Michael Fraenkel

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Michael Fraenkel (Died 1957)

Fraenkel was one of the self-exiled American expatriates following World War I who moved to France, claiming he would have more freedom of thought and action there. Action included sex and more sexual freedom.

Michael Fraenkel, according to a University of Illinois online site, described the times as

In England the pound was falling, and a Lord Ellsworth or other was calling on the City to carry on as if uncertainty were the rule, the natural, normal thing. In Spain Alfonso III had abdicated, and the Spanish Republic was founded, the same Republic that was later to be murdered in cold blood by Hitler and Mussolini while the democracies looked on and talked neutrality. In Chine flood and Famine raged over the valleys of the Yangtse and Hwai, much as usual perhaps, but Jap thunder rumbled in Manchukuo, and Chapei tossed fitfully in a nightmare of terror and rape, while the League of Nations regaled itself with the latest statistics on the dope traffic. Hoover just announced the Moratorium on German debts, the pocket battleship Deutshland was launched, and Hitler and his Storm Troopers were beginning to march through the streets with a curse upon their tongues. The Burning of the Books was not far off. In America it was the day after the Great Crash and the October Suicides, and on the eve of the Bank Holidays. In Russia dekulakixation was in full swing, and hunger and famine stalked the plains and the cities. In Italy the trains were coming in on time, and in France there was Doumerque and paralysis and dumb despair. Our little world that the statesmen and politicians had put together with a paste and pasteboard of words at Versailles was falling apart again. Everywhere there was uncertainty, confusion, and fear. And utter incomprehension. . . . There, basically, was utter chaos. And in this chaos, was a man who was trying to figure out himself and the situation around him. The readers were also trying to figure themselves out as well. Henry Miller became a voice to these people and helped them not feel so very much alone.

In Paris, he met Walter Lowenfels, and they established the Carrefour Press that was intended to support the "anonymous" movement. Such a movement was based on the ida of total anonymity in art, a concept that eventually proved unworkable.

Lowenfels and Fraenkel disagreed philosophically - Fraenkel believed that the world was doomed to moral and physical destruction whereas Lowenfels believe that the world could be saved by socialistic humanism. In 1931 Lowenfels shared with E. E. Cummings This Quarter's Richard Aldington Poetry Prize.

He and Lowenfels found that their Anonymous Movement, advocating total anonymity in the arts, collapsed when Lowenfels sued the authors of Of Thee I Sing, accusing them of plagiarism for having stolen material from his play, USA that also had music. Courts could not accept a case by "Anonymous."

When Fraenkel and Lowenfels met Samuel Beckett to discuss business, according to Jonathan Cott,

* They expounded their social and artistic theories to the silent Beckett and, eventually, Lowenfels got frustrated and burst out, "You sit there saying nothing while the world is going to pieces. What do you want? What do you want to do?"
* Beckett crossed his legs and replied, "Walter, all I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante."

Fraenkel's many friends included Anaïs Nin, who wrote him lovingly and with advice. She was one of Henry Miller's lovers.

Villaseurat sign.jpg

In 1931 Fraenkel lived at the Villa Seurat in Paris, a place with all numbers of undesirables. He allowed Henry Miller to spend a month as his guest, during which Miller slept on the floor of the living room of his ground-floor apartment. The two had lengthy discussions about Frankel's favorite subject: the spiritual death of modern man. This resulted in Miller's idea for writing the book that would become Tropic of Cancer. Fraenkel is said to have been the model for Boris in Tropic of Cancer.

Miller's second stay with Fraenkel, according to a writer who knew the two,

began three years later when, on the very day that Tropic of Cancer was published - September 1, 1934, he moved into the top-floor studio at 18 Villa Seurat. He remained here until May 22, 1939. The rent was initially paid by Anaïs Nin, who briefly shared the apartment. He reported to Schnellock, “It is a marvelous place - with sun parlor, bath, steam heat, space, etc. and the price has been reduced to 700 francs a month for me, tout compris.” And to Fraenkel he announced, “I am singing and I want the neighbors to hear. I am moving in, my neighbors. Moving in to the Villa Seurat. I am the last man alive. They say these are bad times. Perhaps they be. But they are good times for me. I move with the changing climate. I move with the sun and the light. With the birds. With the wildflowers.”
Miller’s gregarious nature soon made the Villa Seurat a hive of artistic activity. Friends and fellow writers dropped in frequently. Alfred Perlès relates that the apartment was host to “cranks, nuts, drunks, writers, artists, bums, Montparnasse derelicts, vagabonds, psychopaths”. The English writer Cecily MacKworth recalled:
When the writing moment came, it made no special difference. If there were visitors, they went on playing jazz on the gramophone, reading their poetry aloud to each other or doing whatever they happened to be doing at the time. Henry just moved over into the table in the corner and started to write. Once he began, he went on, apparently never feeling the need to take a walk or go to bed. He wrote on without fuss; pages of Tropic of Capricorn piled up beside him while the red wine in the bottle at his elbow sank lower and lower.

In 1935, Fraenkel began the Hamlet correspondence with Henry Miller. In 1939 Carrefour published Henry Miller's Hamlet Letters, Vol. I with Fraenkel. Vol. II was published in 1941. It contains letters the two had after agreeing to correspond on anything they wanted to write about, the goal being to complete 1,000 pages, then publish the material. Miller wrote about books, the weather, what he'd been doing, what he'd been thinking, the final letter being over 100 pages long.


When Fraenkel died, he reportedly left a wife: Daphne Moschos Gillam, who lived at 27 Letterstone Road, London SW6 Fulham, England. She had married several times, but she inherited rights to the Miller-Frankel correspondence Hamlet. She had typeset the books for Carrefour on a special typewriter, then helped print each page on a small press in the one-room company. As a tribute to Fraenkel, she published an edition of the long work. Meanwhile, Miller complained that he had never received a copy of the book nor a penny in royalties.

Daphne and Miller never got along, and in letters to Michael Hargraves wrote, "My feeling about Daphne hasn't changed over the years. I always regarded her as a rather astute horse's ass. . . . She cheated me out of royalties on that handsome British [1962] edition. More, she treated me in her blurbs [from the back of the book, taken from 1940s reviews] as if I were the fifth wheel on a wagon." Upon Fraenkel's death, however, he wrote her on 16 June 1957 his condolences.

Selected Works

The Need for Anonymity (1930, author was said to be "Anonymous")
Werther's Younger Brother: The Story of an Attitude (1930)
Bastard Death: An Autobiography of an Idea (1936, 1946)
Death is Not Enough: Essays in Active Negation (1939)
Death, A Literary Quarterly (1946)
The Genesis of Tropic of Cancer (1946)
The Day Face and the Night Face (1947)
Defense du Tropique du Cancer (1947)
Death in a Room (1947) - poems, 1927-1930
The Genesis of the Tropic of Cancer" (1973)
Tatbestand und Zurechnung bei Paragraph 823 Abs. 1 BGB
(Schriften zum burgerlichen Recht (1979)
Journal: The Mexican Years, 1940 - 1944) (1986)
Einfuhrende Hinweise zum neuen Auslandergesetz (1991)
The Genesis of Tropic of Cancer" (1998)


Fraenkel, who was a book reviewer for The Humanist in the 1950s, was an author who contributed to British and American journals, including Nation, New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, Harpers, and others.Fraenkel was invited to review for The Humanist.




- The Humanist during Warren Allen Smith's editorship in the mid-1950s never paid for book reviews.