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Tropic of Capricorn

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5,987 (30%)
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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
January 17, 2020
"I am so thoroughly healthy and empty. No dreams, no desires. I am like the luscious deceptive fruit which hangs on the Californian trees. One more ray of sun and I will be rotten."

Henry Miller

The first thing, if you are lucky, that you discover about Henry Miller is that you shouldn't introduce him to your wife, your sister, your mother or any other female that you care to leave unsullied. He is like a bloodhound once he catches the scent of a female that he has not had carnal knowledge with. It wasn't that Henry made the best of first impressions, but give him time, give him an evening with a nun, and she'll be at the altar the next morning, still trembling from a night of degradation, renouncing or reaffirming her vows.

Henry fought with his wife, the first wife, the one with the shovel face, like two piranhas caught in a barrel. If you have read any of Henry's books you know that he shares his life, everything, even the stuff that makes him look like a lout.

"When I got home my wife was awake and sore as hell because I had stayed out so long. We had a hot discussion and finally I lost my temper and I clouted her and she fell on the floor and began to weep and sob. The girl upstairs came running down to see what was the matter. She was in her kimono and her hair was hanging down her back. In the excitement she got close to me and things happened without either of us intending anything to happen. (I didn't believe that part for a second.) We put the wife to bed with a wet towel around her forehead and the while the girl upstairs was bending over her I stood behind her and lifting her kimono. I got it into her and she stood there a long time talking a lot of foolish soothing nonsense. Finally I climbed into bed with the wife and to my utter amazement she began to cuddle up to me and without saying a word we locked horns and we stayed that way until dawn. I should have been worn out but instead I was wide awake, and I lay there beside her planning to take the day off and look up the whore with the beautiful fur whom I was talking to earlier in the day. After that I began to think about another woman, the wife of one of my friends.

Henry is a man that is never satiated. One conquest launches him on a quest for the next one. With a clap on my shoulder and a squeeze Henry always has a new story that has me shaking my head. By comparison, I feel like my life is as boring as a Methodist sermon.

Henry is living for all of us.

Like every other fool I know...I've lent Henry money. Lent, that is rich, I'm still deluding myself. He doesn't repay a loan. He makes you forget you lent it to him in the first place. I remember one night when a mutual friend of ours explained the circumstances with Henry.

"If you need a little money I'll raise it for you. It's like throwing it down a sewer, I know, but I'll do it for you just the same. The truth is, Henry, I like you a hell of a lot. I've taken more from you than I would from anybody in the world."

Henry just grinned as our friend's hat passed around, and even people that had known him less than an hour tossed in a bit of green. It wasn't until we were leaving, weaving our own snake trail out the door, that my friend discovered that along with the money, Henry had also absconded with his hat.

I was with Henry the night he met the nymphomaniac Paula. "She has the loose jaunty swing and perch of the doubled-barreled sex, all her movements radiating from the groin, always in equilibrium, always ready to flow, to wind and twist, and clutch, the eyes going tic-toc, the toes twitching and twinkling, the flesh rippling like a lake furrowed by a breeze. This is the incarnation of the hallucination of sex, the sea nymph squirming in the maniac's arms.", Needless to say I left by myself, but not before Henry touched me for a Jackson.

I have never figured out if Henry is a coward or the bravest of the brave. He rejects the life that I spend so much of each day trying to build for myself. He didn't tell me this, but I found it in one of his books.

"I realize quietly what a terribly civilized person I am-the need I have for people, conversation, books, theatre, music, cafes, drinks, and so forth. It's terrible to be civilized, because when you come to the end of the world you have nothing to support the terror of loneliness. To be civilized is to have complicated needs, And a man, when he is full blown, shouldn't need a thing."

The thing of it is Henry couldn't be Henry except for the existence of people like myself who are always willing to buy him a drink and marvel at his stories. He is living off the efforts of "civilized" men and women. He doesn't have to own anything, because someone will always give him what he needs.

"He had neither pride, nor vanity, nor envy. About the big issues he was clear, but confronted by the petty details of life he was bewildered."

The Nasty Genius

The thing of it is, despite his best efforts, Henry Miller became a useful member of society. He published books describing a life so unencumbered that even those of us perfectly satisfied with our soft lives, eking out a possession laden life of soulless corporate kowtowing, have doubts that we have chosen our lives wisely.

Henry met this woman named June who hauled him off to Paris.


I don't get to hear his stories first hand anymore. I have to buy his books to find out what he has been up to. I miss Henry. He had me gaze upon the greener pastures on the other side of the fence, but he couldn't convince me to jump over and stay over. Every so often, despite his better financial circumstances, I still get a note from him with a plea for a few dollars for old time's sake. I, the dutiful enabling friend, always send him what I can spare.

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Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,630 followers
August 21, 2023
Henry Miller is grotesquely farcical and cynically truthful…
What does it take to become a writer? First of all a person must find one’s true self. And the process of searching can be very cynical. And true selves can be very different.
Everything that happens, when it has significance, is in the nature of a contradiction. Until the one for whom this is written came along I imagined that somewhere outside, in life, as they say, lay the solutions to all things. I thought, when I came upon her, that I was seizing hold of life, seizing hold of something which I could bite into. Instead I lost hold of life completely. 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.

The narration comes as a rave of a cynical lunatic… And this madman abides in the hallucinatory world of his own making.
I was walking again in Dreamland and a man was walking above me on a tightrope and above him a man was sitting in an aeroplane spelling letters of smoke in the sky. The woman hanging on my arm was pregnant and in six or seven years the thing she was carrying inside her would be able to read the letters in the sky and he or she or it would know that it was a cigarette and later would smoke the cigarette, perhaps a package a day.

And the narration comes as an obscene prayer to the goddess Astarte… Capricorn is a lascivious goat after all… And tropic is a gateway to the hottest and wettest equatorial zone…
My eyes are useless, for they render back only the image of the known. My whole body must become a constant beam of light, moving with an ever greater rapidity, never arrested, never looking back, never dwindling. 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.

