Preface to 'My Friend, Henry Miller'
Below are a handful of annotated biographical details found within the preface and prologue.
Miller confirms for us that he had first met Perles on rue Delambre. This meeting took place in May 1928, during Miller's first visit to Paris, with his wife June. Perles makes reference to this meeting on page 13 of his book: "When I first met Henry with Mona [June], in 1928, shortly before the Wall Street crash [...] I bumped into them in the rue Delambre--they were staying at the Hotel des Ecoles."
* In 1928 I had never even heard of Big Sur. It was about 1930 or 1931 that I saw for the first time the name Point Sur. I was then reading The Women at Point Sur by Robinson Jeffers, at the Cafe Rotonde, a rather strange place for such a pursuit.
The narrative poem The Women at Point Sur was published in 1927. In August that year, Time Magazine profiled Jeffers and "Point Sur." Time even put him on the cover in 1932, a few months after Miller wrote about one of its characters to Anais Nin: "And I don't mind at all saturating my work with it--sex I mean--because I'm not afraid of it and I almost want to stand up and preach about it, like that nut in The Women of Point Sur. He was cracked and people forgive that, but I am quite sane, too sane almost, madly sane." (February 13, 1932; from A Literate Passion, p.8). Miller would eventually meet Jeffers in 1954: "Met Jeffers the other day. He's OK. In fact, he's fine--like a good hound. A trembling rock." (March 5, 1944; HM and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, p. 42).
* Point Sur [...] "looks a little like Bingen on the Rhine," I remarked.
Miller makes this comparison to Alf (one which Perles disagrees with). Miller had obviously visited Bingen at some point during one of his several tours of Europe.
* I remember the day when he [Perles] received that wonderful, appreciative, encouraging letter addressed to him by Roger Martin du Gard, now a celebrated figure in French literary annals.
Miller talks about a fan letter sent after the release of Perles' Sentiments Limitrophes (1936). Roger Martin du Gard (1881 - 1958) was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1937 for his cycles of novels called Les Thibault. Miller states that the two of them "wept a little then burst out laughing" when Perles read the flattering letter aloud.
* Until he [Perles] left for England, sometime in '37 or '38, there was hardly a day when we did not meet, eat together, and above all, laugh together.
My impression had been that Perles left Paris in 1939, when everyone else cleared out. Miller's assertion here suggests otherwise.
* This paperback edition arrives at a timely moment. At the time the book was written neither of us dreamed that the Tropic of Cancer, or any of the other books published in Paris, would be openly distributed in America.
The U.S. release of Cancer (1961) was still fresh in Miller's mind when he wrote his preface in May 1962. For this reason, much of the brief preface dwells on his opinion about the freeodm to read ("the censorship of books, films, plays serves no purpose"). He also writes about the value of paperbacks.
* Only recently, in a small California town, I came upon the scarcely known book which Perles had so often talked to me about in Paris--Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parsifal.
This Mediaeval German poem from the 13th century--about a quest for the Holy Grail--was the basis of a Wagner opera of the same name. Although Miller implies that he'd only heard Perles talk about this book before 1962, he still made reference to Parsifal in Tropic Of Cancer in the 1930s: "On the merry-go-round, one doesn't get anywhere, whereas with the Germans one can go from Vega to Lope de Vega, all in one night, and come away as foolish as Parsifal." (p. 26).
"[Due to the proliferation of translations in paperback] We are at last beginning to have a worldwide view, instead of an insular one we so long nourished. We are no longer exploring outer space alone but that inner space in which man has his being and through which he will attain in the not too distant future to new levels of consciousness." -- Henry Miller, "Preface"