After Anaïs Nin had spent several days with her lover Henry Miller at her suburban Paris home in Louveciennes while her husband was away, she noted that although Miller recorded endless notes on Paris, he had never do so with Louveciennes. So, uncharacteristically, she entrusted him with her diary, and a part of what Miller wrote in it follows.
Jan. 1, 1933. I left Henry alone with my journal in the cave and prepared for bed because I wanted to rested for Hugh. Henry drank a bottle of Anjou and wrote the following:
New Year’s Day, putting the finishing touches to my notebook of Paris, record of the first three years—in the quiet of Louveciennes. Anaïs pasting her eyes, her hair comb on my loose-leaf pages and envelopes from the Tyrol and fragments of [Howell] Cresswell’s room in the Hotel Odessa. All this reviving in me the kaleidoscopic memory-picture adventures in Paris, so that as I finish pasting the fragments together my temptation is to sit down and write a book on them immediately. Coming out to Louveciennes on the train, the picture of the countryside so indelibly engraved in my mind—I know every foot of ground along the route, and with each billboard, each sign, each crazy house or road or movie, even a chicken run or a cemetery or a vacant lot, there is a welter of associations. And so when Anaïs remarks that I have never made any notes, strangely, of my experiences here in Louveciennes, it is only, I think, because everything is still so alive and meaningful, everything still so unconsciously exploited. When I collect my notes for my first Paris book there is the tender, sentimental, regretful feeling of putting between covers what was once a rich, throbbing life which literature will never reproduce, as indeed it should not. But as I was putting together these random notes, what a joy when I found there were little souvenirs of Louveciennes which could be inserted into that chaotic mass of facts, events, incidents, phenomena—quiet strains of collected living, as it were—even a trifle like the handbill from the Louveciennes cinéma, which will always remind me of my walks to the village tabac, or to the épicerie for a “good bottle of wine”—Chateauneuf, Barsac, Meursault, etc. No, if I have not written of Louveciennes it is only because I am not writing history—I am making it. I, am so aware of the fateful, destined character of this Louveciennes.
That is why, for instance, I listen to Anaïs so eagerly when, as we pass the Coty estate at night, she explains the story of Madame du Barry, the lover’s head thrown over the garden wall, her dainty figure, the Watteau shepherds and shepherdesses. In Louveciennes some tremendous, significant unity and purpose has been forged. I have matured here. Even if it is only a dirty picture out of Frou-Frou that we discuss, for a moment it leads to greater things.
Here, in the big billiard room, where the rats once scurried, sit Anaïs and I—or pace up and down, gesticulating, while I explain to her the bankruptcy of science, or the meta-anthropological crisis. Here, at her desk, littered with shattering materials for the future, I hammer out my impetuous thoughts and images. Here all the images that grip and invade us are given free rein and new cosmological frontiers established.
My notes—it is when I think of them tonight, being embalmed, as it were, that I realize the inadequacy of human expression. No artist can ever catch up with his life. Here a thousand thoughts burst in my head over a simple utterance. Nothing can ever be brought to a finish. The important thing, I was thinking tonight, is that Louveciennes becomes fixed historically in the biographical record of my life, for from Louveciennes dates the most important epoch of my life. And I was thinking in the train how strange it was that just recently I should have become so concerned about the record of my life.
Spengler’s philosophy of Care, which the Chinese had and the Egyptians—all the historical peoples! Here in Louveciennes everything is “categorized,” “labeled,” “filed,” “annotated,” “bound.” Here is the soul of a historical romantic’s “I,” conscious of its great destiny, attracting kindred spirits, aye, attracting even her future recorders and biographers—as tho’ her voluminous diary were not sufficient. Here one has only to turn the photograph around and the husband sees himself, the lover sees himself, the friend sees himself. Here you are permitted the luxury of always seeing yourself while all the while a thousand eyes are seeing you, studying you, recording you. Here the eye regards the eye that regards the eye…ad libitum, ad infinitum. Here all the great cosmological processes are unraveled, skeined, knotted, .loosened. Here all things, the great cosmological processes, are disheveled artistically—a chaos to be ordered again the next morning.
“Did you sleep well last night?” “No, I was disturbed by the prelunar character of my dreams.” “What did you say Rank said about tattooing?” And so, at breakfast, it commences from tattoo to taboo, thru all the vagaries of the incest prohibition, thru all the layers of the geological “I,” to be dissolved in the end in ink—pp. 50-99 of the journal of my life. And let this spiderish activity, this du Barry geometry of the novecentisti, is the breath of life to all thirsty artists. While one meditates, words dance out from the walls, plots are nailed down, perfumes distilled on beautiful scented paper—and perhaps Madame de Stael herself may be nailing down a torn carpet or putting a new toilet seat in the privy house. And when Madame de Stael returns she is perhaps filled with those great primordial images which Salvador Dali would have us revive: excrement, masturbation, love… The goldfish, which used to race at ninety kilometers an hour in the cement pond outside, are replaced by glass monsters swimming in an electric bowl—psychologic fish that have no problems, except of Time and Space. Fish of the late city-man that were never baited, hooked, or scaled. Fish who swim motionlessly—as a substitute for living. Glass, translucent lives, lit up from below by shining quartz and rock crystal.
