Podcast 38: The Story Behind Anaïs Nin’s Newest Book—Reunited

Some 87 years ago, Anaïs Nin and her father Joaquín Nin, who had been estranged from each other for twenty years, dramatically and cataclysmically reunited in Louveciennes, France. He had left the family for a young lover when Anaïs was ten years old; she and her family, because they were destitute as a result, left Europe for New York to eke out a living. He married his young lover and was supported by her wealthy parents, living a life of luxury; they struggled to put food on the table. He tried to manipulate Anaïs with letters; she eventually gave up the idea of ever seeing him again.

Joaquin Nin

Then, in 1924, Anaïs moved back to Paris with her husband; her father lived in Paris too. They only met once, briefly, and resumed their separate lives. But one day, through friends, he reached out to her, asking for a meeting. She said yes. And thus began what would be one of the most famous incestuous affairs in modern history.

What was not known was the existence of any correspondence between Anaïs and Joaquín, especially during this era; even Deirdre Bair, Nin’s biographer, said they had destroyed each other’s letters after reading them. Then, in 2007, a folder with the label “Father Letters” was found hidden in Nin’s studio in Los Angeles. Not only did the letters exist, they were full of details of the relationship, and much more. These letters now appear in the newly-released volume Reunited: The Correspondence of Anaïs and Joaquín Nin 1933-1940, a co-publication of The Swallow Press and Sky Blue Press. Listen to how this book came together and why it is one of the most important Nin publications in print. Paul Herron describes how he found the letters, how they were transcribed and translated (a miracle), and how they not only lead to a better understanding of Nin’s life and art, but shed light on the type of relationship that is often left in the shadows.

Run time: 16:40
To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here:
To listen without iTunes, click here.
To order Reunited, click here.

Podcast #37: Anaïs Nin reads “Under a Glass Bell”

Sometimes we get lucky. We are lucky that Anaïs Nin chose to promote her books by doing public readings. We are lucky that someone decided to record some of these readings. And we are lucky that through modern technology that a sixty-year-old recording can be restored to the point where we can enjoy it.

Nin promoting Under a Glass Bell, 1944

Anaïs Nin did the reading, probably between 1960 and 1965, and probably in New York. The venue was probably a small one with some very distinguished audience members. Some were probably friends, others die-hard fans who faithfully followed Nin before she reached fame after her Diary was published in 1966. After the Diary was released, Nin rarely did readings from her fiction and instead lectured on more universal topics, especially the role of women artists. The fiction took a back seat. But here we have Nin reading one of her famous short stories, “Under a Glass Bell,” about isolation, unreality, and forbidden desires—distillations from Nin’s life and diary. It is easy to ignore the fiction in light of the Diary and the magnificence of her life, but it was perhaps her most refined art of all. And during difficult times it is easy to ignore art altogether, but this is precisely when it sustains us, when it rises above the chaos and inspires us.

Run time: 20:56

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

NEW: To order the new book Reunited: The Correspondence of Anaïs  and Joaquin Nin, 1933-1940, click here.

Reunited: Letters from the “house of incest”

Anaïs Nin never did things by the rules. She wrote surrealistic and erotic fiction when it went against the grain of the times in which she lived. She engaged in lifestyle choices that were widely considered taboo—adultery, bigamy, you name it—if it was condemned, she probably did it. But, putting morality aside, she offers us a glimpse into a life lived fully without pre-conditions. It was a grand experiment. Sometimes it succeeded spectacularly, and sometimes it failed in exactly the same way. Whatever she did, she wrote about it brilliantly, and this is one of the reasons she has attracted millions of readers over the past half-century and more.

One of the key events in her life, as I have written about, and spoken about in my podcast, was adult-onset incest. Abandoned at the age of ten by her father, pianist/composer Joaquín Nin, she spent the next twenty years trying to replace his love with that of others—her husband Hugh Guiler; John Erskine; Henry Miller; and the list goes on and on with men who were at least in part substitute fathers. One can argue this was perversion; but whatever it was, it was a reaction to a traumatic event early in life.

