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Tropic Of Cancer

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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 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. Tropic of Cancer is now considered, as Norman Mailer said, "one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century."

318 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1934

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About the author

Henry Miller

375 books4,465 followers
Henry Miller sought to reestablish the freedom to live without the conventional restraints of civilization. His books are potpourris of sexual description, quasi-philosophical speculation, reflection on literature and society, surrealistic imaginings, and autobiographical incident.

After living in Paris in the 1930s, he returned to the United States and settled in Big Sur, California. Miller's first two works, Tropic of Cancer (Paris, 1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (Paris, 1939), were denied publication in the U.S. until the early 1960s because of alleged obscenity. The Colossus of Maroussi (1941), a travel book of modern Greece, is considered by some critics his best work. His other writings include the Rosy Crucifixion TrilogySexus (1949), Plexus (1953), and Nexus (1960). In 1976 Norman Mailer edited a selection of Miller's writings, Genius and Lust.

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5 stars
18,873 (27%)
4 stars
22,572 (32%)
3 stars
16,816 (24%)
2 stars
6,769 (9%)
1 star
3,666 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,881 reviews
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews233 followers
August 6, 2016
So, I was glancing through some of the reviews here and noticed that someone has totally disparaged this book because its “hero” is immoral. It always bewilders me when people judge a book according to the moral judgment that they pass on its characters. Like when I was looking at the reviews of John Updike’s Run, Rabbit and saw a woman saying that she hated the book because Angstrom left his wife twice in the book. I was like, don’t take it personally, lady; he’s not your husband. A lot of people do it. They ignore the book and get too tangled up in how likeable the characters are. I really don’t get this. Someone should explain it to me. Is Lolita a bad book because it’s about a pedophile? Should writers feel like their characters will be competing in a popularity contest in the minds of the readers? Should we then only read books about angels floating happily in Heaven, doing good things? Aren’t evil and immorality – whatever they mean – facts of life that should be dissected and explained by literature?

I didn’t bother with the morality of the hero. I don’t care if he slept with a whore and then stole her money and ran away. Who cares? Look at all that delicious writing instead, all the ranting and raving of a tormented and brilliant mind, and the brutal honesty of it.

I don’t know why publishers still insist on marketing this book for its “explicit language and breaking of sexual taboos in literature.” That’s just so passé in an age when even pornography makes us yawn. The beauty of this book lies somewhere else.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
35 reviews31 followers
August 22, 2007
This may be the greatest book ever written. This opening passage proves it:

"I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought 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, 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 to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse....
To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordian, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing."
Profile Image for Kate.
66 reviews65 followers
June 20, 2008
I got through the first 150 pages before I decided that life is too short to waste time reading books you hate. Maybe I'm not smart enough or deep enough to appreciate a book like Tropic of Cancer, but for me each page was a tedious struggle. The author of the book's introduction boldy asserts that Henry Miller is "the greatest living author" (obviously, the edition I read was published prior to Miller's death in 1980), but I found Miller's frenetic, meandering style tiresome.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to carelessly fling aside any book that doesn't capture my attention in the first 100 pages. Once I start a book, it's difficult for me to give it up, mostly because it makes me feel like a quitter; but I found myself getting angry as I grudgingly plodded through this one. I kept thinking, "Henry, for chrissakes, give me something, ANYTHING to latch onto here!" That's when I decided it was time to give up. Some semblance of a plot might have helped keep my interest piqued, but I don't think that storytelling was the author's aim. The long and short of it is - these kinds of books are not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,030 followers
February 13, 2017
My fiction addiction
Had lost all its friction
I needed raw meat but this new stuff was veggie
Predictable, safe, and not bold, tough and edgy
I thought Tropic of Cancer
Would be the answer
For years it was banned
Throughout every land
But five c words per page
Suppressed masculine rage
And tours of French pudenda
Was his only agenda
So reading Henry Miller
Just made me feel iller
And iller
And iller
And iller
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,374 reviews3,192 followers
February 5, 2022
What is writer’s internal world? What is writer’s external world?
One is ejected into the world like a dirty little mummy; the roads are slippery with blood and no one knows why it should be so. Each one is traveling his own way and, though the earth be rotting with good things, there is no time to pluck the fruits; the procession scrambles toward the exit sign, and such a panic is there, such a sweat to escape, that the weak and the helpless are trampled into the mud and their cries are unheard.

Henry Miller’s both worlds – inner and outer – are bleak and almost uninhabitable.
The narration seems to be a cacophony of words portraying the chaos of events then slowly out of this chaos the grim music is being born – a surreal symphony of living low.
Tropic of Cancer is poetry – the downbeat poesy of blind alleys.
Still prowling around. Mid afternoon. Guts rattling. Beginning to rain now. Notre-Dame rises tomblike from the water. The gargoyles lean far out over the lace façade. They hang there like an idée fixe in the mind of a monomaniac. An old man with yellow whiskers approaches me. Has some Jaworski nonsense in his hand. Comes up to me with his head thrown back and the rain splashing in his face turns the golden sands to mud. Bookstore with some of Raoul Dufy's drawings in the window. Drawings of charwomen with rosebushes between their legs. A treatise on the philosophy of Joan Miró. The philosophy, mind you!

Paris is a cradle of arts. Paris is an academy of creative thought. And Henry Miller is there like a selfish fetus in the monstrous Gothic womb passing through a necessary gestation.
He who walks his own path, arrives at his own place…
Profile Image for Robin.
474 reviews2,491 followers
February 21, 2019
I feel like I have been reading this for a thousand years.

After reading Anais Nin's The Delta of Venus some months ago, Miller appeared on my radar. It seemed only natural to follow up her collection with something of his, given their well-known relationship. Plus, Tropic of Cancer, Miller's semi-autobiographical memoir from his time in Paris, was a banned book in the U.S. after its publication in 1934. It wasn't until 30 years later that the Supreme Court deemed it "non-obscene". I love the idea of reading books that the government wants to suppress.

But maybe the government had something right after all.

Not because it's obscene. I mean, yeah, it's pretty bad in parts. There's sex, none of it particularly erotic, though. Mainly with whores, most of it stomach-turning, involving some kind of sexually transmitted disease and/or bedbugs. Miller loved to think of himself as "bohemian", mooching off friends, couch-surfing, taking odd jobs, leaving them, bumming meals where he could. And then he'd march over to the American Express office to pick up his cheque (sent by... his wife?). Charles Bukowski would have NO time for this chump, this wannabe. And neither do I.

Thus, I was reluctant, so lethargic, to pick up this book each time. First of all, his paragraphs made me tired. They are so long. Once you read one, you have this uncanny experience of instant amnesia. What did I just read? And then, a new experience for me, of "oh well, who gives a shit... doesn't really matter..." and on to the next paragraph.

Once in a while, I would stumble onto something marvellous. Something so marvellous it made me angry that Miller wasted his brilliant potential. One part in particular, which will always remain in my mind and imagination, was his description of being in the audience at the symphony. It was absolutely perfect (and the reason why this is 2 stars, not 1):

My mind is curiously alert; it's as though my skull had a thousand mirrors inside it. My nerves are taut, vibrant! the notes are like glass balls dancing on a million jets of water. (...) I can feel the light curving under the vault of my ribs and my ribs hang there over a hollow nave trembling with reverberations.

