Prelude to a Symphony: Joaquín Nin’s seduction of his daughter Anaïs

Recently discovered letters between Joaquín Nin and his daughter Anaïs reveal what has been hidden for decades—his explicit use of the doppelganger theory (which Nin psychoanalyst Otto Rank made famous) to seduce his daughter after essentially twenty years of estrangement. One letter in particular, written on April 29, 1933 (a few months before their first sexual encounter), illustrates this maneuver. Anaïs, who’d shortly beforehand initiated contact with her father, had sent him a copy of part of her childhood diary, which was originally written for him as a sort of “letter” after he’d abandoned Anaïs and her family in 1913. In response, Joaquín says:

You are not only my daughter…you are two daughters, one by flesh and the other by spirit. There are coincidences—some of which are troubling and others which fill me with joy—between your “journal” and the one I wrote—yes—at your age. Like you, I sought the kind of solitude that liberates, and I wept over secret, indefinable disappointments. Like you, I found the ways of the world absurd. Like you, I hated school, because the dogma clipped the wings of my imagination. Like you, I loved flowers, books, music, worms, the sky and stars, the sea, the sun, trees, snow and the faithful claire de lune…benevolent confidants of my secret life.

Like you, I hated lies. Betrayals by my schoolmates made me literally sick with sorrow and despair…or furious to the point of wanting to beat them all senseless. For me, life seemed to be a farce, a sinister game impossible to play without leaving logic behind…and then I lost all my courage… Like you, I tried to raise my heart unto God himself, who, I believed by some miracle, could hear me. I was exactly thirteen years old when a sudden crisis of mysticism threw me into prayer, which I believed was the only possible consolation for my distressed heart and aimless soul. I spent, unbeknownst to my parents, hours and hours at night kneeling on the tiles of my tiny bedroom, reading and reciting prayers, in order to save myself and those I loved from the attacks of evil. The day before my first communion I almost fainted at the feet of the stern Priest to whom my Father had entrusted my religious initiation. Like you, I had a double life, a mysterious, burning and secret life; I spent hours of ecstasy in a world of dreams where all was just, beautiful and sweet. Alas! … “Life,” harsh, hard, ferocious, broke all that little by little. I learned how to work, to fight, to hit, to settle arguments with my fists, just like the others around me. I suffered the effects of the collective madness; I lashed out to defend myself, initially, and then in order to defend my ideas, my concept of the world (?), of life, of society. I fought against my companions, with the exaltations of illumination, so that they would no longer lie, so that they would no longer betray, so that they would be just, so that they would not behave like animals, so that they would not steal, so that they would not rip flowers from the neighbors’ gardens, so that they would not use vile words, so that they would not mock God and the poor, whom my father had taught us how to love and respect. But at the same time I sought, by all possible and conceivable means, to perfect myself because I felt—again like you—that I was filled with defects, ugly, weak and mal-conditioned, in the end, in every way.

…I will see you soon, dear Anaïs! Around your image and your memory I braid garlands of emotional tenderness, and I throw my trust to the heavens which separate us—the beautiful heavens of France—the soft murmer of my grateful heart, the clear message of the love of…

Your father  (A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 11-12, 13)

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

The many parallels between their lives (though there is no evidence to verify his version of his life) create a spiritual link between the two of them, which is followed up with sentimentality. Joaquín’s motivation is up for speculation—he’d always sought a relationship with his daughter, especially during the time shortly after he’d left the family, for his own purposes—he was no doubt jealous of his wife Rosa’s control over Anaïs and her two younger brothers, Thorvald and Joaquín Jr., and often used Anaïs’s lingering affection for him to create a rift between the children and their mother, whom he loathed. Since he had not yet met Anaïs as a mature woman (except for a brief encounter some years previous, after she first arrived in Paris with her husband Hugh Guiler), there is no concrete evidence that he was plotting a physical relationship with her…but he was a seducer by nature, and if he saw himself in Anaïs’s writing, as he indicates in this letter, it is possible that his self-adoration led him to such a scheme even before meeting her some weeks later in Louveciennes.

