If many have written about Paris, very few have given such as vivid picture of the city as Henry Miller (1891-1980). The American writer spent 10 years in Paris in the 1930’s, which were important as much for his career –a.o. with the meeting of writer Anaïs Nin, who supported him financially through the decade, but was also his lover– as for the descriptions of the life in the city that he gave.
Living between Clichy and the 18th arrondissement, in the Villa Seurat, he was –and still is– considered as a provocative writer. He is also sometimes described as misogynistic because of the accounts of his sexual experiences and his sometimes-disrespectful behaviour towards women.
But the power of his novels and his essays has remained strong until today and Georges Orwell himself considered him at the time as “the only imaginative prose-writer of the slightest value who has appeared among the English-speaking races for some years past”.
Blurring the lines between his own life and his imagination, Miller created a world of his own that is open to everyone, reflecting the generosity of the writer. Here is the description he gave of Brasserie Wepler, on the place de Clichy, in his book Quiet Days in Clichy:
« On the grey days, when it was chilly everywhere except in the big cafés, I looked forward with pleasure to spending an hour or two at the Café Wepler before going to dinner. The rosy glow which suffused the place emanated from the cluster of whores who usually congregated near the entrance. As they gradually distributed themselves among the clientele, the place became not only warm and rosy but fragrant. They fluttered about in the dimming light like perfumed fireflies. Those who had not been fortunate enough to find a customer would saunter slowly out to the street, usually to return in a little while and resume their old places. Others swaggered in, looking fresh and ready for the evening’s work. In the corner where they usually congregated it was like an exchange, the sex market, which has its ups and downs like other exchanges. A rainy day was usually a good day, it seemed to me. There are only two things you can do on a rainy day, as the saying goes, and the whores never wasted time playing cards. »
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