Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell, 1958: the end of estrangement

I am currently working on the next Anais Nin diary: The Diary of Others (1955-1966), and came across this May 13, 1958 description of Lawrence Durrell’s home in Provence in a letter to her lover Rupert Pole:
     Saturday night, hearing the Durrells could not come to Paris, I boarded a train and went to Nîmes. I’m so glad I did. Not only are Durrell and his wife wonderful, he so deep and she so gay, but to see the Arlesienne countryside, the Nîmes Arena, to find again the beauty I had missed so much, the river, the house, the Roman town, the bridges, the castles. The Durrells have a small peasant house, but a lovely garden. They grow all their own vegetables. No hot water, no bathroom, no W.C.! It is like Mexico.
      You cool bottles by lowering them down the well. He is very poor as they have two sets of children whom other parents take half the time. Both were married before. Claude is more international than I am—Irish, French, brought up in Alexandria, in New Zealand, in France—a saucy girl. They took me to an arena where bulls wear tassels on their horns and the men have to remove them for a prize. They try, and they run for their lives and jump the barrier, and some bulls jump too. The whole thing is very gay as there is no death. The men do get hurt now and then, but not as seriously as during bullfights. They drink red wine from morning till night, which keeps everyone glowing but never really drunk. Durrell has known so much poverty that he is obsessed with succeeding. He has already been compared to Proust in France.
     We explored Nîmes, sat at the cafés, talked non-stop for two days, and I returned this morning tired out, but with my spiritual batteries recharged for years to come.
I had to see Durrell to complete the carnet de bal. No one could be homelier and so humorous. He has an Irish prizefighter face, a thick potato nose, a large head on a small body, shorter than I, and as fat as [my brother] Joaquín… So there is nothing to threaten any husband! But you and he would hit it off—he hates cities, loves the sea, used to have a boat; they paddle a canoe down the river and swim. As soon as you get out of Paris you can live on nothing.
     The meeting marked the end of a long estrangement that began after Nin and Durrell had parted ways in France just before World War II, an estrangement Nin attributed to a lack of communication rather than any animus.

Anais Nin (top, center) with the Durrell family, 1958

Anthology of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal is here!

Not only are we celebrating Anaïs Nin’s 116th birthday, which occurs on February 21, 2019, but also the publication of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Anthology 2003-2018.

Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine on February 21, 1903. A Café in Space was born 100 years later, 15 volumes of which were published annually. The legacy of the journal is captured in a one-of-a-kind anthology, some 400 pages of the best representative work collected over the 15 years of its existence.

The authors’ list is quite impressive:

Anaïs Nin
Henry Miller (Nin’s former lover)
Alfred Perlès (Miller’s best friend)
Hugh Guiler (Nin’s “east coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin (Nin’s father)
Rupert Pole (Nin’s “west coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin-Culmell (Nin’s younger brother)
Eduardo Sánchez (Nin’s cousin)
John Ferrone (Nin’s editor)
Lanny Baldwin (Nin’s 1940s love interest)
John W. Bagnole (Miller scholar)
Simon Dubois Boucheraud (Nin scholar)
Sarah B. Burghauser (Nin scholar)
Ruth Charnock (Nin scholar)
Béatrice Commengé (Nin’s French translator)
James M. Decker (Miller scholar)
Lynette Felber (Nin/Miller scholar)
Janet Fitch (American novelist)
Lana Fox (erotic writer)
Benjamin Franklin V (Nin scholar)
Kennedy Gammage (poet and Durrell scholar)
David Green (Durrell scholar)
Anita Jarczok (Nin scholar)
Dawn Kaczmar (English scholar)
Jane Eblen Keller (Durrell/Nin scholar)
Harry Kiakis (friend of Miller)
Richard Pine (Durrell scholar)
Eduardo Pineda (historian)
Bruce Redwine (Durrell scholar)
Steven Reigns (Nin scholar)
Chrissi Sepe (novelist)
Colette Standish (visual artist)
Yuko Yaguchi (Nin scholar and Japanese translator)

This talented and diverse group of contributors best represents  A Café in Space and offers insight into Nin, Miller, Durrell, and other contemporaries, including Rebecca West, Evelyn Hinz, Helba Huara and Luis Buñuel.

