturing innocence, his sense of wonder, his sense of words.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew York Times, Anthony Burgess (Jan 2, 1972)
What Cancer uniquely possesses is a coherent, animating vision of life—one that justifies the book's disjunctions of form, binds together its stark literalism and its reverie, and spares Miller's adventures the drabness of mere anecdote. The vision is of manic nihilism, of hunger for experience combined with scorn for the cowardly, illusion-drugged human race, which has to dream of miracles while "all the while a meter is running inside and there is no hand that can reach in there and shut it off." Miller has given up on value—and, along with it, any obligation to steel his narrative manner against the ironic fates or to tease meaning from the world with modernist devices of myth and symbol. He is simply talking, much as he will talk through thousands of subsequent pages, but with the difference that here the talk is an act of liberation, a registering of the discovery that no care need be taken to seek order, make discriminations, or check one's impulses. "If I am a hyena I am a lean and hungry one: I go forth to fatten myself."
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew York Review of Books, Frederick Crews
Tropic of Cancer is a good piece of writing; and it has also a sort of historical importance. It is the epitaph for the whole generation of American writers and artists that migrated to Paris after the war... It has frequently been characteristic of the American writers in Paris that they have treated pretentious subjects with incompetent style and sordid feeling. Mr. Miller has done the opposite: he has treated an ignoble subject with a sure hand at color and rhythm. He is not self-conscious and not amateurish. And he has somehow managed to be low without being really sordid.

added by SnootyBaronet | editThe New Republic, Edmund Wilson
Twenty-eight years have gone by since Tropic of Cancer was first published. Since then its form has become the most fashionable in modern literature. We are being overwhelmed in a pandemic of récits — especially French ones... There is only one trouble with all this stuff. It is soaked in unfathomable solemnity and pompous rhetoric. In all Genêt or Kerouac there is nothing to compare with Miller’s Hindu and the bidet, or the Imaginary Rich Girl. I’m sorry. I just don’t believe Henry when he expands and augments Count Keyserling, or recommends a Dream Book, or worries at breakfast over the astrology column in the morning paper. He’s having us all on — maybe himself included — but behind the deep thoughts from Bughouse Square, there is always, however faint, the steady rumble of low-down mockery.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Nation, Kenneth Rexroth
Henry Miller—probably the funniest American writer since Mark Twain... is the closest an American has come to Rabelais... Tropic of Cancer had a liberating spirit, because it seemed totally without hypocrisy... Miller sees friends in terms of the possible meal or bed he can cadge from them, women in terms of their sexual possibilities. Miller seems to bring us closer to "reality," seems to bring art closer to truth. But when we're reading him we don't think of his sexual hyperbole as objective description; we don't assume, for example, that all the women Miller meets are sexy sluts visibly painting for what he can give them...

The hero is amazing because he takes such joy in the diversity of possible pleasures; one imagines him as a mild little man with all-embracing tastes, a man eager to try whatever he can get, being excited by even the most unlikely ladies... Miller, one of the great characters in American literature—Huck Finn as a starving expatriate—is... a joyful coward who will always sneak away rather than face an unpleasant scene.
added by SnootyBaronet | editNew Yorker, Pauline Kael

» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Henryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
康雄, 大久保翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gerhardt, RenateEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nin, AnaïsPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikoski, PenttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shapiro, KarlIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagenseil, KurtTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
First words
I am living at the Villa Borghese.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God. This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, and defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants of God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty
I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it: we must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and soul.
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Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller's masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for 27 years after its publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American cesorship standards permitted the publication of this first volume of Miller's famed mixture of memoir and fiction, which chronicles with unapologetic gusto the bawdy adventures of a young expatriate writer, his friends, and the characters they meet in Paris in the 1930s.

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Autobiographical novel by Henry Miller, published in France in 1934 and, because of censorship, not published in the United States until 1961. Written in the tradition of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, it is a monologue about Miller's picaresque life as an impoverished expatriate in France in the early 1930s. The book benefited from favorable early critical response and gained popular notoriety later as a result of obscenity trials. Containing little plot on narrative, Tropic of Cancer is made up of anecdotes, philosophizing, and rambling celebrations of life. Despite his poverty, Miller extols his manner of living, unfettered as it is by moral and social conventions. He lives largely off the resources of his friends. In exuberant and sometimes preposterous passages of unusual sexual frankness, he chronicles numerous encounters with women, including his mysterious wife Mona, as he pursues a fascination with female sexuality. Tropic of Cancer was the first of an autobiographical trilogy, followed by Black Spring (1936) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). (Review by The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature by way of Amazon)
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