Truth is a rare merchandise because it brings angst and anxiety but it is a merchandise any authentic writer must deal in.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,946 reviews610 followers
February 16, 2023
In Tropic of Capricorn, Henry Miller appears in a hallucinated monologue of a type on the fringes, of an outsider, a magnificent loser, rebellious, flayed alive, of a saturnal personality (O Verlaine!).
Miller retraces the life of his Brooklyn neighborhood as he first knew it as a child: his memories of his grandfather's little tailor shop and the smells of the businesses in his community - the Mephistopheles infection of tanner's skin with the irresistible scent of fresh bread and confectionery pastries. He thus becomes the saddened and revolted witness of the metamorphosis of this once so-familiar setting. Miller reveals himself, on the other hand, as a womanizer, sometimes violent with women, always broke but just as lavish, regularly "tapper" (one would say a scratcher nowadays ...), calculating and, above all, odiously cynical (or fiercely honest it depends ...). But he knows how to be tender, with a sad tenderness reminiscent of the forever bygone days of mischievous, naive, and generous youth. Or when it paints a portrait of his father, jovial and bon vivant, of a healthy anticlericalism. Who, diminished and weakened by illness, seized with remorse of conscience, becomes a late devotee, "elder of his congregation," To finally be extinguished in the emptiness left by the departure of his beloved pastor. The author also recounts his beginnings in a writer's career, the enthusiastic discovery of the Dada movement and surrealism from which he was, spiritually, apart across the Atlantic while ignoring. It seems, its existence. He professes his great admiration for Dostoyevsky and Elie Faure (author of monumental art history) and recounts Bergson's revelation by reading Creative Evolution.
We have spoken of the writer as lively-skinned, and this opus reflects this temperament. Miller belches in well-timed prose all his hatred (his wounded love? His modesty?), All his rage, his anger, destroyed the American dream. He pushes his diatribe against human stupidity, the ugliness of an absurd and frenzied American society, taken by an itch of movement so as not to have to think, cannibal, plagued by violence. His prose is a ferment of madness, an apology for dreams in reaction against a civilization unsurprisingly omnipresent with a harmful obsession for perfection.
It is impossible to ignore the main inconvenience of this work.
Sometimes the text gets bogged down in delusions of surrealist descriptions, rantings (one of his favorite words), meaningless, and confusing; it becomes boring, almost illegible, and defies the limits of patience and goodwill. Several times the book almost fell out of my hands. And then, fiercely for the feminist cause, go your way or suffer the ulcer that will appear when reading the detailed and complacent accounts of the multiple exploits and sexual performances of a sacred hot rabbit.
Profile Image for Jana.
1,096 reviews445 followers
November 14, 2015
All throughout this book I was thinking about one thing: when was Cancer and when was Capricorn written. The first one was published in 1934, and the second in 1938. Four years made this huge progression – Miller really evolved as a writer, he became more concentrated and maybe a bit humbler. He is still unconventional, but although he's a mad man (I even felt sorry for him, which I think he would hate the most), I've found so much mellowness, wisdom and truth in his words that I found myself having goose skin. He still has neurotic shifts and he writes about so many people, but in the beginning he described as a hypothesis, what would happen if he wrote thousands of stories. Would they collapse, would they kill each other, would a reader die suffocating in overwhelming – ness?

He’s passionate. Inconsiderate, definitely – his wife was having a second abortion while he was screwing his secretary who borrowed them money for the hospital. But, maybe I like this book more than Tropic of Cancer because he instead of talking about actual physical sex, sorrowness and how high he is, he writes about retrospection, perception and introspection of his own life and people around him. Yes, sometimes too much gibberish psycho-philosophical rambling, but at least he was honest. And inspiring in this inner struggles and rawness. I mean, he’s trying to be this ultimate brute, and he is, oh definitely don’t underestimate him, but when he shows his soft spots, empathy and sensibility, man, then you’re in trouble, because then he really shines out.

But I guess that’s that diabolic thing about someone’s intelligence and emotions - actions. More you understand yourself, more you are prone to go deeper with yourself. And heavy self evaluating analysis are always bordering with the dark side. This topic is endless.
Profile Image for Vincenzo Politi.
158 reviews143 followers
February 18, 2021
1. Bisogna leggere capolavori

1.1 - Un mio amico dice che lui legge solo capolavori. Se si parla di cinema, dice che lui vede solo capolavori. Una volta gli ho chiesto: «Perché?». Lui ha risposto: «Perché esistono».
1.2 - Non so se sia possibile leggere o vedere solo capolavori. Forse la mente ha bisogno di scemenze per apprezzare i capolavori, un po' come lo stomaco ha bisogno di junk food per apprezzare l'alta gastronomia.
1.3 - L'essere capolavoro potrebbe essere proprietà relazionale, non assoluta.
1.4 - Il problema fondamentale dei capolavori non è la loro necessità o precedenza, ma la loro esistenza

2. I capolavori, come la verità, amano nascondersi

2.1 - La verità si nasconde fra le pieghe della realtà, i capolavori si nascondono fra i moti ondosi della memoria
2.2 - Il mio amico aveva a casa un capolavoro e non lo sapeva
2.3 - Gli ho consigliato Henry Miller: mi ero completamente dimenticato di Henry Miller e mi ero completamente dimenticato di consigliarlo al mio amico
2.4 - Il mio amico è andato a comprare Tropico del Cancro, che io ho letto anni fa, mentre io prendevo a prestito dal suo scaffale Tropico del Capricorno

3. I capolavori stanno all'ombra di altri capolavori

3.1 - Quando la gente parla di Henry Miller, parla solo ed esclusivamente di Tropico del Cancro: è come se lui non avesse scritto altro
3.2 - Tropico del Cancro getta un'ombra troppo lunga sull'opera straordinaria di Henry Miller
3.3 - Inoltre, quando la gente parla di Henry Miller, parla delle sue scopate, delle sue porcate, di quante volte dice cazzo, di quante volte dice fica.
3.4 - Da 2 e da 3.3, ne consegue che alcuni capolavori si nascondono in sé stessi.