Louveciennes, then, looms up on the horizon of my mind like some laboratory of the soul. It is by no accident that the problems discussed here are such as they are. The most important thing here is the soul—everything else takes second place. And so it is that here life expands to its richest, that a few days take on the magnitude of time, that the slightest event acquires significance. (Incest pp. 80-83) For more posts on Louveciennes, click here. To read Anais Nin’s diary entry on New Year’s Eve, 1919, click here.
By the time sixteen (almost seventeen) year old Anais Nin wrote the following passage in her childhood diary (translated from the original French), she, her mother, and two brothers had been in New York for five years. Stubbornly hanging onto her French while her hopes of agains seeing her father, who remained in France, were fading, Anais describes her Christmas Eve and Day:
December 26, 1919. After having waited for Maman on Christmas Eve with great impatience, I had the joy of seeing her arrive with a dozen little packages containing a few small details to decorate the tree. After dinner we began to trim the tree–a tall fir, with its topmost branch kissing the lofty ceiling, as though to wish it a Merry Christmas too. The four of us were busy, happily placing the little candles, balls of every color, snowflakes, stars, little dolls, little bags of candy, and all the other charming things that traditionally disguise a solemn evergreen to make it more human, that is, more attractive to man’s gaze and all his senses. That was quickly done. Then came the moment to place the gifts, the packages nicely wrapped in tissue paper and red ribbon, and crowned with a little tag with a name. What mysteries, what smiles!
Joaquinito’s eyes were worthy of study. Thorvald’s were not quite so big, but almost as expressive. My curiosity, which had been dormant a long time, was also awake but less noisy, like Maman’s. Once again I had the impression of being much older in my ideas, very far away from Thorvald and Joaquinito, unable to share their happy-go-lucky nature, and because of that, closer to Maman, closer to the more serious things in Life.
The time came to go to bed. I took one last look at the holly which I had used to decorate the mantels, lamps, windows, and banister, and the mistletoe hanging on a red ribbon. The tree shone at the end of the dark parlor. Do you believe that I thought only of the beauty of the scene? No, mixed with my somewhat poetic impressions were thoughts that responsibility has taught me. I was thinking also that everything was clean and in order. A woman has to be a practical poet!
The night was disturbed by dreams. The doors were open and I heard all of my dear family rolling over and over, each in his own bed. It wasn’t just the excitement of Christmas night, it was also the cold and the wind. .
At dawn I was awakened by a strange feeling of rain on my face. It was snow that the wind invited into my room and onto my bed, through the open window. I got up to close it and saw the result of the silent work accomplished in the night by the Great Painter. The landscape was majestic! I was so thrilled I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I thought. I must have looked funny, half sitting up in bed, staring out of the window, thinking of many different things, while the dim light of early morning filtered slowly into my room. Of course I was the first one dressed. But the snowstorm had been so violent that I didn’t go to Mass.
Before Thorvald and Joaquinito left, we lighted the tree and sang “Venite Adoremus,” accompanied on the piano by Joaquinito. The packages were opened and immediately the cries of joy began.
Breakfast was a little quieter, for Maman wasn’t feeling well. Afterward, while the boys went out, Maman and I dressed with great care. I had made a big tulle bow for my black velvet dress. Sometimes it amuses me to be a coquette….
The visitors arrived a little while before dinner. The dinner was a success, as almost all dinners are. It’s not very difficult to talk, eat; laugh, talk, eat, laugh until it’s over. Some people talk very little and eat a lot. Others only talk and laugh, but several eat well, talk delightfully and laugh at the same time. That must be a characteristic of a “woman of the world.” Doubtless it’s a good quality! By trying hard, I succeeded in talking a good deal in order to be pleasant. I am not unsociable any more! To avoid being unsociable, one must tell lies and act like a clown, which is very simple for liars (or flatterers–same thing) and for clowns!
After dinner we talked. There must be a reason for this old custom. I think it’s because a starving man is not very pleasant, so after dinner everyone has an opportunity to be agreeable, in order to make up for past mistakes.
To complete the celebration of this beautiful day, I went sledding with Thorvald and Joaquin after dinner. There are always many children and it’s a real party. Even now I can see the hill and the sleds going by, overflowing with children. I can hear the shouts clear into Maman’s room, where I am keeping her company, as she is in bed.
They nicknamed me “White Cap” because of my white beret, and since J oaquinito answers all their questions every time I go, yesterday a few of the boys called “au revoir” and other words that they murdered with the worst American accent. I don’t know why, but the few girls who go there can’t stand me, and while I was wondering why all of them were giving me such unkind looks, I heard three girls talking near me as a sled full of boys went by, shouting (the boys, not the sled): “Hello, White Cap!” “Want to ride on our sled?” One girl said: “See that girl with the white tamo’-shanter? Well, she is the biggest flirt!”
