Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Quiet Days In Clichy - Henry Miller


Any admirer of the work of Henry Miller is always going to be interested in Quiet Days In Clichy for the fact that not only was it made into a film but that it was written during the same period that Miller was writing Black Spring, which I for one consider to be his best book.
I've not watched the film so can't comment as to whether it's any good or not though there are a few clips of it up on YouTube and it looks pretty faithful to the book. It's a black and white, Danish film made in 1970 featuring music by Country Joe McDonald (he of Fixin' To Die, Woodstock fame). 'Pioneering and experimental' according to Film4 and if that doesn't pique your interest then perhaps mentioning that it features a lot of nudity might?

I'd describe the book as a 'bawdy romp' as two ex-pat American writers (not named as such but clearly based on Miller himself and his friend, Alfred Perles) living in a cheap flat in Paris encounter and bed a whole series of women in an almost matter of fact manner. There's nothing erotic, comedic or particularly pornographic about any of it, it's just that it's all done excessively.
The book's strength is in the array of characters that Miller fills it with, from the Alfred Perles-based flat mate to the many women who are 'encountered'. Miller's always been brilliant when it comes to writing about people though, and it's all enhanced by his flights of vivid thoughts, dreams, philosophical musings and reveries. His words flow freely showing the world of reality has its limits but the world of imagination is boundless, and even when hungry and without a cent, franc or penny to his name describes his life being lived to the full. For sure he's a sexist but paradoxically at the same time he's very much a romantic and a lover of women. First and foremost, however, Miller is a lover of the written word.

Quiet Days In Clichy is by no means the best book Miller's ever written but then by no means is it the worst. That particular award I would give to Sexus, his first novel in his Rosy Crucifixion trilogy which was a slog to get through and having finished it left me remembering nothing of it. But such is life and in more ways than one. I wouldn't even say that Quiet Days In Clichy is a good place to start for any Henry Miller novice; for that I would recommend Black Spring, Tropic Of Capricorn and of course, Tropic Of Cancer. For those familiar with Miller's oeuvre and fans of his writing it is, however, an essential read.
John Serpico

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