If you are a Nin reader, you are probably familiar with the unexpurgated diary Incest, which is so named because that is the topic—incest with a father who had been absent for twenty years. It is, for some, a revolting document. Read some of the reviews if you want to know what I mean. It is easy to moralize about incest between two consenting adults. But let’s face it—it is not as uncommon as we’d like to think. When Makenzie Philips revealed her relationship with her father John Philips some years ago, there was disbelief and outrage, but very few attempts at understanding. When Incest, which describes the relationship with Nin’s father in graphic detail, came out in 1992, not only did the critics trash her (her life, not her writing), some of her old friends rejected her as a liar and keeper of vile secrets, while others simply didn’t believe it was true. Some went as far as accusing Nin’s literary executor (and “West Coast husband”) Rupert Pole as having made up the diary passages himself to cash in on scandal. There was a lot of condemnation, but few attempts at grasping the dynamics of the Anaïs-Joaquín relationship. And, after all, we only had Anaïs’s word for it.

All that has changed.

Deirdre Bair, Nin’s official biographer, said that while Nin and her father wrote to each other often during their affair, the letters were destroyed after having been read to erase any evidence of their sexual relationship. Imagine my surprise, then, in 2007, when I discovered a folder in Nin’s Los Angeles house that was labeled, in Nin’s hand, “Father Letters.” In it were the original letters from her father written during the entirety of their affair. They included his relentless overtures beginning in 1933, which only increased in intensity after meeting his daughter for the first time in many years at her home in Louveciennes. They included his descriptions of what would take place “within the walls” of his hotel room in the South of France, which eerily came to pass. And there was a second folder, with Anaïs’s responses. These have all been collected between the covers of a single book, never before seen, and they reveal the history, depth and complexity of their relationship from the time Nin was a child until she met her father at his hotel in June 1933; they continue throughout the several-month affair and its aftermath, when both struggled to come to grips with what they had done and what it meant.

I, for one, have never seen accounts from both sides of an adult-onset incestuous relationship. This is what makes the book valuable. It is the kind of story that few have shared, let alone allowing the world to be privy to intimate correspondence. This, in my opinion, is how we begin to understand this affair in particular and adult incest in general.

While incest is considered by some to be the ultimate taboo, it is as real as any other human activity. It has happened all over the world since the beginning of time. It happens in our neighborhoods, sometimes in our own houses. It is something that has to be dealt with psychologically and compassionately. But that begins with understanding.

This book, titled Reunited, gives us a snapshot of the lives of two artists who fused in an explosion of catastrophic passion. We are left trying to make sense of it. The letters are where we start.

To order a print copy of Reunited: The Correspondence of Anaïs and Joaquín Nin, 1933-1940, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

Anaïs Nin Podcast 36: Nin Magazine with Letícia Gicovate

Episode 36 of the Anaïs Nin Podcast examines Nin Magazine, an act of erotic rebellion by Letícia Gicovate, who has bravely published three volumes and counting in Brazil and England. In today’s ever-increasing hostility to free sexuality, Anaïs Nin was the inspiration for a project that has captured the naturalness of sexuality and erotic expression. But the path from creation to mass consumption has been cluttered, blocked even, by both institutional and private censorship from bookstores and the internet. These challenges have not discouraged the 38-year-old Brazilian expat who now lives in England—in fact, it has inspired her to work harder, to not give up, to follow Nin’s example when she herself was faced with the rejection of the literary establishment to her ground-breaking work. Find out what Nin magazine is all about and how you can get involved in its future.

Letícia Gicovate. Photo: Fabrice Gagos

Run time: 26:15

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To learn more about Nin magazine, click here.

To read an interview with Letícia Gicovate, click here.

Anaïs Nin in Germany

After the publication of The Diary of Anaïs Nin in 1966, Nin’s name suddenly became famous in the United States, where she had struggled for decades to escape cultism and almost-total obscurity. Her fame, however, spread beyond American borders to Europe and Asia, where she was hurriedly being translated and published, thanks in part to the hard work and patience of Nin’s agent, Gunther Stuhlmann.

