Big Sur Invocation

At dawn its majesty is almost painful to behold. That same prehistoric look. The look of always. Nature smiling at herself in the mirror of eternity.

Far below, the seals bask on the warm rocks, squirming like fat brown worms. Above the steady roar of the breakers their hoarse bark can be heard for miles.

Were there once two moons? Why not? There are mountains that have lost their scalps, streams that boil under the high snows. Now and then the earth rumbles, to level a city or open a new vein of gold.

At night the boulevard is studded with ruby eyes.

And what is there to match a faun as it leaps the void? Toward eventime, when nothing speaks, when the mysterious hush descends, envelops all, says all.

Hunter, put down your gun! It is not the slain which accuse you, but the silence, the emptiness. You blaspheme.

I see the one who dreamed it all as he rides beneath the stars. Silently he enters the forest. Each twig, each fallen leaf, a world beyond all knowing. Through the ragged foliage the splintered light scatters gems of fancy; huge heads emerge, the remains
of stolen giants.

My horse! My land! My kingdom!” The babble of idiots.

Moving with the night, horse and rider inhale deep draughts of pine, of camphor, of eucalyptus. Peace spreads its naked wings.

Was it ever meant to be otherwise?

Kindness, goodness, peace and mercy. Neither beginning nor end. The round. The eternal round.

And ever the sea recedes. Moon drag. To the west, new land, new figures of earth. Dreamers, outlaws, forerunners. Advancing toward the other world of long ago and far away, the world of yesterday and tomorrow. The world within the world.

From what realm of light were we shadows who darken the earth spawned?

Henry Miller, 1969. The Henry Miller Reader, red. Lawrence Durrell. New York: New Direction Books.

Orwells recension av Henry Millers ”Tropic of Cancer”

Modern man is rather like a bisected wasp which goes on sucking jam and pretends that the loss of its abdomen does not matter.

Så inleder Orwell sin recension av Tropic of Cancer. (En bok som jag en gång försökte läsa (hittade en förstaupplaga från det beryktade Obelisk Press) men gav upp ganska snart – oläslig för någon med min oraffinerade smak angående skönlitteratur. Dock gillade jag en hel del i The Henry Miller Reader, särskilt ”Max”.) Det är ingen översvallande recension, men boken influerade Orwell kraftigt. Jag minns från CEJL att när Orwell senare recenserar Millers Black Spring så konstaterar han att Tropic of Cancer var en bok som satte djupare spår än han hade förväntat sig vid lästillfället, och Miller blev också föremål för en längre kulturanalys i Orwells essä Inside the Whale där han minnesvärt beskrivs som ”a sort of Whitman among the corpses”.

I recensionen från 1935 skriver Orwell bland annat:

One result of the breakdown of religious belief has been a sloppy idealization of the physical side of life. In a way this is natural enough. For if there is no life beyond the grave, it is obviously harder to face the fact that birth, copulation, etc., are in certain aspects disgusting. In the Christian centuries, of course, a pessimistic view of life was taken more or less for granted. ”Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery,” says the Prayer Book, with the air of stating something obvious. But it is a different matter to admit that life is full of misery when you believe that the grave really finishes you. It is easier to comfort yourself with some kind of of optimistic lie. [. . .] Hence, above all, the monstrous soppification [?] of the sexual theme in most of the ficion of the past hundred years. A book like Tropic of Cancer, which deals with sex by brutally insisting on the facts, swings the pendulum too far, no doubt, but it does swing it in the right direction. Man is not a Yahoo, but he is rather like a Yahoo and needs to be reminded of it from time to time.

A Kind of Compulsion, The Complete Works of George Orwell, vol. X (1903–1936), art. 263, s. 404–5.