Noir Poets: Henry Miller

Crime begins with God. It will end with man, when he finds God again. Crime is everywhere, in all the fibres and roots of our being. Every minute of the day adds fresh crimes to the calendar, both those which are detected and punished, and those which are not. The criminal hunts down the criminal. The judge condemns the judger. The innocent torture the innocent…  Can you hold the mirror to iniquity when it is close at hand? Have you looked into the labyrinth of your own despicable heart? Have you sometimes envied the thug for his forthrightness? The study of crime begins with the knowledge of oneself. All that you despise, all that you loathe, all that you reject, all that you condemn and seek to convert by punishment springs from you. The source of it is God whom you place outside, above and beyond. Crime is identification, first with God, then with your own image. Crime is all that lies outside the pack and which is envied, coveted, lusted after. Crime flashes a million brilliant knife blades every minute of the day, and in the night too when waking gives way to dream. Crime is such a tough, such an immense tar­paulin, stretching from infinity to infinity. Where are the monsters who know not crime? What realms do they inhabit? What prevents them from snuffing out the universe?

– Henry Miller, ‘The Air-Conditioned Nightmare’ (New Directions, NY, 1945)  pp 86-87

One thought on “Noir Poets: Henry Miller”

  1. Here’s another from Miller:

    “The city is loveliest when the sweet death racket begins. Her own life lived in defiance of nature, her electricity, her frigidaires, her soundproof walls, the glint of lacquered nails, the plumes that wave across the corrugated sky. Here in the coffin depths grow the everlasting flowers sent by telegraph.”

    Miller’s language is vivid and textured, and his philosophy uncompromising. He is unquestionably a gven for this distinguished series, but your own passage here is a lucid examination of the connection between crime, God and the universe. It’s absolutely stunning.


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