This book follows no plot, no trajectory. It is often sexually graphic. It is also, by turns, blatheringly philosophical. It's infested by the trope of the noble nomad, the artist who must be covered in feces and lice in order to create something worthwhile. Sometimes there is story injected, which is a welcome reprieve, but beware its blatant misogyny. Miller wasn't lying when he stated in the first chapter that his book is "...a prolonged insult." This is dick lit at its worst, the biggest crock (not cock) that suffers from a bad case of ED, leaving this reader bored and unsatisfied.
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews28k followers
December 26, 2020
“One can live without friends, as one can live without love, or even without money…One can live in Paris – I discovered that! – on just grief and anguish…”
- Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Get yourself a gallon of milk. Wait until it has been expired for a month. Next, take that expired milk to Phoenix in July, and place it on an unshaded sidewalk. Leave it there for a week. Now, open up that jug and take a long, deep swallow.

What you’ve just consumed has aged better than Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.

The hero of Tropic of Cancer is a pompous blowhard who manages, through sheer willpower, to display a streak of just about every prejudice that exists. He is a bit of a racist, a homophobe, an anti-Semite, and an agist. Towering above that all, though, is his truly extraordinary misogyny, which he displays by occasionally groping women, having sex with women who are unconscious, and referring to half the human population with a vulgar reference to their genitals (it rhymes with “runt,” if you must know).

The kicker is that much of it is true, this being a semi-autobiographical novel.

In a time in which sexual predators are being unmasked, prosecuted, and convicted, and in which toxic masculinity is being confronted with more vigor than perhaps ever before, it is an odd experience to read a book in which the protagonist not only presents himself as an anti-hero, but the coolest sort of anti-hero imaginable: the American expatriate in Paris.

Here’s the thing, though. This was written in the 1930s, when Miller’s attitudes were not only prevalent, but probably bordered on conventional wisdom. It is offensive, yes, but it is not enough to simply be offended. Instead of trying to judge or justify across the span of nearly ninety years, I’m going to approach this book on its merits.

On its merits, I found Tropic of Cancer to be sort of awful.


The controversy over Tropic of Cancer has, in a way, served as a distraction from its content. Published in France in 1934, the novel was long banned as obscene in America, due to its language and sexual references (both of which, in the fullness of time, feel rather tame today). The back cover of my 1987 paperback edition, which has been sitting on various bookshelves in various houses for years, has nothing to say about the actual substance of the book, and much to say about its role in the censorship laws of the United States. I always knew I wanted to read Tropic of Cancer, if only because of its outré reputation. At the same time, I hesitated, since I had no idea what it was about.

Now I know what it’s about. It’s mostly about nothing.

The thinly fictionalized Miller of Tropic of Cancer is a penniless mooch with wild delusions of grandeur, a writer working on a project to upend the world, which he humbly calls The Last Book. Most of his time is spent dunning the people in his life – I hesitate to call them “characters” because they are really just names – for a few centimes to get a drink, to sleep with a prostitute, or both. Written in the first person, most of this book’s interminable three-hundred plus pages represents a repetition of this theme.

This is an essentially plotless novel that skips through time, occasionally loses itself in long stream-of-conscious passages that might have wowed me in a different life – a life in which I was perpetually eighteen and an English major – and that somehow manages to make Paris seem like one of the ugliest, dreariest places on earth. People walk into and out of the story without leaving the faintest impression. There are a couple sex scenes, but mostly there is talk about sex, and most of this talk seems to consist of men telling each other lies.

I am not a stranger to disturbing content. However, I want that content to be in service to the story. Because of Tropic of Cancer’s lack of a narrative through-line, however, I mostly found the nastiness here to be in service to itself. It represents the imperious preening of a man who has Raskolnikov’s sense of self-worth, Holden Caulfield’s whininess, and Harvey Weinstein’s view of women.


Leaving aside its dispiriting ingredients, I found Tropic of Cancer to be a bit of a slog. The nonlinearity makes it difficult to know where you are in time, and because you have no idea where anything is going, it takes forever to get there.

Miller does provide some benchmarks – such as his job at a newspaper – that prove helpful in orienting yourself. More than that, Miller occasionally takes you through a lucid narrative arc, some of which are effective. Asked to say one nice thing about Tropic of Cancer, I would say that the ending scenes of the novel, in which Miller helps a friend leave the country to escape a poisonous relationship, are pretty good. In presenting his closing thoughts, Miller writes of humankind:

Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space – space even more than time.

If nothing else, Miller certainly proves that thesis: that up close, humans are ugly and malicious.


The interesting thing about the many Tropic of Cancer reviews is that they appear to be in dialogue with each other. The people who love it are quite certain that the prose is genius (“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…”), the form is groundbreaking, and that any detractors are either squeamish pearl-clutching snowflakes, or are philistines who simply don’t get it. On the other hand, the people who hate it seem to find it morally reprehensible, that reprehensibility overwhelming all other facets. Then, there is some middle ground, with people who seemed to not like the book, but maybe don’t want to say it, because Tropic of Cancer’s reputation is so exalted.

In that spirit, I feel I should stake out my position. First, I should say I am not squeamish. I worked as a defense attorney for many years, interviewing people who’d done terrible things, viewing full color, high-resolution crime scene photos of murders, and generally forming an understanding of how bad it can get. To that end, no mere words – especially not the naughty-little-boy cursing of Tropic of Cancer – are going to dictate my reaction.

Second, this is not a novel I didn’t “get.” I get that this is another in a long line of navel-gazing books by an author consumed by the purported tortures of writing. I get that Miller is trying to say something about the human condition, and that with himself as a standard, he finds the human condition to be precarious.

There is also a scene in this all-time classic in which Miller goes to a brothel with a man from India, and this man defecates into a bidet, and there is a big hubbub about this. To repeat: in one of Tropic of Cancer’s rare set pieces, a man poops in a bidet.

I get it.


Not every book is for everyone. I don’t think it’s crazy that some people love Tropic of Cancer, just as I find it reasonable that others would not even bother after the first handful of pages.

Having been vastly underwhelmed, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of Tropic of Cancer’s literary fame came from the fact that it was banned. There is something absolutely compelling about a thing that is forbidden. Undoubtedly, the lack of supply created demand, bolstered by samizdat editions that floated around, in defiance of U.S. law. I’m guessing that Miller ultimately benefited from being suppressed, as though he were speaking a truth the powers-that-be could not allow to be heard.

In any event, I am grateful for the role Tropic of Cancer played in helping destroy the puritanical obscenity laws in America. I don’t recommend it as something to be read, but I am certainly strongly in favor of it being available to read.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,261 followers
August 4, 2008
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally. Sorry; the last paragraph today gets cut off a few sentences early!)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label
Book #20: Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller (1934)

The story in a nutshell:
Like many of the other novels to first become commercial hits under the moniker of "Modernism" (see, for example, past CCLaP-100 title Mrs Dalloway from the same period), Henry Miller's infamously raunchy Tropic of Cancer from 1934 doesn't bother to concern itself much with traditional plot or a traditional three-act structure, but is rather an attempt to capture the details of a particular moment in history in as intense a way as possible, using not only humorous anecdotal tales but also the brand-new literary technique known as "stream of consciousness." And man, what a period of history to capture -- based on Miller's own experiences from half a decade before, the novel is set in Paris in the years after World War One, a time when most young people had turned permanently cynical and nihilistic, horrified as they rightly were over what exact carnage humans had proven themselves capable of, now that humans had added mechanized industry (trains, machine guns, biological weapons) to the business of war. Add to this that the US itself had still not established its own global-class artistic community (which wouldn't happen until New York's Greenwich Village after World War Two), and you're left with the situation Miller describes with such black humor here -- of entire Parisian neighborhoods become boisterous, drunken melting pots, packed to the gills with bohemians from around the world who no longer give a crap about anything, who embrace such things as casual sex and exotic drugs in a way no other generation had embraced them before, as they party their way to the apocalypse they were all sure was right around the corner. Multiply by 300 pages, and you basically have Miller's book.