For a more complete exchange of letters before and just after the incestuous encounter, see A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 (“Prelude to a Symphony: Letters between a father and daughter” pp 5-26).

To read more about Joaquin Nin, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which has descriptions and an interactive map that includes his house in Paris.

To see a sample or to purchase Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, click here.

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.
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Adventures in Louveciennes: entry to Anaïs Nin’s house of incest

Two years after my last visit to Louveciennes in 1994, the Anaïs Nin house was finally sold to someone who not only restored the main building, where he lived, but also developed the grounds to include a few maisons particulaires, which were to serve as apartments. My friend Jacques, who kept tabs on developments there for me during my absence, told me the house had been repainted in a burnt orange color, which he termed affreux (hideous), but that it was finally, after decades of neglect, habitable once again. This was wonderful news, for I had spent an inordinate amount of time fearing the place would eventually be demolished. I was told, however, that the new owner had no interest in Anaïs Nin and did not particularly care that she once lived there—therefore, he had no inclination to entertain Nin fans who occasionally stopped by to take pictures or to sit at the gate with her Diaries in hand. During the several years away from Louveciennes, although I was still heavily involved with Nin’s work, I had lost hope of ever seeing the house from the inside.

But in 2002, Jacques wrote me an exuberant e-mail, telling me that it had been sold once again, this time to an academy award nominated French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade. Jacques, through the Director of Culture in Louveciennes, managed to secure a rendezvous at the Nin house on February 21, 2003, Anaïs’s 100th birthday. Not only would we finally gain entry to the house, but on Anaïs Nin’s centennial. This was too good to be true, I thought, but did not hesitate to book a flight to Paris. I kept waiting for something awful to happen, such as an airline or rail strike, but nothing did.

While in Paris, a woman who’d once romanced Lawrence Durrell, Claudine, took me on a wonderful tour of Durrell’s and Miller’s Montparnasse, walking the same routes they took, stopping at the same haunts, and the result was an article in the premier A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (2003). I invited her to attend the rendezvous in Louveciennes, thinking it would have special meaning for her, since Nin, Miller, and Durrell were linked by their budding artistry in the Paris of the 1930s. I found out that a famous actress from the Comédie-Française would be in attendance, as well the Director of Culture, and other actors and actresses from the theater. Of course, Claudine couldn’t resist the idea of visiting the house of one of Durrell’s friends and collaborators.

On the train to Louveciennes, we reacquainted ourselves with Anaïs’s descriptions of her house:

My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house... (Diary 1 3)

We had lunch at Jacques’ house, devouring a meal that was traditionnelement français, washed down with wine, topped off with cheeses of every sort. Jacques then pointed to his watch: it was time to leave, first to the Director of Culture’s house, where we would meet the other guests before going on to the Nin house. After a light-hearted gathering, we set out for the ultimate: the laboratory of the soul, some seventy years after its most famous resident had lived there.

We parked on the narrow rue de Monbuisson, and Jean-Hugues Anglade met us at the pedestrian gate of the Nin house. Handsome, soft-spoken, and dressed casually, he shook everyone’s hand, and we entered into the courtyard where we all stood in awe. The grounds were well-kept, and the flowers were already beginning to bud. It was a fine day: sunny, warm, still. Jean showed us the outbuilding which once served as a garage for Hugh Guiler’s car—he been reading the Diary to discover the significance of each feature of the house and garden from Nin’s point of view. He expressed a desire to find the now-buried fountain and pool and to restore them. He’d located the same garden furniture Nin had used and displayed it prominently in the front of the house. There was a massive tree in the garden that looked as though it had been severely pruned at some point—Jean-Hugues told us that during World War II, much of it had been cut up for firewood.

