Anaïs Nin and the inauguration of Two Cities
In the winter of 1958/9, Anaïs Nin wrote: “When Larry Durrell wrote to me in Paris to look up Jean Fanchette, and I did, I did not know that he was giving me a link with France. I sat waiting at the Deux Magots, and there came a young and beautiful Negro, slim, not tall, delicate features like those of the Haitians, small straight nose, soft, warm eyes and a sensuous mouth. He was a student of medicine. He published a small newspaper for medical students. He had just received a prize for his poetry. He was full of charm, with a balance between earth and poetry. He had written a critique of Durrell, and Durrell had spent much time with him in Paris” (Diary 6 190). Fanchette, a Mauritian, was in the process of creating the bilingual (French and English) literary journal Two Cities. He told Nin that he’d already garnered promises from Durrell, Henry Miller, George Sykes, Richard Aldington and others for contributions. The meeting would not only shape the future of the publication, but it also resulted in a roller-coaster friendship between Nin and Fanchette, punctuated by miscommunication and misunderstanding. Inspired by Fanchette’s praise of her work, Nin readily agreed to help Two Cities get off the ground. The inaugural issue came out only months later, April 15, 1959, and Nin was not only a contributor, but the “American Editor,” one of the dozen editors listed on the title page.
At the time, Henry Miller, according to his then wife Eve, was “dissolving,” cut off from his source of inspiration: Paris. In a letter to Nin, she wrote, “Henry needs France. This hunk of veritable Paradise [Big Sur, California] in which he’s put down taproots is insidious for him, and he refuses to recognize it… He is another person in Europe. How long can an artist feed on himself? The stimulus is there, not here” (Diary 6 178). Miller’s decision to write for Two Cities and to revisit France was vigorously encouraged by Eve, who confided that part of her insistence was based on her own growing annoyance with the “inertia” of life with him in Big Sur: “I doubt he has ever asked me once, in these entire seven years together, what my hopes and dreams might include!” (Diary 6 178) The trip and the article did come to fruition, but the marriage, like all of Miller’s marriages, was doomed. Some time after Eve and Henry Miller were divorced, Eve committed suicide. There is debate whether the years spent with Miller had contributed to this tragedy.
Nin said, “I helped the magazine. I was grateful for Fanchette’s understanding. I count him as my best friend in France. The magic link. It was strange that at the time I felt bad to be returning to the same old constellation, Miller-Durrell. It seemed like regression.
But then I realized it was not a return to Miller and Durrell, but to France and to Fanchette. The present asserted itself” (Diary 6 180).
What also enticed Nin was Fanchette’s comments about her work: “The gift of Anaïs Nin is to name and define the alchemy of body and soul, to explore the roots of obscure instincts, define them” (Diary 6 180). Statements like this were sustenance to a writer who’d been denied for decades by the publishers and critics, and she, out of a mix of desperation and gratitude, gravitated to those who fed her including Fanchette. Her feelings are described in a letter from Nin to French agent Marguerite Rebois: “Jean feels something will happen [with my work] after Two Cities appears because he is writing an article on l’Art d’Anaïs Nin. This is to me a symbolic link with France. As you know, the reason I have been so obsessed with getting published in France is that I was afraid that my failure in America would influence all of Europe, and it has. I have been made to feel that I belong there, not here, and want to return there gradually” (Diary 6 175-6).
Fanchette went a few steps further in ingratiating Nin—he not only flattered her by asking her to help with Two Cities, but also offered to present her novel Spy in the House of Love to his publisher in Paris, and, if it were accepted, would translate it into French. In return, Nin began to dispatch letters to her literary friends, encouraging them to contribute to Two Cities. In a letter to Durrell, she said: “This month I gave my energy to Two Cities, which will be good for all of us. I want to thank you for introducing me to Jean Fanchette. His friendship is a delight” (Diary 6 182).
