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.