September 20, 2009

Henry Miller, Happy Rock, by Brassai

"In a world like this one, it's difficult to devote oneself to art body and soul. To get published, to get exhibited, to get produced often requires ten or twenty years of patient, intense labor. I spent half my life at it! And how do you survive during all that time? Beg? Live off other people until you're successful? What a dog's life! I know something about that! You're always recognized too late. And today, it's no longer enough to have talent, originality, to write a good or beautiful book. One must be inspired! Not only touch the public but create one's own public. Otherwise, you're headed straight for suicide." That's Henry Miller's advice for young aspiring artists, as remembered by his very good friend Brassaï in this book. One of two that Brassaï wrote about the man who called himself a "happy rock," this volume covers their lives and friendship from the 1950s to 1973. Over the course of a number of warm, intimate conversations, Brassaï and Miller revisit their careers; discuss art, literature, Paris, Greece, Japan, World War II, and more.; and consider the lives and works of many others in their circle, including Lawrence Durrell, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Georges Simenon, André Malraux, Hans Reichel, Paul Klee, and Amedeo Modigliani. Throughout Miller's zest for life shines through, as do his love of art and his passionate intensity for just about everything he does, from discussing a movie or play he'd just seen to reminiscing about a decades-long love. Brassaï's Henry Miller, Happy Rock presents a vivid portrait of two close friends through a number of warm, intimate conversations. Brassaï and Miller revisit their careers; discuss art, literature, Paris, Greece, Japan, World War II, and more; and consider the lives and works of many others in their circle, including Lawrence Durrell, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Georges Simenon, André Malraux, Hans Reichel, Paul Klee, and Amedeo Modigliani. Brassaï (born Gyula Halász, 1899-1984) was a very famous photographer, journalist, and author of many photographic monographs and literary works, including Letters to My Parents, Conversations with Picasso, and Proust in the Power of Photography. Jane Marie Todd has translated a number of books, including Conversations with Picasso by Brassaï, Largesse by Jean Starobinski, and The Forbidden Image by Alain Besançon. Excerpt Sunday, April 19, 1959 Six years have gone by. Miller and his family have just arrived in Paris. And this morning, I am going to see them again at their home on rue Campagne-Première. A flurry of letters preceded this journey. All his friends were alerted. A month ago, Henry told me: "Yes, everything is arranged: passports, visas, tickets. All I need to do now is relax. Working feverishly to finish rereading Nexus before I go!" As for Eve, she announced their return with this exclamation of joy, in capital letters: "WE ARE COMING BACK TO FRANCE!" And she added: "I say COME BACK because that's what this journey means to me. In Henry's mind, it's just one more trip. So there you have it!" And she ended her letter: "I want my children to have a real sense for what it is to live in France, and not only to be passing through" (letter to Brassaï, January 28, 1959). When I arrive at the studio in Montparnasse, Henry exclaims: "What a pleasure to see you again. Most of the friends and acquaintances I saw in Paris are faring well. But just think if you lived in the United States! There, at forty you're prematurely old, used up." Brassaï: How was your trip? Henry Miller: It's the first time I've flown in a jet. San Francisco-New York: five hours and forty-five minutes. It's fantastic! Nine thousand meters up and not a bump. I felt like I was living in the future, the future that is becoming our present. Brassaï: What do you think of Paris? Has it changed in six years? Miller: So many cars in the street! It's astounding! People think New York's a frenetic city. But it's really Paris! The traffic is even heavier here and the police wave their arms to get people to go even faster. When I have to cross a street, I start to shake. I fear for me and my children. Fortunately, French cuisine hasn't changed, it still lives up to its reputation. But the odd thing is, I've lost my passion for Paris. I've changed. I don't like big cities anymore and I'm looking forward to being in the country. It's different for Eve! She loves Paris and wants to know it better. She'll stay here while I visit the Scandinavian countries with my children. Copyright notice: ©2002 Excerpted from Henry Miller, Happy Rock by Brassaï, translated by Jane Marie Todd and published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2002 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Brassaï Henry Miller, Happy Rock Translated by Jane Marie Todd University of Chicago Press 184 pages, 10 duotones 6 x 9 Published December 2002 ISBN: 9780226071398 Cloth $25.00 Upcoming links : Other books about photography, photographers biography, cinema, video art, graphic art or television and images related equipment from the University of Chicago Press. Other books from Brassai / Gyula Halasz. Books about Brassai / Gyula Halasz.

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