All this was proving to be too much—the front door was ajar, beckoning us, and my mind was racing. Was this actually happening? “Entrez,” Jean-Hugues said musically… “Entrez, entrez…”

louveciennesfoyer

Interior 1st floor

I could not feel my feet touch the floor in the foyer. I looked to the left, ahead, and to the right. Everything looked clean and fresh, hardly like the photos Noel Riley Fitch had taken 13 years earlier. The room to the left of the entrance, which once contained the pool table Henry Miller referred to in his entry in Nin’s diary (Incest 80-85), now housed a mini-stage with rock band equipment. The chandelier was gone, and the fireplace was restored, but not as it was when Nin lived there. The old mosaic tile had been replaced. I kept thinking about how silent it must have been in this room during the years when the house was empty—and now it would be filled with music. Alive, I felt. The house was alive again. Someone lived here again, created here again. Voices, music, the sounds of life filled the void again.

Nin said:

I chose the house for many reasons. Because it seemed to have sprouted out of the earth like a tree, so deeply grooved it was within the old garden. It had no cellar and the rooms rested right on the ground. Below the rug, I felt, was the earth. I could take root here… (Diary 1 4)

Jean-Hugues opened what appeared to be a closet door near the front entrance. Inside was a cool, dank room lined with solid stone, gravel on the floor—the earth. “In here,” he said, “you can see all the way back to the revolution.” Here were the guts of the house, a place no one, not even time, had touched since the beginning. The air smelled of antiquity. To the right of the entrance was a parlor, and behind it was a large kitchen. The kitchen was modern, clean, airy, well-lit. A door led out to the garden. The parlor was large with one window through which the afternoon sun poured, creating a silhouette of every person in the room. Suddenly they all became timeless…they could have been anyone, from any time. It could have been Anaïs leaning on the doorway and not the actress…they could’ve been Miller, Hugo, Anaïs’s father, June…

Once we were all seated and enjoying fruit punch and sweets, Jacques began to tell his stories about the history of Louveciennes, acquainting its newest resident with information he could have gotten nowhere else. We raised a toast to Anaïs and fell silent for a few moments. I noticed the actress had a copy of Incest with her, with a place marked in the book, as if she were going to read aloud some passages…but she didn’t. I wasn’t sure why not. We took the grand tour of the house. I had been dying to get upstairs. The narrow, winding staircase was not made for someone of my height—I’m certain Hugo must have had to duck just as I did to avoid crushing his skull on the ceiling. I then recalled reading on the train the passage from Diary 1:

There are eleven windows showing between the wooden trellis covered with ivy. One shutter in the middle was put there for symmetry only, but I often dream about this mysterious room which does not exist behind the closed shutter. (4)

In House of Incest, Nin evokes the imagery of one of her dreams:

In the house of incest there was a room which could not be found, a room without a window, the fortress of their love, a room without window where the mind and blood coalesced in a union without orgasm and rootless like those of fishes. (52)

louveciennes-room-that-doesnt-exist1

Space which is “room that doesn’t exist”

I sought this “room,” the place behind the shutter. Today, all the windows are open, but I came upon a narrow space in which the ceiling slanted severely, the ancient wooden beams making it impossible to pass by. On the wall was a window. Had I found the “room which could not be found”? It seemed to be in the right place, in the middle of the house.

We passed from room to room, as in a dream. The dimension of time seemed to be missing. All the modern trappings—a computer, a child’s toys, modern furniture—seemed to drop away, leaving only the essence of a dreamscape.

Nin said in her Diary:

Every room is painted a different color. As if there were one room for every separate mood: lacquer red for vehemence, pale turquoise for reveries, peach color for gentleness, green for repose, grey for work at the typewriter. (5)

We found reverie: a portion of the paint on one wall had been peeled back, layer by layer, and beneath was turquoise. In the bathroom was an antique bathtub, the porcelain worn off around the edges from the hands of all those who’d lifted themselves in and out. From one of the upstairs windows, we looked out at the massive green gate, which Nin had described as a prison gate, keeping her locked in and away from the artistic and bohemian Paris she was just beginning to discover.

louveciennespaint

The color of reverie

The shadows in the room began to lengthen and the day was growing old. The conversations in the parlor were scattering. It was time to leave. This dream of mine, to enter this house, had finally been realized. I still believe that I was incapable of understanding fully the significance of the moment, to feel it fully. My gratitude to Jacques is eternal.

