Here, Henry Miller writes to Anaïs Nin, an author and his partner in a long-running love affair, of his departure from Greece. Though growing unrest preceding World War II forced Miller to return to America, his travels there served as the inspiration for his work The Colossus of Maroussi.
Two weeks at sea, and it seems as though a curtain had fallen over the recent past. Greece has fallen back into the well of experience. Something happened to me there, but what it was I can’t formulate now. I am not on the high seas—I am in America already. America began at Piraeus, the moment I set foot on the boat. Greece is fading out rapidly, dying right before my eyes. The last thing to disappear is the light, the light over the hills, that light which I never saw before, which I could not possibly imagine if I had not seen it with my own eyes. The incredible light of Attica! If I retain no more than the memory of this it will do. That light represents for me the consummation of my own desires and experiences. I saw in it the flame of my own life consumed by the flame of the world. Everything seemed to burn to ash, and this ash itself was distilled and dispersed through the airs. I don’t see what more any country, any landscape, could offer than this experience. Not only does one feel integrated, harmonious, at one with all life, but—one is silenced. That is perhaps the highest experience I know of. It is a death, but a death which puts life to shame. And now, on the boat, in the midst of the American scene, I feel as though I am living with people who are not yet born, with monsters who escaped from the womb before their time. I am no longer in communication with anything…Dimly I seem to remember that but a short time ago I was alive, alive in full sunlight. There is another light which envelops me now. It is like the illumination from a cold mechanical reflector. The house is dark. Only the stage is lit up. The curtain is rising.
From A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953. Nin, Anaïs, Henry Miller, and Gunther Stuhlmann. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.