Never-before-published photographs of Anaïs Nin adorn the covers of the anthology, and several rare photos are included in the contents.

Articles include diary entries by Nin and her correspondence with many of her contemporaries and family members, revealing details of events previously unknown to the public, including a series of letters to and from her father during the incest period. There are offerings by some of the world’s most highly regarded Nin, Miller and Durrell scholars on far-ranging but always relevant topics, including Nin’s rise to fame, how she is regarded in the media, her history of readership in Japan, how she influenced some of today’s writers, the story behind Nin biographies, thoughtful looks at today’s studies on Nin, Miller and Durrell, and accounts of visits to some of the most iconic locations frequented by the “three musketeers” in France. Short fiction, art and poetry reflect Nin’s influence on today’s writers, and there are book reviews on studies of each of the “musketeers.”

This anthology is a grand adieu from the only Nin-dedicated literary journal in print today and will give the reader much to savor, something to dip into whenever the spirit is moved, or perhaps to binge on to satisfy the hunger for material on one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, whose influence reaches well into the twenty-first.

To purchase the print version of the Café in Space anthology, click here.

To purchase a digital version, click here.

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Anaïs Nin Podcast 34: How A Café in Space was born

In 2003, 100 years after the birth of Anaïs Nin, the first volume of the only current literary journal dedicated to Nin was born too. It came on the heels of the demise of ANAIS: An International Journal after its editor, Gunther Stuhlmann, died in 2002, before he was able to produce a special centennial issue the following year.

Paul Herron, a frequent contributor to ANAIS, was devastated by the loss of his friend and mentor, not to mention the fact that a huge void in Nin studies had suddenly opened up. Only a few months later, Herron attended a Lawrence Durrell conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was approached by another of his mentors, Roger Jackson, the Miller publisher who inspired him to produce Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (1996), and encouraged him to think about filling the gap in Nin scholarship himself. At first, the idea intimidated him because of his deep respect for Stuhlmann’s work, something he felt was untouchable. But certain travels and events soon changed his mind, some of which is revealed here for the first time.

Recorded on the eve of the publication of the Café in Space anthology (2003-2018), this podcast is Paul Herron’s story of how it all began.

Run time: 16:38

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order a print copy of the Café in Space anthology, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

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Podcast 33: Understanding the Art of Anaïs Nin: Incest

I am currently at work on a book of correspondence between Anaïs Nin and her father, Joaquín Nin, written between 1933 and 1940, titled Father Letters, and a friend of mine who was reading a draft suggested I revisit a post I did three years ago on the topic of incest as related to Nin and her work. So I did, and I was inspired to create a podcast about it.

As many of you know, Anaïs was abandoned by her father when she was ten years old and spent much of her childhood yearning for him. The circumstances under which he left the family were horrific—he was engaged in an affair with one of his piano students, at the time barely sixteen years old (and an occasional playmate of Anaïs), and his jealousy-fueled battles with his wife Rosa led to true domestic violence, even to the point where Anaïs screamed at her father to stop beating her mother because she was afraid he was going to kill her. He not only beat his wife, but his children as well, leading them up to a dark, cramped attic where he spanked them while his wife was sobbing on the stairway, having been locked out.

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Joaquin Nin, ca. 1930

This unimaginable cruelty and physical abuse left a permanent scar on the young Anaïs, and yet the idea that she was suddenly without a father traumatized her even more. She began her diary as a desperate plea to lure him back—but she would not see him for another decade, in a brief meeting in Paris that ended in rage and further estrangement. Then, in 1933, Joaquín expressed a desire to reunite with his now-thirty-year-old daughter, and she accepted his request. For several months, the two engaged in an incestuous affair, something Anaïs wrote about graphically and yet eloquently in her diary. The affair, which ended bitterly, was also an inspiration for some of Anaïs’s most important art (obliquely in The House of Incest, fictionally in The Winter of Artifice), and it flavored much of what she wrote from that point on. It also heavily influenced her choice of men and the types of relationships she had with them.