Claudine, knowing French architecture well, felt the house was not built for aristocracy, citing the bare beams on the ceilings and inexpensive building materials. She noted that the many small rooms and their layout suggested that the house was perhaps built as lodging for workmen on a plantation or a vineyard (and history tells us that wine was once produced in the region). There is no documentation of the house from before 1803, which would make it seventy years newer than what Nin was led to believe. The house’s origins are still mysterious.

A in-depth article on the 2003 Louveciennes visit (as well as Neuilly) with more photos can be found in A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal Vol. 1.

Epilogue: Only a year or two after our visit, Jean-Hugues Anglade sold the house for reasons unknown to me. At the time of this posting, it is once again on the market for 1.65 million Euros.

To read more about Louveciennes, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which has descriptions and an interactive map that includes the house on rue de Montbuisson.

To see a sample or to purchase Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, click here.

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.
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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #7

Myth #7: Anaïs Nin had a lifelong loving relationship with Henry Miller.

Fact: Although Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller were passionate lovers and collaborators in Paris during the 1930s, and the publication of Nin’s Diaries forever linked the two, by 1942, a little more than two years after returning to New York at the onset of World War II, their relationship was becoming strained as a result of multiple factors. First, the return to America severed each from the life-blood of Europe that coursed through their veins…America proved to be a particularly arid artistic climate, stifling the creativity of both artists and robbing them of the élan they’d experienced together in Paris. Second, the increasing physical separation of the two—first with Miller’s stay in Greece before returning to New York, and then his tour of America for his The Air-Conditioned Nightmare project—gave Nin in particular time to ponder the changing nature of their relationship, or rather her changing perception of it. Third, Nin’s declining source of money and her deep depression caused extreme resentment for those who made constant demands on her.

henrymiller1940s

Henry Miller, 1940s

She questioned Miller’s character regarding The Air-Conditioned Nightmare in her unpublished diary:

Had to console Henry for his one failure: the American book. His worst book. I hope it is the deadly effect of America on him and not the disintegration I have seen take place now in every artist around me who has abandoned himself to his every whim, lack of discipline, fancy, dadaism, his instinct, negativism, that falling apart of the self-indulgent, the liberated unconscious, the loss of contact with human reality. I am concerned over Henry. In freeing him, protecting him, I have nurtured both his dream and his weakness. He has a cult of his own naturalness, he has defended his defects. Whatever influence I had on his writing was indirect—effect on his being—but when I judged a fragment directly, Henry has never yielded. (Jan. 8, 1942)

She was fatigued by his dependence on her for monetary and emotional sustenance, which was compounded by the fact she had a legion of other “starving artists” demanding her resources when she had little left—money or otherwise—to give. Nin was also facing failure as a writer in America. No one would publish her, and she was forced to print and publish her own books. She noted:

[I]t seems to me that I am heavily burdened, and I see no way out of it. I cannot make money. I’m a worker, I’m clever, I’m dexterous, I’m talented, yet I cannot make money. I wept. I am a failure. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)

Those who clamored for what she did not have became demons in her eyes. She chastised Miller for what she called his “irresponsibility,” his habit of boasting about his ability to suck his hosts dry while living in relative comfort. She implored him to begin taking the initiative in making his own way in the world and became hostile at his flippant suggestion that she join him in Hollywood, where he was living with (and off) a married couple. In her unpublished diary, she mused:

What I should write to Henry is that I no longer love him except as a child, and that I will continue to take care of him as a mother and thus free him to live where and how he pleases. Can I do this? That is the truth. Can I say it? (Sept. 23, 1942)

But a few weeks later, she capitulated:

The day I asked myself: has the time come for me to tell Henry the truth, I received in the evening a voluminous letter in which he says he cannot fall in love with anyone else, that I am perfection and have immunized him! So again I kept my secret. It would be cruel to abandon him when he needs me, when I am the only one who takes care of him, the only one. Henry has written ten books which everybody reads, and can’t have security even for his barest needs. Ben Abramson of the Argus Book Shop printed The World of Sex, sells it for $7 and Henry gets nothing. Fraenkel sells the Hamlet Letters and gets $100 checks from the Gotham Book Shop and Henry gets nothing (he wrote half the book and it is selling because of his name). His books are reprinted sub rosa and he gets nothing. Poor Henry. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)

