24 January 2012

How Fortunate Sometimes Is Our Ignorance

Henry Miller, The Time of the Assassins; A Study of Rimbaud (New York: New Directions, 1962), pp. 107-108:
Why is it, I ask myself, that I adore Rimbaud above all other writers? I am no worshipper of adolescence, neither do I pretend to myself that he is as great as other writers I might mention. But there is something in him that touches me as the work of no other man does. And I come to him through a language that I have never mastered! Indeed, it was not until I foolishly tried to translate him that I began to properly estimate the strength and the beauty of his utterances. In Rimbaud I see myself as in a mirror. Nothing he says is alien to me, however wild, absurd or difficult to understand. To understand one has to surrender, and I remember distinctly making that surrender the first day I glanced at his work. I read only a few lines that day, a little over ten years ago, and trembling like a leaf I put the book away. I had the feeling then, and I have it still, that he had said all for our time. It was as though he had put a tent over the void. He is the only writer whom I have read and reread with undiminished joy and excitement, always discovering something new in him, always profoundly touched by his purity. Whatever I say of him will always be tentative, nothing more than an approach -- at best an aperçu. He is the one writer whose genius I envy; all the others, no matter how great, never arouse my jealousy. And he was finished at nineteen! Had I read Rimbaud in my youth I doubt that I would ever have written a line. How fortunate sometimes is our ignorance.