Tropic of Cancer by Henry MillerNow 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.
The Male Mystique of Henry Miller
W hen the English, later the American, novel began in the late 17th century, it was profoundly associated with transgression. John Bunyan No 1 in this series wrote in prison. Daniel Defoe No 2 was put in the stocks. Writers of all sorts were seen and saw themselves as outsiders, renegades and troublemakers, an important theme in the history of the English novel. The more professional novelists became, with audiences to please, the further they moved from their reprobate origins. By the 20th century, however, the renegade frontier was to be found not in the wild west, but in Paris. The shabby, year-old American with unblinking camera vision who arrived on the Left Bank of Paris in was the quintessence of abject failure.
Shocking, banned and the subject of obscenity trials, Henry Miller's first novel Tropic of Cancer is one of the most scandalous and influential books of the twentieth century -- new to Penguin Modern Classics with a cover by Tracey Emin.
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What happens when the unreliable narrator turns out to be the cultural critic? What we write about fiction is never an objective response to a text; it is always part of a bigger mythmaking — the story we are telling ourselves about ourselves. That story changes.
The only book in my parents' bookcase which was turned the wrong way round with the spine hidden was Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. Their idea was, no doubt, one of caring parental censorship: they didn't want the novel that led to the rewriting of US laws on pornography to fall into my year-old hands. Copies had to be illegally smuggled into the US until the s and a publisher did ten years in jail. Given that my parents were liberal leftists and their bookshelf also included texts by Erica Jong, Aldous Huxley, Jean-Paul Sartre and Vance Packard, I realised that the hidden book had to be pretty radical. I stole it and hid it under my bed.