Henry Miller

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Take a good look at me. Now tell me, do you think I'm the sort of fellow who gives a fuck what happens once he's dead?

Henry Valentine Miller (26 December 18917 June 1980) was an American writer.

Quotes[edit]

No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.
  • To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don't have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?
    • Tropic of Capricorn (1939)
  • Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything Godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything.
    • Tropic of Capricorn (1939)
  • The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
    • Tropic of Capricorn (1939)
  • Take a good look at me. Now tell me, do you think I'm the sort of fellow who gives a fuck what happens once he's dead?
    • Tropic of Capricorn (1939)
  • Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
  • What an astounding thing is the voice! By what miracle is the hot magma of the earth transformed into that which we call speech? If out of clay such an abstract medium as words can be shaped what is to hinder us from leaving our bodies at will and taking up our abode on other planets or between the planets? What is to prevent us from rearranging all life, atomic, molecular, corporeal, stellar, diving? Who or what is powerful enough to eradicate this miraculous leaven which we bear within us like a seed and which, after we have embraced in our mind all the universe, is nothing more than a seed — since to say universe is as easy as to say seed, and we have yet to say greater things, things beyond saying, things limitless and inconceivable, things which no trick of language can encompass.
    • The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)
  • If men cease to believe that they will one day become gods then they will surely become worms.
    • The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)
  • To be free, as I then knew myself to be, is to realize that all conquest is vain, even the conquest of self, which is the last act of egotism. To be joyous is to carry the ego to its last summit and to deliver it triumphantly. To know peace is total: it is the moment after, when the surrenderer is complete, when there is no longer even the consciounsness of surrender. Peace is at the centre and when it is attainded the voice issues forth in praise and benediction. Then the voice carries far and wide, to the outermost limits of the universe. Then it heals, because it brings light and the warmth of compassion.
    • The Colossus of Maroussi (1941)
  • The history of the world is the history of a privileged few.
    • Sunday after the war (1944), pub. New Directions.
  • To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if men were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea soak in.
  • We’re creators by permission, by grace as it were. No one creates alone, of and by himself. An artist is an instrument that registers something already existent, something which belongs to the whole world, and which, if he is an artist, he is compelled to give back to the world.
    • The Rosy Crucifixion I : Sexus (1949)
  • A man writes to throw off the poison which he has accumulated because of his false way of life. He is trying to recapture his innocence, yet all he succeeds in doing is to inoculate the world with a virus of his disillusionment. No man would set a word down on paper if he had the courage to live out what he believed in....
    • The Rosy Crucifixion I : Sexus (1949), Chapter 1. (New York: Grove Press, c1965, p. 17-18)
  • The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.
    • The Rosy Crucifixion I : Sexus (1949), Chapter 14. (New York: Grove Press, c1965, p. 339)
  • Many is the mirage I chased. Always I was overreaching myself. The oftener I touched reality, the harder I bounced back to the world of illusion, which is the name for everyday life. 'Experience! More experience!' I clamored. In a frantic effort to arrive at some kind of order, some tentative working program, I would sit down quietly now and then and spend long, long hours mapping out a plan of procedure. Plans, such as architects and engineers sweat over, were never my forte. But I could always visualize my dreams in a cosmogonic pattern. Though I could never formulate a plot I could balance and weigh opposing forces, characters, situations, events, distribute them in a sort of heavenly lay-out, always with plenty of space between, always with the certitude that there is no end, only worlds within worlds ad infinitum, and that wherever one left off one had created a world, a world finite, total, complete.
    • The Rosy Crucifixion II : Plexus (1953)
  • No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.
    • The Wisdom of the Heart (1951)
  • In this age, which believes that there is a short-cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way, in the long run, is the easiest.
    • The Books in My Life (1952) Preface (2nd edition. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1969, p. 12)
  • If we have not found heaven within, it is a certainty we will not find it without.
    • The Books in My Life (1952) Chapter 11: The Story of My Heart (2nd edition. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1969, p. 192)
  • Often, when following the trail which meanders over the hills, I pull myself up in an effort to encompass the glory and the grandeur which envelops the whole horizon. Often, when the clouds pile up in the north and the sea is churned with white caps, I say to myself: "This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked out on from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look."
    • From: Miller, H. (1957). Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, New Directions Books, New York, p. 6.
  • One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.
    • From: Miller, H. (1957). Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch
    • Often misquoted as "One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things".
  • Obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.
    • Interview, 1961
  • Through art then, one finally establishes contact with reality: that is the great discovery. Here all is play and invention; there is no solid foothold from which to launch the projectiles which will pierce the miasma of folly, ignorance and greed. The world has not to be put in order: the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order, to know what is the world order in contradistinction to the wishful-thinking orders which we seek to impose on one another. The power which we long to possess, in order to establish the good, the true and the beautiful, would prove to be, if we could have it, but the means of destroying one another. It is fortunate that we are powerless.
    • From: Miller, H. (1969). “Creation,” The Henry Miller Reader. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation. p.33.
  • She was to me, and still is, the greatest person I have known - one who can truly be called a "devoted" soul. I owe her everything.
    • Letters of Henry Miller and Wallace Fowlie (1975)
  • The new always carries with it the sense of violation, of sacrilege. What is dead is sacred; what is new, that is, different, is evil, dangerous, or subversive.