And the other one added: “Most of the boys behave like fools since she comes here.”
Decidedly, I will have to change my hair style!
How does one sort through hundreds of websites to find elusive Anais Nin titles? We’ve compiled a concise list to help you out.
To purchase a book that was once a part of Rupert Pole’s and Anais Nin’s personal collection at their Silver Lake house in Los Angeles, including rare and out of print titles, click here.
To find and purchase any title Swallow Press published (virtually all of Nin’s fiction and other titles as well), click here.
In the past year, several Nin titles have been made available as ebooks. To search the ever-growing list, click here.
To find the print versions of Nin’s (both original and unexpurgated) diaries, click here.
To locate Nin’s erotica, click here.
To examine or order print versions of A Cafe in Space, the only current Anais Nin literary journal, click here.
Sky Blue Press has the only print version of the original The Winter of Artifice, a facsimile of the Obelisk Press edition that was, according to Nin herself, banned in America. There are still copies of this limited printing left. To find out about the book, or to order, click here.
A complete list of all of Nin’s fictional characters is collected in Anais Nin Character Dictionary. To learn about this title, click here.
Are we missing anything? If so, leave a comment and we’ll attempt to answer all questions.
Guest post by Adam Barron
My parents, Louis and Bebe Barron, were close friends and collaborators with Anaïs Nin beginning in the 1940s. They recorded her reading some of her works and scored some of her husband Ian Hugo’s (Hugh Guiler) films with their ground-breaking electronic music. My mother told me that Anaïs was my Godmother, and she told me a story about the events surrounding my birth in 1959. I never believed it was really true until I looked up “Bebe Barron” in Anaïs’s diary index, and there was the story of a bizarre Greenwich Village baby shower, given by actress/filmmaker Maya Deren:
Maya Deren, a few years before she died, felt isolated from the community and tried to reintegrate her life in the most naïve way imaginable by giving Bebe Barron a “shower” for her expected baby, a traditional shower like the housewives of the West give, with pink decorations, pink pastry, pink-wrapped gifts. Because we loved Bebe we all joined in this celebration…
The pink shower party could not neutralize the studio, which was like a voodoo shack, filled with masks, drums, necklaces, shells, African baskets, textiles, pillows, and filled with friends provincial mothers would not have wanted around their babies, musicians, filmmakers, writers, electronic engineers, science-fiction writers, all such dangerous influences from a bourgeois’s point of view!
…Maya Deren could not permit this afternoon to remain innocent, bourgeois…and asked Bebe when she was expecting her child. Bebe told Maya in a few weeks, then Maya said: “You are wrong, it is coming much sooner, I can tell by the constellations and the formation of the clouds.” Suggestible Bebe began to have her child on her way down Maya’s stairs. (Diary 6 p. 350)
Was this power of suggestion, or the effect of an herbal cocktail Maya gave her, as my mother claimed? After the event, Anaïs started a short, but exquisite diary for me, with the story of my birth followed by blank pages in order for me to continue it someday.
Aided by my diary’s auspicious beginning, journal writing is now a vital part of my life. It helps me to relax, gain personal perspective, and record events for posterity. I’ve come to view Anaïs as the “good witch,” or Godmother, providing me life-giving forces to balance the negative ones I encounter. Sometimes I can feel Anaïs’s inspirational presence.
Following an extended illness, my mother passed away two years ago, after living a full life. Steven Reigns, the force behind 2008’s “Anaïs @ 105″ event, which my mother and I attended, loaned me a 1949 recording entitled “Anaïs Nin, Folio II, Reading From Her Own Prose Poem House of Incest (unabridged), Contemporary Classics, Sound Portraits, Louis and Bebe Barron.” It had been a very limited release on vinyl, all but lost today. I later purchased a copy myself.
The reading was beautifully done and the quality well preserved. Steven challenged me with: “Why not sell it as a CD?” Maintaining the original spirit, I had the recording cleaned up, and I designed a jacket cover and a booklet based on my mother’s liner notes, originally done in beautiful calligraphy. It was decided that all post-production profits will go to charities for Haitian relief. This collector’s-item-quality CD will be available for only $16.00 plus shipping.
The album is a tribute to the creative work of Anaïs and my parents, and to their strong bond and friendship. I hope it will delight existing and new Nin fans alike.
Stay tuned for ordering information.
A special note: my parents also recorded Anaïs reading stories from Under a Glass Bell, entitled “Folio I, Under A Glass Bell,” a recording that seems to be lost. If you have a copy, or know the whereabouts of one, please contact the blog editor here.
To see Bebe Barron’s last interview, which was presented at Anais @ 105, click here.
To see an excerpt of Bebe discussing cybernetics, click here.