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Tropic of Capricorn Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller
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Tropic of Capricorn Quotes (showing 1-30 of 85)
“I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live - if what others are doing is called living - but to express myself.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a chance to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard - and in order to forget.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Things happen or they don't happen, that's all. Nothing is accomplished by sweat and struggle. Nearly everything which we call life is just insomnia, an agony because we've lost the habit of falling asleep. We don't know how to let go. We're like a Jack-in-the-box perched on top of a spring and the more we struggle the harder it is to get back in the box.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“For there is only one great adventure and that is inward toward the self, and for that, time nor space nor even deeds matter.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“The smile was so painfully swift and fleeting that it was like the flash of a knife.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“The city grows like a cancer; I must grow like a sun. The city eats deeper and deeper into the red; it is an insatiable white louse which must die eventually of inanition. I am going to starve the white louse which is eating me up. I am going to die as a city in order to become again a man. Therefore I close my ears, my eyes, my mouth.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation. I wanted to shake the stone and light out of my system. I wanted the dark fecundity of nature, the deep well of the womb, silence, or else the lapping of the black waters of death. I wanted to be that night which the remorseless eye illuminated, a night diapered with stars and trailing comets. To be of night so frighteningly silent, so utterly incomprehensible and eloquent at the same time. Never more to speak or to listen or to think.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“If I am against the condition of the world it is not because I am a moralist, it is because I want to laugh more. I don't say that God is one grand laugh: I say that you've got to laugh hard before you can get anywhere near God. My whole aim in life is to get near to God, that is, to get nearer to myself. That's why it doesn't matter to me what road I take. But music is very important. Music is a tonic for the pineal gland. Music isn't Bach or Beethoven; music is the can opener of the soul. It makes you terribly quiet inside, makes you aware that there's a roof to your being.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Every time you come to the limit of what is demanded of you, you are faced with the same problem-to be yourself!”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I am thinking of one woman and the rest is blotto. I say I am thinking of her, but the truth is I am dying a stellar death. I am lying there like a sick star waiting for the light to go out. Years ago I lay on this same bed and I waited and waited to be born. Nothing happened. Except that my mother, in her Lutheran rage, threw a bucket of water over me. My mother, poor imbecile that she was, thought I was lazy. She didn't know that I had gotten caught in the stellar drift, that I was being pulverized to a black extinction out there in the farthest rim of the universe.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I think someday you're going to be a great writer," he said. "But" he added maliciously, "first you'll have to suffer a bit. I mean really suffer, because you don't know what the word means yet. You only think you've suffered. You've got to fall in love first.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“With this book in my hands, reading aloud to my friends, questioning them, explaining to them, I was made clearly to understand that I had no friends, that I was alone in the world. Because in not understanding the meaning of the words, neither I nor my friends, one thing became very clear and that was that there were ways of not understanding and that the difference between the non-understanding of one individual and the non-understanding of another created a world of terra firma even more solid than differences of understanding.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I had a microscopic eye for the blemish, for the grain of ugliness which to me constituted the sole beauty of the object.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos. From the beginning it was never anything but chaos: it was a fluid which enveloped me, which I breathed in through the gills. In the substrata, where the moon shone steady and opaque, it was smooth and fecundating; above it was a jangle and a discord. In everything I quickly saw the opposite, the contradiction, and between the real and the unreal the irony, the paradox. I was my own worst enemy. There was nothing I wished to do which I could just as well not do. Even as a child, when I lacked for nothing, I wanted to die: I wanted to surrender because I saw no sense in struggling. I felt that nothing would be proved, substantiated, added or subtracted by continuing an existence which I had not asked for. Everybody around me was a failure, or if not a failure, ridiculous. Especially the successful ones. The successful ones bored me to tears. I was sympathetic to a fault, but it was not sympathy that made me so. It was purely negative quality, a weakness which blossomed at the mere sight of human misery. I never helped anyone expecting that it would do me any good; I helped because I was helpless to do otherwise. To want to change the condition of affairs seemed futile to me; nothing would be altered, I was convinced, except by a change of heart, and who could change the hearts of men? Now and then a friend was converted: it was something to make me puke. I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I saw through to the last sign and symbol, but I could not read her face. I could see only the eyes shining through, huge, fleshy-like luminous beasts, as though I were swimming behind them in the electric effluvia of her incandescent vision.