Official brochure of Nin’s visit

Nin, who had been published in Sweden and England beginning in the early 1960s, suddenly was all the rage in, of all places, Germany. Indeed Stuhlmann was an ex-pat German, so it was a natural progression since he was very familiar with German publishers and agents. In 1969, his efforts paid off in the form of the publication of the first two volumes of the Diary by Christian Wegner Verlag, a Hamburg house run by Christian Wegner, the young editor who was very enthusiastic about Nin’s writing. Wegner invited Nin to come to Germany and to be fêted in Frankfurt, Munich, Darmstadt, Stuttgart and Hamburg over a several-day tour filled with celebrations, interviews, book-signings and even an hour-long TV program.

Only twenty-five years earlier, Germany’s Nazi army dominated much of Europe and was responsible for millions of deaths on the battlefields and in death camps before its ultimate collapse in 1945. This was the country Nin had grown to detest as a result of its aggression on her homeland, France, during both world wars, the second of which drove her from Paris just as she was becoming an established writer there. Was Germany ripe for someone like Nin, whose introspective and erotically bold books would have surely been burned during the war? Had that much progress actually taken place? Amazingly, the answer is yes, according to Nin’s unpublished diary.

While the German literary establishment had ironically chosen Jacqueline Susanne (Valley of the Dolls) to represent America at the 1969 Frankfurt Book Fair, readers flocked to Nin’s events and showered her with love and respect. In an October 10, 1969 letter to Nin’s “west coast husband” Rupert Pole, she says:

“I had two interviews in the morning. Lunch. Then a book-signing party at an elegant bookshop. I signed hundreds of books! I was told beautiful things in faltering English. So much respect for the writer! So much love of literature. They all had the two volumes! Then to a small hotel, where I changed for a big reception at a literary magazine headquarters. A crush! Twice as many people as were invited or expected. There were newspapermen, two television cameras and at least 10 photographers. Again a speech, and so much awe and admiration that I almost wept! Until midnight I met people, they made their speeches. I stood. It was hot and so crowded some people could not get in! Champagne—and finally sleep.”

On October 14, Nin wrote to Pole:

“It has been a wonderful experience. I seemed as if I rediscovered the Germany of fine composers and fine literature. And their attitude towards my work has been overwhelmingly warm and deep. How they treat their writers! Like movie stars. My hand has been kissed to shreds—flowers in the room. Such a response to the Diaries.

“My publisher took the Diary because he loved it, thought it might not sell, but did not care. But it is selling and the press has been wonderful. I’m a little dazed. I am grateful for the genuine love of the Germans. They read deeply, seriously. They ask about America. ‘Why are there not more writers like you?’”

And it was the young who flocked to Nin in Germany, just as they had in America. A long and successful publishing history was thus created.

“Watch me,” she wrote to Pole, “making my alliance with Germany, combatting in myself a past image, a past trauma; watch me connecting with deep, serious, intelligent Germans.”

New Lawrence Durrell Reference Book

The Durrell Log: A Chronology of the Life and Times of Lawrence Durrell,  by Brewster Chamberlin, £15.50 GBP, can be obtained via Amazon.uk as well as the publisher, Colenso Books, 68 Palatine Road, London N16 8ST, UK.  This is a retitled, revised, reorganized, enlarged and chronologically extended version of what was originally published by the Durrell School of Corfu, in 2007, as A Chronology of the Life and Times of Lawrence Durrell, Homme de Lettres.

This new edition is divided into sections according to Durrell’s many countries of  residence, and subdivided in the case of his long residence in France (the second half of  his life) by the names of his wives or companions during the period in question. It begins with “Antecedents” dealing with the history of his family prior to his birth, and concludes with “Aftermath”, chronicling the events related to the dissemination and discussion of his oeuvre in the 29 years since his death in 1990. Running heads make the book much easier to navigate, as does the indication of the year or years in question on each double-page opening. Its usefulness is further enhanced by a 16-page “Index of  Persons”. Frequent reference to the works of other authors gives an idea of the intellectual and cultural context in which Durrell lived and wrote.

