Henry Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York. He had a variety of jobs as a young man, including several years working for the Western Union Telegraph Company. During this time, encouraged by June Mansfield Smith, the second of his five wives, Miller began to write. Aside from articles, stories for pulp magazines and prose poems, Miller worked on his first novels Crazy Cock and Moloch, and on the copious notes which would eventually transmute into the notorious Tropics books.
In 1930, Miller went to live in Paris. For the next ten years he mingled with impoverished expatriates and bohemian Parisians, including Brassai, Artaud and Anaïs Nin, with whom he had a much documented affair. His first published book, Tropic of Cancer appeared in 1934 from the Obelisk Press in Paris. It was followed five years later by its sister volume Tropic of Capricorn. Sexually explicit, these books electrified the European literary avant-garde, received praise from Eliot, Pound, Beckett and Durrell, and were almost universally banned outside France.
Miller returned to America in 1940, settling in Big Sur, California. Here, he wrote the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy – Sexus (1949), Plexus (1953) and Nexus (1959) but regarded by many as a writer of ‘dirty books’, he was unable to get his major works published in America. In 1961, after an epic legal battle, Tropic of Cancer was finally published in the States (and then in England in 1963). Miller became a household name, hailed by the 1960s counter-culture as a prophet of freedom and sexual revolution. The ban on the remainder of his books was subsequently lifted, finally making Miller’s complete works available in his own country.
He died on 7 June 1980.