Book club: Tropic of Cancer

Set in Paris during the 1920s & 30s, Tropic of Cancer combines autobiography and fiction, as it focusses on Miller’s life as a struggling writer. Many of the characters are based on real people from Miller’s life, while others are written as stream-of-consciousness reflections – with Miller often falling into a deep epiphanic rant for 15 pages at a time.

Miller’s introduction of groundbreaking ideas, as well as the sexually explicit and often derogatory content, caused much commotion in the States during its publication. In fact, the first edition that was published in Paris in 1934 was banned from the States until 1961. This led to obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography. In 1964 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the book non-obscene and it is now widely regarded as a salient masterpiece of 20th century literature.

I was blown away by Miller’s modern train of thought and the accurate way in which he depicted the human condition. However, unlike most of the books to which I frequently refer, I would not recommend or implore everyone to read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. This book is not for the faint hearted, and would only sweep a particular personality type off their feet. My friend lent me this early edition to read – so old, it has “$1.65” written on the cover.

Photo on 04-06-2013 at 18.35 Image

The Great men series – 7

Meet Tabash Foroughi, an insightful taxi driver from Iran who gave me a ride from Auckland airport to work this morning. After being greeted by a sign with my name on it (an act that goes well beyond what is expected from a standard taxi booking), and instantly learning that Tabash was born in Iran but was now a New Zealand citizen studying the Maori culture by correspondence learning, I knew it would be one of the more interesting rides to work. Here’s some of what he had to say –

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“At the end of the day it’s about customer service this job, it’s not about making money, it’s about being safe, being punctual, helping people, helping the ones who really need it. It’s about understanding where people are coming from and helping their needs. In the long run a person who tries to take advantage of others very seldom makes it, it’s like a one night affair. The person who is steadfast in life, the person who knows the limitations, will go on for a longer time…

Born in Thran, Iran, I was 20 when I left. I went to the US and came here when I was 33. I’m 57 now. New Zealand is home – more so than my home country. New Zealand is a place where individuals feel the importance of other people, importance about themself. There is absolute democracy here. As far as national landscapes, quietness, safeness, friendliness of the people and how they value a good life, New Zealand is one of the best places that I have in my short life lived in. All of my friends, the people I’m affiliated with, are telling me about New Zealand and how great it is. It depends what you want from life…but it’s all here…

I started learning about the Maori culture to fill in the lack I felt for many years. It is nonsense to be somewhere and not know about the culture as it is written because we don’t have tapunas (ancestors) to tell us what happened. But what’s in books and the great people who have published them have brought messages forward from a couple of centuries in the written form…

Many people have treated Maori people unlawfully or forcibly in the past, but many British people who were residents and governors have treated Maori people with respect and taught them great culture of the other side of the west. A Pakeha who respected the Maori people was always very respected by them. The Maori people have a fantastic culture; very family orientated, respect for elders, respect for resources. The Maori are extremely spiritual people. In every part of the world the settlers have come and put themselves with the local people. New Zealand is not the only place…

You need a special person to drive a taxi, it’s not all about making money.”