dissabte, 16 de maig de 2009


Tropic of Capricorn

It is a semi-autobiographical novel first published in Paris in 1938.

The novel was subsequently banned in the United States until a 1961 Justice Department ruling declared that its contents were not obscene. It is a sequel to Miller's Tropic of Cancer.

The novel is set in 1920s New york, where the narrator 'Henry V. Miller' works in the personnel division of the 'Cosmodemonic' telegraph company.

Although the narrator's experiences closely parallel Miller's own time in New York working for the Western Union Telegraph Company, and he shares the author's name, the novel is considered a work of fiction and features exaggerated misogyny and racism.

Often paired with Cancer, Capricorn is in fact strikingly different in narrative and even tone.

-The setting:

·for the most part, is New York and its environs.

·Brooklyn, a town often described in loving and nostalgic terms, hovers over the childhood memories;

·Manhattan, far more brutal in its contours, shoves Miller along through his life of two-bit employment;

·Far Rockaway and the beaches beckon from the near distance, promising sexual escapades and one-night trysts.

Major Themes


Tropic of Capricorn is replete with references to the “super-cunt,” and a frequently lobbied term is “the Land of Fuck.”

Miller does not treat sex as purely physical:

-He takes sex seriously, for it opens up avenues of perception and consciousness that other activities do not.

-his writing is always laced with a heavy dose of self-parody, but he does seem to view sex as one of the few truly meaningful physical activities still open to humans, a way of forging connections with the material world.

-Since spirituality is, for him, to be found in the physical, the

act of sex is a way of reaching toward that spirituality – toward the truth that Miller so actively seeks.

The Self

The self – finding it, defining it, coming to terms with it – is the ultimate objective.

He references various pseudonyms – Gottlieb Leberecht Muller, Samson Lackawanna – and we know that in reality he penned many of his earlier works under the names Cecil Barr or Basil Carr.

All this jumbling of names is a way of suggesting the difficulty of defining oneself in the modern world.

Miller strives to fashion his own identity:

-drifting from job to job,

-diving into torrid affairs,

before he seems to discover himself, via writing and the creative act.

The Writer

It can be read as Miller’s answer to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

-it tells the story of Miller, lost in his twenties,

-he tries writing a book, but fails, and pulls himself back up,

-he reads voraciously (particularly Dostoevsky), and keeps writing,

-he finds he is unable to control what is coming out of his pen,

-he has an epiphany of sorts,

-and finally he emerges as close to a fully-formed writer.

Miller suggests that one must be crushed in order to rise back up as an artist,


Miller argues that America has a unique way of dealing with its past.

Here, the new not only replaces the old but it obliterates it.

Miller writes of all “vestiges” of his old Brooklyn neighbourhood being wiped away, and contends that:

-a European, despite that continent’s war-torn history, cannot understand that kind of effacement.

-In other words, American change is different from change anywhere else.

By positing this separation, Miller suggests that there is a uniquely American identity, one founded in a constant expunging of the past – just as the Native Americans were ruthlessly decimated.


The “sour rye” that Miller describes serves as a metaphor for the losses that accompany adulthood:

- loss of innocence,

- a greater loss of meaning.

Paychecks, employment, the “automatic process” of adult life, ruin the clear-headed philosopher that is a child.

Miller is surprisingly tender when describing his childhood, and evokes summer idylls, first loves, and excited conversations with loving detail.


Miller describes “drowning” himself in the Gulf of Mexico, and writes of suicide and starvation, of “giving up the ghost.”

Rather than advocating killing oneself, however, Miller is arguing for a kind of spiritual rebirth.

The cycle of death and rebirth is crucial to artistic creation, and the end is simply a new beginning – as Miller suggests by concluding Tropic of Capricorn with the following words: “Tomorrow, tomorrow…” true art springs from the death/rebirth dynamic. Genius lies in resurrection”.