4. I capolavori parlano fra di loro

4.1 - Henry Miller ha ereditato il suo modo di scrivere da Céline
4.2 - Céline ha pubblicato Viaggio al Termine della Notte e poi una specie di prequel, che sarebbe Morte a Credito; Miller ha pubblicato Tropico del Cancro e poi una specie di prequel, che sarebbe Tropico del Capricorno; ma Tropico del Capricorno è diversissimo da Morte a Credito
4.3 - Bukowski ha ereditato il suo modo di scrivere ubriaco da Henry Miller, che ha inoltre ispirato molti della Beat Generation, che a loro volta ispireranno i post-modernisti
4.4 - Céline è il padre della letteratura americana

5. Chi scrive capolavori, parla coi morti

5.1 - Tropico del Capricorno è un delirio surrealista, ed è bellissimo
5.2 - Henry Miller cita esplicitamente i surrealisti
5.3 - In Tropico del Capricorno ci sono anche citazioni ed omaggi indiretti: Miller è un'omicida come Hemingway, ma più incosciente, perché bambino e puro
5.4 - Chi scrive capolavori deve parlare coi defunti usando il linguaggio della menzogna, perché la verità è solo una minima parte della realtà (cfr. 2.1)

6. Chi legge capolavori, guarda in faccia la morte

6.1 - Ho letto Tropico del Capricorno come Henry Miller leggeva i surrealisti francesi: come in un sogno in cui capisco alcune cose di me
6.2 - Come Alfred Hitchcock acquisì dignità cinematografica grazie agli studi critici di Truffault e degli altri registi della Nouvelle Vague, così Henry Miller deve la sua fortuna ad Anaïs Nin e a Parigi
6.3 - Henry Miller fece fortuna a Parigi perché questa città ha il volto della morte
6.4 - Gli Stati Uniti, New York e soprattutto Broadway sono la morte, ma fanno finta di non saperlo

7. Su ciò di cui non si può scrivere è meglio lasciarci una pagina bianca
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
February 9, 2018
Prolix Hyperbolics by an Existentialist Sexaholic on His Manhattan Frolics

"Sex. In America, an obsession. In other parts of the world, a fact."
Marlene Dietrich.

Mainly, I read this to broaden my horizons and experience first-hand the text underlying the fuss that was made over Henry Miller when his two Tropic novels were finally published in the U.S. in 1961.

Tropic of Capricorn, a semi-autobiographical prequel to Tropic of Cancer (set in 1930s Paris), though published a few years after, is set mostly in Manhattan of the 1920s. It's not chronological; rather, it skips around to revisit Miller's hetero-development and sexual high jinks in the Big Apple, including his sexual relationship with his 30-year-old piano teacher when he was 15, and a blunt description of nearly every other first encounter with a very diverse legion of women.
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.

Call this brusque erotica with a literary bent, a pre-Crash lascivious bash, merit-worthy filth for those of that ilk, or prickly porn for cunning linguists. Your choice.

I could take it or leave it. For one thing, it's too damned wordy. Another, I hate the "c" word for female genitalia and Miller peppers this book with it.

Horizon expanded by maybe half a foot.

Do NOT read the below hidden quote if you are sensitive to vulgar language.
Profile Image for Cecilia .
87 reviews19 followers
June 17, 2012
I read the first few was boring....then I skipped chapters hoping he would get more interesting..he didn't....kept was still boring...towards the end...he is pathetically sentimental, self-indulgent and boring...

I think it is because he was mooching off his wife while trying to shag someone else's wives in order to mooch off them too...and too much mooching off the labours of women while being an annoying left bank Parisian bum, made him go "cunt, cunt, cunt" a lot...

but it did not make him an interesting writer with a plot or indeed a man whose rant an intelligent thinking, post-modern woman could stand...given his misogyny and his endless rants....without a plot.

Like Bukowski, rather Bukowski copied him...he tried to give the impression of being good in bed and all that....but uses too many words and in short, I consider this genre of writing ...EARLY Dick-lit.!

However if you randomly pick out a phrase or two ...he had very interesting way of using the english language fusing it with Americanism. But not enough synergy to make this pulp of a Dick lit. interesting....

Oh henry...a freaking socialist croissant commie cliche? least you were not a puritan protestant prude...I suppose we should we grateful for that...but lets call a spade a spade....he giggolo-ed his socialism came into good use!

Those were the days, when simple not-so-well-travelled women got impressed by some guy who got his book banned (in Turkey? big whoppie!) just by using the word "cunt" modern times mediocre writers have to at least get a Fatwah...something that the wimpy croissant munching Henry probably wouldn't be able to would require commitement and conviction that he prided himself on not possessing an ounce of! Zzzz. lol.

Profile Image for وائل المنعم.
Author 1 book429 followers
September 2, 2013
Although this novel less famous than tropic of Cancer - for example 8,174 ratings, 309 reviews against 26,082 ratings, 1,465 reviews in goodreads - But it's the better one.

When i read Tropic of Cancer i were prepared to all the beauty in it, I read it many years ago translated into Arabic, read many articles about it, But with Tropic of Capricorn - as i thought that Miller is a one work artist - it was like an aesthetic shock. Again the beautiful language, again the charming prose, I'm ready now to read Miller's writing about anything even an advertising catalog.

As in Tropic of cancer Miller talking about a lot of nonsense matters, But it is always how you talk about something not the thing itself that makes the great literature and art.

