Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quiet Days In Clichy - The Basics

“When I think about this period, when we lived together in Clichy, it seems like a stretch in Paradise. There was only one real problem, and that was food. All other ills were imaginary.”
Henry Miller, Quiet Days in Clichy, p.41

SUMMARY
Quiet Days in Clichy is a short novel that contains a second story, “Mara-Marignan,” which covers the same time and place: 1933 Paris, while Miller was rooming with Alfred Perles in Clichy. Quiet Days casts an eye on the prostitutes in Montmartre, some of whom Miller meets and beds in between hunts for his next meal. In his Clichy apartment, his friend and flatmate Carl (Alfred Perles), takes in a teenaged runaway named Colette—which prompts a visit from the police. “Mara-Marignan” covers similar terrain, with the bohemian Miller and “Carl” caught up in sexual drama with a few women.

A few of the book locations, Place Clichy , his apartment on avenue Anatole France, and Café Wepler, may be read about at the Miller Walk website.

The 1956 first edition of Quiet Days in Clichy (Image source: Patrik Andersson)

WRITING MOTIVATION
A few months after Miller returned to New York from Europe in 1940, he was broke: “[I will] take anything from anybody, like a dog takes a bone” [1]. A quick money-making opportunity arose when a man named Barnet Runer arranged for Miller to write pornography at a dollar a page, for a Oklahoma erotica collector named Roy M. Johnson [2]. Early drafts of “Mara-Marignan” and “Quiet Days in Clichy” were the result. Johnson was not impressed; he found them to be “too poetic” [3].

WRITING
“Mara-Marignan marinated” was first written in New York City, in May 1940 [4]. “Quiet Days in Clichy” was completed a few weeks later, in June 1940 [5]. Jay Martin comments that, “as they stood in 1940, the two tales were mediocre as literature and feeble as pornography” [6]. Both stories were re-written in Big Sur in May 1956 [4/5], for publication a few months later.

MANUSCRIPTS
The manuscripts for both stories went missing in the 1940s. “The scripts (two) were lost for over ten years,” wrote Miller in 1956. “Turned up miraculously—where I won’t say now—and I rewrote” [7]. The (original?) manuscripts, typed and corrected, are currently housed in the George Howard Papers collection at the Archives of California.

PUBLICATION
The first edition of Quiet Days in Clichy was published in Paris by the Olympia Press, in June 1956. The edition included several photographs of 1930s Paris by Brassai [8]. Miller feared that his “highly censorable script” would be “suppressed immediately it’s out (in English)” [9]. The first American edition went to press on July 1, 1965 at Grove Press in New York, as a Black Cat imprint [10]. The book continues to be published in the U.S. by Grove Atlantic.

ALTERNATE VERSION: "BERTHE"
In 1959, The Henry Miller Reader published a story called “Berthe.” As Miller clarifies in the introduction to the piece, “This text is a rewrite from the original draft called ‘Mara-Marignan’ … The point about it is that I tried to recapture the story as I told it originally—to a friend in Paris—almost immediately after the incident occurred. I must have written it five or six times … It might be regarded as a companion piece to ‘Mademoiselle Claude.’—another of several tributes to the prostitutes of Paris. It is a true story, needless to say, and quite ‘unvarnished’” [11].

FILM AND TV ADAPTATIONS
Quiet Days in Clichy has twice been adapted for film. First, in Denmark as Stille dage i Clichy (1970), directed by Jens Jørgen Thorsen. Second, director Claude Chabrol filmed his version in France in 1990.

The HBO TV-movie, Women And Men 2: In Love There Are No Rules, features an adaptation of the “Mara-Marignan” story, called “Mara.” The film stars Scott Glenn as Miller (a brief New York Times review).

“It is strange that I always think of this period as “quiet days.” They were anything but quiet, those days. Yet, never did I accomplish more.”
Henry Miller, Remember To Remember (from The Henry Miller Reader; p. 323).

REFERENCES
_________________________
[1] Martin, Jay. 1980. Always Merry And Bright: The Life of Henry Miller, p.369: Henry Miller to Huntington Cairns, March 12, 1940; Cairns Collection, Library of Congress; [2] Jackson, Roger, and William Ashley. 1994. Henry Miller: A Bibliography of Primary Sources, Vol. II; p.12; [3] Martin, Jay. 1980. Always Merry And Bright: The Life of Henry Miller, p.369; [4] Miller states this himself at the end of the book, p.154; [5] Miller states this himself at the end of the “Clichy” story, p. 96; [6] Martin, Jay. 1999. “Biography & Humanity.” Humanitas-Communitas (Winter 1999): p.22; [7] Miller, Henry. Henry Miller and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. George Wickes, ed.; p. 123 – letter to “Jay” dated 7/21/56. In the intro to the story “Berthe,” in The Henry Miller Reader (1959), Miller will say that the manuscript for “Mara” turned up “15 years later.” However, in January 1950, he had offered “Mara-Marignan” as a publication option for James Laughlin (see Laughlin letter, 5/1/50); [8] Shifreen & Jackson, A100a/b (see Bibliography of Primary Sources, v.1; [10] Shifreen & Jackson, A100e; [11] Miller, Henry. 1959. Introduction to “Berthe.” The Henry Miller Reader; p.190.

23 Comments:

Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

Huh - never noticed the alternate version. I'll have to go back to the HM Reader and check it out.

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Blogger szk said...

Hi! Do you know perhaps who the cover photo of Quiet Days In Clichy was shot by? I mean the one with the woman running away from the guy wearing nothing on top :) Thanks! Kata from Budapest, Hungary.

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