Lawrence Durrell’s Praise for Tropic of Cancer

Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller

In his book Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel, Lawrence Durrell drops one of the most effective book praises I have read recently. It is about Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. (The praise if from Durrell’s letter to his friend Alan G. Thomas from 1935.)

Sometime when you have the money you might buy Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, pub. at 50 francs by the Obelisk Press. 338 Rue St.- Honore. Paris. This is the book for our generation. Of course it may shake you a bit on the physical side, because you don’t really know every inch of physical passion, and your experience in the world of the body is limited as yet. But when you do manage to explore this exquisite dimension of sense you will find your experience bearing out all he has to say, and the book will really grow on to you. In the meantime read it for what you can get out of it, and really salt yourself to it. Keep it on the shelf. As we grow we’ll realize more and more what it’s about. I am convinced that it’s the greatest thing written in our life-times. Roughly it’s idea is this. Where all the other people like Joyce and Lewis got stuck in the morass and dirt of modern life, Miller conies out on the other side with a grin, whole, hard and undamaged. He’s the first man really to cross the modern bog safely. The rest—all those tedious Ulysses and Chatterlies got stuck and choked up to the eyes: or else, like R. Aldington, stayed on safe romantic ground and spent their time moaning about the bog without ever going near it. For your own sake you must understand the book. It’s a manifesto. A world, says Miller, in which there must be no hope, but no despair. There is the different angle. Everyone else has been only too successful painting the despair, but no one has rejected it, and really jumped headlong into the dirt with guts. For Godsake Alan read this book. Get someone to bring it back from Paris for you. Even if you don’t like it the first edition value is going to be enormous. Even George dimly likes it!…

Love and Love,


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