Some of the most amazing parts which delighted me are:

- The employees of the telegraph company that he wrote his worst work about them.
- The beautiful description of a day in his life.
- kronski's expecting him to be a great writer, And here i must express my admiration of Miller's believe in himself.
- All events related to Curley.
- His description of the real friendship when talking about Roy Hamilton.
- How Dostoyevsky and Bergson's book "Creative Evolution" effect his life.
- How his friend lend him money with love and lecture.

So why i didn't give it the 5 stars, because sometime Miller seems to lost the concept which he discuss and only remain the beautiful language which isn't a small element but not every thing.
Profile Image for Thomas.
236 reviews71 followers
June 13, 2018
Βαθμολογία: ★★★

Όσο με ενθουσίασε στην αρχή, άλλο τόσο με έχασε προς το τέλος, για ακόμη μια φορά. Δομή που κουράζει απίστευτα, έλλειψη κεφαλαίων, γραφή τόσο συνειρμική που μπορείς να προσπεράσεις μερικές σελίδες και να συνεχίσεις να διαβάζεις χωρίς να χαθείς. Αναγνωρίζω πάντως τη λογοτεχνική του αξία, σε αντίθεση με τον Bukowski και άλλους συγγραφείς του είδους.
Profile Image for Julie Rylie.
619 reviews69 followers
December 7, 2014
Everything I ever said about Henry Miller is NOT true. I was a senseless child when I read The Tropic of Cancer and I thought he was a machist and so on and you know what? I want to read the freaking Tropic of Cancer again! And now I sole it so I have to buy it again! damn youuuuuuu. But I had the book in Portuguese though and I want to read it in English, so it was not so bad after all.

Anyway, it was one of the happy moments of 2014: recognizing that Henry Miller is an intelligent, sensitive human-being and that I want to read more from him.

There was so many beautiful sentences in this book and brilliant thoughts and ways of living your life. It was very introspective for me. I am normally a fast reader but this book took me 3 weeks or something and it was only because it was so dense and profound for most of the time. loved it! really really loved it.

Thanks for your insights Mister Miller! It doesn't feel so bad anymore to think of yourself as kind of alienated and for wanting more out of life and for not fitting into boxes.

I think the quotes I added from this book speak for themselves.
Profile Image for Laocoön.
10 reviews16 followers
September 21, 2016
Found it completely pointless. Maybe I dont get surreal style at all. Maybe this zig-zag approach to reality makes me dizzy.

Point is, I am sure many of his admirers, if they missed the famous author name, would feel as I do about this book.
Profile Image for Jeruen.
490 reviews
June 10, 2011
I suppose I should preface this review with a warning. This is an explicit book. This book has full of sex. And this book has no plot.

Ten years ago, when I was a senior in high school, I read Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. It opened my eyes. It was the first book that I read that had no plot at all, and I was looking for a story in the book, and yet there were none. It was just a three-hundred page rant about the traipsing of the author. I liked it.

This time, I read Tropic of Capricorn, ten years after reading the first book. And once again, I was amazed.

Why did I pick this book? Well, it was first published in the 1930s, but it was banned here in the United States for about 30 years, due to the sexually explicit content of the book. However, I suppose I like this book due to the fact that this gave way to freedom of speech and expression.

So, what is this book about? This is a narration of a character named Henry Miller and his escapades in New York City. He has sex with several women in the book, and it seems that he is the most virile character in literature that I have encountered so far. He describes in painful detail the encounters that he has with several women, Jewish women, secretaries, people he goes swimming with, and other women that intersect with his life. He describes how he is able to have sex with a woman who thinks that her genitals are too small for having sex, he describes how is has sex with a woman who has a fear of drowning in a lake, and he describes how he has sex with a woman who used to be his music teacher.

He has a typology of "cunts" and describes what these various types are, with the "supercunt" as the most elusive of them all. He is perhaps the most sexed up person in literature I ever read. But, as the narrative ends, I realized that Tropic of Capricorn is about Henry Miller's image of women, as the book ends with saying that if you want women to last, you should turn them into literature. And after reading this book, I am glad that I did pick it up, even though it was ten years after I read the first book. 4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for henry.
5 reviews
July 28, 2012
This was the first Henry Miller book I ever read, and until I read The Rosy Crucifixion, I considered it his best. Most readers and critics seem to focus on the sexual aspects of Miller's work, or else the profanity, or that his work was autobiographical, and they tend to say that his work isn't relevant to a 21st Century audience. I disagree; while his language might be more suited to an audience from an earlier time, and his cynicism and sexual explicitness might put readers off (personally, I think his sex scenes were poorly written and the least important aspect of his work), his ideas, especially concerning his life as an artist, are more relevant and illuminating than anything the publishing industry has vomited out in the last twenty years.
Profile Image for Jafar.
728 reviews249 followers
August 2, 2009
Henry Miller is mad. I’m not sure anymore that he’s mad in a good way. This book was more ranting and raving of a genius writer, but if you take it personally it can appall or depress you. I didn’t think it was as good as Tropic of Cancer. That book was a constant high for me, but this one faltered at many places and at times bored me. But boredom doesn’t last longer than a page or two when reading this book. Something really good will take you out of it and keep you out of it for a good while.

Looking at some of the reviews here it looks like misogyny is a matter of contention regarding Miller. I think they’re missing the point. It’s like accusing him of anti-Semitism because of how he wrote about the Jews that he knew. Miller is just intense, and he writes with passion and bluntness. Personal hyper-sensitivities should be left out when reading Miller. I actually don’t find him misogynistic at all. He writes about his raw desires with zeal and intensity and he doesn’t see a need to post-script it with “oh, and I’m not saying that women should not be respected or don’t have anything else to offer other than sex.” Expecting every male writer to say or imply such thing is just another form of vanity. Some women need to get over their obsession to analyze every male write, looking for signs of “misogyny.”
Profile Image for Sean Wilson.
193 reviews
April 6, 2019
"I wanted to be wide awake without talking or writing about it, in order to accept life absolutely."