In order to truly understand the art of Anaïs Nin, one must deal with a taboo that many find distasteful, immoral, or entirely sad. The ending of Father Letters is truly tragic. But the incest must be dealt with, and that is the subject of the latest Anaïs Nin Podcast. Father Letters will answer many questions about this topic, but in the meantime, here is my take on it.

Run time: 13:30
To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.
To listen without iTunes, click here.

The Fate of an Anais Nin Portrait

This is a story about how working on the forthcoming book Father Letters: Correspondence between Anaïs and Joaquín Nin, 1933-1940 inspired a quest to locate what I thought was a long-lost portrait of Anaïs Nin.

In one of Joaquín’s letters to Anaïs, dated Sept. 6, 1933, he expresses gratitude for two items his daughter had sent him: one was a photograph, and the other was a small reproduction of a portrait of Anaïs by Nastashia Troubetskioa (aka Princess Natasha Troubetskoi). About the portrait, Joaquín says:

There is a good resemblance in your portrait: the similarity of movement of both hands was unfortunate, but the whole is extremely attractive. Despite the fur coat, we can guess the “grace” of the body and all its finesse. And it is slightly “slavic.” One would want to call you Anaïscha Ninskaya Guilerova…!

In a letter dated the next day, he said:

Your little Russian portrait is there where I can see it; you seem to be observing the procession of a fiancé that Madame Troubetskoia has offered you so you can reign legally…and as such you seem to lack what you really need.

I had seen photographs in some of Anaïs Nin’s diaries and other Nin-related publications, in which she sits in front of the finished portrait. Naturally, I began to wonder about its fate—who owns it? Does it even still exist?

I did a little research and found that on January 23, 1929, Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary:

Visited Princess Troubetskoi, who is a painter and decorator. I had heard of her furniture and wanted to see it for my future home. While I admired the furniture she admired me: “You have a dream face. I must paint you, like that, in your sapphire-blue coat against the background of my chair (her own work, copper designed with figures of a Pushkin legend and inlaid with colored stones). You like this furniture? Pure Russian. No—all Russian wouldn’t do for you, too heavy. Russian-Oriental. Yes, a delicate Oriental. When will you come? I am going to get a canvas right now” (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 157).

The next day, Anaïs wrote:

The Princess has made a deep impression on me—her enthusiasm, frankness, her genius for color and decoration, the quality of her mind, her love of legends, her understanding of sadness. […] What I feel in her studio has a stronger hold upon my imagination than any other emotion (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 157).

On January 26, 1929, she added:

I am too occupied with the Princess and almost too happy to find out she has very few friends and that she wants me to “come upstairs as often as possible” because I fit into her background (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 159) and Every morning I posed for the Princess (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 161).

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Anais Nin and Nastashia Troubetskoia, 1929, Paris

Shortly after the massive portrait was finished, both Anaïs and Nastashia Troubetskioa posed for a small photoshoot, and the photo of Anaïs sitting next to the painting was one of them.

But what happened to the portrait?

I googled the artist’s name, which is listed in later diary entries as “Natashia Troubetskoia,” and went to images: Among the dozens of images, I saw was one in color, which stood out because all the others were black and white. Next, I visited the source of the image and was shocked to learn that it was the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D. C., just down the freeway from where I live. First, I was relieved that it still exists, and second, I found out that it is among their non-displayed collection, meaning they had it, but it was kept in their archives and was not available for public view.

There was no way that this painting and I were not going to be in the same place at the same time, so I immediately called and asked for a private viewing.

I was asked all the questions one would expect: Who are you? Why do you want to view the painting? What are your credentials? What are your intentions?

When I replied that I am a Nin publisher and had come across Joaquín’s comments in the father letters, I was put in touch with Dorothy Moss, who is the Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and the Coordinating Curator of the Smithsonian Women’s History Initiative, which I was unaware of up to that point.