But in the end, Miller’s insensitive letters from Hollywood, in which he was unable to detect the true nature of her anger, led Anaïs to this outburst:

Your passivity increased in proportion to my creative and protective activity. Ironically—you never recognized that my struggle was at the basis of your magnificent renunciations, and independences. You mocked the people who struggled. You said: “Look, look how I do it.” And it was all utterly crazy and inhuman. I can’t bring myself to let you down and show you. You think your way of life is wisdom—but it isn’t. It’s the way of life permitted to those who are protected by someone else’s struggle. That’s all. There is no triumph and no conquest in it. It’s a crystallization of the ego—that’s all. I repeat it, Henry. I do not want you back. There is no need of it. I shall continue to help you. I have always wanted you fulfilled. I have my own plans and it won’t be Hollywood. This is not a surprise or a shock. You mustn’t be concerned. This separation has been going on since you went to Greece. I have been fully aware of it. Your letters have effectively detached me from you. They are more revealing than you know. Believe me when I say I feel completely detached and you are free—to live as you please. (Unpublished diary, Nov. 17, 1942)

After this “blast from the Arctic,” as Miller called it, there was a lingering exchange of letters between the two, but the relationship was effectively dead; in fact, for Nin it had been dead—characteristically, it took a long time before she could muster the courage to admit to Miller what she’d been admitting to herself in the diary. While they continued to publicly express respect and admiration for one another, never again would they be more than distant friends brought together by occasional business concerns, such as the publication of his Letters to Anaïs Nin in 1965 and their biographical films produced by Robert Snyder.

The complete series of edited (by Gunther Stuhlmann) “break-up” letters can be found in ANAIS: An International Journal, Vol. 15 (1997). Oddly, they do not appear in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller 1932-1953 (1987).
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Adventures in Louveciennes: crashing Anaïs Nin’s gate.

In the summer of 1994, I had spent a few glorious days in Paris, browsing the bouqinistes and loitering in the parks, but couldn’t wait to rid myself of the crowded (with tourists, devoid of Parisians) streets, the summer stench, the never-ending construction, and escape to the luxurious calm of Louveciennes, of which I could now claim myself as a sort of honorary habitué, this my third visit. I boarded with my friends Henri and Thérèse, whom I had met during my first visit a couple years previously on my quest to find Anaïs Nin’s house. In the time between, I had learned that the Nin house was still owned by the people who’d turned Anaïs herself away when she appeared at the gate in 1970 with a German film crew that was documenting her return to France after she’d won acclaim and status upon the publication of her Diaries, in which the Louveciennes house was the setting for many of her now famous exploits. She wrote:

In Louveciennes we ran into trouble. I went to visit the owner of what was once my house. She now lives next door… I summoned all the charm I could and asked permission to enter, to film the house and the garden. I reminded her I had lived there for years. It was locked and neglected. The iron gate was rusty and corroded. The old lady became furious, said she would never allow us in, that this was the new way places are burglarized by so-called television groups. So we had to stay outside, photographing me at the gate, and what we could see of the house. The shutters of the old lady’s house were closed. Suddenly they opened and the old lady, as in a puppet show, sprang out and said if we did not leave immediately she would inform the mayor. (Diary 7 143)

I was to find out, more than twenty years later, that the house was owned by the same people, whose name, I was told, was Auzépy. The same old woman still lived in the house next door in the summer of 1993 when I revisited: I was holding my camera between the bars of the gate and snapping pictures when she appeared (perhaps at the very same window) and yelled: “Je vais appeler le police!” I edged away, and then slowly retraced my steps to the gate and noticed that she was examining me through the window, scowling. Jacques, the author of Louveciennes Mon Village, and town historian, said that the Auzépys refused to sell the house and yet did not have the money to restore it. There was a growing sentiment amongst the Louveciennois to tear the place down, so sorry was its condition.

