Hace varios años mi ex alumno Víctor Hugo Vázquez (hoy profesor universitario) me pidió que dictara una conferencia en la Facultad de Letras Inglesas de la Universidad Veracruzana. Le dije: Sí la doy, pero en inglés, pues hace varios años no doy una conferencia en ese idioma. Recuerdo haber dictado conferencias el Kansas University, el el Banff Centre for The Arts y en la Universidad de Pensylvania, pero no en México... lo que me parecía una ocurrencia divertida. He aquí lo que salió...
Henry Miller is one of my favorite north american authors. As a paradox I must say he is almost ignored by the academic world of the United States. If you ask to a literature under graduate student in the States for Henry Miller, he will probably say: Henry what? Why is this so? This is so because he was absolutely sincere, direct. Because he had no prejudices. Let s hear what he wrote in a letter to Anais Nin, a French writer who was his lover and probably the most aggressive erotic writer of her times:
Preocúpese solo de su razón, de su inteligencia. No intente buscar soluciones. Antes bien busque dificultades. Cultive la locura. No se aparte de ella. En la locura está la sabiduría para el artista (Cartas a Anais, Nin, Plaza y Janés, 1965).
Henry Miller was almost absolutely authobiografic in his novels. He wrote about sex, hard sex, harsh sex. Sex in a taxi, sex in bathrooms, sex during parties, sex in his friends houses. He told everything about women he loved and he used. He had two passions: women and literature. But mainly literature. He sacrificed everything, including the women he loved and cherished, to attain what he wanted. What did Henry Miller was looking for? What was his main objective in life? To write one masterpiece after the other. Did he reach his goal? Yes and no. As a whole his work is a great masterpiece. Individualy his novels are good novels, but not masterpieces. His principal attainment was his attitude in life: he was free, aggressive, clear minded, sensitive, he had no reserves to criticize.
To write his novels he exploited his friends, his women and everyone in his reach. In first place was his literature; in second place everything else. His books were censured in the United States and published by a friends in France, were he lived many years. His case was the case of a man obsessed by his literature, to the extreme of quiting his jobs, not eating, not sleeping.
Lets hear what he writes to Anais Nin:
Estoy excitado. Me despierto después de cinco o seis horas de sueño y en ese mismo instante ya estoy pensando en la próxima línea de mi libro.
I, as a writer, know that sensation. I recognize that experience: while I am writing what I think is a very important piece I don t sleep as much as usual. Between two and for hour a night are enough to regain energy.
Its very frecuent that espouses or husbands of artists, and particularly writers, become a burden to the artistic work. Leon Tolstoi wrote this: Mi wife is like a huge stone hanging from may neck. Henry Miller wrote about his situation in Paris:
Vivíamos en un barrio morbosamente respetable, ocupando la planta baja y el sótano de una lúgubre casa de bien. De vez en cuando había intentado escribir, pero la tristeza que mi mujer creaba a su alrededor era superior a mis fuerzas.
This lines are from his novel Sexus, which is part of a trilogy composed also by Plexus and Nexus. The three of them form a narrative corpus called The rose crucifixion. This title implies than Miller, and by extension all men, are crucified by women, more especificly by womens sex. Rose is the color of womens sex and men live their life crucified by this rose zone, women s sexual parts. Sounds very tragic, very simplistic, thoug it is real: men are dominated by the impire of women.
Miller makes mokery of love and ridiculizes his wife:
Quería que le hiciese fiestas como una niña, que le susurrara tiernas naderías al oído, que la mimase, que la complaciera, que le siguiera la corriente…No quería reconocer que ella tenía un coño y yo una picha. Quería palabras de amor y presiones y exploraciones furtivas y en silencio con las manos…
But lets return to the novel Sexus. What s the problem of the writer, main character of the novel, alter ego of Miller? The problem is that Maude, his wife, is an obstacle to his writing. What s the solution? The solution is to find another woman, that is to say, to look for another crucifixion.
Miller falls in love. Probably it would be better to say “he falls in sex” with a dancer. It s obvious she is also a prostitute, but Miller doesen t care, he finds her marvelous. And that new experience impulses him to write with great entusiasm.
About The rose crucifixion I wrote a brief lecture, published now in my book Poéticas y obsesiones. I will finish this little chat reading its final pages. Victor Hugo Vásquez, one of my most outstanding pupils many years ago, asked me to lecture on Shakespeare. I offered to lecture in Miller and here I am. Víctor Hugo asked me this lecture two day ago: so I didn’t have much time to prepare it. So here are the final words of this brief chat about Henry Miller, one of the greatest novelist of twentieth century in North América.