New Year’s Day, 1933: Henry Miller on Louveciennes

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.

Henry Miller at Louveciennes
Henry Miller at 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.

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