New Anais Nin Literary Journal issue coming soon

Volume 8 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal will be released after Anaïs Nin’s 108th birthday, February 21, 2011.

websitecoverimageThis issue contains letters from Anaïs Nin, Hugh Guiler, and Rupert Pole, between 1975 and the end of 1977. Never seen before, these letters shed light on two very important considerations near and just after Nin’s death: first, the degree to which Nin’s marriage with Guiler had deteriorated; second, the amazing alliance Pole and Guiler forged after Nin’s death. Guiler’s very first letter begins:

Dear Rupert: As we are going to be communicating with each other from now on I think it is well that I do what I can to make things as easy as possible for us both, and I want to start by being quite frank with you.

And then he reveals that he had been aware of the “special relationship” that Pole and Nin had “for more than ten years.” In what could have been a bitter exchange, Guiler instead reached out to Pole, and the two men developed mutual sympathy and ultimately respect. Volume 8 contains the first two letters between Pole and Guiler and subsequent correspondence as well.

Nin’s illness and subsequent death was the backdrop for this group of letters, and her illness was something she never publicly discussed or wrote about, except in her unpublished diaries, The Book of Music and The Book of Pain. Now, one of Nin’s friends during the last two or three years of her life, Barbara Kraft, has written a memoir entitled Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, from which the preface and first chapter are included as an introduction to this difficult and mostly unknown period.

Most of us are aware of the effect Nin’s father’s abandonment had on Nin’s love life, of the psychological need to re-conquer him through other men, and finally by trysting with her father himself. But there were other ramifications as well, which Kim Krizan highlights in her article, “Anaïs Style.” Nin is known to have dressed exotically, to have created her own outfits, to always have stood out from the crowd no matter her age. Where did this fascination—and even obsession—come from? Krizan insightfully makes a connection between the scars left by Nin’s father’s abandonment—and perhaps just as importantly, his exclamation of “How ugly you are” when she was ill as a little girl—and her need to dress beautifully, to “de-uglify” herself. Using quotations from the childhood diary, Krizan makes her case that Anaïs Nin’s lifelong fascination with style was actually an act of self-healing.

Tristine Rainer, a friend of Nin’s, was also close to another Nin friend, Renate Druks, the heroine of Nin’s final novel, Collages. In a sometimes humorous and sometimes distressing film treatment, Rainer uses Druks’ own commentary to tell the saga of her torrid affair with a young and tragic sports hero, Ronnie Knox, in her “The Bohemian and the Football Player.”

Also in this issue are criticisms of Nin’s writing by Nin scholars Joel Enos and Sonya Blades; a critique of the relationship between Nin and Maya Deren by Japanese scholar Satoshi Kanazawa; an analysis of Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Henry and June for his movie of the same title by Anita Jarczok; a recollection of Rupert Pole’s father, Reginald Pole, by Harry Kiakis (followed by the editor’s research on the once-famous Shakespearian actor); the introduction to The Portable Anaïs Nin by Benjamin Franklin V; photography, art, fiction, poetry, and reviews.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 8 will be released in a limited edition, so be sure to reserve your copy now. You may order in three ways: by credit card; with PayPal; or by snail mail. Price is, as always, $15.00.

Reginald Pole, Anaïs Nin’s “father-in-law”

Reginald Pole with Rupert, 1920s

Reginald Pole with Rupert, 1920s

Reginald Pole, who was Rupert Pole’s father, referred to Anaïs Nin as his “daughter-in-law,” since he, like Rupert, believed that Anaïs and Rupert were legally married (when they married in 1955, Nin was married to Hugh Guiler, her first and only legal husband). Nin mentions Reginald in some extended passages in her Diary 5, passages that contrast his apparent genius for the stage and his dark, self-destructive personality. In A Café in Space, Vol. 8, which has just been released, Reginald Pole is highlighted in two different articles, one a personal recollection by Harry Kiakis, who was an acquaintance of the then elderly Reginald, and another which includes passages from Nin’s published and unpublished diaries and excerpts from a memoir by Reginald’s great love, Beatrice Wood, about their personal relationships with him.

All three writers witnessed Reginald’s quirky habits, his dozens of bottles of medicine surrounding him in darkened, musty hotel rooms, his penchant for wandering the streets late at night and sleeping until noon, his always-declining health which prompted Nin to consider him a manifestation of death, his clinging ways, his manipulativeness.

And yet, Reginald Pole, born in England, was once a heralded Shakespearian actor, a director, a writer, a playwright, working with John Barrymore and Boris Karloff and garnering rave reviews in the early part of the 20th century and the respect of the best in the stage business. His uncle was William Poel (a misspelling of his name that stuck), who revolutionized how Shakespeare was represented on the stage. Exposure to his uncle and an education at Cambridge, where, with Rupert Brooke, he founded the Marlowe Society, led Reginald to the stage quite naturally.