Dorothy was more than helpful: she arranged a private viewing on a sunny summer weekday morning. We came too early and were told to wait outside, and I noticed more than one side-eye from the security people; but once the clock hit 9:00, we were allowed back in and introduced to Jennifer Wodzianski, the Smithsonian Registrar of Collections, who acted as our guide. We were practically the only people in the mammoth gallery, since the doors don’t open to the public until 11:00 AM, so the trip through a labyrinth of hallways and up an elevator was sort of surreal.

Then, we entered what looked like a store room, and there it was: The six-foot tall Troubestkoia portrait, the color and texture of which was stunning. No photograph can reveal the three-dimensional quality of the painting; thick applications of oil seemed to have one purpose: to permit the face of the then-26-year-old Anaïs Nin to practically leap out of the canvas. When I stood near the visage, I had the feeling that it is a living thing, that the eyes can see, and that the smile is intended for whoever views it. I’m no art expert, but I can say that I have never seen a painting like it anywhere. It profoundly affected me. I practically had to be pried away from it; the only reason I allowed this to happen is because it was apparent that the other people in the room had other things to do—it is the Smithsonian, after all.

The obvious question for me was: Will the portrait ever be displayed? It had been purchased from a private collector in Paris in 2000; but here’s the kicker: the collector had purchased it in the 1980s at an antiques fair in Ile de Chatou, a White Russian enclave, which is just west of Paris and only a few miles from the village where Anaïs once lived, Louveciennes.

So, will it be displayed? As of today, no one has a definitive answer, but there are two facts that have to be considered: One, thousands of dollars have been spent to restore it; Two, thousands more are being spent to frame it. The logical conclusion is that yes, it will be on display for the public, otherwise such an investment (the original purchase , the restoration and the framing) would never have been made.

The question now seems to be not if, but when. I, for one, will keep you posted. And I wonder if you will have the same reaction I had when you finally see it in person.

To listen to a 9-minute podcast about this topic with iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

Detail of Nin portrait, Smithsonian (photo: Paul Herron)

Detail of Nin portrait, Smithsonian (photo: Paul Herron)

 

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Click on this image to see the Smithsonian information on the portrait

 

Recent publications by or about Anaïs Nin: A handy guide

It’s easy to get lost in Anaïs Nin’s literary ocean without a guide, so we have created a list ofrecent publications by Nin or about her, in a relatively chronological reverse order, along with a few faves.

cafe152018: A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 15. Contains original pieces by Anaïs Nin and Rupert Pole; essays by several renowned scholars and writers; rare photographs; interviews with Nin notables including one of the characters of Collages, Nobuko Albery.

 

lostworld2017: Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939 by Britt Arenander. A guidebook to the Paris of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, with complete historical documentation and more than fifty photographs of the literary duo’s favorite haunts, both then and now.

 

trapeze2017: Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955. The long-awaited diary that chronicles the beginning of Nin’s “double” life with husband Hugh Guiler in New York and lover Rupert Pole in California. A complete rendering of the rigors, both physical and psychological, of a bicoastal affair with two very different men.

 

cafe142017: A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 14. Excerpts from Nin’s unpublished correspondence and much more.

 

 

auletris2016: Auletris: Erotica, a long-lost collection of Nin erotica consisting of two main stories: “Life in Provincetown” and “Marcel,” much of which had never been published before.

 

 

Other favorites include:

miragesMirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947. The first new Nin diary in seventeen years, Mirages is the record of Nin’s arrival in New York from Paris at the dawn of war and her mighty struggles as a woman and writer adapting to a harsher world. Features Henry Miller, Gonzalo More, Gore Vidal, and finally Rupert Pole.

 

quotableThe Quotable Anaïs Nin, a thematic collection of 365 of Nin’s famous (and occasionally obscure) quotations, with citations. You will note the poem “Risk” does not appear here, since it has been mistakenly attributed to Nin for decades. For verified quotes with sources, this is the book you need.

 

portableThe Portable Anaïs Nin, a sampling of all genres of Nin’s writing, in chronological order with comments by renowned Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V. Highly recommended for first-time Nin readers or anyone who wants a complete collection in one book.

