The 1930s was a volatile decade for Anaïs Nin. At its dawn, she was a sheltered housewife and aspiring writer with nearly no grand life experiences. At its end, she was the author of three highly-regarded Paris publications (D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study; The House of Incest; The Winter of Artifice), and the lover of many men, including Henry Miller, Gonzalo More, Otto Rank, René Allendy, and her own father, Joaquín Nin. Arguably, it was her meeting of Henry Miller in late 1931 that served as the catalyst for much of her transformation as a woman and as an artist.
But as the decade wore on, some of the relationships died while others bloomed; hers with Miller persisted, but by 1937 Nin was becoming increasingly aware of stark contrast in their relationships with others, and with each other. Nin became annoyed with Miller’s friends, some of whom she called “white trash”; at the time Miller was at the head of a group of “disciples” that included Alfred Perlès, Michael Fraenkel, David Edgar and Abe Rattner, none of whom Nin had any respect for. She sometimes referred to them as “minor Henrys” or a pack of dogs. Nin represented the fundamental difference in her and Miller’s approach to relationships by drawing two diagrams.
About Nin’s relationships, she said: “Woman sits in the center and brings the vaster peripheral into the center. I bring the Tibet, Lao-tze—philosophy—creation as represented by Henry. I go out little to the periphery.” At her core lie Nin’s relationships with Miller, Gonzalo and Lawrence and Nancy Durrell. On the periphery lie “[Conrad] Moricand, [Jean] Cateret, [her near-amorous friend] Elena or others who personally I don’t feel: they could die, I would not mind: Stuart Gilbert, Charpentier, Svalberg, Laura, Dorrey.”
About Henry, Nin says: “Henry lives in the periphery—he seeks the fragments. I say this diminishes the intensity, makes for collective writing (Max, newspaper types, all kinds of types.”
The core is blank; the periphery consists of: “Brassai, [Abe] Rattner, [David] Edgar, all sorts and kinds of other friends of whom he says: they could die I would not care.”
Nin says: “I say to Henry: ‘I swing into your rhythm not to sit alone in the center—as all women do—lamenting. It is not natural to me, but necessary.’ Henry does not understand this. He denies the reality of all this—but says at the end: ‘Man’s impersonal world masks the personal.’ […] He says, ‘We are friends.’ I say: ‘We are not friends. We are exaggerated men and women—we represent others only exaggeratedly.’”
Get the final issue of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Volume 15 (2018) here
Order the new edition of Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939 here.