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Henry Valentine Miller (n. New York, December 26, 1891 – m. Los Angeles, California, June 7, 1980) was an American novelist whose work consists of novels semi-autobiographical, in which the raw tone, sensual and openly aroused a series of controversies within a puritan United States that Miller wanted to stigmatize denouncing the moral hypocrisy of American society, criticizing the passing of human existence, stripping his cynicism and multiple contradictions. Censored by his style and content provocative and rebellious in relation to the literary creation of his time, his works greatly influenced the so-called Beat Generation.
Henry Miller’s Biography
Miller’s youth was erratic. He alternated various jobs with brief periods of study at the City College of New York. In 1928 he married June Miller (Juliette Edith Smerdt) after divorcing his first wife, Beatrice Sylvas, with whom he had a daughter.
In 1930, during the Great Depression, he left for France, where the outbreak of the Second World War. At this time, Miller decided to devote himself totally to literature. His first bohemian years in Paris were miserable: he had to fight against cold and hunger; he fed himself with the meals offered him and slept, every night, under a different bridge. Luck will be presented in the person of Richard Osborn, an American lawyer who offers him a room in his apartment. Every morning, Osborn left a 10 franc note on the kitchen table for Miller to spend at his convenience. Meet Anaïs Nin (of whom he was a lover), Brassaï and Alfred Perlès, and begin their trials with surrealism.
In the fall of 1931, Miller got his first job as a style editor (in Paris) in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, thanks to his friend Alfred Perlès, an opportunity that he uses to publish several articles that he will sign with the name of “Perlés “, since only members of the editorial team could edit their writings. Writes, in that year, Tropic of Cancer, in the Villa Seurat de Montparnasse, which will be published thanks to the support of her friend and lover, the writer Anaïs Nin, in 1934. This novel was, in the USA, a process for obscenity, according to the laws in force at that time dictated against adult entertainment. This novel was censored, in his country, until 1961, and could only enter clandestinely with the cover of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s classic.
Miller continues his personal battle against Puritanism by trying to liberate, from a moral, social and legal point of view, the sexual taboos existing in American literature. Continues writing novels, all censored in the United States for obscene. It publishes Black Spring (1936), and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), which get their diffusion in the US despite having to be sold surreptitiously, which contributes to forge its reputation as an underground writer.
He returns to the United States in 1940 and settles in the Big Sur (California), where he continues to produce a vigorous, colorful and socially critical literature. He writes The Colossus of Marussi (1941), which deals with a trip to Greece, a country that guest visited by Lawrence Durrell; the book, more than a guide to use, is a lyrical monument to Mediterranean sensuality, a brilliant critique of the American way of life and a plea for peace. He was followed by The Nightmare of Air Conditioning (1945-47), the trilogy The Pink Crucifixion, composed by Sexus (1949), Plexus (1953), and Nexus (1960). He wrote The Oranges of Bosco in 1957; and the literary study, El mundo de D.H. Lawrence in 1980.
He has been considered, even, a postmodern. His tropics, labeled as adult entertainment, generated a great controversy and were banned in the Anglo-Saxon countries. In 1964 the Supreme Court of the United States annuls, of the Court of State, the trial against Miller for obscenity, which represents the birth of what, later, will be known as the sexual revolution.
Among his hobbies were those of amateur pianist and painter. He wrote books about his painting and after his death, his watercolors were transferred to two museums: the Henry Miller Museum of Art in the city of Omachi Nagano (Japan) and the Henry Miller Art Museum in the Coast Gallery of Big Sur.
Died due to circulatory complications in Pacific Palisades, California. His remains were incinerated and his ashes scattered over Big Sur.
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