How I longed to see the inside of this incredible house; how I wondered what remnants, if any, of Anaïs’s life were to be found—the paint on the walls, those exotic colors she used to mirror her essence in her homes, the study where she wrote with Miller looking over her shoulder… This now seemed increasingly impossible.

During my 1994 visit, I had decided to call on a local novelist who lived only a few doors down from the Nin house…I had read in ANAIS: An International Journal (Vol. 7, 1989) that someone on a mission similar to mine had befriended him and together they paid a visit to the Nin house. Somehow they were able to get into the garden and snoop around. Perhaps he would be able to help me accomplish a similar feat. So, on a sunny afternoon, Jacques and I knocked on Pierre’s door. Pierre’s wife, a lovely elderly woman, opened the door and allowed us in. We met Pierre, who was in poor health, suffering from a weak heart. He was dressed in pajamas in the middle of the day, his hair askew under a nightcap, 3 days’ of stubble on his sunken face, his appearance contradicting his elegant Englishman’s English, which hinted at his supreme intelligence and worldliness. Pierre admitted he knew little about the status of the Nin house, that he wasn’t even sure who owned it. He began to get worked up and then wondered aloud if we might not simply appear at the gate and sound the bell. I realized he was a bit delusional, for even I knew the house had been empty for decades. But there was no stopping him. His wife pleaded with him, we pleaded with him, but he pulled on a pair of knee-high green rubber boots over his pajamas and put on a robe. He opened the front door and beckoned Jacques and me to follow him.

It was high noon in Louveciennes. This unlikely triumvirate strode down the middle of the narrow street as in some sort of surreal cowboy movie—Jacques, neatly dressed with a sweater tied about his neck, giving the impression of a cape, I, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and shades, and Pierre, looking like a tragic medieval character lost in time. People driving by stared. I can only wonder what they thought. We arrived at the Nin house, and Pierre stood at the pedestrian gate, trying to find the bell. Jacques went to the larger gate (which was different than the original, a cheaply made blue metal monstrosity) and realized it was not locked. He gave it a good push and it swung open. We entered the courtyard and could see the decay firsthand. Everything was choked in weeds. The house was locked tight and the shutters were closed, except for one window on the north wing of the house. There appeared to be old furniture piled up, blocking the view inside. Even though we’d managed to get into the courtyard, there was still no way to see the interior of the house. There was old garden furniture, rusted, strewn about (I would only realize much later that this same furniture appears in photos taken at the house during the Nin years), trash and broken bottles. I had been informed the house had become a hangout for drug users, but there didn’t seem any way to get in, so I never could validate this story.

We left, dejected. Jacques was saddened and declared the situation a “shame.” Pierre was very calm, very quiet. I was raging inside, very unsatisfied and feeling more frustrated than ever. The only positive development was that no old lady appeared at the window to shoo us away.

On the plane home, I couldn’t know then that events in my life would prevent me from returning to Louveciennes for nearly a decade, and during that time I could only follow the status of the Nin house from afar. A sort of “movement” to “save the house” was spearheaded by a young American woman in 1996. Ironically, this was in response to the fact that the Auzépys actually were selling the place to a private individual, who was planning on restoring it into a livable condition, dividing the garden up into smaller lots upon which apartments were to be built, and living in the original house himself. The “movement” managed to ruffle feathers in Louveciennes: a small group, including the American woman, appeared at City Hall and demanded the sale be blocked. A petition had been drafted and was presented. Instead of having the intended effect of making the powers that be realize the historical value of the house (which, according to the American’s plan, was to be turned into a writers’ retreat and museum, though no funding existed), they angered the officials, who were finally, after more than twenty-five years, on the verge of getting an owner in the house who had the money to fix it up. The fact Anaïs Nin had once lived there had little to do with the decision to allow the sale, which did go through—what the American didn’t realize, perhaps, is that the house was being saved.