Tropic of Capricorn is certainly a much more mature and controlled novel than his earlier works. One of the most intellectually stimulating works of literature I've ever read.
Profile Image for Dolly Delightly.
9 reviews26 followers
February 10, 2011
It is no mean feat to take-away from a book an erudition. Reading Henry Miller’s work schooled me into realising that there really is “only one great adventure and that is inward towards the self”. And, more importantly that inveterate boozing and smoking, carousing, quixotic philandering and riding life out “on the wind of the wing of madness” like one has “iron in the backbone and sulphur in the blood” is elementary in the success of that adventure; and the manumitting of oneself from the ne plus ultra drudgery of life. And for that, and the fact that his writing always remained "true, sincere" and "on the side of life" and he an old roué throughout, I love him: earnestly, completely. I read “Tropic of Cancer”, and subsequently the “Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy”, some years ago, and thus was ecstatic to find Miller in my favourite Oxfam. One of the things I discovered, by sheer coincidence, prior to reading “Tropic of Capricorn” was that both the aforementioned and “Tropic of Cancer” were Miller's choice sobriquets for his second wife June Mansfield Smith’s breasts. And for that I love him also.

“Tropic of Capricorn” opens with a pronunciamento that, "Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos", a line of thought, that denotes the perspicuous resignation of the disillusioned. And Miller’s voice gets even more intractably dour a jot or two down the page when he confesses that, “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.” The realisation about the innate lack of purpose and “the stupidity and futility of everything” reverberates throughout as Miller expounds at length about working dead-end jobs inimical to his creative freedom, being a myrmidon to his superiors at the redoubtable Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company of North America - a “hideous farce against a backdrop of sweat and misery… a waste of men, material and effort” - and ploughing against the “whole rotten system of American labour” while sitting behind his work-desk “hiring and firing like a demon”.

Chronically impecunious despite full time employment with the Western Union and feeling no fealty to anyone or anything, Miller chronicles this time in his life, spent mostly with a retinue of factotums and waybills – all trapped in a system that was so rotten, so inhuman, so lousy, so hopelessly corrupt and complicated, that it would have taken a genius to put any sense or order into it, to say nothing of human kindness or consideration – with both animus and amity. Forced by his superiors to be “be firm, be hard!” instead of having “too big a heart”, Miller sticks it to the avaricious panjandrums and vows to be “be generous, pliant, forgiving, tolerant, tender”. Everything in “Tropic of Capricorn” is perched on a pedantically balanced scale, just as Miller’s prose, which jumps from fatalistic cynicism to Panglossian mirth, the sagacious to the fecund, the overzealous to the insouciant, the recidivistic to the enterprising, thereby mirroring his life which consists of nothing but “ups and downs…long stretches of gloom and melancholy followed by extravagant bursts of gayety, of trancelike inspiration.” And it is precisely this deft linguistic ability, albeit occasionally blemished by overindulgence in periphrasis and even unabashed flummery, to relay his variegated reminiscences so graphically and candidly that incites a sense of grandstand awe.

Above all other subjects, however, Miller spends a lot of time lamenting and lambasting his homeland, the “monstrous death machine” where “nobody knows how to sit on his ass and be content.” His avid hatred of the US is documented with effusive graphic proclivity and an unapologetic conviction, for as he sees it he had never anywhere “felt so degraded and humiliated as in America”. Miller expectorates vehemently about the country he calls a “cesspool” where “everything is sucked down and drained away to everlasting shit”, before asserting that everything he had “endured was in the nature of a preparation for that moment when, putting on my hat one evening, I walked out of the office, out of my hitherto private life, and sought the woman who was to liberate me from a living death.” The woman sought was Miller’s second wife, June Mansfield Smith, the great nostrum who turned into an obsession leading to his emotional labefaction. June was the one who convinced Miller to jack-in his job and take up writing full time while she machinated a variety of schemes to support them financially, whether parading around dance halls, running a speakeasy or collecting money from services rendered. Writing of her elsewhere, Miller once noted: "I'm in love with a monster, the most gorgeous monster imaginable." And, she was a monster. Or to be more precise “a monstrous lying machine” one with a striking bloodless face, rouged lips, a penchant for Dostoyevsky and indiscriminate fucking. Intrepid, perfidious, prone to theatrical exaggeration and acidulous lies June became the archetypal femme fatal in Miller’s literary endeavours.

Their connubial life was marked by volatility, mutual jealousies, June’s mercurial vagaries, and eventually their great big love was reduced to something like a “soft prick slipping out of an overheated cunt.” When the two first met, however, they were as one like “Siamese twins whom love had joined and whom death alone could separate.” But it was not to be. The inchoate despair comes to the surface in “Tropic of Capricorn” when Miller begins to realise that June is prone to “transformation; almost as quick and subtle she was as the devil himself”, later likening her to the “queen mother of all the slippery Babylonian whores,” for she was just as inconstant. Their love was intense, both in a spiritual and physical sense, with Miller once describing her in copulation like a wild creature “radiant, jubilant, an ultra-black jubilation streaming from her like a steady flow of sperm from the Mithraic Bull. She was double-barrelled, like a shot-gun, a female bull with an acetylene torch in her womb. In heat she focussed on the grand cosmocrator, her eyes rolled back to the whites, her lips a-saliva. In the blind hole of sex she waltzed like a trained mouse, her jaws unhinged like a snake's, her skin horripilating in barbed plumes. She had the insatiable lust of a unicorn,” but one he couldn’t tame. In turn, he became “possessed like a full blooded schizerino” while she taunted him by launching her powers “toward the fabrication of [herself as] a mythical creature” and whoring like a nymphomaniac on day release from AA because she simply didn’t “give a fuck about anything”. The two split eventually, and the ruptures in the relationship are documented toward the end of the book with melancholic retrospection, and thereafter in Miller’s later works. June remained a permanent fixture throughout Miller’s early years, indelibly looming over his life and his literature.

