Sunday, August 8, 2010

Henry Miller on Water

Due both to some assigned reading and my own highly distractable nature, I am in the middle of quite a few books and not at the end of any of them. In the meantime, I thought I'd post an impression or two. Today's comes from Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi.

Perhaps I came to Miller from the wrong angle in the past--namely some passages about him in the diary of Anais Nin--but I have never had a keen desire to read him. So it's somewhat inexplicable that I suddenly decided to pick up this book about his visit to Greece just as the Second World War is about to break everything to pieces. I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but certainly not this piece about his late night stroll in the park during a heat wave on his first night in Athens:

I sauntered slowly through the park towards the Temple of Jupiter. There were little tables along the dusty paths set out in an absent-minded way: couples were sitting there quietly in the dark, talking in low voices, over glasses of water. The glass of water... everywhere I saw the glass of water. It became obsessional. I began to think of water as a new thing, a new vital element of life. Earth, air, fire, water. Right now water had become the cardinal element. Seeing lovers sitting there in the dark drinking water, sitting there in peace and quiet and talking in low tones, gave me a wonderful feeling about the Greek character. The dust, the heat, the poverty, the bareness, the containedness of the people, and the water everywhere in little tumblers standing between the quiet, peaceful couples, gave me the feeling that there was something holy about this place, something nourishing and sustaining.   



  1. Neato. We got a collection of shorter Miller works at Babbitt's recently. I read the sexy stuff in adolescence (of course), but I didn't get it, really. Glad to read this. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for checking this out, Kathleen. Yes, my reevaluation of Miller is long overdue as well. I suppose I'll finally have to try Tropic of Cancer...