After a long but spotty career, Reginald died in the 1960s after a mostly agonizing physical life, torn by loneliness and ill health. Much of his work on the stage is largely forgotten, never having been recorded, and most of what is written about him centers on his formidable idiosyncrasies. Through excerpts from a long-lost essay by Reginald entitled “The Essence of Drama,” which was published by the English review Service, we can perhaps catch a fleeting glimpse of his great mind. He begins:

Reginald Pole in character

Reginald Pole in character

The theatre is the playground of the human soul. Upon its stage all dreams of beauty that are expressible in terms of the physical brain of man may be brought into visible realization. It is the focusing point wherein can be merged the experiences of varied units of consciousness. Here is the true round table where the thoughts of the world’s great Art Templars are pooled. Here is the synthesis of all emotional forces that seek their freedom in the world of Art. For the Theatre is the congenial host of all the arts. None is unwelcome, for each here has its field. And to obtain the fullest power of life each art must welcome the service of its fellows.”

He criticized European and American theatre:

“America has reflected the best, and at times the worst, of Europe. As yet there is nothing new. That is to come. In the West the soil is fertile, and waits but for the grain… Modern Europe is not at all behind the Athenians. But the enormous output of theatrical trade and commerce tends to blind the issue. Yet the theatres and motion-picture houses, which make convenient sitting rooms for our tired and jaded neighbors, have no more in connection with the art of the theatre than the same neighbors’ photograph-albums have with the art of Rembrandt, or the clothes they wear with Byzantine tapestries. We must take them for granted, we who love the theatre, and pursue our own course free and unafraid. For that which we follow has the power that shakes the world.”

He concludes with:

“‘Art and Religion mutually condition each other,’ wrote Wagner; “these two form but one single organism.’ Every true artist knows this in his soul. The mission of Art, as that of Life itself, is to regenerate, or to fulfill, the Life of Man. Only with such aim is the greatest in art achieved. Only with such aim shall the Theatre fulfill itself, that man may be one with Nature, likest God.”

Beatrice Wood noted in a letter to Nin after Reginald’s death, “I, like you, sensed his heights and wish he could have stayed there…”

To see more or to order Vol. 8, click here.

New Year’s Day, 1933: Henry Miller on Louveciennes

After Anaïs Nin had spent several days with her lover Henry Miller at her suburban Paris home in Louveciennes while her husband was away, she noted that although Miller recorded endless notes on Paris, he had never do so with Louveciennes. So, uncharacteristically, she entrusted him with her diary, and a part of what Miller wrote in it follows.

Jan. 1, 1933. I left Henry alone with my journal in the cave and prepared for bed because I wanted to rested for Hugh. Henry drank a bottle of Anjou and wrote the following:

New Year’s Day, putting the finishing touches to my notebook of Paris, record of the first three years—in the quiet of Louveciennes. Anaïs pasting her eyes, her hair comb on my loose-leaf pages and envelopes from the Tyrol and fragments of [Howell] Cresswell’s room in the Hotel Odessa. All this reviving in me the kaleidoscopic memory-picture adventures in Paris, so that as I finish pasting the fragments together my temptation is to sit down and write a book on them immediately. Coming out to Louveciennes on the train, the picture of the countryside so indelibly engraved in my mind—I know every foot of ground along the route, and with each billboard, each sign, each crazy house or road or movie, even a chicken run or a cemetery or a vacant lot, there is a welter of associations. And so when Anaïs remarks that I have never made any notes, strangely, of my experiences here in Louveciennes, it is only, I think, because everything is still so alive and meaningful, everything still so unconsciously exploited. When I collect my notes for my first Paris book there is the tender, sentimental, regretful feeling of putting between covers what was once a rich, throbbing life which literature will never reproduce, as indeed it should not. But as I was putting together these random notes, what a joy when I found there were little souvenirs of Louveciennes which could be inserted into that chaotic mass of facts, events, incidents, phenomena—quiet strains of collected living, as it were—even a trifle like the handbill from the Louveciennes cinéma, which will always remind me of my walks to the village tabac, or to the épicerie for a “good bottle of wine”—Chateauneuf, Barsac, Meursault, etc. No, if I have not written of Louveciennes it is only because I am not writing history—I am making it. I, am so aware of the fateful, destined character of this Louveciennes.

Henry Miller at Louveciennes
Henry Miller at Louveciennes

That is why, for instance, I listen to Anaïs so eagerly when, as we pass the Coty estate at night, she explains the story of Madame du Barry, the lover’s head thrown over the garden wall, her dainty figure, the Watteau shepherds and shepherdesses. In Louveciennes some tremendous, significant unity and purpose has been forged. I have matured here. Even if it is only a dirty picture out of Frou-Frou that we discuss, for a moment it leads to greater things.

