Gunther Stuhlmann: the man behind Anaïs Nin’s success
Gunther Stuhlmann (1927-2002) is one of the main topics in Volume 3 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which is now available on Amazon’s Kindle.
In 1957, Stuhlmann, then a young up-and-coming literary agent in New York, wrote a letter to Nin, whom he had met some years prior. Thus began a partnership and accompanying correspondence that was to last for the rest of Nin’s life. Volume 3 highlights their early letters to each other, which reveal that Nin’s writing career was in ruins. By the time Stuhlmann took Nin on as a client, she had very little to show for decades of work, self-publication, and relentless self-promotion. Reacting to constant rejection and failure, at one point she confided to Stuhlmann that she was entertaining the idea of “giving it all up.”
But Stuhlmann, a man known for tenacity and in-your-face business tactics, was only getting started with her. His patience with the free-wheeling Nin—who was wont to make bad decisions and trust the wrong people only to be repeatedly bailed out by her husband, Hugh Guiler—was remarkable. His was a monumental job: to re-mold Nin into a disciplined and logical businesswoman. Stuhlmann’s belief in her work was deep—he saw potential whereas most New York literary types saw badly crafted, narcissistic surrealism. As an ex-patriot European, Stuhlmann’s vision was not narrowed by 1950s American ideas of what books ought to be—realistic, easy-to-read, chronologically ordered plots, familiar characters, etc. Nin, as we all know, was anything but.
Because of their oppositely aligned personalities and tactics, Nin and Stuhlmann were often at odds with each other. On April 23, 1959, Nin wrote Stuhlmann from Paris and informed him of a deal she’d struck up with her friend Jean Fanchette, who edited the bilingual journal Two Cities, to which Nin contributed. He agreed to translate Nin’s work and to sell it to French publishers, none of which Stuhlmann, Nin’s official agent, knew:
Fanchette sold Spy to Stock by showing partly translated M.S. He understood you were to take over contract, and I have just written him to remind him that all contractual matters are to be sent to you. If it does not reach you soon and if you are in personal contact with anyone there you might refer to it. I gave Jean your address—the agreement was you would let him free to work as a friend. I also told Fanchette you would consider his novel—to be coming out soon—to see if you would care to be his agent—OK?
Stuhlmann, who had just extricated Nin from a messy relationship with the publisher Neville Spearman, reacted angrily to this latest bit of news:
I don’t see any reason why you should not authorize [Fanchette] as your translator for the Spy but I firmly believe that 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 do not get into another situation which would be embarrassing for all of us. It was no mean trick to solve the Spearman entanglement and I am somewhat weary of getting into a similar situation in France.
In the end, Fanchette never completed the translation of Spy in the House of Love, nor any other Nin title, and this delayed her publication in France for years.
The series of letters ends just before Nin found her true American publisher, Alan Swallow, and sets up the three-way correspondence between Nin, Swallow, and Stuhlmann, which is the centerpiece of Volume 4. The letters allow readers to discover the nuts and bolts, and sweat and tears, of Anaïs Nin’s ascendance to literary stardom, and the role that the man behind the scenes, Gunther Stuhlmann, played.
To order the Kindle edition of Vol. 3, click here.
To see the table of contents and/or order a print version of Vol. 3, click here.
To see all available digital titles by Anaïs Nin, visit our Nin e-bookstore.
To order books from the Nin house in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), visit the Anaïs Nin Trust bookstore.