Literary Quotations
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HENRY MILLER QUOTES


Tropic of Cancer (1934)

The cancer of time is eating us away.

--Chapter 1

We must get in step, a lock step, toward the prison of death. There is no escape.

--Chapter 1

I recall distinctly how I enjoyed my suffering. It was like taking a cub to bed with you. Once in a while he clawed you--and then you really were frightened. Ordinarily you had no fear--you could always turn him loose, or chop his head off.

--Chapter 1

Behind the word is chaos. Each word a stripe, a bar, but there are not and never will be enough bars to make the mesh.

--Chapter 1

Paris is simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas. They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it in the incubator. Paris is the cradle of artificial births. Rocking here in the cradle each one slips back into his soil: one dreams back to Berlin, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Minsk. Vienna is never more Vienna than in Paris.

--Chapter 2

We're all dead, or dying, or about to die.

--Chapter 3

New York is cold, glittering, malign. The buildings dominate. There is a sort of atomic frenzy to the activity going on; the more furious the pace, the more diminished the spirit. A constant ferment, but it might just as well be going on in a test tube. Nobody knows what it's all about. Nobody directs the energy. Stupendous. Bizarre. Baffling. A tremendous reactive urge, but absolutely uncoordinated.

--Chapter 5

New York! The white prisons, the sidewalks swarming with maggots, the breadlines, the opium joints that are built like palaces, the kikes that are there, the lepers, the thugs, and above all, the ennui, the monotony of faces, streets, legs, houses, skyscrapers, meals, posters, jobs, crimes, loves ... A whole city erected over a hollow pit of nothingness.

--Chapter 5

On the meridian of time there is no injustice: there is only the poetry of motion creating the illusion of truth and drama.

--Chapter 7

At the extreme limits of his spiritual being man finds himself again as naked as a savage. When he finds God, as it were, he has been picked clean: he is a skeleton.

--Chapter 7

I have found God, but he is insufficient.

--Chapter 7

Women only help me to dream, that's all. It's a vice, like drink or opium. I've got to have a new one every day; if I don't I get morbid.

--Chapter 8

The less you notice them the more they chase after you. There's something perverse about women ... they're all masochists at heart.

--Chapter 8

There are people in this world who cut such a grotesque figure that even death renders them ridiculous. And the more horrible the death the more ridiculous they seem. It's no use trying to invest the end with a little dignity--you have to be a liar and a hypocrite to discover anything tragic in their going.

--Chapter 8

There are some of us who don't live in the moment, who live a little ahead, or a little behind.

--Chapter 8

It's just because the chances are all against you, just because there is so little hope, that life is sweet.

--Chapter 8

I have never seen a place like Paris for varieties of sexual provender. As soon as a woman loses a front tooth or an eye or a leg she goes on the loose. In America she'd starve to death if she had nothing to recommend her but a mutilation. Here it is different. A missing tooth or a nose eaten away or a fallen womb, any misfortune that aggravates the natural homeliness of the female, seems to be regarded as an added spice, a stimulant for the jaded appetites of the male.

--Chapter 8

The wallpaper with which the men of science have covered the world of reality is falling to tatters. The grand whorehouse which they have made of life requires no decoration; it is essential only that the drains function adequately.

--Chapter 8

One can live in Paris--I discovered that!--on just grief and anguish. A bitter nourishment--perhaps the best there is for certain people.

--Chapter 9

An eternal city, Paris! More eternal than Rome, more splendorous than Ninevah. The very navel of the world to which, like a blind and faltering idiot, one crawls back on hands and knees. And like a cork that has drifted to the dead center of the ocean, one floats here in the scum and wrack of the seas, listless, hopeless.

--Chapter 9

It's best to keep America just like that, always in the background, a sort of picture post card which you look at in a weak moment. Like that, you imagine it's always there waiting for you, unchanged, unspoiled, a big patriotic open space with cows and sheep and tenderhearted men ready to bugger everything in sight, man, woman, or beast. It doesn't exist, America. It's a name you give to an abstract idea.

--Chapter 10

Paris is like a whore. From a distance she seems ravishing, you can't wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. You feel tricked.

--Chapter 11

At the bottom of every frozen heart there is a drop or two of love.

--Chapter 13

If any man ever dared to translate all that is in his heart, to put down what is really his experience, what is truly his truth, I think then the world would go to smash, that it would be blown to smithereens and no god, no accident, no will could ever again assemble the pieces, the atoms, the indestructible elements that have gone to make up the world.

--Chapter 13

When I reflect that the task which the artist implicitly sets himself is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment so that by the emotional release those who are dead may be restored to life, then it is that I run with joy to the great and imperfect ones, their confusion nourishes me, their stuttering is like divine music to my ears.

--Chapter 13

Side by side with the human race there runs another race of beings, the inhuman ones, the race of artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song.

--Chapter 13

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