Here, in the big billiard room, where the rats once scurried, sit Anaïs and I—or pace up and down, gesticulating, while I explain to her the bankruptcy of science, or the meta-anthropological crisis. Here, at her desk, littered with shattering materials for the future, I hammer out my impetuous thoughts and images. Here all the images that grip and invade us are given free rein and new cosmological frontiers established.

My notes—it is when I think of them tonight, being embalmed, as it were, that I realize the inadequacy of human expression. No artist can ever catch up with his life. Here a thousand thoughts burst in my head over a simple utterance. Nothing can ever be brought to a finish. The important thing, I was thinking tonight, is that Louveciennes becomes fixed historically in the biographical record of my life, for from Louveciennes dates the most important epoch of my life. And I was thinking in the train how strange it was that just recently I should have become so concerned about the record of my life.

Spengler’s philosophy of Care, which the Chinese had and the Egyptians—all the historical peoples! Here in Louveciennes everything is “categorized,” “labeled,” “filed,” “annotated,” “bound.” Here is the soul of a historical romantic’s “I,” conscious of its great destiny, attracting kindred spirits, aye, attracting even her future recorders and biographers—as tho’ her voluminous diary were not sufficient. Here one has only to turn the photograph around and the husband sees himself, the lover sees himself, the friend sees himself. Here you are permitted the luxury of always seeing yourself while all the while a thousand eyes are seeing you, studying you, recording you. Here the eye regards the eye that regards the eye…ad libitum, ad infinitum. Here all the great cosmological processes are unraveled, skeined, knotted, .loosened. Here all things, the great cosmological processes, are disheveled artistically—a chaos to be ordered again the next morning.

“Did you sleep well last night?” “No, I was disturbed by the prelunar character of my dreams.” “What did you say Rank said about tattooing?” And so, at breakfast, it commences from tattoo to taboo, thru all the vagaries of the incest prohibition, thru all the layers of the geological “I,” to be dissolved in the end in ink—pp. 50-99 of the journal of my life. And let this spiderish activity, this du Barry geometry of the novecentisti, is the breath of life to all thirsty artists. While one meditates, words dance out from the walls, plots are nailed down, perfumes distilled on beautiful scented paper—and perhaps Madame de Stael herself may be nailing down a torn carpet or putting a new toilet seat in the privy house. And when Madame de Stael returns she is perhaps filled with those great primordial images which Salvador Dali would have us revive: excrement, masturbation, love… The goldfish, which used to race at ninety kilometers an hour in the cement pond outside, are replaced by glass monsters swimming in an electric bowl—psychologic fish that have no problems, except of Time and Space. Fish of the late city-man that were never baited, hooked, or scaled. Fish who swim motionlessly—as a substitute for living. Glass, translucent lives, lit up from below by shining quartz and rock crystal.

Louveciennes, then, looms up on the horizon of my mind like some laboratory of the soul. It is by no accident that the problems discussed here are such as they are. The most important thing here is the soul—everything else takes second place. And so it is that here life expands to its richest, that a few days take on the magnitude of time, that the slightest event acquires significance. (Incest pp. 80-83) For more posts on Louveciennes, click here. To read Anais Nin’s diary entry on New Year’s Eve, 1919, click here.

Anais Nin’s childhood writings: Christmas, 1919

The Nin home in Kew Gardens, NY

The Nin home in Kew Gardens, NY

By the time sixteen (almost seventeen) year old Anais Nin wrote the following passage in her childhood diary (translated from the original French), she, her mother, and two brothers had been in New York for five years. Stubbornly hanging onto her French while her hopes of agains seeing her father, who remained in France, were fading, Anais describes her Christmas Eve and Day:

December 26, 1919. After having waited for Maman on Christmas Eve with great impatience, I had the joy of seeing her arrive with a dozen little packages containing a few small details to decorate the tree. After dinner we began to trim the tree–a tall fir, with its topmost branch kissing the lofty ceiling, as though to wish it a Merry Christmas too. The four of us were busy, happily placing the little candles, balls of every color, snowflakes, stars, little dolls, little bags of candy, and all the other charming things that traditionally disguise a solemn evergreen to make it more human, that is, more attractive to man’s gaze and all his senses. That was quickly done. Then came the moment to place the gifts, the packages nicely wrapped in tissue paper and red ribbon, and crowned with a little tag with a name. What mysteries, what smiles!

Joaquinito’s eyes were worthy of study. Thorvald’s were not quite so big, but almost as expressive. My curiosity, which had been dormant a long time, was also awake but less noisy, like Maman’s. Once again I had the impression of being much older in my ideas, very far away from Thorvald and Joaquinito, unable to share their happy-go-lucky nature, and because of that, closer to Maman, closer to the more serious things in Life.

