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Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
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Tropic of Cancer (1934)

by Henry Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,381100837 (3.64)180
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 180 mentions

English (89)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
This is the second book that I ever threw in the trash. While I knew that Miller's writing appealed to boys' locker rooms, it was just too much discussions of orgasms. It deserves no stars from me.
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
I'm not going to say I liked this book. The protagonist is, by today's moral standards, quite vile. I certainly did not like him.

I admit, it took me longer than normal to 'get into' the book; initially I was reading it because I had set myself the task of reading it.

And at times, there were several pages of stream-of-consciousness rants that, to be quite frank, bored me.

But I can not deny that this is a brilliant piece of writing. At its best, in my opinion, when recounting tales of events, I found myself actually caring about what happened to the characters, even though I never liked any of them.

Though not a pleasant story, this is a superb depiction of a life lived in the seedier end of Paris society. ( )
1 vote TheEllieMo | Jan 18, 2020 |
"After everything had quietly sifted through my head a great peace came over me. Here, where the river gently winds through the girdle of hills, lies a soil so saturated with the past that however far back the mind roams one can never detach it from its human background."

I first read this book while in my 20s when I wasn't such a close reader and the romanticism of Henry Miller overshadowed anything he actually wrote. I wanted to be young and free and sexed in Paris. This used to be one of my favorite books to recommend not that I really cared if anyone read it, I was just so cool for recommending it. So I read this book now, in my thirties, to see if there was anything worth keeping beyond the personality of the book.

Certainly the appeal of being hungover in a flea bag motel without any money has worn off the most. Probably because once you've been hungover in a flea bag motel without any money you realize how distinctly uncool any of it actually is. Miller's prose flows on like the Seine and at times he merely seems to be rambling but at others, when he has caught certain elements of an actual narrative, the writing is transcendent.

I'm a little pickier now about what I consider to be good fiction and this book doesn't cut it for me. However, that isn't to say it isn't wonderful on it's own terms. If you've never read anything by Miller this is worth the read. The particular timbre of an American stream-of-conscious: it's doubt, it's passion, and it's vulgarity, is an important voice for anyone to hear. We suffer apart from our European or Asian contemporaries and I think Tropic of Cancer captures that suffering very well.

The lines on this book typically mention just how honest it is. It is an honest book, they say. I don't understand that (sign of the times?) but perhaps they mean this is an emotionally appealing book. From my 10 years ago to today that is what has remained when all else has dropped away. Tropic of Cancer begs its readers to drop all conceit and examine, emotionally, what shapes we are. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
"After everything had quietly sifted through my head a great peace came over me. Here, where the river gently winds through the girdle of hills, lies a soil so saturated with the past that however far back the mind roams one can never detach it from its human background."

I first read this book while in my 20s when I wasn't such a close reader and the romanticism of Henry Miller overshadowed anything he actually wrote. I wanted to be young and free and sexed in Paris. This used to be one of my favorite books to recommend not that I really cared if anyone read it, I was just so cool for recommending it. So I read this book now, in my thirties, to see if there was anything worth keeping beyond the personality of the book.

Certainly the appeal of being hungover in a flea bag motel without any money has worn off the most. Probably because once you've been hungover in a flea bag motel without any money you realize how distinctly uncool any of it actually is. Miller's prose flows on like the Seine and at times he merely seems to be rambling but at others, when he has caught certain elements of an actual narrative, the writing is transcendent.

I'm a little pickier now about what I consider to be good fiction and this book doesn't cut it for me. However, that isn't to say it isn't wonderful on it's own terms. If you've never read anything by Miller this is worth the read. The particular timbre of an American stream-of-conscious: it's doubt, it's passion, and it's vulgarity, is an important voice for anyone to hear. We suffer apart from our European or Asian contemporaries and I think Tropic of Cancer captures that suffering very well.

The lines on this book typically mention just how honest it is. It is an honest book, they say. I don't understand that (sign of the times?) but perhaps they mean this is an emotionally appealing book. From my 10 years ago to today that is what has remained when all else has dropped away. Tropic of Cancer begs its readers to drop all conceit and examine, emotionally, what shapes we are. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
A couple of interesting passages scattered on top of a pile of garbage. Worth reading for historical interest, maybe. The author attempts to produce a work 'free' of traditional limitations, but seems to have no insight into the fact that his 'no rules' approach produces no freedom, just another set of rules. This problem is most obvious in the passages where Miller expresses things like condescension and disgust. If there are 'no rules', then how could one make such judgments? It's an infantile error to make, and a tedious one to read. ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (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 (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Millerprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
First words
I am living at the Villa Borghese.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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