Henry Miller’s “Black Spring” changed Henry Rollins’s life. But what writer had the greatest influence on Henry Miller?
Balzac? Proust? Whitman?
The answer is Fyodor Dostoevsky!
“The night I sat down to read Dostoevsky for the first time was the most important moment of my life,” Miller says in “Black Spring.”
Miller also says, “Dostoevsky was human in that ‘all too human’ sense of Nietzsche. He wrings our withers when he unrolls his scroll of life.” and “Dostoevsky had virtually to create God — and what a Herculean task that was! Dostoevsky rose from the depths and, reaching the summit, retained something of the depths about him still.” and “Dostoevsky is chaos and fecundity. Humanity, with him, is but a vortex in the bubbling maelstrom.”
So what is the artistic and spiritual connection between Dostoevsky and Miller the writer? What traces of the former’s work can be found in the latter? There are all great questions.
Well, in the “Dreams of a Ridiculous Writer,” a study on Dostoevsky, author Katy Masuga notes that Dostoevsky’s style provides “a way to prevent the paradox of simultaneous living and creative expression in writing.” In other words, Dostoevsky made it possible to write from a quasi-autobiographical perspective while simultaneously allowing for the tangential (and in Miller’s case, surrealistic) forays into fiction. Fyodor effectively blurred the lines between the author persona and the classic “fiction” writer.
But perhaps the best commentator of Dostoevsky’s influence on Miller is Miller himself, yeah? In this talk, Miller views Dostoevsky through the lens of the individualistic artist and his/her role in a critic in the modern world.