Amidst millions of words of autobiographical writing, stands this lonely book, or rather a novella, The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, Miller's one and only composition that drew inspiration "from the blue", as Miller himself put it. However, do not be mistaken...this novella shines with brilliance. Apart from the exceptional writing Miller's readers are accustomed to, this story is far more complicated than any other novella I had read, ever. Auguste, the centerpiece in this intricate work, is the embodiment of human suffering, a man who carries out his duty until the last breath. His duty being to bring a lasting joy to his audience. For Auguste, there is nothing easier than to make his audience smile, for he is a clown, but the brief moment when he on stage, is not what he is after. His aim is far superior -- Auguste's desire is to unite people with endless joy, the kind that comes only through God himself. But this task, this task bigger than any one human, was a difficult one. When Auguste takes his "trick" to a new level, the audience, as humans tend to do when faced with something they do not comprehend, went up against him. Auguste abandoned the circus and took to wandering. Nevertheless, a man can escape his surroundings, but a man cannot escape himself. For Auguste, his shadow was always with him, in him, unsatisfied, longing. And so, after a nightmare where Auguste was faced with end of his life, he stumbles upon a circus on the edge of the town. His past, his shadow, catches up with him and Auguste is given a new chance to fulfill his task -- one of the clowns fell ill and the circus needs a replacement. Auguste agrees, partly because he wants to relieve his old life, partly because he wants to kill his old life off by making his "persona" more famous than he ever was as himself. With great success, Auguste is back in his element, until the clown, whom he replaced, suddenly dies. It is then, that August discovers reality. The reality of himself, the world, the humankind. The reality that joy is much more than the limited experience he allows his audiences within the boundaries of the circus. Auguste dives deep into himself, into the darkness of the world and he finds the light he was searching for all his life, becoming one with it.
The intricacy of this story, the world in which we live, filled with suffering and joy, the two primary contradicting emotions, is so wonderfully portrayed here. Auguste, complicated like life itself...a man, strong and weak, but above all, vulnerable for he is too human. One of the most fascinating books ever written. Do not be fooled by its size...it will sneak up on you from nowhere, without warning. One of the best works by Miller.