Her spectres is firmly entrenched in the “Tropic of Capricorn”, but mostly the book is about Miller himself – the scatologist who is transfixed by shit, vermin, booze, fucking and disease, albeit one who has an inexorable knack for finding poetry in the grotesque. And he does, without fail, in “people's stories, the banal tragedies of poverty and distress, of love and death, of yearning and disillusionment”. Miller is not frugal with the scope of his subject matter either. He writes about everything from eating meat balls to eating pussy by way of St. Thomas Aquinas, who omitted from his opus “hamburger sandwiches, collar buttons, poodle dogs, slot machines, grey bowlers, typewriter ribbons, oranges sticks, free toilets, sanitary napkins, mint jujubes, billiard balls, chopped onions, crinkled doilies, manholes, chewing gum, sidecars and sour-balls, cellophane, cord tyres, magnetos, horse liniment, cough drops, feenamint, and that feline opacity of the hysterically endowed eunuch who marches to the soda fountain with a sawed off shotgun between his legs.” Not to mention the strip-teasers with nothing more than “a little patch to cover their twinkling little cunts”. And his turn of phrase remains truly unique with asides and observations such as: “The chaff of the empty soul rising like monkey chatter in the topmost branches of the trees,” and “ is a diarrhoea, a lake of gasoline, stagnant with cockroaches and stale horse piss,” or “the black frenzied nothingness of the hollow of absence leaves a gloomy feeling of saturated despondency not unlike the topmost tip of desperation which is only the gay juvenile maggot of death's exquisite rupture with life,” and “We are of one flesh, but separated like stars” and “Look at your heart and gizzard - the brain is in the heart.” Gems like these stud his stream-of-consciousness prose from start to finish. You might scowl or snigger as he wrestles with the salacious and the sad, but you will not be unaffected.

As a follow up to “Tropic of Cancer”, Capricorn ruminates over the same old grounds, “speaking about what is unmentionable” and according to Miller “what is unmentionable is pure fuck and pure cunt” and must not be mentioned “otherwise the world will fall apart.” But of course sex is not the only unmentionable subject that Miller mentions, in fact, he pontificates on every topic that springs to mind while “rubbing elbows with humanity”, realising “truth is not enough,” watching men “scurrying through a cunty deft of a street called Broadway”, and claiming that “heartbreaks and abortions and busted romances,” are nothing in comparison to lousy coffee; and the result is this sagacious irreverent hulk of a picaresque. But I think Miller’s work is summarised best by the thought that in any great book “Each page must explode with the profoundly serious and heavy, the whirlwind, dizziness, the new, the eternal, with the overwhelming hoax, with an enthusiasm for principles or with the mode of typography.” Henry Miller’s work certainly does.

© Dolly Delightly 2011
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books600 followers
May 8, 2016
Zor bir kitap "Oğlak Dönencesi".

Yazarın "Yengeç Dönencesi"ni okuduğum yakın zamanda, Henry Miller'ı keşfetmemin ne kadar geç kaldığını anladığımda büyük bir panik hali yaşamış ve en kısa zamanda "Oğlak Dönencesi"ni okuma kararı almıştım. Ancak "Yengeç Dönencesi"nde ki oburluğum burada kendini gösteremedi. Kitap yordu beni bir noktada. O yüzden yarısında ara vermek ve araya birçok kitap sokmak durumunda kaldım. Bu, aslında Miller'in değil, benim densizliğim. Zira Miller tempolu bir hayat içerisinde, dikkatinizi vermeniz gereken onca başka şey varken okunacak eserler yazmıyor. Haliyle ben zamanı yanlış seçmiştim.

Henry Miller olay odaklı ve kronolojik bir anlatım benimsemediğinden okuması hayli zor ve meşakkatli oluyor. Okuyucusunu belirleyen bir yazar Miller. Proustvari bir edebiyattan da bahsetmiyorum. Çok daha başına buyruk, savruk, kavramsal bir dili var Miller'in. Altını çizebileceğiniz çok fazla pasajla karşılaşıyorsunuz. Düşüncesini anlatma şekli çok özel ve özgün. Okurken farkına varıyorsunuz, diyorsunuz ki 'bu adam boşuna çağın en önemli yazarlarından biri olmamış'.

Tabulara karşı sanatın her dalında karşıtlık oluşturan eserlere hayranlık duyan benim için "Oğlak Dönencesi"ni beğenmem kaçınılmazdı. Bataille tarzı grotesk ve gündelik hayatın içine yedirdiği bir yaklaşımı var olaylara. "Oğlak Dönencesi" müstehcenlik gereğiyle uzun yıllar yasak kalmış bir kitap ancak bence tabulara, erk sistemin getirmiş olduğu genel-geçer ahlaka vurulmuş bir darbe olduğundan, korkudan yasaklanmış bir kitap. Yazarın dili bazı kesimlerce fazla erkek egemen bulunuyor. Ben buna katılmakla beraber kadınlarla bir sorunu olduğunu kabul etmiyorum. Zira yazar inanılmaz dürüst. Miller'in sadece kadınlarla değil, toplumla, erkeklerle, insanlarla, hayvanlarla, tanrıyla ve her şeyle benzer problemleri olduğunu gözden çıkarmamak gerek.

Çeviriyi beğenmeyenlerle de karşılaştım daha önce ama yine bana göre Avi Pardo'nun Miller çevirileri, Roza Hakmen'in çevirileri ile yarışacak düzeyde. Çoğu noktada çevirmenin hakimiyetine ve gücüne hayranlık duydum.

Kafanızın ve zamanınızın boş olduğu bir zamanda, kallavi bir edebiyat eseri okumak istiyorum diyorsanız, "Oğlak Dönencesi" güzel bir tercih olacaktır.

Profile Image for Rainbow Jaguar.
46 reviews4 followers
July 29, 2012
cunt cunt cunt.