By the time Two Cities came out, it had morphed into a partial “hommage à Lawrence Durrell,” with Miller’s article, “The Durrell of the Black Book days” leading off, followed by Alfred Perlès’s “Enter Jupiter Jr,” Frederic J. Temple’s “Contstruire un mur de pierre sèche,” Richard Aldington’s “A note on Lawrence Durrell,” and Edwin Mullins’ “On Mountolive: Durrell answers a few questions.” The rest of the issue contained articles not associated with Durrell, including Nin’s “The writer and the symbols,” and Fanchette’s “Pour une préface,” the article Nin mentioned to Rebois, which lauded House of Incest (1936) and Solar Barque (1958, later incorporated into Seduction of the Minotaur), and much of what written in between. He proclaimed Spy in the House of Love her best novel. Undoubtedly, Fanchette won Nin’s allegiance with this article, but there was already trouble brewing.
Nin’s unconditional acceptance of Fanchette’s offer to promote not only Spy but her other titles to French publishers rankled her young agent, Gunther Stuhlmann, who was trying to organize Nin’s work into a cohesive package to be presented in a consistent manner. His approach ran counter to Nin’s, who had historically (and mostly unsuccessfully) used friends and contacts to get her work out. In a letter dated April 29, 1959, Stuhlmann, who’d usually handled Nin with kid gloves, blasted her: “At this point, we can’t just give [Fanchette] carte blanche with the other books—he was only involved with Spy as I recall… I firmly believe we ought to conduct all business discussion as to terms and contracts etc. through our office and subject to your and our scrutiny so that we go not get into [a] situation which would be embarrassing to all of us” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 110).
In an undated letter some weeks later, Nin wrote to Stuhlmann complaining of Fanchette’s refusal to publish some of Nin’s friends’ articles, which caused her great embarrassment: “It is so discouraging that I offered to resign. Then he threatens me with loss of his friendship!” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 112). In spite of this, Nin continued supporting Two Cities, even asking Stuhlmann to find an American distributor, which he reluctantly agreed to do (although was not successful). In the meantime, Fanchette’s failure to so much as return the articles Nin had solicited from her friends was causing rifts between them and her, and she was losing patience. In the fall of 1959, she wrote to Fanchette, telling him she could no longer continue as American Editor of Two Cities, but that she would send along good writing when it came along. She continued, “I begged him to send me the material he did not want to use. I explained I was losing friends and creating enemies for Two Cities. No answer” (Diary 6 205).
By the fall of 1961, more than two years after Fanchette’s agreement to translate Spy in the House of Love, the result was what she termed “rough,” which frustrated Nin since she was trying to market the novel in Europe as a source for a movie script. (Despite years of trying, Spy was never made into a film). Around the same time, she reported a drunken Fanchette shouting to her in Paris: “I met you too late. You could have been my first mistress, the mistress one never forgets!” (Diary 6 293).
Two Cities continued to be published until 1964, with Nin friends such as Daisy Aldan taking turns at editorship. Two Cities ETC (Paris) released a limited edition of Letters to Jean Fanchette1958-1963 by Lawrence Durrell. Subsequent Fanchette publications included his poetry volumes Identité provisoire in 1965, Je m’appelle sommeil and La visitation de l’oiseau pluvier in 1977, as well as essays and a novel. His poetry was anthologized by Stock shortly after his death in 1992, under the title L’Ile Equinoxe, a new edition of which has recently been released by Editions Philippe Rey, Paris, with a preface by J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2008.
While the relationship between Nin and Fanchette had ended on a sour note, she reminisced in her diary more than a decade later: “The Diary has one blessed function. When a friendship breaks, the good is erased. Only the disappointment is engraved in the memory. In the Diary, I found the friendship with Jean Fanchette intact, in its period of honeymoon” (Diary 7 312).
[Qualifying statement: One of the most consistent questions regarding diary content–especially Nin’s–is whether it should be considered fact. Nin said that her truth was “pyschological” and not literal. Her comments and portraits of characters appearing in her diary are, in part, her creations, something she readily admits. Therefore, when Nin describes a personage, it must be remembered that it is her version–she rarely wrote with the idea of pleasing those populating her diary. This blog is largely based on the diary and therefore anything that is repeated therefrom must be regarded through the lens of how the diary came to be–part of Nin’s intimate thought process, a tool for her survival in a world she often felt unfit for habitation.]