The argument for it being a classic:
There are two basic arguments over why Tropic of Cancer should be considered a classic, starting with the book itself: It is, after all, a shining example of early Modernism, the exact kind of radical departure from the flowery Victorian style that so many young artists were embracing back then, here done in a mature and self-assured way that builds on the literary experiments of the previous twenty years, but that finally makes it palatable for the first time to the general reading audience (and by "palatable" I mean "not incomprehensible," thank you very MUCH James Freaking Joyce). As such, its fans say, the novel should be rightly celebrated for the literary masterpiece it is; one of those rare books that gets stream-of-consciousness exactly right, one of those rare books that perfectly shows the combination of arrogance and self-hatred that mixes in the warm dysfunctional heart of any true bohemian. Ah, but see, in this case there's an entirely different second reason why this should be considered a classic; because for those who don't know, thirty years after its initial publication in Europe, this was one of the landmark artistic projects of the 1960s to help finally lift the yoke of government censorship in America, one of the first projects used by the courts to help define was exactly is and isn't "obscene," adding immense fuel to the countercultural fire that was going on in this country at the same time. If it wasn't for Tropic of Cancer, fans say, we would still have the all-or-nothing paradigm of the Hays Code in the arts, instead of the "put out what you want and we'll give it a rating" paradigm of our present day; no matter what you think of the book itself, they argue, this alone is a reason to consider it a classic.

The argument against:
Like many of the titles in the CCLaP 100 series (see The Catcher in the Rye, for example), the main argument against Tropic of Cancer seems to be the "What Hath God Wrought" one; that is, the book itself may not be that bad, but it legitimized something that should've never been legitimized, in this case whiny confessional stream-of-consciousness rants from broke artists in their twenties living in big cities, complaining for 300 pages about how unfair life is and how all the prostitutes keep falling in love with them. Yep, it was Tropic of Cancer that started all that, critics claim; and anytime you come across yet another sad little blog about how the heart of the city beats in the weary soul of some overeducated, entitled slacker, that's one more time we should visit the grave of Miller and pee all over it, in retribution for him creating a situation where such blogs are encouraged in the first place. Again, it's not so much that people complain about the book being awful on its own (although some will definitely argue that stream-of-consciousness has always been a house of cards, difficult to make work well within a literary project); it's more that the book simply isn't great, and should've never gotten the accolades and attention it did, with Miller being damn lucky that he had as exciting a sex life as he did at the exact moment in history that he did, along with the shamelessness to write it all down.

My verdict:
So as will very rarely be the case here at the CCLaP 100, let me admit that this is one of the few books of the series I've actually read before; in fact, much more than that, it was one of the books I practically worshipped in my early twenties as a snotty, overeducated, oversexed artist myself, a book that had a bigger impact on both my artistic career and just how I lived my life in general back then than probably any other single project you could mention. So needless to say I was a bit biased going into this week's essay; I not only consider Tropic of Cancer a classic, but easily among the top-10 of all the books in this series, one of those books that any restless young person of any generation should immediately gravitate towards starting around their 18th or 19th birthday. And that's because Miller is so good here, so damn good, at perfectly capturing that restlessness that comes with any generation of young, dissatisfied creatives -- that sense that they want to do something important, that they should be doing something important, just that none of them know how to do that important thing, so instead let that passion seep out through their sex lives, their clothing choices, the bands they listen to, etc. Tropic of Cancer is all about yearning, all about grasping life to the fullest you possibly can, not for the sake of simply doing so but rather because this is the only way you'll ever find what you're truly seeking. Or as MIller himself puts it: "I can't get it out of my mind what a discrepancy there is between ideas and living."

But that all said, let me just plainly warn you -- whoo man, is this a filthy book, with it unbelievably enough still just as able to shock and offend as when it first came out. And again, I see this as an asset and strength of Miller as an author; because ultimately it's not really the language itself that has gotten people so upset about this book over the decades (you'll hear worse in most Hollywood hard-R sex comedies), but rather that Miller embraces a prurient attitude throughout, one that plainly addresses the cold realities about sex which are not usually discussed in polite company. Just take, for example, the chapter where he compares for the reader the various young artsy prostitutes who live in his neighborhood; of how the best ones are the ones who have come to grips with the fact that they're whores and not wives or girlfriends, and therefore lustily embrace the exact disgusting acts that wives and girlfriends won't, the main reason men visit prostitutes in the first place. Yeah, not for delicate sensibilities, this one is; despite it being almost 75 years old now, you should still exercise caution before jumping into it feet-first.

And then finally, re-reading it this week for the first time since college two decades ago, I've realized something else about this book; that it's not just the fun little stories of crazy sex and urban living that Miller gets right, but also the more somber reflections of perpetual poverty, of the almost existential dread that can develop when waking up in the morning and not knowing how you're going to eat that day. This is the flip-side of the crazy bohemian life, something plainly there in Tropic of Cancer but that most people don't see when first reading it, or when reading it at a young age; that to live a life rejecting middle-class conformity and embracing chaos is not just endless evenings of absinthe and oral sex, that there's a very real price to pay for rejecting all these things as well, the price of health and kids and normal relationships and any kind of slow building one could potentially do in their chosen career. Let's not ever forget that the things Miller talks about in Tropic of Cancer happened half a decade before his literary career ever really took off, years where basically none of them got anything accomplished at all except to definitively list all the kinds of books they didn't want to write; let's also never forget that Miller's life got dramatically more boring after his literary career took off, busy as he suddenly was with...you know, writing all those books. The artistic life can be...
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,149 followers
January 13, 2022
„E mai bine să faci greșeli decît să nu faci nimic: It’s better to make mistakes than not do anything” (p.274).

Poți citi romanul lui Miller de la orice pagină înainte (numai de la ultima nu se poate), eu am început cu pagina 96, am mers vijelios pînă la 105, am sărit înapoi la pagina 33, am urcat pînă la 48 și am sărit din nou la pagina 176, unde e o petrecere în toi cu muzici, dansuri, șampanie, Pernod. Și tot așa. Cînd am acoperit toate paginile, mi-am făcut o impresie...

Există cărți, așadar, care pot fi străbătute și în acest chip. Asta înseamnă că nu au cele trei momente canonice: începutul, cuprinsul și încheierea, ci sînt construite, asemenea romanului lui Italo Calvino, numai din începuturi, fără punct culminant și fără prăbușiri spectaculoase. Personajele lui Miller au o viață egală, monotonă, repetitivă, toate așteaptă ceva (o epifanie, succesul, o căsătorie cu o prințesă putred de bogată, proaspăt venită din Rusia sau Polonia), dar pînă la urmă nu se întîmplă nimic semnificativ (nimeni nu moare înjunghiat), existența e o eternă revenire a identicului, ca la Nietzsche. Ca o boemă...