Brewster Chamberlin is a prolific author of poetry and fiction, and the author of a companion volume, The Hemingway Log: A Chronology of His Life and Times, published in 2015 by the University of Kansas Press.

Review: As an avid Anaïs Nin scholar, I have found The Durrell Log a very handy reference book, chronologically arranged and alphabetically indexed, which has helped me personally as I conduct Nin research. Precise dates and locations are given whenever possible, and the passages, though concise, are very informative. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in or studying Lawrence Durrell, Anaïs Nin or Henry Miller, as well as a host of other Durrell associates. Paul Herron, Editor, Sky Blue Press

Anaïs Nin Podcast #35: Preserving a Gemor Press Site in Greenwich Village

One of Anaïs Nin’s most famous actions during the 1940s was printing her own books under the imprint of Gemor Press, which was named after her printing partner and long-time lover, Gonazalo More. When no commercial New York publisher would touch Nin’s esoteric works, her husband, Hugh Guiler, gave her $100 toward the purchase of an old hand-operated press. At first the press was housed at 144 MacDougal St. in Greenwich Village, and then, in 1944, was relocated at 17 E. 13th St. Sadly, the MacDougal St. location was razed many years ago, and while the 13th St. building still stands, it is in danger of being destroyed in the name of urban development. Fortunately, there is an organization—the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP)—which is advocating designating it a historic landmark.

17 E. 13th St., former site of Gemor Press

In this podcast, I interview the executive director of the GVSHP, Andrew Berman, about the group’s efforts and discover what we, average citizens, can do to help preserve this important literary site.

Run time: 23:08

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To see GVSHP’s blog post on the former Gemor site, click here.

Slut-Shaming Anaïs Nin, 2019: Enough!

Meghan Markle has stirred up some waves by using Anaïs Nin’s “I must be a mermaid” quote from The Four-Chambered Heart as inspiration for her collaboration with the British edition of Vogue. Consequently, articles have popped up scrutinizing just who this Anaïs Nin is. One such article, which was published today (August 5, 2019) by Brinkwire and written by an anonymous author, portrays Anaïs Nin (and Henry Miller) in a most unflattering light and is riddled with errors and plain, old-fashioned venom. In order to shed light on the actual truth about who Nin was, I am offering some insight and corrections below.

“The first time Henry Miller made love to Anais Nin, he pounced on her with such ferocity that she felt she’d been ravished ‘by a cannibal’.” [Not true—he actually asked her afterward: “You were expecting more brutality?”]

“It was 1932 and the 20th century’s most notorious writers of erotica were together at her rented chateau outside Paris.” [Neither of them had yet written “erotica.” That did not begin until around 1940 when both were in New York. And her house, which was formerly a living quarters for wine workers, was anything but a “chateau.”]

“Nin’s husband was a rich banker, so she had paid for the impoverished Miller to travel from Dijon, where he was eking out a living as a teacher.” [Nin’s husband had just taken a huge salary cut, and it was drastic enough that he and Nin gave up living in Paris and moved to Louveciennes, a suburb where the rent was cheaper.]

“But even a seasoned philanderer such as Nin was taken by surprise when Miller threw her to the ground and ‘attacked’ her. She was utterly smitten.” [Nin, at this time, had never had sex with any other man other than her husband—she was hardly a “philanderer.” And Miller never threw her to the ground or “attacked” her. Read the diary Henry and June.]

“Nin, who died in 1977 aged 73, was once derided as a ‘monster of self-centredness whose artistic pretensions now seem grotesque’. Yet today her aphorisms are frequently quoted online by a growing legion of fans who are rediscovering her.” [Nin was never attacked this way during her lifetime. The “monster” quote comes from a puritanical reaction to the morally scathing posthumous biography of Nin by Deirdre Bair, which, in spite of its excellent scholarship, reads like an indictment of a woman guilty of high crimes.]

“Nin was a wildly promiscuous woman whose bold sexual experimentation included bigamy, a menage a trois, incest with her own father and writing a book about sexual perversion so sordid — including paedophilia and necrophilia — that even today online retailer Amazon hides it in its ‘adult content dungeon’. She certainly hasn’t always been a fashionable name to drop into conversation.” [The author is probably writing about Auletris: Erotica (Sky Blue Press, 2016), which is clearly no longer in the dungeon.]

