My first feeling about Black Spring was that it showed a falling-off, and it is a fact that it has not the same unity as the other book. Miller himself would be the last to claim or want any such thing. Just before, just after, and for that matter, during the war was the great age of the 'Nature poet', the heyday of Richard Jefferies and W. H. Hudson. The second stanza is intended as a sort of tabloid picture of a day in the life of a ‘good party man’. Hard cheese, old chap! What will happen to the Obelisk Press, now that war has broken out and Jack Kahane, the publisher, is dead, I do not know, but at any rate the books are still procurable. And again, the people in Tropic of Cancer fall short of being ordinary to the extent that they are idle, disreputable, and more or less ‘artistic’. The autonomous individual is going to be stamped out of existence. But what is more significant is that almost all of them, right-wing or left-wing, are written from a political angle, by cocksure partisans telling you what to think, whereas the books about the Great War were written by common soldiers or junior officers who did not even pretend to understand what the whole thing was about. First published: March 11, 1940 by/in Inside the Whale and Other Essays, GB, London. Whitman himself 'accepted' a great deal that his contemporaries found unmentionable. Only, what is he accepting? Masefield’s Everlasting Mercy, another valuable period-piece, immensely popular with boys round about the war years, gives you this vision in a very crude form. And again: They hand us now in Shrewsbury jail And whistles blow forlorn, And trains all night groan on the rail To men who die at morn. One can see the change in the prevailing literary attitude by comparing the books written about the Spanish Civil War with those written about the war of 1914-18. . From a mere account of the subject matter of TROPIC OF CANCER most people would probably assume it to be no more thatt a bit of naughty-naughty left over from the twenties. . Such poems might have been written expressly for adolescents. The trouble was that by about 1930 there was no activity, except perhaps scientific research, the arts, and left-wing politics, that a thinking person could believe in. The democracy, equality, and comradeship that he is always talking about arc not remote ideals, but something that existed in front of his eyes. The ‘country’ motif is there all the time, but mainly as a background. This in itself had a deep appeal. Looking back, most modern people would feel that the bourgeois-Puritan viewpoint was a better approximation to truth than the Catholic-feudal one. It seems likely, therefore, that in the remaining years of free speech any novel worth reading will follow more or less along the lines that Miller has followed—I do not mean in technique or subject matter, but in implied outlook. But this means that literature, in the form in which we know it, must suffer at least a temporary death. But quite Suddenly, in the years 1930-5, something happens. And you have this feeling because somebody has chosen to drop the Geneva language of the ordinary novel and drag the REAL-POLITIK of the inner mind into the open. The immediately striking thing about the Spanish war books, at any rate those written in English, is their shocking dullness and badness. We use cookies to remember your preferences such as preferred shipping country and currency, to save items placed in your shopping cart, to track website visits referred from our advertising partners, and to analyze our website traffic. Much of the literature that comes to us out of the past is permeated by and in fact founded on beliefs (the belief in the immortality of the soul, for example) which now seem to us false and in some cases contemptibly silly. And on the whole this is Henry Miller’s attitude. And the unvarying sexual pessimism (the girl always dies or marries somebody else) seemed like wisdom to boys who were herded together in public schools and were half-inclined to think of women as something unattainable. They went, that is, to the Church with a world-wide organization, the one with a rigid discipline, the one with power and prestige behind it. But by 1935 the face of Europe had changed, and left-wing politics changed with it. The walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion; In ‘cultured’ circles art-for-art’s-saking extended practically to a worship of the meaningless. Equally, of course, you could read through most of the literary papers of the time without grasping that these people are ‘the movement’. But Housman would not have appealed so deeply to the people who were young in 1920 if it had not been for another strain in him, and that was his blasphemous, antinomian, ‘cynical’ strain. The poets of New Signatures have swung back. At the beginning of the period I am speaking of, the years during and immediately after the war, the writer who had the deepest hold upon the thinking young was almost certainly Housman. He does at any rate mark an unexpected swing of the pendulum. It is the patriotism of the deracinated. His last book, Tropic of Capricorn, I have not even read. Unlike Whitman, we live in a shrinking world. Even more then than at most times the big shots of literary journalism were busy pretending that the age-before-last had not come to an end. Presumably there is a ‘not’ left out, or something. The truth is that in 1917 there was nothing that a thinking and a sensitive person could do, except to remain human, if possible. 'Disillusionment' was all the fashion. It is only seeming, for the truth is that ordinary everyday life consists far more largely of horrors than writers of fiction usually care to admit. If was simply something to believe in. Miller replied in terms of extreme pacifism, an individual refusal to fight, with no apparent wish to convert others to the same opinion — practically, in fact, a declaration of irresponsibility. google_color_url = "CC0000"; For the truth is that many ordinary people, perhaps an actual majority, do speak and behave in just the way that is recorded here. Patriotism, religion, empire, military glory--all in one word, Russia. Unlike Whitman, we live in a SHRINKING world. They deal with the simple, intelligible disasters that give you the feeling of being up against the 'bedrock facts'of life: The sun burns on the half-mown hill, By now the blood has dried; And Maurice among the hay lies still And my knife is in his side. Hell — Berlin. When I first opened TROPIC OF CANCER and saw that it was full of unprintable words, my immediate reaction was a refusal to be impressed. Of course there is much more in ULYSSES than this, because Joyce is a kind of poet and also an elephantine pedant, but his real achievement has been to get the familiar on to paper. There had been a sort of false dawn a few years earlier when numbers of young intellectuals, including several quite gifted writers (Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Hollis, and others), had fled into the Catholic Church. Miller’s books are published by the Obelisk Press in Paris.

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