Tropic of Cancer (1934)[edit]

  • 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 have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
  • For a hundred years or more the world, our world, has been dying. And not one man, in these last hundred years or so, has been crazy enough to put a bomb up the asshole of creation and set it off. The world is rotting away, dying piecemeal. But it needs the coup de grace, it needs to be blown to smithereens.
  • I am crying for more and more disasters, for bigger calamities, for grander failures. I want the whole world to be out of whack, I want everyone to scratch himself to death.
  • Still prowling around. Mid-afternoon. Guts rattling. Beginning to rain now. Notre-Dame rises tomb-like from the water. The gargoyles lean far out over the lace facade. 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.
  • All the men she's been with and now you, just you, and the barges going by, masts and hulls, the whole damned current of life flowing through you, through her, through all the guys behind you and after you, the flowers and the birds and the sun streaming in and the fragrance of it choking you, annihilating you.
  • I knew I wouldn't ever trade all this whirling about my head for Russia or heaven or anything on earth.
  • Any genuine philosophy leads to action and from action back again to wonder, to the enduring fact of mystery.
  • I hear not a word because she is beautiful and I love her and now I am happy & willing to die.
  • For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood.
  • Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy.

Henry Miller on Writing (1964)[edit]

  • Art is only a means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.
  • Things happen or they don't happen, that's all. Nothing is accomplished by sweat and struggle. Nearly everything which we call life is just insomnia, an agony because we've lost the habit of falling asleep.
  • I blush to think of our origins - our hands are steeped in Blood & Crime. And there is no letup to the slaughter and pillage.
  • The frantic desire to Live, to live at any cost, is not a result of the life rhythm in us, but of the death rhythm.
  • To be generous is to say yes before the man even opens his mouth.
  • I soon learned that one must give up everything and not do anything else but write, that one must write write write.
  • Every man is working out his destiny in his own way and nobody can be of any help except by being kind, generous, and patient.
  • The truly great writer does not want to write. He wants the world to be a place in which he can live the life of the imagination.
  • Writing is Crude hieroglyphs chiseled in pain & sorrow to commemorate an event which is intransmissible.
  • The Happiest peoples, it is said, are those which have no history. Those who have a history, those who have made history seem only to have emphazied through their acomplishments the eternality of struggle. These disappear too eventually, just as those who made no effort, who were content to merely live & enjoy.
  • The Battle is endless...we who babble and froth at the mouth have been at it since eternity.
  • Perhaps the artist is nothing more than the personification of this universal maladjustment, this universal disequilibrium.
  • Whatever I do is done out of sheer joy; I drop my fruits like a ripe tree. What the general reader or the critic makes of them is not my concern.
  • The whole damn universe has to be taken apart, brick by brick, and reconstructed.
  • I am against revolutions because they always involve a return to the status quo.
  • I am glad to be a maggot in the corpse which is the world.
  • Everything remains unsettled forever, depend on it.
  • The artist who becomes thoroughly aware consequently ceases to be one.
  • The trouble with Buddhism ?-- in order to free oneself of all desire, one has to desire to do so.