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I had no more need of God than He had of me, and if there were one, I often said to myself, I would meet Him calmly and spit in His face.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Every time you come to the limit of what is demanded of you, you are faced with the same problem - to be yourself! And with the first step you make in this direction you realize that there is neither plus nor minus; you throw the skates away and swim. There is no suffering any more because there is nothing which can threaten your security. And there is no desire to be of help to others even, because why rob them of a privilege which must be earned? Life stretches out from moment to moment in stupendous infinitude. Nothing can be more real than what you suppose it to be. Whatever you think the cosmos to be it is and it could not possibly be anything else as long as you are you and I am I. You live in the fruits of your action and your action is the harvest of your thought. Thought and action are one, because swimming you are in it and of it, and it is everything you desire it to be, no more, no less. Every stroke counts for eternity. The heating and cooling system is one system, and Cancer is separated from Capricorn only by an imaginary line. You don't become ecstatic and you are not plunged into violent grief; you don't pray for rain, neither do you dance a jig. You live like a happy rock in the midst of the ocean: you are fixed while everything about you is in turbulent motion. You are fixed in a reality which permits the thought that nothing is fixed, that even the happiest and mightiest rock will one day be utterly dissolved and fluid as the ocean from which it was born.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“The world of men and women are making merry in the cemetery grounds. They are having sexual intercourse, God bless them, and I am alone in the Land of Fuck.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“What is a fanatic? One who believes passionately and acts desperately upon what he believes. I was always believing in something and so getting into trouble. The more my hands were slapped the more firmly I believed. I believed- and the rest of the world did not! If it were only a question of enduring punishment one could go on believing till the end; but the way of the world is more insidious than that. Instead of being punished you are undermined, hollowed out, the ground taken from under your feet. It isn't even treachery, what I have in mind. Treachery is understandable and combatable. No, it is something worse, something less than treachery. It's a negativism that causes you to overreach yourself. you are perpetually spending your energy in the act of balancing yourself. You are seized with a sort of spiritual vertigo, you totter on the brink, your hair stands on end, you can't believe that beneath your feet lies an immeasurable abyss. It comes about through excess of enthusiasm, through a passionate desire to embrace people, to show them your love. The more you reach out toward the world the more the world retreats. Nobody wants real love, real hatred. Nobody wants you to put your hand in his sacred entrails- that's only for the priest in the hour of sacrifice. While you live, while the blood's still warm, you are to pretend that there is no such thing as blood and no such thing as a skeleton beneath the covering of flesh. "Keep off the grass!" That's the motto by which people live.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“One thing is certain, that when you die and are resurrected you belong to the earth and whatever is of the earth is yours inalienably. You become an anomaly of nature, a being without shadow; you will never die again but only pass away like the phenomena about you.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“If you tell a guy in the street you're hungry you scare the shit out of him, he runs like hell. That's something I never understood. I don't understand it yet. The whole thing is so simple - you just say Yes when some one comes up to you. And if you can't say Yes you can take him by the arm and ask some other bird to help you out. Why you have to don a uniform and kill men you don't know, just to get that crust of bread, is a mystery to me. That's what I think about, more than about whose trap it's going down or how much it costs. Why should I give a fuck about what anything costs ? I'm here to live, not to calculate. And that's just what the bastards don't want you to do - to live! They want you to spend your whole life adding up figures. That makes sense to them. That's reasonable. That's intelligent. If I were running the boat things wouldn't be so orderly perhaps, but it would be gayer, by Jesus! You wouldn't have to shit in your pants over trifles. Maybe there wouldn't be macadamized roads and streamlined cars and loudspeakers and gadgets of a million-billion varieties, maybe there wouldn't even be glass in the windows, maybe you'd have to sleep on the ground, maybe there wouldn't be French cooking and Italian cooking and Chinese cooking, maybe people would kill each other when their patience was exhausted and maybe nobody would stop them because there wouldn't be any jails or any cops or judges, and there certainly wouldn't be any cabinet ministers or legislatures because-there wouldn't be any goddamned laws to obey or disobey, and maybe it would take months and years to trek from place to place, but you wouldn't need a visa or a passport or a carte d'identite because you wouldn't be registered anywhere and you wouldn't bear a number and if you wanted to change your name every week you could do it because it wouldn't make any difference since you wouldn't own anything except what you could carry around with you and why would you want to own anything when everything would be free?”