The Great “Scandal” of My Friend Henry Miller by Alfred Perles

 

Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès, Big Sur, 1954. (Photography: Wynn Bullock)

Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès, Big Sur, 1954.
(Photography: Wynn Bullock)

In 1955 a little-known controversy between Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Miller’s old Paris friend Alfred Perlès erupted over revelations in Perlès’ book-in-progress, My Friend Henry Miller, that Nin and Miller were lovers in Paris during the 1930s. Nin, who was terrified that somehow her husband, Hugh (Hugo) Guiler, would read the book and discover that for nearly a decade his wife and Miller conducted an affair under his nose, a discovery which, as Nin put it, would cause him considerable pain.

 

Perlès innocently sent a letter to Nin mentioning the book, thinking that Nin and Guiler had divorced, a story that Reginald Pole (father of Nin’s California lover, Rupert Pole) had told Miller during a recent visit. Miller and Perlès, then, felt no harm would be done by the mention of the Nin-Miller affair. The fact was the Nin had told Rupert and his family that she’d divorced Guiler, which allowed her to marry Rupert (bigamously) in March of 1955.

 

Nin not only was forced to endanger her relationship with Pole by admitting she never divorced Guiler, but she also had to somehow convince Perlès and his publisher that her name needed to be removed from My Friend Henry Miller—which, at this point, was already at proof stage.

 

A series of letters between the principal characters appears in Volume 11 of A Café in Space, and not only do they shed light on this long-forgotten dispute, but they also detail the lasting effect it had on the book, Perlès and Miller, who never forgave Nin for—in his opinion—ruining the book his old friend had written about him.

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