Beginning with the novel This Hunger, which was later incorporated into Ladders to Fire, Anaïs Nin expressed herself through three key female characters: Lillian, Djuna, and Sabina.
These female characters (as well as certain male characters, such as Jay) appear throughout the five novels in the Cities of the Interior collection: Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, The Four-Chambered Heart, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur. While all three female characters appear in Nin’s earlier fiction (see Benjamin Franklin V’s Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary), they were redefined and reintroduced in Ladders to Fire. As Nin sought acceptance in New York’s harsh literary climate in the 1940s, she ran into criticism about the lack of realism and plot in her stories, and her characters were declared “nebulous.” Nin’s response to this broad misunderstanding of her work was expressed in two works about her theories on writing fiction: Realism and Reality (1946) and On Writing (1947), both of which were, in part, incorporated into The Novel of the Future (1968).
In this reading, held in Washington, D.C. (the date is uncertain, but it is most likely pre-1966), Nin reads passages from Ladders to Fire and A Spy in the House of Love that serve as introductions to her female characters. Nin also mentions that each of them appear in the “party section” of Ladders to Fire.
Note how Nin never skips a beat (except for a giggle) when someone apparently trips over some furniture while she is reading.
To listen to the nine minute sound clip, click here. (Recording courtesy of The Anais Nin Trust)
For information on each of the novels from Cities of the Interior, see the links below:
Plans to stage Doraine Poretz’s play Anaïs Nin: Woman of the Dream are moving ahead. Fundraising has begun on kickstarter.com, and the campaign will continue until June 2, 2011; all investments are greatly appreciated. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in the summer.
To promote the play, Elyse Ashton, who will portray Nin, spoke at a recent reading of stories and poetry entitled “A Woman’s Voice” that Poretz organized at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club.
Poretz comments: One of the speakers listed was Elyse Ashton, the actress, and the members of the audience had assumed she would be coming on as herself reading one of her stories. I announced, however, that Elyse, alas, couldn’t make it but that astonishingly enough I had run into the writer/diarist Anaïs Nin near her home in Silver Lake, and she generously agreed to come by to speak to the theme of women and creativity. And so, I introduced Elyse/Anaïs, who goes on to say, as you will hear in the video, how happy she was to have the chance to speak, especially since she knew about the “wonderful play that Doraine had written” and how impressed she was that the actress was a “mirror image” of herself! Anyway, it was a wonderful end to a great reading. What Elyse/Anaïs read were excerpts from the book A Woman Speaks, which I had received years ago from Rupert [Pole] with an inscription that from Anaïs’s point of view, it should have been entitled “A Woman Speaks Too Much!”
While most of the audience “got the joke” that “Anaïs” was actually an actress, apparently some were unaware that Anaïs passed more than 30 years ago and commented on how good she looks!
The 11 minute video can be viewed by clicking here.
For a former post that mentions a reading of the play that was presented during the summer of 2010, click here.
For a look at Nin titles available digitally, visit our e-bookstore.
Marguerite Young, author of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, a book that Anaïs Nin championed, lived a few blocks away from the apartment on Washington Square in New York that Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler inhabited. Nin describes her first impressions of Young, recorded in the fall of 1959:
Her smile and her talk are enchanting. They are a continuation of her writing, an accompaniment to it. There is an extraordinary force of her imagination and language there… Her hair hangs absolutely straight on each side of her face. She monologues, without pauses… Everyone in her eyes is beautiful. She endows all her friends with beauty; but her own charm lies in the kaleidoscopic variations of her imagination, her power of storytelling, her human warmth. (The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 6)
As the friendship between Nin and Young grew, Nin and Guiler often recorded their phone conversations with Young. On November 15, 1964, more than a year before Anaïs Nin’s Diary 1 was published, Young called Guiler to give her reactions to the manuscript, which Guiler apparently had lent her.
This conversation captures Young’s prophetic predictions about the impact Diary 1 would have—money, fame, a youthful following—most of which came to pass after the diary’s release in 1966, ending Nin’s long history of obscurity.
Guiler, when he could get a word in (Young, as Nin noted, was a monologist), also expresses the uniqueness of the writing (an enthusiastic response in spite of the fact he elected to not be included in any of the diaries).
The conversation turns to Nin and Guiler’s “New York dog,” Chico, who was ill, revealing the compassionate natures of Guiler and Young.
To hear the 11 minute conversation between Young and Guiler, click here.
The inaugural issue of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which celebrated Nin’s 100th birthday, is now available on Kindle. This is the story of how it came to be.
After Gunther Stuhlmann, who edited the amazing 19 annual issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, died in 2002, there was suddenly a severe vacuum in Nin studies. Stuhlmann had planned a special centennial issue of ANAIS for 2003, and even began gathering material for it when he became seriously ill and had to abandon the project. After encouragement from several Nin and Miller scholars, this editor decided to create a new Nin journal that would pick up where ANAIS left off. Because Nin described Richard Centing’s and Benjamin Franklin V’s Under the Sign of Pisces as “a café in space” in which the literary community could gather, we were inspired to so name the new journal.
