Monday, September 05, 2005

The Phony Writer: Henry Miller's FBI File, 1945

During the week of November 12, 1945, Henry Miller made a speech at Dartmouth College. A few months later, an FBI file on Henry Miller was opened, on suspicion of Sedition.

Henry had been invited by Prof. Herbert West of Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH), to speak to a group of students about Literature. He had two 50-minute sessions, which included question-and-answer periods. Many of the students asked him about his source material and other writing-related questions.

During one of these sessions, Miller was harrassed and heckled by a non-student named Albert Khan. Khan, it turns out, was a writer and editor of pro-Russian New Currents: A Jewish Monthly. The magazine was begun in March 1943, by the American Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists (who would, a year later, publish an expose of Nazi atrocity during the war, called The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against The Jewish People.")

A few weeks after the Dartmouth speech, Khan published an article in New Currents called "Odyssey Of A Stool Pigeon." In it, he insinuated that Miller had collaborated with Fascists in Paris, that he had worked as a "labor spy" (while at Western Union), and that he was anti-Semitic.

Khan wrote a letter to journalist and broadcaster Walter Winchell, well-known for controversy and gossip. In the letter, Khan suggests that Winchell write about Miller's speech. He claimed that Miller "thinks that the Nazis are very decent folk, hates the Jews and likes collaborationists." Khan refers to Miller as a "phony writer" who has "quite a following of pseudo-intellectuals in this country" ... "(on the personal side -- he boasts that his first wife supported him as a prostitute.) In short, he's a beaut."

You can view this entire FBI file and letter by Khan on the FBI website.

Winchell, who was a friend of FBI-head Herbert Hoover, passed the letter along to the Attorney General. (despite his willingness to help the FBI scope out "un-Americans," Winchell himself had quite an FBI file. See item 4d, dated March 25, 1943, where he rats on a bartender at his favourite club. The Amercian Committee Of Jewish Writers, etc also had an FBI file, due to its connections to Soviet Russia.)

The FBI investigated Miller for Sedition, but ultimately concluded that the alligations against him were fabrications, made by Khan, who had a grudge against him for what he deemed to be immoral and anti-Semitic elements in his books.

Besides the character defamation by Khan, which I've quoted above, the files also say the following about Miller:

"[M]any of the Subject's books were not permitted to be published in this country because of the fact that the writer seemed to have absolutely no morals governing the choice of the words that he used."

"... an ultra-modern type of writer... considered by many critics to be one of the foremost American writers at this time."

"... the Subject is strictly an artist type and could very easily be called "screwball" by people who didn't understand or appreciate his writing. The Subject apparently has no substantial source of income, his chief income being obtained from gifts from several of his followers who have considerable wealth. "

"..the Subject is considered somewhat of a pacifist as is the case with practically all of the true artists."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read this file, and it is fascinating. Long live the Freedom of Information Act!

9:27 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Having downloaded the pdf file from the FBI (thanks for the link!), it would seem that Miller's talk took place in November 1944, not November 1945. Which would've made Khan's accusations of his being a Nazi sympathizer much more serious, as WWII was still ongoing.

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