I hate this book. I love this book. At moments I'm completely swept away or disgusted. Lost in a bleakness and shaking my head in pity for Henry. At times his existence is loathsome like a bad acid trip. Other times it's over the top sexy. Juices tumbling out of groins. I feel like I'm in between those loins.
Profile Image for Edita.
1,402 reviews424 followers
July 9, 2020
And yet, if she had promised me the moon, though I knew it was out of the question, I would have struggled to invest her promise with a crumb of faith. I wanted desperately everything that was promised me, and if, upon reflection I realized that it was dearly impossible, I nevertheless tried in my own way to grope for a means of making these promises realizable. That people could make promises without ever having the least intention of fulfilling them was something unimaginable to me. Even when I was most cruelly deceived I still believed; I found that something extraordinary and quite beyond the other person's power had intervened to make the promise null and void.
Until the one for whom this is written came along I imagined that somewhere outside, in life, as they say, lay the solutions to all things. I thought, when I came upon her, that I was seizing hold of life, seizing hold of something which I could bite into. Instead I lost hold of life completely. 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. 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. I realized that I had never the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something which is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it. What is true interests me scarcely at all, nor even what is real; only that interests me which I imagine to be, that which I had stifled every day in order to live. Whether I die today or tomorrow is of no importance to me, never has been, but that today even, after years of effort, I cannot say what I think and feel - that bothers me, that rankles. From childhood on I can see myself on the track of this spectre, enjoying nothing, desiring nothing but this power, this ability. Everything else is a lie - everything I ever did or said which did not bear upon this. And that is pretty much the greater part of my life.
I was always believing in something and so getting into trouble. The more my hands were slapped the more firmly I believed. / 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 towards 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 things as a skeleton beneath the covering of flesh. Keep off the grass! That's the motto by which people live.
I sit beside the road with my head in my hands and sob. Poor bugger that I am, I can't contract my heart enough to burst the veins. I would like to suffocate with grief but instead I give birth to a rock.
289 reviews17 followers
September 15, 2012
Worse than Tropic of Cancer. Vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, and no compelling plot, characters, themes--in short, nothing that warrants literary merit.

Tropic of Capricorn, along with Tropic of Cancer, may have been groundbreaking at the time, but without the historical context they're just crude, misogynistic, violent, and ugly. When it is not that, it is boring to the point of punishment. Miller writes like a stoned undergrad, contemplating his place in the universe through endless oblique metaphor--basically, he's that guy who always used song lyrics as his status updates and then if you ask him what they mean, he would smugly say, "Oh, nothing."

Not worth the time it took to read. Contemplated throwing it away multiple times while reading it but I wanted to give it a chance to see if it improved. It didn't. I want my time back.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
494 reviews676 followers
December 24, 2013
Seeing Jeffrey's excellent review reminded me how much I admired some of Miller's works, especially his letters to Lawrence Durrell and the Colossus of Maroussi.
Profile Image for أحمد شاكر.
Author 6 books589 followers
October 12, 2014
ومع أني لم أنتهي من الكتاب، إلا أني أجدني مدفوعا برغبة غامضة للكتابة. مع العلم أني لم أقرر بعد هل سأكمله أم لا..
بالأمس، كنت في حالة من عدم الاتزان؛ حالة ذهنية ونفسية شديدة السوء، لم تداهمني من قبل، ربما الاكتئاب هو السبب. المهم وأنا في تلك الحالة، وبينما أجوب شوارع وسط البلد مع صديقة لي، ضاع الكتاب. نعم ضا ع مدار الجدي في مكان ما. سأحكي لكم: صليت الظهر في زاوية صغيرة، ثم قابلت صديقتي. سألتني: كتاب جديد؟ قلت: لا. قديم، لكني أقرأ فيه. هنري يلهمني وأنا أكتب. كلمتها عن أهمية الكتاب، ثم ذهبنا وتناولنا الغداء، ثم إلي المقهي، ثم إلي مكتبة شهيرة؛ نتنزه وسط الكتب، ثم وقعت عيني علي نسخة معروضة من الكتاب، فجأة تذكرت. أوه.. أين الكتاب؟ كان معك (أجابتني) وخرجنا نبحث عن الكتاب. وأنا في حالة من الضياع والتشتت. وكأن ابني تاه مني. كنت قد تجاوزت 65 صفحة فقط من الكتاب. كنت أقرأ بتأن واستمتاع بالغين. هنري يسب أم أمريكا ويلعن من خلفوها. هذه هي فاتحة الكتاب. ويبدو أن هذه هي تيمة الكتاب كله. هنري حزين جدا في مدار الجدي علي حال الانسان المنسحق من فوق، ومن الآلة، ومن الشغل، ومن المخدرات، والجنس..
هنري يبكي حاله، وحال أميركا، وحال العالم..
هذا أول كتاب يضيع مني يا هنري، ماذا أفعل؟ سأذهب لدلتا فينوس كتاب صديقتك نن..
Profile Image for Ioannis Savvas.
339 reviews43 followers
July 26, 2013
Ένα καταιγιστικό βιβλίο, αλλόκοτο, χωρίς πλοκή, χωρίς ειρμό. Χειμαρρώδες, όμορφο, κολασμένο, ονειρικό, χλευαστικό, ανήθικο, διδακτικό. Ο Μίλερ είναι ένας άξιος εκπρόσωπος του υπερρεαλισμού. Αν και έχει γνωρίσει τον ντανταϊσμό, δεν τον ενστερνίζεται. Ακροβατεί ανάμεσα στο παραλήρημα και τη φτηνή αυτοβιογραφία. Φτύνει το κατεστημένο, την πραγματικότητα. Ταυτόχρονα ζει την πραγματικότητα, το τώρα, ως το μεδούλι. Υμνεί τη γυναίκα και τις ωοθήκες της, την ίδια στιγμή που τη φοβάται και τη λατρεύει σαν θεά.