Sigur, ceva tot se petrece în carte. Protagonistul, de pildă, scrie cînd are chef și inspirație, se plimbă pe străzile din Paris, flămînzește, visează, își aduce aminte (pp.37-46). Cînd au bani, destul de rar, personajele se pun pe băut și pe mîncat (fiindcă foamea le urmărește necruțătoare), merg prin baruri, cafenele, taverne, prin stabilimente (unde discută cu patroana doar chestiuni duhovnicești), sau ajung în pensiuni ieftine pentru o partidă de sex sordid cu o prostituată - Germaine, Claude, Ginette etc. - sau cu o doamnă din înalta aristocrație americană, al cărei soț e paralizat și nu-i mai folosește la nimic. Principiul acestei lumi de indivizi mediocri, de exilați la marginea societății, de excluși, de paraziți pare a fi următorul: „Parisul este ca o curvă” (p.188).

Limbajul cărții nu mai este perceput de mult ca obscen (în vremea tipăririi era). Din perspectiva noastră, Henry Miller e un pudic. Astăzi nimeni nu mai bagă în seamă îndrăznelile scriitorilor, treaba lor, ceea ce contează, în fond și la urma urmei, e valoarea și numai valoarea cărții.

Ca să închei, romanul lui Miller e neîndoielnic valoros, chiar dacă nu e pe gustul meu.

P. S. Am notat trei citate care m-au pus pe gînduri. Pe primul nu l-am înțeles:

„El îi cade în poală și stă acolo tremurînd ca o durere de dinți: He falls on her lap and lies there quivering like a toothache” (p.36).

„Fanny rîde și rîde ca un vierme gras: Fanny is laughing, laughing like a fat worm” (p.37).

„Sena curge atît de lin încît abia dacă-i simți prezența. E întotdeauna acolo, liniștită și discretă, ca o mare arteră curgînd prin trupul omului: So quietly flows the Seine that one hardly notices its presence. It is always there, quiet and unobtrusive, like a great artery running through the human body” (p.285).
Profile Image for Luís.
1,792 reviews430 followers
August 16, 2022
I searched in vain for the meaning of the title. The tropic of cancer, geographically, means something. For this text, I do not see. Seeking the explanation in the text is another ordeal. The language is raw, anatomical, whore. Of course, it's on topic, but I'm not too fond of vulgar language.
Profile Image for Katie.
258 reviews327 followers
April 11, 2020
Considering I often found this virtually unreadable I'm amazed I got to the end, reading every word. First published in 1934 when undoubtedly it would have been shocking with its relentless lexicon of crude language including every racial slur out there and its insistence on referring to just about every woman as a c**t. It's a book in which men relentlessly revel in degrading women. Miller deploys an Emerson quote in his foreword, the gist of which is that new novels ought to take the form of autobiography and record experience truthfully. But if this is an unfiltered expose of the male psyche then the male psyche is one ugly place. I actually didn't buy the honesty ticket at all. A lot of the time it felt like Miller was posturing. He failed to get his early novels published and his bitterness and anger seems at virtually all times his source material. In fact I found it's only when he isn't feeding his bitterness and cynicism that his writing excels - there were some beautiful descriptions of Paris and I especially loved his appraisal of Matisse. The rest of the time it often felt like the work of a brilliant mind moored to the emotions of an adolescent boy.

I recently read one of Anais Nin's journals. She was a good friend of Miller's and I found lots of similarities between the two of them - first and foremost, the posturing, the desperation to be taken seriously as artists, as if, underneath, they were riddled with insecurities. Like Miller, Nin could be brilliant when she came out from behind her pose but ultimately I can't help thinking they were both essentially poseurs. But what do I know? This made it into the Guardian's top 100 novels. I can only imagine the majority of voters were men.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,282 reviews2,151 followers
August 10, 2022

Don't really have the enthusiasm to review this in depth, so will be brief. This was my second buddy-read, reading a chapter per week, the fact Paris was the setting got the thumbs up from me before even turning a page, and I have to admit, I was at first dazzled by Miller's writing, the whole bohemian lifestyle scene was quite extraordinary, if a little exaggerated. But over time, I started to drastically lose interest, everything just became a little too childish for my liking, in the way he continually tried to be controversial just for the sake of it. He was like a rabid dog that needed the snip. I don't mind books being raunchy and erotic, but for characters I didn't really give a monkey's ass about all that nauseating sex to me just felt empty. It's the sort of novel that would feel at home in a filthy toilet cubicle with lots of dirty words scribbled on the sides, rather than a nice Mahogany bookshelf. I'm now off to try and scrub away Miller and his obnoxious cronies with a nice hot shower.
Good riddance, Mr. Miller.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
June 12, 2020
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller, It was first published in 1934 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France.

Miller gave the following explanation of why the book's title was Tropic of Cancer: "It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch."

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و پنجم ماه می سال 2016 میلادی

عنوان: مدار راس السرطان؛ هنری میلر؛ مترجم: سهیل سمی؛ تهران، ققنوس، 1394، در 391ص؛ شابک: 9789643117832؛ چاپ دوم 1395؛ شابک 9789643117831؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م

��نری میلر، از نویسندگان نام آشنای سده ی بیستم میلادی است؛ کتاب نخستین بار در سال 1934میلادی در «پاریس» منتشر شد، و نخستین کتابی بود که «میلر»، پس از سفرشان به اروپا نوشتند؛ کتابیکه نخبگان و نویسندگان بسیاری آنرا ستوده اند؛ «هنری میلر» در این کتاب، زندگی خویش را دستمایه قرار می‌دهند، و داستان می‌نویسند؛ «میلر» در آمریکا، و در بلندای ناداری، دست به: گورکنی، کارگری، و خیابانگردی نیز میزنند و ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/03/1399هجری خورشیدی ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jana.
1,080 reviews424 followers
September 21, 2015
The only reason this book is a classic is because men were editors and this book gave them boners. And then male readers had boners and women were shocked with Miller's vocabulary. So, it wasn’t that difficult to become a classic. Especially in those days, when a word cunt was such a taboo. But, again who am I joking, I have a few Irish/English male friends who blush when somebody says cunt around them. And they love Miller, so I think that's the individual matter of upbringing and bon ton, because in my mother language we don’t have ''that'' much offensive word. Or we do, but we curse a lot so we don’t hear it anymore.
Profile Image for E..
153 reviews11 followers
April 30, 2007
When I read this for the first time I thought the world was opening up and eating people.

I wanted to get drunk and go on a hooker spree, to move to Paris and generally debauch for the rest of my 20's....

Then I realized I kind of wanted to do all this anyways but with Miller's aid I could and even better I could disguise the whole thing as "literary."

I struggled through Capricorn, through The Books in My Life, through a number of Miller's personal letters and musings. I even made a pilgrimage to Big Sur.

Then I picked up Richard Brautigan or "Cannary Row" or something and I realized I could skip Paris. I could skip Europe entirely. I could just drink wine on a bench in my back yard, throw on an old Bill Broonzy CD and stare at the sun. I could even meet a nice girl and keep her around for a while. No need for crabs or lice or bed bugs at all. No sir, just soft northern california sunlight and grassy knolls.

That was it. The dirty big city Miller hangovers were gone.....

Still, for a few months there, Miller was really really doing it for me. At the time it was true life changing stuff.