In February of 2003, I traveled to France with the intention of visiting famous Nin sites, especially her birthplace in Neuilly-sur-Seine and the house in Louveciennes, which Henry Miller called “the laboratory of the soul.” I was fortunate enough to find the Neuilly house newly refurbished, probably looking much as it did when Nin was born there. But the most amazing stroke of luck was being invited to the Nin house in Louveciennes by its new owner, actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, with a group of distinguished guests, one of them a famous actress from the Comédie-Française. After having spent more than a decade wishing for the chance to enter this fabled house, after watching it
decay to the point where it was being considered for demolition, to be inside the house on Nin’s 100th birthday, toasting her with a group of people Nin would have admired, was nothing short of miraculous. Of course, I took dozens of photos and recorded each moment of the day, and wrote it up for A Café in Space. (Click here to see a previous post on the Louveciennes visit.) On top of this, I met Claudine Brelet, who was a close friend of Lawrence Durrell, and she took us on a nostalgic tour of Montparnasse. She agreed to write an article about the special places that Durrell and Miller frequented, through which readers can experience the tour themselves.
I was able to contact some of the contributors to the never-to-be-finished issue of ANAIS, including veteran scholars such as Franklin, Lynette Felber, Phil Jason, and others, all of whom agreed to partake in the first issue of A Café in Space. Furthermore, after attending a centennial Nin conference in California early in 2003, and after hearing talks given by author Janet Fitch and Kazuko Sugisaki, Nin’s Japanese translator, I was able to collect article versions of the talks for the new journal. Fitch’s talk, titled “No Women Writers,” describes how she discovered Nin after her a junior high school substitute teacher declared that there were no important women writers. “He challenged the class to think of a single one… And then a girl in the front row raised her hand, I can still see her, her frizzy ash-blonde hair, her plump arm, waving, and she asked, What about Anaïs Nin? …And I ripped off a note which I passed up the row… WHO IS ANAÏS NIN?” The girl “corrected the spelling and sent it back, saying, ‘Read the Diaries, they’re incredible!’” The rest is history, and Fitch says that Nin’s influence is present in her famous novel White Oleander.
After the conference, we took a drive up to Oakland, CA to visit with Nin’s last surviving family member, her brother Joaquín Nin-Culmell, who, although he’d suffered a stroke shortly beforehand, was incredibly lucid, welcoming, and enthusiastic. He took us on a journey back to his childhood, explaining how cruel and selfish his father was, how Anaïs was protective of her brothers, how the family was instructed by the mother to speak only French in the household in order to keep alive their native language after coming to America. He showed us photographs and artifacts from the past, but the sight of his piano sitting silent in his living room was haunting—since his stroke, he neither played nor listened to music again. Less than a year later, he was gone. How fortunate it was to catch him on that day, a clear, warm, sunny day, the aura of which shined through Joaquín’s face. Not having originally planned to, I ended up writing up the occasion (“An Afternoon With Joaquín Nin-Culmell”) for A Café in Space.
But what about Anaïs Nin herself? What would she contribute to A Café in Space? Serendipity once again played a role in this: I was given a portion of Nin’s unpublished 1940s diaries, and in it I found passages that epitomized Nin’s first years in America after fleeing war in Europe. Disillusioned and disconnected to anything vital, she was drowning in depression and despair when she met a young and somewhat naïve young man from Iowa, who’d arrived in New York to seek artistic freedom. His youthful zeal and exuberance were exactly what Nin was lacking in her life, and thus began a torrid affair. The entire experience Nin summed up in one word: “Mirage,” a word which could be applied to her entire existence in New York.
After reading about Nin’s affair with the young John Dudley, I couldn’t help but wonder if a photo of him didn’t exist somewhere. Nin’s descriptions were vivid, but one likes to have a real image with which to compare them. Only weeks before the publication of Vol. 1, I was in Massachusetts gathering up boxes of back issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, which I’d volunteered to distribute. I opened a desk drawer (with permission) and discovered a pile of photographs that had, I imagined, been set aside for future issues of ANAIS. Among them was a young blond man standing, smiling, in front of what looked like a plantation house. Was the house Hampton Manor, where the affair occurred? Was the young, vivacious man John Dudley? I collected this and several other photos, and after some research, I discovered that yes, these were indeed of Dudley. I had barely enough time to submit them before publication.
Looking back on all this, I can say that nearly everything in the first issue of A Café in Space was the result of bonne chance.
To see further information and/or to order a print version of Vol. 1, click here.
A Café in Space, Vol. 1, 2003, the Kindle version, can be ordered here.