My Bike & Other Friends (1977)[edit]

Reflections (1981)[edit]

  • Emma Goldman. I had nothing but admiration for her. Those speeches she made on behalf of the working man, Jesus! She could inflame you, incite you to riot, [-] Goldman and Berkman, decided to assassinate the head of a big steel company, an industrial magnate named Frick. Well, they decided a gun would be the quickest and most efficient way, but they had the problem of not having enough money to buy one. So, Goldman thinks she'll have to prostitute herself to get the money. She dresses up and fixes herself up in a horrible way. She had no sense whatever in that regard. She stations herself on the street, waitng for customers, and all the while she's looking hideous, monstrous. The first man who approaches her is a gentleman, well dressed, well educated and the like. She tells him everything, all about her work, her beliefs, and even about the assassination plot. The man was completely intrigued with her stories, he wasn't at all interested in fucking her. He handed her a good sum of money [-] Needless to say, she had a profound effect on the lives of nearly everyone who came into contact with her. She was an exceptional figure.
  • The Gnostics thought the planet Earth was a cosmic mistake. I too feel that way — I'm through with this Earth before I've even departed from it.
Gurdjieff was one of the most mysterious figures of the twentieth century. His writing was incomprehensible to me, yet I feel I know him intimately because of a delectable book titled, Boyhood With Gurdjieff by Fritz Peters
  • One day, during one of their sessions, Gurdjieff tells Peters to look out the window and describe what he sees. 'An oak tree' the child answers. 'And what do you see on the oak tree?' 'Acorns' Peters replies. 'How many of these acorns do you suppose will become trees?' Fritz Peters is stumped, [-] 'Maybe five or six?'
    'No' retorts Gurdjieff. 'Only one will become a tree, perhaps, none! Nature is always very giving, but it only gives possibility. It takes hard work and great effort to become a tree or a genuine man.'
  • I venerate van Gogh. He was a remarkable human being, a man who knew about love. His work reflects a spirit filled with light, even though his life was a tragedy in many ways.
  • Vlaminck and Utrillo were very good friends, drinking buddies. One day they attend a funeral. They're walking behind the hearse in a procession, and they're having a great time conversing with one another. They are completely engrossed when suddenly one asks the other, 'Say, don't you smell something funny?' They look up and they're walking behind a garbage truck! They'd lost the hearse in the middle of their enthusiastic conversation.
  • There was one artist who wrote as beautifully as he painted. That was Hokusai - He speaks for all artists, whether they are painters or not. [He wrote]: " I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy three I have at last caught every aspect of nature-birds,fish,animals,insects,trees,grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further. And I will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach a hundred my work will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life."
  • The pygmies are one of the most cultured peoples on the face of the earth. They live a wonderful life, a life of purity. Not only are they busy and productive, they're happy and healthy as well. If we puny Americans had to live under their conditions, we'd perish in a day. Modern man has much to learn from the people he calls 'savages'. Before we are down to the last blade of grass it would be wise to study the life of the Pygmies. The secret of our own survival rests with them, the people who know how to make the most out of very little and find complete happiness with the bare essentials.
  • I've spoken many times about the Japanese woman. I've praised her again and again. But I have to tell you that I think the Japanese man is the worst. The women are such delicate creatures and they're treated abominably by the men. The Japanese men are pigs - even worse than American men.
  • More than anything the French have a profound knowledge of the ways of life. They possess a tolerance and an acceptance of the way things are. Problems are faced with intelligence, patience, and a sense of humanity. I have more respect for them than any other nationality on the face of the earth.
  • As far as Bach is concerned, I never came close to liking him [-] My favourite composer is Scriabin -[and] his Fifth sonata, in my mind, the greatest piece of music ever written.
  • Wagner wrote an opera titled Tristan and Yseult and in it there is a theme called Love Death theme. It is so sensual, so sexual that he was criticized for having introduced sex into music. And that was quite a few years before the appearance of Elvis Presley!
  • The man who doesn't respond to music, the man without music in his soul is not to be trusted. A man like that is cold and empty, empty to the core.
  • Through it all I learned the value of being humble to the dust, reduced to ashes. Everyone should experience that. Before you can recognize you're somebody, you have to know you're nobody. [-] The butterfly was just a lowly worm in its beginning. The worm didn't live with the moment-to-moment expectation of sprouting wings and taking flight. He lived a useful and productive life, the life of a worm. And he had to die a worm in order to be born as an angel! The spinning of the cocoon is, in and of itself, remarkable. It is as wondrous as the emergence and first flight of the butterfly.
  • I tell you, struggle is what is missing in the lives of most young people today. If they think I'm going to support them while they create great works of art, then they've missed the point of my work, of my life! In the process of becoming a writer or an artist one has to be willing to starve. Struggle is the most invaluable experience of all. Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. The greatest works of art were not created by spoiled brats. They were born for the most part out of a sense of despair, and if not despair then just plain hard work. Somewhere along the line the artist learns the art of transformation.

External links[edit]

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