5 stars.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
January 22, 2020






an astute, thoughtful, sensitive examination of the common man with candid observations of art, society, community, and psychology





Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,279 followers
August 16, 2016
"Art consists in going the full length. If you start with the drums you have to end with dynamite."

But if you begin with masturbation, you don't necessarily end with sex.

There are books you have to read at a certain age. There are others that are ageless, and those books are better. This should be read when you're young and stupid. Are you young and stupid now? Fantastic; read this and hate me. Are you older? Then read something else.

Maybe something for old people, like Henry James.

I kinda hate to admit it, but I abandoned ship on this book. I almost never do that, but after 100 or so pages, I believed I had the idea here. (The idea is cunts.)

"I am writing exactly what I want to write and the way I want to do it. Perhaps it's twaddle."
- Henry Miller

"Cunt" like a thousand times
- what Henry Miller wants to write
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
850 reviews2,086 followers
April 13, 2013
GoodReads Memorial Plot Summary (Pages 1 - 30) (Warning: Contains Spoilers) (Sponsor: Grove Press)

We are living //.

We walk down streets where lived.

The cancer of / is eating us away.

The atmosphere is saturated with .

discovers his room is plagued by .

He asks me to his armpits.

This is a prolonged .

You, are my .

I am .

I know how to your with my .

The Pornographic Imagination

Henry Miller wrote "Tropic of Cancer" between 1930 and 1934. It was published in France in 1934, though it wasn't published in the United States until 27 years later in 1961.

The importation of the French edition was immediately banned. Only when it was published locally did the Supreme Court determine (in 1964, before the 60’s had truly begun to swing) that the work was not obscene.

The Right Sexual Proportions

The definition of obscenity requires a work to have an undue emphasis on or exploitation of sex.

The word "undue" implies that there is an appropriate level of emphasis or exploitation.

"Tropic of Cancer" is littered with words that, in order not to offend, I will paraphrase as "cocque", "qunt" and "fucque".

Let’s assume that life is 80% tedium (e.g., work) and 20% sex.

Should there be a criminal law that says that 20% sex is OK, but 80% will send you to jail?

Is it wrong that "Tropic of Cancer" might be much closer to the life of the imagination?

I think any subject matter should be fair game in fiction written by adults for adults.

However, regardless, I think "Tropic of Cancer" deserves its place as one of the master works of the twentieth century.

The Truth Told Truly

"Tropic of Cancer" recounts the narrator’s first two years in Paris after leaving New York in 1930.

Nothing is to be gained by denying that the novel is autobiographical.

It contains the following epigraph from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"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 and how to record truth truly."

It’s implicit that Henry Miller’s quest was to tell the truth about his own life "truly".

There is no attempt to self-censor or to beautify. Everything is revealed.

A Fucquing Catalogue

The male characters in "Tropic of Cancer" are largely American expatriates, would be writers or artists, living in Paris, not necessarily gainfully employed, close to destitute, hungry for food and life experience, but with plenty of time on their hands.

Understandably, they spend a lot of their time whoring and fucquing.

It’s arguable that the amount of fucquing in the novel reflects what males would hope to do in similar circumstances. (In my younger days, we called it “college life”.)

From a feminist point of view, the female characters are not presented in the same manner.

None of them is portrayed as financially or emotionally independent. Most of them are the whores who are pursued by the males. Some transform from sex objects to love objects, but only in the short-term. The closest we get is Macha, an ostensible Russian Princess, who avoids sex by claiming to have the clap.

To be fair to Miller, he isn’t the only one doing the fucquing.

The chapters are essentially vignettes of the males, complete with the females who surround them.

While research has identified Miller’s real life inspiration, there is still a possibility that Miller explores some of the options available to him, through these characters.

Miller’s character still expects his wife Mona (June) to join him from New York.

While he indulges in his fair share of whoring, he doesn’t form any close attachments, apart from those to the whore Germaine (who treats him “nobly”) and Tania, who is married to Sylvester (based on the real life characters Bertha Schrank and Joseph Schrank).


Despite her marital status, Tania is closest to replacing Mona in Miller’s heart and is the true inspiration for the account in the novel:

"It is to you, Tania, that I am singing. I wish that I could sing better, more melodiously, but then perhaps you would never have consented to listen to me. You have heard the others sing and they have left you cold. They sang too beautifully, or not beautifully enough."

Tania’s appeal seems to be that she accepts him as he is. In return, Miller must accept her for what she is, married, but available.

Miller’s financial circumstances hardly diminish his sexual braggadocio (for he is an artist):

"O Tania, where now is that warm qunt of yours, those fat, heavy garters, those soft, bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your qunt, Tania, big with seed. I will send you home to your Sylvester with an ache in your belly and your womb turned inside out. Your Sylvester! Yes, he knows how to build a fire, but I know how to inflame a qunt. I shoot hot bolts into you, Tania, I make your ovaries incandescent...I am fucquing you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucqued."

Henry knows or asserts that he is better for Tania than her husband, because of his sexual prowess and his superior writing skills. Well, it’s his story after all and he’s sticking to it.

Miller asks us to judge him by his performance, and his novel, his story-telling, is just as much a part of his performance as his fucquing ability.

This is the most sexually explicit and declamatory that Miller gets in relation to his own affairs. If you can handle this passage, you will have no problem with the rest of the novel.

This Dry, Fucqued Out, Lucked Out World in Which We’re Living

Miller was writing at a time when the First World War had just occurred and the Second World War was fast approaching.

Miller was not a particularly political person, in the sense of party political or ideological commitment to Left or Right. In 1936, he would tell George Orwell that to go to Spain at the time of the Spanish Civil War, would be "the act of an idiot".

However, Miller believed that there were problems affecting the roots of civilization.

The West was in decline. It was gazing into an abyss. In Miller’s words, it was "fucqued out".

Initially, he realises this while whoring:

"When I look down into this fucqued-out qunt of a whore, I feel the whole world beneath me, a world tottering and crumbling, a world used up and polished like a leper’s skull...

"The world is pooped out: there isn't a dry fart left. Who that has a desperate, hungry eye can have the slightest regard for these existent governments, laws, codes, principles, ideals, ideas, totems, and taboos?

"If anyone knew what it meant to read the riddle of that thing which today is called a "crack" or a "hole," if anyone had the least feeling of mystery about the phenomena which are labeled "obscene," this world would crack asunder.

"It is the obscene horror, the dry, fucked-out aspect of things which makes this crazy civilization look like a crater."

The Topic of Cancer

Miller describes the eschatological in terms of the scatological and then in terms of cancer:

"No matter where you go, no matter what you touch, there is cancer and syphilis. It is written in the sky; it flames and dances, like an evil portent. It has eaten into our souls and we are nothing but a dead thing like the moon.

"The world around me is dissolving, leaving here and there spots of time. The world is a cancer eating itself away…

"[It] grows inside you like a cancer, and grows and grows until you are eaten away by it."

Miller even explained the name of the novel in these terms:

"It was because to me cancer symbolizes the disease of civilization, the endpoint of the wrong path, the necessity to change course radically, to start completely over from scratch."

The Estrangement of the Machine

At the heart of Miller’s diagnosis are industrialization and the machine.

