When I first discovered a folder from Gunther Stuhlmann’s archive that read “Provincetown Erotica??” I had no idea what was about to happen. I hurried through the correspondence from late 1985 to early 1986, which discussed the fact that a copy of Auletris by “ANin” was up for auction—and that no one, not even Anaïs Nin’s executor, agent or editor, had ever heard of it—and got to the Xeroxed pages from the book itself. I read the following words which open “Life in Provincetown,” the collection’s first section:
One long main street running along the Bay outline, Portuguese fishermen sitting in circles like the Italians and chatting. Behind the houses on the main street are wharves which project out on the water at various lengths. On these wharves are the huts, shacks, which the fishermen once used to store their nets, tools, and the boats to be repaired. It is here that the artists live. The roofs are peaked and beamed. Everything is made of rough wood like the inside of some old ship. At high tide the water runs under the wharves, at low tide it exposes a long stretch of sand.
The walls are thin. One can hear everything. Often the shades are not down, and one can see everything.
There are no guardians, no one to say: stop the noise, or to see at what time one comes home. No superintendents, house owners. Just the lonely wharves, in darkness at night, the sound of the water, and little crooked shack-like studios occupied by a variety of people.
The town is full of soldiers, sailors, and beautiful Portuguese girls…and summer visitors in shorts.
There is one movie, one bar where women are not admitted and several night clubs.
In one studio there lived one of the artist’s models, whose mouth was so big, so full, so prominent, that one could see nothing else. When she looked at one, one could notice only the mouth, like the mouth of a negress. She rouged too heavily, and then powdered her face white, so that the mouth stood out even more and was able to eclipse the rest of the face and even the body.
As one knew she was a model, well known in the Village in New York, one assumed she had a beautiful body, but somehow one only looked at the mouth. Somehow or other one imagined the other mouth to be equally luxuriant, equally prominent. Just as one felt that the thin-lipped mouths of Puritan women must he the exact replicas of their thin-lipped sexuality.
Then it stopped. Just like that, I was at the end of the copy, and I could tell just by this short passage that Auletris contained classic Nin prose and heralded a very erotic story. It was this passage, stuck in the folder and hidden there for thirty years, that drove me to find the rest of the book. I had to know what came next! It was a supreme tease, you see.
Once I located a copy, I prayed that the rest of it would fulfill the promise that Nin seems to make in the opening pages. As they say, the rest is history. Not only does Auletris deliver on its promise, but it exceeds much of Delta of Venus or Little Birds in its boldness and variety.
I decided to publish it because, as far as I’m concerned, it deserved to be. The book came out yesterday. Now, at last, the world can discover this treasure for itself.
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