The Genesis of The Portable Anais Nin

The idea of The Portable Anaïs Nin came from Gunther Stuhlmann, who was Nin’s literary agent and co-editor of her Diary of Anaïs Nin. At the time, which was in the mid-1990s, he felt that too much attention was being given by biographers and critics to the sordid side of her love life, and not enough to her work. Complicating all of this was the release of her unexpurgated diary Incest, which covered not only adult-onset incest with her father, but also the fact that she’d had a long, horrifying abortion of a late-term child, both of which she wrote about graphically. This combination of biographies and unexpurgated diaries naturally turned attention to the “verboten” aspects of Nin’s life rather than her literary achievements.

Review of one of the Nin biographies (click to enlarge)

Stuhlmann proposed an anthology that would “introduce a new generation of readers to the writer Anaïs Nin rather than to the ‘personality’ which has been distorted and denigrated in recent years… I visualize a handy volume which creates an overall view of the many facets of Nin’s work and ideas by drawing on her actual writing.” In short, he wished to return the attention to the art, and through the art, the artist.

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems of Nin publication is the way they were presented originally. Nin not only had the need to write about her life, even early in her career, she longed to share the diaries with her readers. For obvious reasons (the fact that the nature of her life meant multiple deceptions and lies to her significant partners), she could not possibly have published the diaries as they were. Her first attempt to express what she’d written in secret was through her fiction, which was mainly a veiled version of her life and its principle personages. This she found unsatisfactory, and the critics agreed. While there is plenty of psychological truth in the fiction (which in itself makes it valuable), it was still smoke and mirrors, illusion, and vague.

Nin struggled for years to find a way to publish her diaries, and it was only late in life that she came up with the only possible solution: to offer extremely expurgated versions of them, versions that would not hurt those still living. Her husband, Hugh Guiler, asked to not be mentioned, which added another complication, because she could only recount her life without mention of the husband who financially and emotionally supported her (this omission was ammunition for attack by feminists, who were attracted to her in the first place because the diaries made it appear she’d live an independent life). So, seven volumes of heavily edited diaries appeared on the market, and it was left to readers to “read between the lines” to figure out that Henry Miller and her own father were among her many lovers. When the unexpurgated diaries came out posthumously (beginning with Henry and June in 1986), several of Nin’s friends, fans, and associates felt betrayed. The revelations are many, and some of them are stunning. I remember being invited to a get-together of some women who’d thought they knew Anaïs Nin until the unexpurgated diaries came out. Some of them refused to believe that their Anaïs was capable of such atrocities, especially incest. One of them said, “I think Gunther Stuhlmann and Rupert Pole concocted those passages themselves just to make money.” No one seemed to disagree.

This fractured approach to Nin publications eventually led to the point where the world seemed to turn against what was once the champion of self-discovery, the lover of life, the one who refused to despair, the one whom an entire generation admired for daring to seek and tell the truth. Reviewers of the biographies and the unexpurgated diaries didn’t bother to review the books—instead, they laid judgment on the author’s life. Lost in all of this was the work.

Gunther Stuhlmann’s proposal for The Portable Anaïs Nin was rejected by certain publishers who by that time had formed some harsh opinions about Nin, and it was placed in a folder and filed away in a drawer. After Stuhlmann’s untimely death in 2002, his wife, Barbara, discovered the proposal while sorting through the massive amount of documents he’d left behind. She sent it to me. There were only a couple yellowed pages in the folder, but the idea was as fresh and as important as it had ever been. I contacted Benjamin Franklin V, who is the world’s foremost Nin scholar and bibliographer, and he was overjoyed with the idea of a new anthology. After months of painstaking work of selecting, introducing, and annotating selections from the entire spectrum of Nin’s writing, Stuhlmann’s vision was realized. The Portable Anaïs Nin was first released as an ebook, and now it is finally available in print.

It is, as Stuhlmann envisioned, “an open invitation to an engaging literary adventure trip, which could, and should, gain an entirely new audience for Anaïs Nin’s work.”

To order a print copy of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.

To order a digital version of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.

To see our complete list of available Anais Nin ebooks, click here.

To order books from Anais Nin’s and Rupert Pole’s Silver Lake Collection, click here.