“Born in 1903 near Paris to a Spanish-Cuban father and French-Danish mother who split up when she was eight, the beautiful Nin earned a reputation for her untrammelled sex life long before anyone noticed her writing.” [First, she was ten when her father left the family. Second, her highly-regarded book D.H. Lawerence: An Unprofessional Study was written before she knew Miller, her first extramarital lover.]

Meghan Markle

“As she recorded in her diaries and in novels that were thinly disguised memoirs, Nin repaid his devotion by cheating on him relentlessly with the many men who became besotted with her.” [Miller also “cheated” on her, even with prostitutes. Funny, no mention of that.]

“She was fixated with Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and seduced two leading practitioners who agreed to analyse her.” [First of all, her first analyst, Rene Allendy, was the one who lured Nin to a hotel room where he brandished a whip, not the other way around. As for Rank, the seduction was mutual.]

“She even briefly practised as a ‘shrink’ herself — a deeply unethical one — having sex with her patients on her couch and cheekily later complaining that she couldn’t help but want to ‘intercede’ in their problems.” [I have studied Nin for nearly 30 years and know of no account of her having sex with her patients on her couch. I defy anyone to quote and cite such a passage by anyone who was present then.]

“In fact [Delta of Venus] had never been intended for publication as [Nin] had written it to order, at a dollar a page, in the 1930s for a millionaire businessman in Paris. ‘More porn, less poetry,’ she accurately explained.” [Nin, at Miller’s suggestion, didn’t write erotica until after she returned to New York in late 1939. And the “collector” was an American, not a Parisian. Read the diary Mirages.]

“It was the affair with Miller that helped define her. It was in the early 1930s when Nin, then in her late 20s, met the impoverished, foul-mouthed and bullying author.” [Miller was not a “bully.” He was a robust yet gentle lover and an effective editor of Nin’s work.]

“Soon after, Nin embarked on an affair with the equally lascivious Miller. After that first sexual encounter in the garden, she recorded how in trysts he would treat her like a prostitute, asking her to whip him or crawl on her hands and knees. ‘It is like a forest fire, to be with him,’ she confessed.” [Nin’s first sexual encounter with Miller was at his hotel in Paris, not a garden. And Miller was a not a sadist.]

“Nin became obsessed with [June] Miller and they clearly had a sexual dalliance. In her diaries, she mused about the attractions of sapphism and how the ‘passivity’ of the woman’s role in sex with men ‘suffocates me’.” [Nin and June Miller never had a consummated sexual encounter.]

“When this menage a trois was portrayed in the 1990 film Henry & June — in which Uma Thurman played June — it won a U.S. film classification usually reserved for hardcore pornography.” [Unfairly so, as almost every critic agrees.]

“[Nin] never expressed anything other than delight over the shocking liaison [incest with her father], which perfectly illustrated Nin’s complete inability to feel guilt. [Untrue—the affair deeply conflicted her. Read the diary Incest.]

Anais Nin, 1940s

“For years, Nin was able to keep up a precarious trans-America balancing act (she called it her ‘bicoastal trapeze’), alternating between Pole’s spartan log cabin in the wilds of Arizona, and Guiler’s luxurious flat in New York — fobbing off each man that she occasionally needed to get away for work or relaxation.” [First, they never lived in Arizona. Second, Pole was the one taking money from Nin. Read the diary Trapeze.]

“It never occurred to Nin to consider something as tediously conventional as divorce: she married Pole bigamously in 1955, choosing for the ceremony a remote desert village in Arizona, where she hoped marriage records would be hard to find.” [It was Pole who insisted on marrying her in Arizona—she did not want this, but relented to keep Pole happy. And Nin did consider divorce, but her economic status would have been decimated if she left Guiler.]

“Even after being heavily censored, [the originally published Diaries] remained jaw-droppingly candid about her sexual history and her many lovers — an international array of celebrities including Miller and fellow writers Edmund Wilson and Antonin Artaud, and Freud’s colleague, the famous psychiatrist Otto Rank — and of course her father.” [The original edited Diaries did not clearly assert (or even strongly hint) that she had multiple lovers. This was not known until after 1986, when the unexpurgated diaries began coming out.]

