• Henry Miller’s Greek dream

    by  • 13 September, 2008 • General, Trips • 2 Comments

    In about a week’s time we will pack some essentials into a couple of small rucksacks, take the ferry from Iráklio to Piraeás and set off on a discovery of a part of Greece that I have wanted to (re-)visit for a long time: Argolida, the name itself sounds like a symphony. It was in the summer of 1970 when my high school organized a trip to Greece that I first saw the open air theatre of Epidavros, the Lions’ Gate of Mycenae and the archaeological site in Tiryns. I have very little if any visual memories of those places after all those years. The asclepieion at Epidavros was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. Yvonne has a natural interest in such places.

    When Tom sent me Henry Miller’s “The Colossus of Maroussi” as a gift, I devoured it from cover to cover in one night. It is set in the year before the outbreak of World War II. I haven’t read any other book that gives such a vivid account of the country and the people, especially the people. Since that first time, I have read The Colossus of Maroussi many times over and slowly a plan started to ripen in my head: I wanted to follow part of Miller’s path as he travels over Greece. To see if I could see what Miller saw, to feel if I could feel what Miller felt, now almost 70 years ago. Don’t ever expect me to write what Miller wrote.

    Anyway, while I was re-reading the book once again, this time to distill from it a travel itinerary that would follow his footsteps as close as possible, I came upon this passage, which I absolutely have to share with someone. That someone’s you.

    The Turks, in their fervid desire to desolate Greece, converted the land into a desert and a graveyard; since their emancipation the Greeks have been struggling to reforest the land. The goat has now become the national ennemy. He will be dislodged as the Turk was dislodged, in time. He is the symbol of poverty and helplessness. Trees, more trees, that’s the cry. The tree brings water, fodder, cattle, produce; the tree brings shade, leisure, song, brings poets, painters, legislators, visionaries. Greece is now, bare and lean as a wolf though she be, the only Paradise in Europe. What a place it will be when restored to its pristine verdure exceeds the imagination of man today. Anything may happen when this focal spot blazes forth with new life. A revivified Greece can very conceivably alter the whole destiny of Europe. Greece does not need archaeologists — she needs arboriculturists. A verdant Greece may give hope to a world now eaten away by white-heart rot.

    What happened to that dream?

    2 Responses to Henry Miller’s Greek dream

    1. Tom Hoffman
      3 October, 2008 at 0:43

      I’m not certain where this e-mail is headed (in both senses of that phrase), nor where it will be posted but, for what the opinion of Thomas Joseph Moribund Hoffman is worth (to be brutally self-reflective, it’s not worth a piss in an alley), I posit Henry Miller as one of the primary, if not THE primary, 20th Century American contributors to the English language and world literature.

      Remember no HM, no Beats, no Burrows, pehaps no Kesey. HM is the bridge from Whitman to 20th Centruy American Literautre. His originality was born of joy and suffering, hate where hate was due and love where love was ineluctable, and, always, he remained at extremes, where everything is thrown into stark, painful or joyful, relief. There was one writer of his caliber of his generation, a french fellow name of Celine.

      I am not in the least surprised that Luc has found in Miller a brother. I cannot thinik of two more consanguinous piles of mad flesh.

      Henry Miller won’t save your life. But, at least, you’ll find yourself lead by a writer who saved his own life. And that, of course, is our purpose here.

      Have I interested you? THe best was to begin is with HM’s beginning: “The Tropic of Cancer”.

      Tom Hoffman

    2. Tom Hoffman
      3 October, 2008 at 1:25


      Your last sentence is extraordinarly elipitical. It fails to note what happened between the conclusion of World War II and the entry of Greece into the European Communities (1981?), that being AMURUKU, a series of surreptitous interventions following the post-War British decampment that culminated in the American-backed “Regime of the Colonels”, of which I am absolutely certain you are aware.

      Ever seen a movie titled “Z”. I’ll never forget that last line. It was the culmination of a list of “things” banned in Greece by the Regime of the Colonels. The list goes on and on. The last item banned is “THE LETTER “Z””

      I rose from my folding chair at the Stamp Student Union Theater and and shouted, again and again and again, ‘Z Z Z Z Z Z Z “.

      I was alive then.


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