Notes on Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer Episode 2: “The Last Book”

These madmen, Henry and Boris, want to write “The Last Book”. It will be the last because it will break everything apart.

“Not one of us is intact, and yet we have in us all the continents and the seas between the continents and the birds of the air.” When we finally come apart this reality will come forth again out of us, and everything will be as new.

Miller studies a painting – a still life by Dufresne – and tries to hold on to his identity. Trying to capture something alive – the artist, himself, his vision – and hold it there, in the work of art. Miller the writer, who will write the book to end all books, blowing everything to pieces.

When the world is torn apart the continents within us will rise up to create a new reality, and we’ll have no need for these identities we struggle to hold onto. Swept along.

Miller’s identity: a writing machine. If I can keep writing then I know what I am.

Or: lost in the writing. Giving himself completely over to description of what’s going on around him. Negation of the self.

“I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows . . . I am the machine . . .”

Identity is non-identity. Going with the flow is holding onto the raft you have built, your own identity.

The writing process continues, and the people Miller writes about seem to dance for him – Miller is the only stable thing in the room. He’s entrenched himself and he writes like a machine, dreaming his own dream, warding off the nightmare.

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1 Response to Notes on Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer Episode 2: “The Last Book”

  1. Therese says:

    “Identity is non-identity….” Beautiful paradox.

    Liked by 1 person

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