“A friend recounted how they once stopped their car at a petrol station and Nin was surprisingly friendly to all the attendants and mechanics. ‘Oh yes,’ she explained. ‘I sleep with all the men here.’” [That account, by Lila Rosenblum, is untrue. Nin carefully recorded her affairs, even the most insignificant, and nowhere does she write about having sex with mechanics.]

“Nin never had children, although in 1942 she aborted a child at six months. She later admitted she was never sure whether the child was her father’s or Miller’s.” [This abortion, made famous in her diary Incest, was in 1934, and Nin never considered her own father as the father of the child. She was sure it was Miller.]

While these corrections will most likely not reach the many readers of the Brinkwire article, or those it will in turn spawn, at least there is a written rebuttal here. Nin scholarship, for at least the last three decades, has been compromised with misstatements, inaccuracies, puritanical poison pens, all of which add up to slut-shaming. It’s time to set the record straight. The best way to do this is to read her work and do some basic research before exploiting Nin and Markle in a public forum.

The see the original Brinkwire article, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s Greatest Human Triumph

By 1973, Anaïs Nin and Hugh (Hugo) Guiler had been married for 50 years, yet neither of the two ever ceased trying to discover themselves or to understand their relationship. Also by 1973, Nin had for decades been splitting her personal life between Guiler in New York and Rupert Pole in California, trying (and not really succeeding) to keep the two men unaware of each other. In Nin’s unexpurgated diaries Mirages and Trapeze, we discover how Nin used her double life as a means of attaining a sense of wholeness—for in Guiler she had security, artistic understanding, a meaningful social life and access to medical and psychological care; in Pole, she had sexual passion and sensual fulfillment. Since there was seemingly no man alive capable of giving Nin everything she needed, she resorted to two—but this was by no means an ideal situation. As one discovers in Trapeze, Nin was often terribly frustrated by both the point of using each as someone to escape to because of the other.

Guiler, who was a complicated man with two distinct sides—a banker obsessed with money and a sensitive artist who dabbled in engraving and film— from the very beginning was unable to sexually satisfy his wife, who turned to multiple lovers six years into the marriage. Eventually, in 1947, she met the ideal lover in Pole. During that time, Nin was financially bound to Guiler—neither she nor Pole were capable at the time of supporting themselves alone. The arrangement led to resentment and a feeling of being trapped on Nin’s part, and as she spent more and more time away from Guiler, he began to realize he was losing his wife and, like Nin, turned to psychoanalysis to help cope with the situation. The dichotomy between banker and artist widened, and Guiler often felt inadequate as a banker (he had a habit of reckless speculation and was always trying to compete with his dead father, a successful businessman) and as an artist (he was, whether he admitted it or not, competing with his wife). The marriage deteriorated to the point when, in 1949, Guiler floated the idea of divorce by Nin—which, because of her need for security, she rejected. For the next three decades, the Guiler marriage stumbled from one crisis to the next, and, near the end of her life, she declared she and Guiler were “bad for each other.”

After Nin’s success with the Diaries in 1966, she became the breadwinner of the Guiler family. While she abhorred living with Guiler for even short periods of time because of his constant psychological and financial floundering, she would not divorce him out of a sense of gratitude for all he’d done for her—a sense she often labeled as “guilt.” Instead, she supported him and allowed him in his later years to continue filmmaking and to live a comfortable life. While Nin was resigned to the failure of the marriage, Guiler continued to see personal evolution through psychoanalysis and science, which brings us to a letter he wrote to Nin in 1973 after she had spent a “miserable month” with him:

New York, September 13, 1973

Darling: I am terribly sorry to have given you a miserable month after my return from Europe. I am so glad to hear that you have also recovered physically and emotionally. [Psychologist Inge] Bogner says it is crises like this one that strengthen us—or [give us] the ability to surmount them. But she has already helped by saying that most of what happened was due to forces (some of them world forces) that were not under my control.

