Mystery #1: What is the source of one Anaïs Nin’s most popular quotes: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”?
Clues: In Nin’s novel Children of the Albatross (1947) which is incorporated into Cities of the Interior, there is a scene in which the character Djuna (based on Nin), having just made love to Paul (based on the seventeen-year-old Bill Pinckard), sees a vase of closed tulips on a table:
She looked at the tulips so hermetically closed, like secret poems, like the secrets of the flesh. Her hands took each tulip, the ordinary tulip of everyday living and she slowly opened them, petal by petal, opened them tenderly.
They were changed from plain to exotic flowers, from closed secrets to open flowering.
Then she heard Paul say: “Don’t do that!”
There was a great anxiety in his voice. He repeated: “Don’t do that!”
She felt a great stab of anxiety. Why was he so disturbed?
She looked at the flowers. She looked at Paul’s face lying on the pillow, clouded with anxiety, and she was struck with fear. Too soon. She had opened him to love too soon! She had forced time, as she had forced the flowers to change from the ordinary to the extraordinary. He was not ready! (Cities of the Interior 180-1)
Was the quote drawn from this passage? Nowhere in Nin’s fiction am I, or anyone else I know, able to find the verbatim quote, which seems to be a distillation of the above. I have seen it cited on the internet as a “poem” entitled “Risk,” but nowhere in Nin’s bibliography (as far as I know) can such a poem be found. Was the “poem” even written by Nin, or was someone else involved? No one seems to definitively answer this question.
A couple more clues: William Pinckard appears in Diary 4 under the pseudonym of “Leonard.” Also, there is a passage in the unpublished diary of 1946 that closely resembles the passage from The Children of the Albatross.
Perhaps you can help unlock this mystery. If you have any information or ideas, please leave a comment. We will follow all reasonable leads.
PLEASE NOTE: Have we solved the mystery? Click HERE to see.
Myth #10: Anaïs Nin’s sex life was ideal.
Fact: When Anaïs Nin married Hugh (Hugo) Guiler at the age of twenty, she was a virgin. Her sexual relationship with her new husband was very unsatisfactory, according to Nin in a diary passage written some twenty years later:
[We] were never made for each other. He was too big for me. And then he would always come too quickly, almost immediately, and I was slow. In fact, for months I did not know the deeper orgasm. I only felt the superficial orgasm of the clitoris, which he excited with his hands, but nothing deep down. The amazing thing was that it was only a year later in Paris that I felt the deep orgasm. (unpublished diary, 1943)
The lack of sexual fulfillment with her husband prompted her to seek comfort elsewhere. She had a botched affair with writer John Erskine in 1928, which left her feeling depressed to the point of contemplating suicide (Early Diary 4). It was not until 1932, at age twenty-nine, that she had a bona fide affair with another man—Henry Miller. Miller was the one who taught Nin about sex, but a month into the affair, she said:
I am thinking that with all the tremendous joys Henry has given me I have not yet felt a real orgasm. My response does not seem to lead to a true climax but is disseminated in a spasm that is less centered, more diffuse. I have felt an orgasm occasionally with Hugo, and when I have masturbated, but perhaps that is because Hugo likes me to close my legs and Henry makes me open them so much. (Henry and June 130)
Eventually, Nin would achieve the “deeper orgasm” she sought with Miller, and he would prove to be one of the very few lovers who could consistently satisfy her, but only while she was not sharing herself with other significant men. In 1936, Nin began an affair with the Peruvian bohemian Gonzalo Moré, whose style was radically different than Miller’s: while Miller let Nin dominate their sexual relationship, Moré demanded complete submission from her. (The diversity of these two relationships is represented in her erotic story “Hilda and Rango,” from Little Birds, the topic of which is discussed in Anaïs Nin Myth 5.) It took Nin a long time before relinquishing Miller as her primary lover and adopting Moré, but her relationship with the latter was tumultuous, to say the least. As Miller’s, and then Moré’s, sexual prowess declined, Nin’s frustration grew.
So, while it is true that Nin had sex with more than one man at a time, she rarely enjoyed it freely and completely. She was “faithful” to one lover emotionally, which affected her sexual response, and this was something that troubled her, something she tried for years to conquer. When she began an incestuous affair with her father, Joaquín Nin, it did not result in her unrestrained sexual pleasure. Instead, the gravity of the affair denied her of the “supreme spasm” that she desired, despite the fact her “yielding was immense, with [her] whole being” (Incest 211).
