Anaïs Nin’s Greatest Human Triumph

By 1973, Anaïs Nin and Hugh (Hugo) Guiler had been married for 50 years, yet neither of the two ever ceased trying to discover themselves or to understand their relationship. Also by 1973, Nin had for decades been splitting her personal life between Guiler in New York and Rupert Pole in California, trying (and not really succeeding) to keep the two men unaware of each other. In Nin’s unexpurgated diaries Mirages and Trapeze, we discover how Nin used her double life as a means of attaining a sense of wholeness—for in Guiler she had security, artistic understanding, a meaningful social life and access to medical and psychological care; in Pole, she had sexual passion and sensual fulfillment. Since there was seemingly no man alive capable of giving Nin everything she needed, she resorted to two—but this was by no means an ideal situation. As one discovers in Trapeze, Nin was often terribly frustrated by both the point of using each as someone to escape to because of the other.

Guiler, who was a complicated man with two distinct sides—a banker obsessed with money and a sensitive artist who dabbled in engraving and film— from the very beginning was unable to sexually satisfy his wife, who turned to multiple lovers six years into the marriage. Eventually, in 1947, she met the ideal lover in Pole. During that time, Nin was financially bound to Guiler—neither she nor Pole were capable at the time of supporting themselves alone. The arrangement led to resentment and a feeling of being trapped on Nin’s part, and as she spent more and more time away from Guiler, he began to realize he was losing his wife and, like Nin, turned to psychoanalysis to help cope with the situation. The dichotomy between banker and artist widened, and Guiler often felt inadequate as a banker (he had a habit of reckless speculation and was always trying to compete with his dead father, a successful businessman) and as an artist (he was, whether he admitted it or not, competing with his wife). The marriage deteriorated to the point when, in 1949, Guiler floated the idea of divorce by Nin—which, because of her need for security, she rejected. For the next three decades, the Guiler marriage stumbled from one crisis to the next, and, near the end of her life, she declared she and Guiler were “bad for each other.”

After Nin’s success with the Diaries in 1966, she became the breadwinner of the Guiler family. While she abhorred living with Guiler for even short periods of time because of his constant psychological and financial floundering, she would not divorce him out of a sense of gratitude for all he’d done for her—a sense she often labeled as “guilt.” Instead, she supported him and allowed him in his later years to continue filmmaking and to live a comfortable life. While Nin was resigned to the failure of the marriage, Guiler continued to see personal evolution through psychoanalysis and science, which brings us to a letter he wrote to Nin in 1973 after she had spent a “miserable month” with him:

New York, September 13, 1973

Darling: I am terribly sorry to have given you a miserable month after my return from Europe. I am so glad to hear that you have also recovered physically and emotionally. [Psychologist Inge] Bogner says it is crises like this one that strengthen us—or [give us] the ability to surmount them. But she has already helped by saying that most of what happened was due to forces (some of them world forces) that were not under my control.

Certainly it is now clear to me that I brought back from my work only the worries and the tensions, and that I could not expect you to understand that there were also many real satisfactions in the work itself. The truth is that I never really felt adequate in the business world, an inadequacy that was symbolized by my apparent difficulty with arithmetic. Great light has been thrown on this kind of problem by an article by a woman scientist [Maya Pines] in last Sunday’s NY Times. It is a long extract from a book, which Harcourt Brace is bringing out next month [The Brain Changers, 1973]. I hope you will see to it that they send you a copy. Essentially, scientific experiments have proved that our brain is in two segments—the right side inarticulate in language, mute, understanding only in images, and it is clearly related to our dream life. The left side is intellect, analytical (like a Virgo), and is something like a computer. [Each of] these two segments are locked under their own shell and normally connected by hundreds of fibers. But when these fibers are severed (as in the case of an operation for epilepsy) the result is two personalities in the same person, and the left, intellectual personality is always trying to give rational explanations of apparent irrational (or strange) reactions in the other. You helped me to keep these two personalities joined, rather than severed as they would have been with any other kind of wife. So I think that while my father had something to do with my actions, the whole thing is more mysterious than just that, and the woman scientist herself says that no one has been able to penetrate that area.

What is remarkable is how you have been able to throw so much light on an area [business] which was, as you say, alien to you, and in this sense you have achieved, for yourself, as well as for me, an extraordinary equilibrium, helped probably by your persistent efforts to be articulate, which in someone less balanced would have made a Virgo of you. In this sense your writing did more than make you a great artist, but also kept the connection between the two shells in a state of communication, and this to me stands out as perhaps your greatest human triumph.

Love, Hugo

While this letter could be filed under the “too little, too late” category (they would permanently separate only a year later), it certainly provides insight into how Guiler saw himself within the context of his marriage, and it demonstrates his recognition of Nin’s incomparable ability help others find themselves.

Hugh Guiler, New York, 1974

Comments

One Response to “Anaïs Nin’s Greatest Human Triumph”
  1. I wonder if you know that after Anais died, I had Hugo and Rupert on my patio at a party that Sharon and I gave. They talked but mostly stayed at opposite ends of the patio. Hugo had faithful friends.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!