Ο Τροπικός του Αιγόκερω είναι ένα βιβλίο-μνημείο των ακραίων ατραπών που μπορεί να βαδίσει ο ανθρώπινος εγκέφαλος, χωρίς να χάσει το δρόμο του.
Profile Image for Theo.
99 reviews46 followers
January 6, 2023
In certain respects this work supersedes that of Cancer. If Cancer is a work that revolves around fluids, around the Seine, around piss, spermatozoa etc. then Capricorn is one of solids. In Brooklyn we find ourselves forced to go toward the spiritual Land of Fuck, in the Southern States we are forced to contend with arid landscapes and racial tensions so tense that they could kill a man through a mere gaze.

The best way to describe the work is to highlight Miller’s own self described evolution from skater to swimmer to rock. Having broken through the futility of Dante’s ice, Miller quits the skating shtick and joyfully dives in to the freshly thawed oceans, before realising that one must become immutable at the very depths of the ocean. One must paradoxically be bone dry surrounded by the sea, a lighthouse that stands strong against the ensuing waves.

So yeah, this shit was pretty fucking good. Especially loved whenever he brought up Dostoevsky, Bergson or Nietzsche, it’s fun to see what he reads into them.
Profile Image for Sara Zovko.
356 reviews80 followers
June 15, 2019
1934.godine kad je ova knjiga objavljena, vjerujem da su se mnogi našli uvrijeđeni i šokirani. Puno scena seksa, prostitutke, alkohol i sve ostalo, u ono doba bilo je nešto novo, nešto o čemu se ne priča i ne piše. Puno godina nakon, čitam i osjećam da mi stranica traje beskonačno.... meni Miller djeluje kao da se previše i namjerno trudi šokirati, djeluje mi neprirodno i pretjerano, kao netko tko je odavno trebao izaći iz puberteta, ali nije i nikada i neće.
Profile Image for Eliana Rivero.
730 reviews68 followers
August 31, 2016
La oportunidad más maravillosa que ofrece la vida es la de ser humano. Abarca todo el universo. Incluye el conocimiento de la muerte, del que ni siquiera Dios goza (p.226).

Trópico de Capricornio me ha gustado más que su antecesor. Aquí hay más espiritualidad, filosofía y reflexión. También hay más sexo, escenas repugnantes, sífilis, machismo, miseria, pobreza. Pero es una novela genial, intensa, absorbente, que te deja con un vacío y con muchas preguntas. Es una novela que te hace explotar la cabeza, porque es como una explosión.

Seguimos la vida ficcionalizada de Henry Miller, su vida como jefe de personal en una compañía de telégrafos y de sus amistades, salidas, vida familiar, prostitutas, su odio por Estados Unidos, sus reflexiones sobre la vida que lleva, sus recuerdos de infancia, entre muchas otras cosas. Es divertido el relato que hace, pues en ocasiones resulta un tanto absurdo, irónico y estúpido.

La pasión de Miller por el sexo es importante, porque aunque la novela no gire en torno al sexo, tiene gran relevancia en su vida y en las reflexiones que hace sobre la misma. Yo lo llamaría como una especie de sexo-místico, porque hay cierta espiritualidad en lo que quiere vivir Miller y en lo que es su filosofía de vida: decir a todo, porque es la única forma de poder vivir honradamente como hombre y ser humano. Darlo todo a la humanidad, entregarse desbocadamente.

Si vieran el montón de post-its que utilicé, más los subrayados, se sorprenderían. Cada frase es más ¡wow! que la otra, es impactante. Como por ejemplo:
A mi entender, el significado de un libro radica en que el propio libro desaparezca de la vista, en que se lo mastique vivo, se lo digiera e incorpore al organismo como carne y sangre que, a su vez, crean nuevo espíritu y dan nueva forma al mundo (p.218).
O también:
La delicia mayor, pero rara, era caminar por las calles a solas..., caminar por las calles de noche, cuando estaban desiertas, y reflexionar sobre el silencio que me rodeaba. Millones de personas tumbadas boca arriba, muertas para el mundo, con las bocas abiertas, que sólo emitían ronquidos. Caminar por entre la arquitectura más demencial que jamás se haya inventado, preguntándome por qué y con qué fin, si todos los días tenía que salir de aquellos cuchitriles miserables o palacios magníficos un ejército de hombres deseosos de desembuchar el relato de su miseria (p.66).
Miller es una figura importante de la literatura norteamericana. Escribió los dos Trópicos... en los años 30. Se nota su influencia en la generación beat, aunque creo que él es un poco más simple en lo que quiere expresar. También se siente un poco surrealista, pero sus escritos tienen más sentido que lo que se ve en la escritura automática de este movimiento. Estas son novelas para sorprenderse y dejarse llevar. Es para abrir la mente, porque es una explosión.
Profile Image for Karen Cockerill.
295 reviews
January 15, 2014
In the contraversal debates on Fifty Shades of Grey this was one of the books suggested as being a better read. So I thought I'd try it. I'm almost halfway through the book after much skim reading - for me on the negativity of life - I'm ready to throw the towel in and move onto a more pleasant book.

Profile Image for Brent Legault.
711 reviews126 followers
January 10, 2008
Should have been banned for its banality rather than its sexual content. I recently reread the first page and counted five cliches.* I'd've found more had I the strength to continue. Miller had pluck, sure, and ballsful of bravado. But talent? I might've wanted to drink with him in some Dijon bordello, listen to one or two of his stories outloud (his novels certainly read like they were dictated) but his written words are weak and watery. Of course, he couldn't see that, blinded as he was by his outsized ego.

*More than five, actually: "given up the ghost" "dead certainty" "I was my own worst enemy." "bored me to tears" "sympathetic to a fault" "a change of heart" "at first blush"

There were many other soft cliches and tired turns of phrase, all on page one. I checked other pages, just in case he was making a pre-post modern comment of some kind, but no, no. His writing, in all of his books (the eight or so that I've read, anyway) is replete with laziness (intermingled with bits of careless genius).
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