Visualizing Anaïs Nin’s and Henry Miller’s relationships

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.”

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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.”

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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.

Listen to episode 31 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast, in which Steven Reigns discusses the mystery surrounding Evelyn Hinz, the woman Nin chose as her “official” biographer. With iTunes; Without iTunes

Podcast 31: Evelyn Hinz, Anaïs Nin’s “official” biographer with Steven Reigns

Mystery has surrounded the never-produced biography that Canadian scholar Evelyn Hinz was appointed by Anaïs Nin to do for decades. Why did it never appear? Why was a single page never shown? And where is it today? Did it ever exist? Los Angeles poet and educator—and Nin aficionado—Steven Reigns wanted to know, so some years after Hinz’s death, he approached her widower, John Teunissen, who graciously granted Steven an interview in which he answered his questions and also dropped a bombshell in the process. There were plenty of politics, bad blood, intrigue and some radical decisions made by both Teunissen and The Anaïs Nin Trust that few know about.

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Steven Reigns’ interview appears in Volume 15 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal and is a must-read for anyone–scholars, readers and fans alike–with an interest in Anaïs Nin and her biographers.

Run time: 42 minutes

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order a print copy of Vol. 15 of A Café in Space, click here.

To order a digital copy of Vol. 15, click here.

 

Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles-based poet, educator, and was appointed the first City Poet of West Hollywood. He organized three of the largest Anaïs Nin events in the past twenty years, one being “Anaïs Nin @ 105” at the Hammer Museum in 2008 and most recently he co-produced “The Allure of Anaïs Nin” at Antioch University Santa Barbara. He has published dozens of chapbooks, poetry collections, and edited four anthologies.  He holds a BA in Creative Writing from USF, a Master of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, and is an eleven-time recipient of LA City’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist in Residency Grant program. He edited My Life is Poetry, featuring his students in the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors, and has taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Visit him at www.stevenreigns.com.

Anaïs Nin Podcast 30: Gonzalo Moré and Helba Huara

To kick off the celebration of the 15th and final issue of A Café in Space, California artist and historian Eduardo Pineda discusses his two articles, “The Dreaming Tiger—On Gonzalo Moré” and “La Gitana—On Helba Huara,” which reveal the secrets and long-lost memories of Nin’s Peruvian lover Gonzalo Moré and his wife, the dancer Helba Huara.

Helba Huara and Anaïs Nin, 1936. Photo: Emile Savitry

Helba Huara and Anais Nin, 1936. Photo: Emile Savitry

As anyone who has read Nin’s 1930s and 1940s diaries knows, Nin met Gonzalo Moré at a party and was swept off her feet by his astounding presence, his Latin passion, and his utter bohemianism. When Nin visited Moré at his Paris apartment, she was shocked to find that he and his wife Helba were living in utter squalor. Once Nin and Moré commenced their decade-long love affair, she felt compelled to help him and Helba escape their sickly existence by giving them money for a new apartment, for food and medicine—Helba, at this time, had just fallen into a mélange of illnesses that incapacitated her and ended her once-celebrated dance career. While Huara was grateful for Nin’s financial support, she resented her presence in her husband’s live, and almost immediately a hate-infested relationship developed between the three of them. For ten years, it was a war between carnal passion and almost insane jealousy and hatred, a war in which the dark side eventually ultimately destroyed the Nin-Moré relationship in 1946. But before it ended, Nin and Moré founded the Gemor Press in New York to not only print Nin’s books, but also to provide Moré with a source of income. While the press produced several true works of art, Moré’s lack of discipline and Helba’s increasing demands on him for constant care rendered him unable to fulfill his duties as a printer.

Ironically, Moré came from a prominent Peruvian family and was due a significant inheritance. In order to save their relationship, Nin offered to send Moré back to Peru to get his inheritance, but his pride would not let him go—he was horrified by the idea of how his family would react to his sorry state of affairs and never went back.

Once the affair ended—and it ended bitterly—there were few entries in Nin’s diaries about Moré and Huara, and we, the readers, like Nin, lose track of them. There was confusion about how Moré and Huara left the country, when, and what happened next. Even the death date attributed to Moré in the published diaries (1966) turns out to be off by seven years.