Nin’s often awkward forays into casual sex could be summarized by a bungled ménage à trois she had with a couple in early 1936. When she felt arousal but no orgasm, she lamented:
It is the abandon I like…freedom from care and jealousy. The smoothness. There is a world where people play joyously and naturally the tricks I play for alibis, without being blamed. (Fire 230)
When she met a dashing opera singer, who called himself “Chinchilito,” in Provincetown in 1941, they had an encounter in the sand dunes. Her description:
Slowly I got undressed as his hands searched for buttons and bows. Afterwards, his nakedness as he stood in the wind, laughing. Truly godlike in his physical magnificence. The waist and hips slender, not thick, the torso marvelously ample, shoulders wide. A golden blondness. If only I didn’t have the usual stage-struck feeling, it would have been magnificent. (unpublished diary, 1941)
It wasn’t until two years later when Nin finally declared:
Let me celebrate my freedom. I am as free as man has been—I am free to enjoy—today with Chinchilito…, I experienced for the first time an orgasm within adventure. For the first time I did not feel the orgasm linked to emotional fidelity, as an emotional surrender, as necessarily and fatally bound to love. So that love, being a slavery to a master who could not fulfill me, became an anguish. (unpublished diary, 1943)
Nin’s “freedom,” as she put it, would be short-lived, however, as the problems achieving sexual fulfillment continued, especially when she began to experiment with young gay men.
Her decades-long search for an “ideal lover” who could truly satisfy her didn’t end until she met her future “California husband,” Rupert Pole, in 1947. While vacationing in Mexico in 1973, at the age of seventy, she wrote in a notebook: “Rupert is passionate several times a week. Once our lovemaking was so pleasurable I cried! He is too much!”
anais nin, henry miller, gonzalo more, hugh guiler, joaquin nin, sex life, orgasm
Anaïs Nin is not only noted for her associations with other writers, but with artists of all genres, in particular musical innovators, such as Louis and Bebe Barron, early electronic musicians. One form of abstract music that appealed to Nin was that of Harry Partch (1901-1974), whose approach was organic but definitely unique. Nin writes in her diary in 1955:
The first time I heard the music of Harry Partch…I had the same sensation as when listening to Balinese music…the sensation of fluidity.
[Partch] was an unusually handsome man…preoccupied with metaphysics, born in San Francisco and exposed to Oriental influences. He had designed his own instruments. He lived a difficult, independent, individualistic life. He had to sell his own records.
The instruments themselves had wonderful names: Marimba Eroica; Bass Marimba; Boo; Diamond Marimba; Spoils of War; Kithara 1; Kithara 2; Harmonic Canon One; Harmonic 2 (Castor and Pollux); Surrogate Kithara; Chromelodon 1. [Click here to see and even virtually play these instruments]
The recordings came from “Gate Five,” Sausalito.
At the beginning of his career, Harry found that the extremely subtle tones he wished for his music (he devised his own scale with forty-three tones to the octave) could not be reproduced by conventional Western instruments. To solve this, he not only designed his own instruments but constructed them as well, often using exotic materials like glass carboys or Plexiglas. But he said: ‘I am not an instrument builder but a philosophic musicman seduced into carpentry.’
He had to train gifted and devoted students to play each instrument. And again, because conventional music notation could not encompass the tremendous range of notes or the very complex rhythms, he devised his own system of notation…
The affinity with nature, the sounds coming out of Sitka spruce, Philippine bamboo, Brazilian rosewood, redwood, Pernambuco reeds, played with picks, fingers, mallets and felted sticks. The affinity with Oriental music, which has a flowing, enveloping, oceanic rhythm. Rhythm was an essential part of Partch’s music, a native, contemporary rhythm. The richness of it gave to contemporary compositions the depth and dimension which so far existed only in the music of the East. (Diary 5 240-2)
Nin followed Partch’s career for years. In 1959, she writes: “Rejoicing over the success of Harry Partch in New York. The Bewitched. Everyone writes me how beautiful it was, how he made beauty out of American folklore, how fluid and marvelous the music was” (Diary 6 189). She had an admiration for him that lasted for the rest of her life, one that she readily expressed in her diary, lectures, and her biographical film, Anaïs Observed, by Robert Snyder.
Today, Partch’s music, although still undoubtedly obscure, lives on, primarily because of the dedication of aficionados—one in particular, John Schneider, leads a group of musicians who play Partch’s songs with replicas of the original instruments. When I visited Los Angeles in the summer of 2007, I was lucky enough to catch one of the performances, a photo from which is below. Partch’s original instruments are kept at Montclair State University by the organization Newband, which maintains a Partch web site.