Many readers may be unaware that The Rosy Crucifixion, Henry Miller’ multi-volume saga of his life with June Mansfield, was never completed. At over 1400 pages and spread between 3 books, the novel is certainly vast. Sexus and Plexus were both originally published in two separate volumes (Sexus I, Sexus II, Plexus I and Plexus II). The final book in the series, Nexus, was also scheduled to be a two volume affair. Nexus I was published in 1959 and Miller composed more than a hundred pages of Nexus II before mysteriously abandoning the project. In 2004, French publisher Autrement published Miller’s notes for the book in translation, under the title Nexus 2: Vacances à l’Étranger. A comparable publication of Nexus II has never appeared in English—until now. Paris 1928, just released by Indiana University Press, brings Nexus II to an English language audience for the first time.
Paris 1928 covers Miller and his wife’s travels through Europe in 1928, beginning in Paris and continuing on to the south of France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania. Readers are treated to Miller’s first reactions to Paris and to his initial meetings with friends like Alfred Perlès, Hans Reichel and Ossip Zadkine who would become characters in his novels. Missing from the book are Miller’s characteristic divergences into abstract philosophy and flights of inspired linguistic play. What we have left is a mostly straightforward travel narrative, filling in a conspicuous gap in Miller’s life chronicle. Though it is a more mundane Miller we encounter here than in his other published works, Paris 1928 is sure to be of great interest to Miller fans and researchers.
What interested me most about the book is what it reveals of Miller’s sense of rivalry with James Joyce. In a reminiscence at the end of the book, Miller evokes the scene from Ulysses that got Joyce in so much trouble—where Leopold Bloom masturbates as Gerty McDowell seductively reveals her legs to him during a public fireworks display. Miller conjures a similar scene in Central Park and proceeds to tell a much more explicit sexual tale than anything in Joyce. Where Joyce used an exploding roman candle as metaphor for ejaculation, Miller introduces a literal wax candle as a sexual device. Capping off the vignette, he pronounces, “When, a few months later, I came upon Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, how tame it seemed! But then Molly Bloom was but a mouthpiece for James Joyce. Suzanne’s talk was real. It was a cunt talking, not an Irish bard.”
Paris 1928 is available in paperback and audiobook through Amazon, iTunes and other outlets.