At a personal level, his machine was his typewriter, with which he had a harmonious relationship:

"I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows. Between me and the machine there is no estrangement. I am the machine…"

In contrast, he refers to a "world which is peculiar to the big cities, the world of men and women whose last drop of juice has been squeezed out by the machine – the martyrs of modern progress…a mass of bones and collar buttons…"

Industrialisation relies on the division of labour and conformity.

Citing Walt Whitman, he asserts:

"The future belongs to the machine, to the robots."

We have been deprived of our humanity by mechanization.

Paradoxically, Miller associates the word "human" with this new de-humanised human being:

"Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. Today I am proud to say that I am inhuman, that I belong not to men and governments, that I have nothing to do with creeds and principles. I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity."

"I Am Inhuman!"

Something new is required, what Miller calls "inhuman".

Miller doesn’t recognise any obligation to define himself or his vision in traditional liberal, humanist terms.

Again, he embraces imagery that recalls "Hamlet" and William Blake:

"I belong to the earth! ... I am inhuman!

"I say it with a mad, hallucinated grin, and I will keep on saying it though it rain crocodiles. Behind my words are all those grinning, leering, skulking skulls, some dead and grinning a long time, some grinning as if they had lockjaw, some grinning with the grimace of a grin, the foretaste and aftermath of what is always going on.

"Clearer than all I see my own grinning skull, see the skeleton dancing in the wind, serpents issuing from the rotted tongue and the bloated pages of ecstasy slimed with excrement.

"And I join my slime, my excrement, my madness; my ecstasy to the great circuit which flows through the subterranean vaults of the flesh.

"All this unbidden, unwanted, drunken vomit will flow on endlessly through the minds of those to come in the inexhaustible vessel that contains the history of the race."

Miller is content to join (Blakean) ecstasy with shit and slime and vomit and madness.

Creative Spirits and Mothers of the Race

Miller believes that civilization has become a "crater", a "great yawning gulf of nothingness":

"The dry, fucqued-out crater is obscene. More obscene than anything is inertia. More blasphemous than the bloodiest oath is paralysis."

Nothingness must be confronted by something vital, dynamic and exuberant.

This is the role of sex and of creativity, but it is also the role of womanhood in Miller’s vision.

The problem of, and the response to, nothingness is carried between the legs of "the creative spirits and mothers of the race," the latter being the "tenderest parts" of womanhood.

"The Inhuman Ones"

The "inhuman ones" are "artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song."

It is the role of artists to transcend life and lifelessness by:

"…ransacking the universe, turning everything upside down, their feet always moving in blood and tears, their hands always empty, always clutching and grasping for the beyond, for the god out of reach: slaying everything within reach in order to quiet the monster that gnaws at their vitals..."

"The Womb of Time"

The other response to nothingness is womanhood.

Miller has a complicated relationship with womanhood, which needs to be approached with some skepticism, because that was the response of his contemporaries.

Womanhood for Miller represents the womb, the origin of life and a comfort zone and a source of sustenance during gestation (as in George Orwell’s essay, the experience of being "inside the whale").

Womanhood represents a contrast to the order of industrialization and mechanization. It represents chaos:

"When into the womb of time everything is again withdrawn, chaos will be restored and chaos is the score upon which reality is written.

"You, Tania, are my chaos. It is why I sing.

"It is not even I, it is the world dying, shedding the skin of time. I am still alive, kicking in your womb, a reality to write upon."

Miller’s Boner Fides

Obviously, the womb or uterus is a discrete part of a female’s genitalia from which males derive pleasure.

Miller seeks to exalt or deify a woman’s vagina or qunt, by virtue of its association with the metaphorical significance of the womb.

This is the foundation upon which Miller builds an entire sexual and worldly philosophy.

The question is: is this philosophy sincere or authentic, or is he simply dressing up his sexual appetite into something that is ostensibly more profound?

Lust for Life

For Miller, sex is the measure of the man, right down, in his case at least (or at most), to his length in inches.

However, his sexual exuberance is symbolic, in turn, of his lust or zest for life.

This zest necessarily takes him, a male, into the arms and womb of womanhood.

What Miller seeks from the relationship between male and female is joy, "the ecstasy of myriad blazing suns":

"Today I awoke from a sound sleep with curses of joy on my lips…Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy."

Feel Flows

Miller incorporates this vitality into a theory about the flow of life from birth to death, from womb to tomb:

"I love everything that flows…rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences. I love the amniotic fluid when it spills out of the bag...

"I love the urine that pours out scalding and the clap that runs endlessly; I love the words of hysterics and the sentences that flow on like dysentery and mirror all the sick images of the soul; I love the great rivers like the Amazon and the Orinoco…

"I love everything that flows, even the menstrual flow that carries away the seed unfecund."

Again, Miller’s vision incorporates both positive and negative, semen and menstrual blood, fecund and unfecund.

In language that adverts to Proust, Miller continues:

"I love everything that flows, everything that has time in it and becoming, that brings us back to the beginning where there is never end: the violence of the prophets, the obscenity that is ecstasy, the wisdom of the fanatic, the priest with his rubber litany, the foul words of the whore, the spittle that floats away in the gutter, the milk of the breast and the bitter honey that pours from the womb, all that is fluid, melting, dissolute and dissolvent, all the pus and dirt that in flowing is purified, that loses its sense of origin, that makes the great circuit toward death and dissolution.

"The great incestuous wish is to flow on, one with time, to merge the great image of the beyond with the here and now."

The positive and the negative are the yin and the yang, two sides of the same coin, parts of a cyclical continuum from birth to death to rebirth in some lesser or higher form.

Miller felt unable to write literature like Proust, as if it had ceased to be relevant to the time, as if Proust was a force that needed an equal and opposite reaction:

"I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive...

"I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me…

"This is not a book. This is libel, slander, 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 to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty…what you will."

The Body Electric

Perhaps the greatest literary influence on Miller was Walt Whitman.

In many ways, Miller is a personification of Whitman’s worldview, which cannot be found in Europe:

"Europe is saturated with art and her soil is full of dead bones and her museums are bursting with plundered treasures, but what Europe has never had is a free, healthy spirit, what you might call a MAN… Goethe is an end of something, Whitman is a beginning."

What appeals to Miller about Whitman was his emphasis on the body, sex and vitality:

"Ideas have to be wedded to action; if there is no sex, no vitality in them, there is no action. Ideas cannot exist alone in the vacuum of the mind. Ideas are related to living..."

Equally, Miller’s life and work must be authentic and true:

"I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing…

"To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing. It is to you, Tania, that I am singing."

Anais Nin

Anais Nin said that "Tropic of Cancer" was "a wild extravagance, a mad gaiety, a verve, a gusto, at times almost a delirium. A continual oscillation between extremes…it is blood and flesh which are given us.

"Drink, food, laughter, desire, passion, curiosity, the simple realities which nourish the roots of our highest and vaguest creations."

It is to her enormous credit that, not only did she provide this preface for Miller’s work, but that she borrowed a substantial amount of money to fund its publishing costs.

For much of the time that Miller was writing the novel, she also had a passionate sexual relationship with him. There is even some suspicion that aspects of their relationship are reflected in the character of Tania, even though there is evidence of the primary inspiration for that character.

Regardless of whether she features in the novel, we must be grateful to Nin that "Tropic of Cancer", a work of unrivalled sexual exuberance and exaltation, survives today in a world that is often unimaginative, uninspired, mundane and tedious.
Profile Image for Fabian.
933 reviews1,526 followers
January 18, 2019
I'm usually quite a fan of zeitgeist crystallization in literature. Here is a true account/fiction which places a smudgy magnifying glass to the underbelly of a famed city. Paris has NEVER been described THIS ugly!