But now, the lack of information and the mysteries have been in great part solved by Pineda’s dogged detective work, which has taken over twenty years. We find out how Moré and Huara met each other, how they had a daughter who Nin believed was Moré’s niece, and the incredible success Huara had as a performer of Peruvian indigenous dances, even to the point where she and Moré (who accompanied Huara on piano) appeared in New York City during the 1920s. We also discover that Huara was about to be awarded a national U.S. tour just as she fell ill, and how her plans for a return to dance many years later were tragically ended with an accident.

Listen as Eduardo Pineda reveals these details of the lives of these two once-famed but now enigmatic artists.

Run time: 50 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order Volume 15 of A Café in Space, click here.

New Review of Henry Miller: The Last Days

Here is a new, abridged version of a review by Resources for American Literary Study:

Henry Miller, the Last Days: A Memoir
By Barbara Kraft. San Antonio: Sky Blue P, 2016. 203 pp. $15.

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (1891-1980) both shared part of their private lives with Barbara Kraft, giving her the unimaginable opportunity of being alongside two of the more memorable writers of the twentieth century during their final years. Kraft became an important source of support and enjoyment for the ailing writers. Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, A Memoir (2011) is Kraft’s account of her time with Nin, and this current memoir details the events surrounding her friendship with Miller. Drawing from her diary recording that period, Kraft provides an intimate view into Miller’s ups and downs with his failing health. We are presented with a Miller very much alive and connected—albeit growing more disinterested—with the world around him, vivacious in his love for Brenda Venus, continuing his endless correspondence, and publishing short works. Miller’s home life, however, was increasingly troubled, and Kraft elucidates biographical details of Miller’s household that have been overlooked by his many biographers.

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Following the international fame Miller attained in the early 1960s due to his pornography trial and resulting American and British publication of his Tropic novels, he became a sought-after outsider. With this (mostly) unwanted attention, the aging writer tended to avoid many of his devoted fans. In reaction to this sometimes-aggressive public attention, Miller may have subconsciously tried to regain some privacy by keeping separate the various sections of his life. Kraft recalls that Miller had a revolving collection of sixteen different “chefs” visiting his house, of whom Kraft was one—these were people whom Miller had asked to cook him dinner a few times a month—yet, over the course of nearly three years, Kraft never met any of the others. Because of Miller’s tendency to pigeonhole his friends into various parts of his life, it is understandable that Kraft’s memoir is very much centered on Miller’s kitchen, a place where she spent many evenings conversing with Miller, sometimes bringing special visitors with whom Kraft thought Miller might find an affinity.

From a biographical perspective, Kraft’s Henry Miller, The Last Days is an important addition to the memoirs and reflections on Miller’s Pacific Palisades time.

By the beginning of 1980, the inevitable final decline in Miller’s health became apparent to Kraft. Death came slowly, and Kraft recalls the waiting for the moment when his life would end. During these last months, Miller was still mostly cognizant of his surroundings, but his body increasingly failed him. He refused to let Venus see him in such a condition and turned down an opportunity presented by Kraft to meet Eugene Ionesco, one of his favorite playwrights. As his body failed, Miller’s mind also drifted, sometimes back to his days in France, and he soon required Pickerill’s assistance with all of his daily functions. Kraft moves quickly through these months, as Miller’s ability to interact with guests decreased and she had to devote more attention to her own personal life.

The memoir ends with Miller’s death, and by ending there, it appears that Kraft had no personal involvement with Miller’s posthumous family affairs. Why it took Kraft twenty-three years to set down a detailed reflection on her friendship with Miller seems irrelevant; for those interested in Miller, Kraft recollects the events as if they had just recently unfolded, writing in the first person. Ultimately, the expanded details of the book-length memoir provide a final glimpse of Miller from a perspective that no other biographer will be able to portray.

WAYNE E. ARNOLD, The University of Kitakyushu, Japan, for Resources for American Literary Study

To order a print copy of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

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