Anaïs Nin in Germany

After the publication of The Diary of Anaïs Nin in 1966, Nin’s name suddenly became famous in the United States, where she had struggled for decades to escape cultism and almost-total obscurity. Her fame, however, spread beyond American borders to Europe and Asia, where she was hurriedly being translated and published, thanks in part to the hard work and patience of Nin’s agent, Gunther Stuhlmann.

Official brochure of Nin’s visit

Nin, who had been published in Sweden and England beginning in the early 1960s, suddenly was all the rage in, of all places, Germany. Indeed Stuhlmann was an ex-pat German, so it was a natural progression since he was very familiar with German publishers and agents. In 1969, his efforts paid off in the form of the publication of the first two volumes of the Diary by Christian Wegner Verlag, a Hamburg house run by Christian Wegner, the young editor who was very enthusiastic about Nin’s writing. Wegner invited Nin to come to Germany and to be fêted in Frankfurt, Munich, Darmstadt, Stuttgart and Hamburg over a several-day tour filled with celebrations, interviews, book-signings and even an hour-long TV program.

Only twenty-five years earlier, Germany’s Nazi army dominated much of Europe and was responsible for millions of deaths on the battlefields and in death camps before its ultimate collapse in 1945. This was the country Nin had grown to detest as a result of its aggression on her homeland, France, during both world wars, the second of which drove her from Paris just as she was becoming an established writer there. Was Germany ripe for someone like Nin, whose introspective and erotically bold books would have surely been burned during the war? Had that much progress actually taken place? Amazingly, the answer is yes, according to Nin’s unpublished diary.

While the German literary establishment had ironically chosen Jacqueline Susanne (Valley of the Dolls) to represent America at the 1969 Frankfurt Book Fair, readers flocked to Nin’s events and showered her with love and respect. In an October 10, 1969 letter to Nin’s “west coast husband” Rupert Pole, she says:

“I had two interviews in the morning. Lunch. Then a book-signing party at an elegant bookshop. I signed hundreds of books! I was told beautiful things in faltering English. So much respect for the writer! So much love of literature. They all had the two volumes! Then to a small hotel, where I changed for a big reception at a literary magazine headquarters. A crush! Twice as many people as were invited or expected. There were newspapermen, two television cameras and at least 10 photographers. Again a speech, and so much awe and admiration that I almost wept! Until midnight I met people, they made their speeches. I stood. It was hot and so crowded some people could not get in! Champagne—and finally sleep.”

On October 14, Nin wrote to Pole:

“It has been a wonderful experience. I seemed as if I rediscovered the Germany of fine composers and fine literature. And their attitude towards my work has been overwhelmingly warm and deep. How they treat their writers! Like movie stars. My hand has been kissed to shreds—flowers in the room. Such a response to the Diaries.

“My publisher took the Diary because he loved it, thought it might not sell, but did not care. But it is selling and the press has been wonderful. I’m a little dazed. I am grateful for the genuine love of the Germans. They read deeply, seriously. They ask about America. ‘Why are there not more writers like you?’”

And it was the young who flocked to Nin in Germany, just as they had in America. A long and successful publishing history was thus created.

“Watch me,” she wrote to Pole, “making my alliance with Germany, combatting in myself a past image, a past trauma; watch me connecting with deep, serious, intelligent Germans.”

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