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I reached out for something to attach myself to—and I found nothing. But in reaching out, in the effort to grasp, to attach myself, left high and dry as I was, I nevertheless found something I had not looked for—myself.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Perhaps my grandfather was right, perhaps I was spoiled in the bud by the books I read. But it is ages since books have claimed me. For a long time now I have practically ceased to read. But the taint is still there. Now people are books to me. I read them from cover to cover and toss them aside. I devour them, one after the other. And the more I read, the more insatiable I become. There is no limit to it. There could be no end, and there was none, until inside me a bridge began to form which united me again with the current of life from which as a child I had been separated.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“If I longed for destruction it was merely that this eye might be extinguished. I longed for an earthquake, for some cataclysm of nature which would plunge the lighthouse into the sea. I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. (I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a change to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard - and in order to forget. I wanted something of the earth which was not of man's doing, something absolutely divorced from the human of which I was surfeited. I wanted something purely terrestrial and absolutely divested of idea. I wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation. I wanted to shake the stone and the light out of my system. I wanted the dark fecundity of nature, the deep well of the womb, silence, or else the lapping of the black waters of death. I wanted to be that night which the remorseless eye illuminated, a night diapered with stars and trailing comets. To be of night, so frighteningly silent, so utterly incomprehensible and eloquent at the same time. Never more to speak or to listen or to think. To be englobed and encompassed and to encompass and to englobe at the same time. No more pity, no more tenderness. To be human only terrestrially, like a plant or a worm or a brook. To be decomposed, divested of light and stone, variable as the molecule, durable as the atom, heartless as the earth itself.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I had no time to make a world of my own: I had to stay fixed like Atlas, my feet on the elephant's back and the elephant on the tortoise's back. To inquire on what the tortoise stood would be to go mad.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“The ovarian world is the product of a life rhythm. The moment a child is born it becomes part of a world in which there is not only the life rhythm but the death rhythm. The frantic desire to live, to live at any cost, is not a result of the life rhythm in us, but of the death rhythm. There is not only no need to keep alive at any price, but, if life is undesirable, it is absolutely wrong. This keeping oneself alive, out of a blind urge to defeat death, is in itself a means of sowing death. Every one who has not fully accepted life, who is not incrementing life, is helping to fill the world with death. To make the simplest gesture with the hand can convey the utmost sense of life; a word spoken with the whole being can give life. Activity in itself means nothing: it is often a sign of death.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“In the beginning was the Word... Whatever this was, the Word, disease or creation, it was still running rampant; it would run on and on, outstrip time and space, outlast the angels, unseat God, unhook the universe. Any word contained all words - for him who had become detached through love or sorrow or whatever the cause. In every word the current ran back to the beginning which was lost and which would never be found again since there was neither beginning nor end but only that which expressed itself in beginning and end.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“I have never found such a man! I have never found a man as generous as myself, as forgiving, as tolerant, as carefree, as reckless, as clean at heart. I forgive myself for every crime I have committed. I do it in the name of humanity. I know what it means to be human, the weakness and the strength of it. I suffer from this knowledge and I revel in it also. If I had the chance to be God I would reject it. If I had the chance to be a star I would reject it. The most wonderful opportunity which life offers is to be human. It embraces the whole universe. It includes the knowledge of death, which not even God enjoys.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
“Christ will never more come down to earth nor will there be any law-giver, nor will murder cease nor theft, nor rape, and yet... and yet one expects something, something terrifyingly marvellous and absurd, perhaps a cold lobster with mayonnaise served gratis, perhaps an invention, like the electric light, like television, only more devastating, more soul rending, an invention unthinkable that will bring a shattering calm and void, not the calm and void of death but of life such as the monks dreamed, such as is dreamed still in the Himalayas, in Tibet, in Lahore, in the Aleutian Islands, in Polynesia, in Easter Island, the dream of men before the flood, before the word was written, the dream of cave men and anthropophagists, of those with double sex and short tails, of those who are said to be crazy and have no way of defending themselves because they are outnumbered by those who are not crazy.”
Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

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