The protagonist is Mr. Miller, and he lives in absolute poverty, which enhances his artist's eye. He transcends the tangibility and heaviness of matter...

Anyway, I know this was controversial and even banned for decades because of the sexual depictions and language. This is from the 30's! Miller is a vagabond, like I said, whose adventures pretty much resemble those of Marcello Mastrioanni from the F. Fellini films-- that is, much sex, confusion, some self awareness & a lack of self control. Does this type of behavior mark every age? every generation?

There is much to think about however. Miller is more poet than cohesive storyteller, sure. The ambiance is masterfully established. Though somewhat different (this one is about writers in Paris, the other about journalists in San Juan, Puerto Rico), I prefer and can say more about "The Rum Diary" by Hunter S. Thompson than this one.

Poor, talented (or, worse, talentless) people of the paper and pen!
Profile Image for Jenn(ifer).
159 reviews926 followers
July 21, 2010
The only thing that saved this book from a 1 star rating is the occasional stellar paragraph such as this:

"For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood. He will debauch himself with ideas, he will reduce himself to a shadow if for only one second of his life he can close his eyes to the hideousness of reality. Everything is endured - disgrace, humiliation, poverty, war, crime, ennui - in the belief that overnight something will occur, a miracle, which will render life tolerable. And all the while a meter is running inside and there is no hand that can reach in there and shut it off."

It's paragraphs like that one, interspersed between pages and pages of verbal masturbation, that made it possible for me to even finish this book. What remains are self-indulgent, vulgar to excess, misongynistic ramblings.

There is no plot. There is no continuity of characters. There is nothing that ties this work together from start to finish, save the theme of hunger, whether it be for sex or food. This was one of those books on my list of "I really should read this book," and I'm glad I read it, but I won't recommend it to you. Or you. Or you.
Profile Image for Parthiban Sekar.
95 reviews159 followers
March 11, 2021
“I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing.”

This is definitely not one of those books which you take on your holidays to a sunny-side parks, get cozy, and read, as it contains extreme contents, acts, thoughts, and ideas which would leave you dumbfounded and deranged. There was no any usual forms of addressing "Women": it lacks "Ladies" and misses "Miss" (You get the idea, don't you?); There are also countless women who take a colloquial name by their anatomy. No Wonder this book was once banned for its obscenity, but later declared as otherwise.

“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 to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty... what you will.”

Henry himself takes us through the dark slippery streets crowded by Fifteen-Franc whores (pardon my French!), full of misfortune, ennui, grief, and suicide, of the bohemian French Capital city. It is easier, too easy to despise this heartless book as a mere diatribe. But you never know what you encounter in the dark corners of the midnight streets.

Amidst the loud chaos and the silent syphilis, you will hear him loud and clear in his lowly tone his reflections on human conditioning which at times, might sound racial (But I doubt). There are no miracles or no microscopic vestige of relief but endless torment and misery of homeless and ever-hungry Henry, walking the plagued streets Franc-less in the Cancer of his time.

Not for the weak ones!
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,067 reviews222 followers
January 22, 2016
“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”

One of many quotes in this book that touched my soul.

I have long been attracted to books about American authors that moved to Paris. Their lives seemed so interesting and different from anything in the US. So that was my original draw to this book. Then there are all the things you hear - it's smut (it's not), it's pornographic (it's not) etc. Yes it talks a LOT about sex and in a language we aren't really used to reading in literature but there is so much else to this book than sex. As a woman, I almost feel like I "shouldn't" have liked this book. It is misogynistic, it uses the C-word (a lot), it's dirty and gross in places but it is also beautiful and brilliant and the writing moved me in ways books rarely do. So I don't care if I'm not supposed to like it because I LOVED it and am so very glad that I read it.
Profile Image for Tara.
347 reviews19 followers
November 16, 2017
“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 the soul.”

Tropic of Cancer was a visceral, pulsating heap of 1930’s Paris, served up by an American expat writer/drifter/ne’er-do-well. Interestingly, this thing was banned in the U.S. for over 25 years due to its so-called “obscene content.” I personally didn’t find the obscenity all that obscene. It was necessary to what Miller was doing artistically, and it never felt gratuitous. I mean, sexuality is kind of a big part of life; why deprive ourselves of its more humorous aspects by pretending that it isn’t often impolite, raunchy, and even ridiculous?

Also, on a somewhat related note, where else do we find life crawling, swarming, seething, struggling, and finally, ultimately triumphing (if such a thing is even possible, and if only for an instant), but in the cesspools, the muck and the mire? In that sense, the unabashed dirtiness in this book reminded me of the far more potent, lavish descriptions of filth in Huysmans’ À rebours. And why not revel in the beauty that can be found in the squalid, insane, shitty, and “perverse”? As Miller pointed out, the alternative can actually be far more disgusting and abhorrent:
“...the monstrous thing is not that men have created roses out of this dung heap, but that, for some reason or other, they should want roses. For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood. He will debauch himself with ideas, he will reduce himself to a shadow if for only one second of his life he can close his eyes to the hideousness of reality. Everything is endured—disgrace, humiliation, poverty, war, crime, ennui—in the belief that overnight something will occur, a miracle, which will render life tolerable. And all the while a meter is running inside and there is no hand that can reach in there and shut it off.”

Another aspect of this book worth mentioning is Miller’s description of the dispassionate, disinterested youth culture that he saw hanging in lifeless tatters around him. The frustration and horror he felt toward a generation of increasingly vacuous vacancies floating around in bloated torpor and apathy is something to which many of us can relate. And hell, why not be honest? That basic condition of mindless drift is also something we are both fascinated and repulsed by whenever we catch sight of it in ourselves.

What diminished this otherwise dynamic reading experience, and the reason I only gave it 3 stars, was Miller’s prose, which felt inconsistent to me. Often it seemed like it was trying too hard, and that Miller was painfully overthinking his writing. It flowed far more naturally when his characters were just shooting the shit. But when he was attempting to be loftily poetic or profound, his efforts frequently struck me as forced, affected, and contrived. His writing fell prey to what he rightfully condemned in others, and became “constipated and paralyzed by thought.” However, there were quite a few exquisite moments when it broke free from its stifling self-consciousness and succeeded in doing something genuinely brilliant, inventive, and inspired.

So overall, while the book was a mixed bag, it was still very much worth reading. If you don’t mind getting a little dirty, why not dance and splash and play in the mud with Miller for a while?
Profile Image for Amethyst.
185 reviews335 followers
February 8, 2017
عجیب ترین کتابی بود که تا به امروز خوانده ام از این نظر که نمیشد توقع داستانی با آغاز و پایان درست و حسابی را داشت و توصیف گوشه ای از زندگی در هم و برهم و آشفته ی میلر در پاریس آشفته و شلخته ی آن روزگار بوده و خواندن این کتاب را به هرکسی پیشنهاد نمیکنم ! اما شاید قبلا از این دست سبک نوشتاری خوانده اید (تقریبا زندگی نامه/ توصیفی در یک برهه خاص از زمان است) شاید خواندنش در زمانی که واقعا حوصله ی دقت در متن و تحمل شلوغی و پرش های نویسنده به هرکجایی و لحن بی ادبانه اش در مورد مسائل جنسی و ورود و خروج شخصیت هایی که سروته ندارند و فقط یک لحظه بودند و حضور داشتند را دارید بخوانید در غیر این صورت از نظرتان میگذرد که کتاب خوبی نمیخوانید ...
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
February 19, 2011
One of this book's themes is sex. So, if you are squeamish about sex on books, or about sex itself, then don't read this review. More importantly, DON'T read this book. My review is definitely lame compared to its sexual content.

