I made up my mind that I would hold on to nothing,
that I would expect nothing.
Origin from no /adjective/ + thing /noun/.
Origin of no :: reduced form of none Old English nān, Old Norse neinn.
Origin of thing :: Old English Þing, Old Saxon Þing, Old High German ding.
1) not any (material or abstract) thing; not one thing; no part, share, etc., of some thing or person.
2) not at all, in no respect (following a repetition of a previous statement and contradicting it).
3) of no account, insignificant, insipid, dull; indeterminate.
4) Not any quality or number, zero, nought; the score of no points in a game, etc. Also, the figure or character representing zero.
5) reduce to nothing.
This is from his book Tropic of Cancer (pp. 89-90) which was published in France in 1934 and in the United States in 1961. The book’s candid sexuality made for controversy and court cases. The Supreme Court finally declared the book not obscene in 1964.
The full quote is ::
Tomorrow there might be a revolution, a plague, an earthquake; tomorrow there might not be left a single soul to whom one could turn for sympathy, for aid, for faith. It seemed to me that the great calamity had already manifested itself, that I could be no more truly alone than at this very moment.
I made up my mind that I would hold on to nothing, that I would expect nothing, that henceforth I would live as an animal, a beast of prey, a rover, a plunderer. Even if war were declared, and it were my lot to go, I would grab the bayonet and plunge it, plunge it up to
the hilt. And if rape were the order of the day then rape I would, and with a vengeance. At this very moment, in the quiet dawn of a new day, was not the earth giddy with crime and distress? Had one single element of man’s nature been altered, vitally, fundamentally altered, by the incessant march of history?
By what he calls the better part of his nature, man has been betrayed, that is all. At the extreme limits of his spiritual being man finds himself again naked as a savage. When he finds God, as it were, he has been picked clean: he is a skeleton.
Author’s Dates ::
Henry Miller lived from 1891-1980 in Brooklyn, Paris, Greece and California.
Here is a 1962 interview from the estimable Paris Review with Henry Miller ::
And this is a must read from the wonderful Jeannette Winterson, a 2012 book review of Frederick Turner’s “Into the Heart of Life: Henry Miller at One Hundred,” in the New York Times ::
The Male Mystic of Henry Miller. She provides context and perspective with points such as these
“Miller was obsessed with masculinity but felt no need to support himself or the women in his life.”
“What if we accept Turner’s assertion that “Cancer” has traveled from banned book to spiritual classic that tells us “who we are”? A reasonable objection is that “we” cannot include women, unless a woman is comfortable with her identity as a half-witted “piece of tail.”
Here is the trailer of the 1990 film Henry and June starring Uma Thurman, Richard Grant and Kevin Spacey ::