Certainly it is now clear to me that I brought back from my work only the worries and the tensions, and that I could not expect you to understand that there were also many real satisfactions in the work itself. The truth is that I never really felt adequate in the business world, an inadequacy that was symbolized by my apparent difficulty with arithmetic. Great light has been thrown on this kind of problem by an article by a woman scientist [Maya Pines] in last Sunday’s NY Times. It is a long extract from a book, which Harcourt Brace is bringing out next month [The Brain Changers, 1973]. I hope you will see to it that they send you a copy. Essentially, scientific experiments have proved that our brain is in two segments—the right side inarticulate in language, mute, understanding only in images, and it is clearly related to our dream life. The left side is intellect, analytical (like a Virgo), and is something like a computer. [Each of] these two segments are locked under their own shell and normally connected by hundreds of fibers. But when these fibers are severed (as in the case of an operation for epilepsy) the result is two personalities in the same person, and the left, intellectual personality is always trying to give rational explanations of apparent irrational (or strange) reactions in the other. You helped me to keep these two personalities joined, rather than severed as they would have been with any other kind of wife. So I think that while my father had something to do with my actions, the whole thing is more mysterious than just that, and the woman scientist herself says that no one has been able to penetrate that area.

What is remarkable is how you have been able to throw so much light on an area [business] which was, as you say, alien to you, and in this sense you have achieved, for yourself, as well as for me, an extraordinary equilibrium, helped probably by your persistent efforts to be articulate, which in someone less balanced would have made a Virgo of you. In this sense your writing did more than make you a great artist, but also kept the connection between the two shells in a state of communication, and this to me stands out as perhaps your greatest human triumph.

Love, Hugo

While this letter could be filed under the “too little, too late” category (they would permanently separate only a year later), it certainly provides insight into how Guiler saw himself within the context of his marriage, and it demonstrates his recognition of Nin’s incomparable ability help others find themselves.

Hugh Guiler, New York, 1974

Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell, 1958: the end of estrangement

I am currently working on the next Anais Nin diary: The Diary of Others (1955-1966), and came across this May 13, 1958 description of Lawrence Durrell’s home in Provence in a letter to her lover Rupert Pole:
     Saturday night, hearing the Durrells could not come to Paris, I boarded a train and went to Nîmes. I’m so glad I did. Not only are Durrell and his wife wonderful, he so deep and she so gay, but to see the Arlesienne countryside, the Nîmes Arena, to find again the beauty I had missed so much, the river, the house, the Roman town, the bridges, the castles. The Durrells have a small peasant house, but a lovely garden. They grow all their own vegetables. No hot water, no bathroom, no W.C.! It is like Mexico.
      You cool bottles by lowering them down the well. He is very poor as they have two sets of children whom other parents take half the time. Both were married before. Claude is more international than I am—Irish, French, brought up in Alexandria, in New Zealand, in France—a saucy girl. They took me to an arena where bulls wear tassels on their horns and the men have to remove them for a prize. They try, and they run for their lives and jump the barrier, and some bulls jump too. The whole thing is very gay as there is no death. The men do get hurt now and then, but not as seriously as during bullfights. They drink red wine from morning till night, which keeps everyone glowing but never really drunk. Durrell has known so much poverty that he is obsessed with succeeding. He has already been compared to Proust in France.
     We explored Nîmes, sat at the cafés, talked non-stop for two days, and I returned this morning tired out, but with my spiritual batteries recharged for years to come.
I had to see Durrell to complete the carnet de bal. No one could be homelier and so humorous. He has an Irish prizefighter face, a thick potato nose, a large head on a small body, shorter than I, and as fat as [my brother] Joaquín… So there is nothing to threaten any husband! But you and he would hit it off—he hates cities, loves the sea, used to have a boat; they paddle a canoe down the river and swim. As soon as you get out of Paris you can live on nothing.
     The meeting marked the end of a long estrangement that began after Nin and Durrell had parted ways in France just before World War II, an estrangement Nin attributed to a lack of communication rather than any animus.
Anais Nin (top, center) with the Durrell family, 1958