But not reading the book is like being in the USA without tasting bagel in one of their international airports. Whenever I come to the US, I always grab a bagel and a cup of coffee while waiting for my flight. I think that bread (rarely sold here in the Philippines) defines what being in the US is for me.

American Henry Miller (1891-1980), a struggling writer, went to Paris alone and almost penniless. There he tried to write. A friend coached him: just write what you feel. So he did. When Tropic of Cancer came out in 1936, he was 37 years old. When it was published in the US in 1961, it was banned for frank and graphic depiction of sex and it led to a series of obscenity trials that tested the American laws on pornography. Now, it is heralded as one of the most important 20th century novels: Modern Library's Best 100 and TIME 100 Best Novels.

He just wrote how he felt and oh boy, he was the guy! Being in the lovable Paris with a bevy of women (never mind what kind) to have sex with, despite being hungry most of the time, he must have the time of his life. Sex left and right, Paris must be heaven on earth. Wiki says that he became Anais Nin's lover who paid for his apartment and Lawrence Durell's friend who brought him to Greece. What a guy!

Reading Cancer, you can see why. Miller was a genius. He writes with total abandon. He wrote what he felt and thought and I say, what a brain! Fluid, playful narrative and he knew a lot of things to say. You cannot predict what he would think next as he said something strange like: all the pores of my skin open and something is eating my gizzards or totally obscene like O Tania, where now is that warm cunt of yours, those fat, heavy garters, those soft, bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your cunt, Tania, big with seed. I will send you home to your Sylvester with an ache in your belly and your womb turned inside out.. Tanya here is the wife of his (Miller, as he uses first person narrative) landlord Slyvester.

So, how come bagel represents America for me? Not the hole, don't be silly. Cancer is luscious, meaty, filling and stings to your palate. It is not a novel for everyone and definitely not to those who hate sex in books, or sex itself. You have to go beyond the sex parts and pay more attention to the storytelling (reminds me of Nabokov's Lolita) and the struggles of the writers in Paris, the city where artists of the world (that started with Dante, Rabelais, Von Gogh, etc) congregate. Or appreciate how friendship can help one in surviving financial difficulty (not necessarily to become one's lover).

Next time you come to the US, why not bring this book and read this in the airport while having a bagel? You will see what I mean.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,636 followers
February 7, 2017
"Some day I'll write a book about myself, about my thoughts. I don't mean just a piece of introspective analysis... I mean that I'll lay myself down on the operating table and I'll expose my whole guts... every goddamned thing. Has anybody ever done that before? - What the hell are you smiling at? Does it sound naïf?"
Profile Image for Trenton Judson.
190 reviews8 followers
October 10, 2012
This may be one of the best books in the American cannon, and also, unfortunately, one of the most underrated. I read a lot of the reviews on the book before writing this and I found not very many that were thought out. I recall one reviewer giving up on the book because the "frenetic style was tiresome." Usually when someone has feelings like that, it is because they don't understand the literature and so their mind wanders. Another review noted that Miller's supposed "shock tactics" were outdated. Miller never meant to shock people, that is in your head. If you read the opening quote by Emerson, it states something to the effect that telling a true story about yourself is something near to impossible, this is Miller's attempt at doing that. He pulls no punches on the everyday vernacular that he must have used and imagined. This makes the story not only authentic, but also compelling. Miller's mix of philosophy and the impressionistic portrait that he paints of Paris make for a challenging and gorgeous read. Like Whitman, Miller finds beauty in all things and despite atrocious circumstances, he finds the will and the hope to enjoy his freedom. His style cries Whitman with its use of many objects to describe a single scene or feeling, but he has a different touch than Whitman that allows for the darker underbelly of human life that we so often discard because we lack the ability to understand the parts of ourselves that we have been taught to be shamed by. A must read for those who have read Whitman and really love him. Great companions to this book are: Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and Charriere's "Papillon."
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,648 followers
November 11, 2012
“When into the womb of time everything is again withdrawn chaos will be restored and chaos is the score upon which reality is written.”

This is one of those amazing books that does violence to your system (think Lolita, Naked Lunch, Ulysses) but still leaves you gobsmacked by its brilliance. IT is the brazen, tortured soul of a man going through an existential crises in Paris. The novel is a cry in the dark; a delirious shout in the void. Miller's prose dances on the edge of the cracked mirror of Modernism. It is dazzling, sharp and extremely dangerous.

This is NOT a novel for the weak, the timid, the easily shocked or those that believe art exists without shadows. Miller lifts the sheets and describes the decay, the despair and the rot of humanity. If you are not prepared for the monstrous vision of Miller you won't be able to find the roses in the dung heap, and thus you will be unable to question your own desire for roses in the first place.
126 reviews95 followers
July 15, 2019

I suppose it is a difficult book. Not in terms of language but what Miller is trying to achieve through this novel. One has to pay attention. Else, one might dismiss it after a few pages. One must read it slowly before jumping to quick conclusions. I understand why this book got so much flak. Very often people condemn a book without reading it or not reading it properly. In fact, there are also moments where I too got annoyed by the author's 'in your face' style. But there is much in it that I liked as well. In fact, I understood his rage. At one point in the book, he describes himself as a lean and hungry Hyena who is all set to sink his teeth into life.

The book has no conventional story-line. In other words, the story begins where everything ends. His contempt for life, love, politics is so extreme that it almost borders on madness. I cannot believe that anyone can read this book without feeling a bit annoyed and disturbed. The book is not written to please anyone. It exposes what is rotten with his times, or probably at all times. The book has a remarkable contemporary feel. Some description of Paris of the time resonates with the contemporary destruction of Syria. While France and Syria might be very different places in terms of their respective aesthetics, the destruction, however, envelops that difference.

The book has been fiercely criticized for its explicit sexual content. I guess all his descriptions of sex, use of 'provocative' words such as erection, cunt, penis is quite mechanical. Sexual boldness reveals aggression against war. His descriptions reveal a sense of dissatisfaction, emptiness, ennui and some sort existential void. The sexual descriptions are mostly bizarre and bawdy but they are never porn-like; his words, for instance, do not excite imagination the way D. H Lawrence's text does. One does not look forward to those descriptions, nor does one lament or lose interest when sexually explicit scenes end. In other words, the book does not provide cheap thrills. I often hear that the author is a woman-hater. As far as I understood him, he just hates aspects of life over which he has no control such as war and ever-lurking presence of death. The sepulchral, dingy climate of the time, obsession with (fe)male genitals, and at times his hatred for everything alludes more to what is rotting in society, and not intended at women. He may have a strange approach to sex, but his take on life is even stranger and immensely provocative. And for good reasons.

Once Henry Miller remarked to her friend, Anais Nin, that he takes goodness in people for granted. He expects people to be decent. It is the abnormal, the cruel, the unusual that fascinates him.

How can one, then, write about the abnormal in a normal language! I guess his style is necessary to his content.
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