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Black Spring, Henry Miller

The Obelisk Press, June, 1936

The sun is rotting with ghastly brilliance.

Never cry. Never scream. Never scribble the world as it truly is.

One walks the street at night with the bridge against the sky like a harp and the festered eyes of sleep burn into the shanties, deflower the walls; the stairs collapse in a smudge and the rats scamper across the ceiling; a voice is nailed against the door and long creepy things with furry antennae and thousand legs drop from the pipes like beads of sweat. Glad, murderous ghosts with the shriek of nightwind and the curses of warm-legged men; low shallow coffins with rods through the body; grief-split drooling down into the cold, waxen flesh, searing the dead eyes, the hard chipped lids of dead clams.

Never curse. Never say no. Never speak your mind.

The Plague! The Plague of modern progress: colonization, trade, free Bibles, war, disease, artificial limbs, factories, slaves, insanity, neuroses, psychoses, cancer, syphilis, tuberculosis, anemia, strikes, lock-outs, starvation, nullity, vacuity, restlessness, striving, despair, ennui, suicide, bankruptcy, arterio-sclerosis, megalomania, schizophrenia, hernia, cocaine, prussic acid, stink bombs, tear gas, mad dogs, auto-suggestion, auto-intoxication, psychotherapy, hydrotherapy, electric massages, vacuum cleaners, pemmican, grape nuts, hemorrhoids, gangrene. No desert Isles. No paradise. Not even relative happiness.

Never be yourself. Never go away. Never dream.

Where is the warm summer’s day when first I saw the green-carpeted earth revolving and men and women moving like panthers? Where is the soft gurgling music which I heard welling up from the sappy roots of the earth? Where am I to go if everywhere there are trap doors and grinning skeletons, a world turned inside out and all the flesh peeled off? Where am I to lay my head if there is nothing but bears and mackintoshes and peanut whistles and broken slats?


Am I to walk forever along this endless pasteboard street, this pasteboard that I can punch a hole in, which I can blow down with my breath, which I can set fire to with a match? The world has become a mystic maze erected by a gang of carpenters during the night. Everything is a lie, fake. Pasteboard.

Spring is black. Black as hell. Black like dirty wings, black like a dark angel smudge. Pull it to your breast. Rub it on your face. Does it feel soft? Like dead petals to the touch? No … no flowers of evil grow here. No season of the witch. The witch is deep inside. The curse and hex is being born.

I believe that if tomorrow we were transported in time, there in a time which has not yet begun, we would find an identical horror, and identical misery, an identical insanity.

So if the word sucks this bad, why not just leave it? Black Spring inspires the opposite. It affirms. It celebrates life. I remember reading this book during the summer when I was young and when I was slowly finding out that there were other views to life, other philosophies, other directions. Suddenly I did’t feel so alone and alienated anymore. The underside of life was suddenly shoveled over for me in all its crude and stinking glory. I did’t have to be afraid any longer. Henry Miller was a man who had dropped out early, had run away. He fled not to escape but to embrace the world, embrace life. The full mad color and thick rich sex that was life. All of it! Like Whitman before him he wan’t ashamed of the fetid physical being that was himself. He has a human: sick, broken, vulnerable and free. A human who made mistakes, who shoat and pissed and fuck ed and shook his twisted fists at a world that might never quite understand. He was a lover and a writer and he drank the cracked glass down to all its swirling sticky bottom. He grew up in a tailor shop in New York. He fled to Paris. He wanted to be a writer. He became a writer. Became the best writer there ever was the minute he decided to leave. He lived in poverty and misery but oh how he lived. And that’s the point. Live! This book was written between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. He dedicated the book to his muse, Anais Nin. It’s hard to believe he wrote it in 1936. It was deemed too offensive to print in the US until 1963. Perhaps we just couldn’t take the world for what it really was. So we wrote about things that were nice and didn’t smell so bad. The world is fine. It’s always been fine. Isn’t it great just how fine it is? It couldn’t be anything else. Ever.

This book taught me not to be afraid. Not to hurt alone. The spring is black. But can summer be far behind?

You are about to write a beautiful book and in it you are going to record everything that has given you pain or joy … Everybody will want to read it because it will contain the absolute truth and nothing but the truth. . . . How they would laugh and weep if they could only read what was absolutely true and so far nobody has dared to write this absolute truth except yourself and this true book which is locked up inside you would make people laugh and weep as they have never laughed, never wept before.