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Tropic of Cancer (1934)

by Henry Miller, Renate Gerhardt, Kurt Wagenseil (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,587127911 (3.63)189
Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller's masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, 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 189 mentions

English (111)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Danish (2)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (126)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
I don't like stream of consciousness books. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
While I am glad that I finally read this classic, it really wasn't my sort of book. Miller seems to be fixated on sex and the decay of death (and by that I mean all the physical grossness of it - all the disgusting details of putrefaction). ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
you know what? just because generation after generation of pedantic adolescents hype the shit out of a book doesn't mean that the book isn't any good...unless that book is pretty much anything by Henry Miller. ( )
  alison-rose | May 22, 2023 |
  archivomorero | May 21, 2023 |
Third time through, caved in and finally listened to my first audiobook. Ian McShane does a tremendous job bringing out the humour and lyricism of Miller that my Beckett-esque mental voice tends to miss. Has this ruined my personal relationship with the book? Maybe.... but a literary ménage à trois doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world.

Second time reading and still remains my favourite work, does writing get any better than this?

‘Things are happening elsewhere. Things are always happening. It seems wherever I go there is drama. People are like lice - they get under your skin and bury themselves there. You scratch and scratch until the blood comes, but you can't get permanently deloused. Everywhere I go people are making a mess of their lives. Everyone has his private tragedy. It's in the blood now - misfortune, ennui, grief, suicide. The atmosphere is saturated with disaster, frustration, futility. Scratch and scratch, until there's no skin left. However, the effect upon me is exhilarating. Instead of being discouraged or depressed, I enjoy it. I am crying for more and more disasters, for bigger calamities, grander failures. I want the whole world to be out of whack, I want every one to scratch himself to death.’ ( )
  theoaustin | May 19, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (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
Gerhardt, Renatemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wagenseil, KurtTranslatormain 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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Wikipedia in English (2)

Now hailed as an American classic, Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller's masterpiece, was banned as obscene in this country for twenty-seven years after its first publication in Paris in 1934. Only a historic court ruling that changed American censorship standards, ushering in a new era of freedom and frankness in modern literature, 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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