Postscript: Before I published Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors later in 1996, Noel Riley Fitch, Nin’s first biographer, offered to write a story of her “invasion” of the Nin house (“A Dramatic Encounter at Louveciennes, 1990”). She snuck in with her camera and was able to snap some incredible photographs before being chased out by the owner, who was upstairs at the time. These photos would have to be a substitute for my own lack of success of getting inside. They would also provide me with a certain degree of perspective that allowed me to be even more grateful that someone, for whatever reason, was finally giving Anaïs Nin’s “laboratory of the soul” the attention it needed.

Room to left of entrance with pool table

To read more about Louveciennes, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which has descriptions and an interactive map that includes the house on rue de Montbuisson.

To see a sample or to purchase Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, click here.


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Anais Nin Myth of the Day #6

Myth #6: Anaïs Nin had a life-long love affair with Paris

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

Fact: By the time Anaïs Nin and her family immigrated to New York at the age of 11, she had spent very little time in Paris, traveling across the European continent as her pianist/composer father did musical tours. Though she missed France while in New York and romanticized her homeland during World War I, she rarely mentioned the City of Light in her childhood diary. In America, she became enamored with the English language classics and began to consider herself Anglo, not Latin. So, when her banker husband Hugh Guiler was transferred to a Paris branch in the mid-1920s, Anaïs did not have the sense of coming home, but rather that of being uprooted. Her first impressions of Paris as a young adult were anything but glowing. On Jan. 2, 1925, only a few days after arriving, she said in her diary:

“Tonight I hate Paris. The wind is blowing heaving raindrops about; the streets are wet and muddy; the automobile horns, more discordant than ever.” (Early Diary 3 82)

The next day she wrote:

“My ridiculous attitude towards Paris shows that I love with my intellect, not with my instincts and my emotions. My intellect was bred in English letters, and no instinct of race or birth can influence me. This dullness of the heart, this lack of responsiveness, shock me and please me at the same time. The humorous side of it is that the French would be the first to understand and to approve of me. The English would, by contrast, urge me to love my native city without reasoning about it. Through recognition of the supremacy of the intelligence, I belong, then, to Paris. Yet I kneel here, humbly sentimentalizing about the English. What inconsistencies! I shall truly end by being spiritually repudiated by all nations.” (Early Diary 3 83-4)

On March 11, she said:

“Spiritually, I hate Paris for the importance of sensuality in its literary and human life.” (Early Diary 3 115)

She shunned the Montparnasse scene of expatriate writers and artists and locked herself within the four walls of her apartment, keeping her diary and trying to be an ideal wife in a basically sexless marriage—this went on for years before a slow awakening to her environment occurred. Just as she began to identify herself as an artist and sought to associate with other artists in Paris, she and Hugh were forced by their shrinking finances—caused by the onset of the Great Depression—to move to the suburbs, ending up in Louveciennes. Once again she felt imprisoned, until the fateful day in 1931 when she met Henry Miller, who liberated her and introduced her to the guts of the city she had essentially ignored for six years.

The 1930s Paris years with Miller were arguably the most essential to Nin’s life and work, setting up the release of the Diary of Anaïs Nin, the first two volumes of which cover that period. During this time, however, visits to New York created ambivalence in Nin—her infatuation with the frenetic energy of New York, perhaps best represented by her love of jazz, which she felt symbolized New York, contrasted heavily with the slower, more languorous pace of Paris. She found herself longing to be in New York again. After returning from an extended visit in 1935, she wrote:

“I miss the animal buoyancy of New York, the animal vitality… Where is the jazz rhythm, the nervous energy of New York? …Face to face with a gentle, diminutive Paris, all charm, all intelligence, the new Anaïs feels: But I know it already. It is familiar. I am in love with a new, as yet uncreated world, vivid colors and large scales, vastness and abundance, a synthetic vast city of the future.” (Diary 2 42, 43)

Her desire to return to New York was to ultimately be realized, but not in the fashion she’d wished—the threat of World War II thrust her once again back into America. Once trapped in New York with no possibility of returning to Paris, she rebelled and fell into a deep depression that not only affected her personal life, but also her writing. But she was never to return to Paris to live, even when she had the chance after the war. However, especially in her later years, Nin would write wistfully of her native city and recapture some of the joy whenever she returned for visits.
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