The time came to go to bed. I took one last look at the holly which I had used to decorate the mantels, lamps, windows, and banister, and the mistletoe hanging on a red ribbon. The tree shone at the end of the dark parlor. Do you believe that I thought only of the beauty of the scene? No, mixed with my somewhat poetic impressions were thoughts that responsibility has taught me. I was thinking also that everything was clean and in order. A woman has to be a practical poet!

The night was disturbed by dreams. The doors were open and I heard all of my dear family rolling over and over, each in his own bed. It wasn’t just the excitement of Christmas night, it was also the cold and the wind. .

At dawn I was awakened by a strange feeling of rain on my face. It was snow that the wind invited into my room and onto my bed, through the open window. I got up to close it and saw the result of the silent work accomplished in the night by the Great Painter. The landscape was majestic! I was so thrilled I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I thought. I must have looked funny, half sitting up in bed, staring out of the window, thinking of many different things, while the dim light of early morning filtered slowly into my room. Of course I was the first one dressed. But the snowstorm had been so violent that I didn’t go to Mass.

Before Thorvald and Joaquinito left, we lighted the tree and sang “Venite Adoremus,” accompanied on the piano by Joaquinito. The packages were opened and immediately the cries of joy began.

Breakfast was a little quieter, for Maman wasn’t feeling well. Afterward, while the boys went out, Maman and I dressed with great care. I had made a big tulle bow for my black velvet dress. Sometimes it amuses me to be a coquette….

The visitors arrived a little while before dinner. The dinner was a success, as almost all dinners are. It’s not very difficult to talk, eat; laugh, talk, eat, laugh until it’s over. Some people talk very little and eat a lot. Others only talk and laugh, but several eat well, talk delightfully and laugh at the same time. That must be a characteristic of a “woman of the world.” Doubtless it’s a good quality! By trying hard, I succeeded in talking a good deal in order to be pleasant. I am not unsociable any more! To avoid being unsociable, one must tell lies and act like a clown, which is very simple for liars (or flatterers–same thing) and for clowns!

After dinner we talked. There must be a reason for this old custom. I think it’s because a starving man is not very pleasant, so after dinner everyone has an opportunity to be agreeable, in order to make up for past mistakes.

To complete the celebration of this beautiful day, I went sledding with Thorvald and Joaquin after dinner. There are always many children and it’s a real party. Even now I can see the hill and the sleds going by, overflowing with children. I can hear the shouts clear into Maman’s room, where I am keeping her company, as she is in bed.

They nicknamed me “White Cap” because of my white beret, and since J oaquinito answers all their questions every time I go, yesterday a few of the boys called “au revoir” and other words that they murdered with the worst American accent. I don’t know why, but the few girls who go there can’t stand me, and while I was wondering why all of them were giving me such unkind looks, I heard three girls talking near me as a sled full of boys went by, shouting (the boys, not the sled): “Hello, White Cap!” “Want to ride on our sled?” One girl said: “See that girl with the white tamo’-shanter? Well, she is the biggest flirt!”

And the other one added: “Most of the boys behave like fools since she comes here.”

Decidedly, I will have to change my hair style!

(From Linotte, pp. 392-394) To read Anais Nin’s account of her first Christmas in New York, click here.

 

 

 

A list of available Anais Nin titles

How does one sort through hundreds of websites to find elusive Anais Nin titles? We’ve compiled a concise list to help you out.

To purchase a book that was once a part of Rupert Pole’s and Anais Nin’s personal collection at their Silver Lake house in Los Angeles, including rare and out of print titles, click here.

To find and purchase any title Swallow Press published (virtually all of Nin’s fiction and other titles as well), click here.

In the past year, several Nin titles have been made available as ebooks. To search the ever-growing list, click here.

To find the print versions of Nin’s (both original and unexpurgated) diaries, click here.

To locate Nin’s erotica, click here.

To examine or order print versions of A Cafe in Space, the only current Anais Nin literary journal, click here.

Sky Blue Press has the only print version of the original The Winter of Artifice, a facsimile of the Obelisk Press edition that was, according to Nin herself, banned in America. There are still copies of this limited printing left. To find out about the book, or to order, click here.

A complete list of all of Nin’s fictional characters is collected in Anais Nin Character Dictionary. To learn about this title, click here.

Are we missing anything? If so, leave a comment and we’ll attempt to answer all questions.

Barrons’ recording of House of Incest (1949) to be released

Guest post by Adam Barron

My parents, Louis and Bebe Barron, were close friends and collaborators with Anaïs Nin beginning in the 1940s. They recorded her reading some of her works and scored some of her husband Ian Hugo’s (Hugh Guiler) films with their ground-breaking electronic music. My mother told me that Anaïs was my Godmother, and she told me a story about the events surrounding my birth in 1959. I never believed it was really true until I looked up “Bebe Barron” in Anaïs’s diary index, and there was the story of a bizarre Greenwich Village baby shower, given by actress/filmmaker Maya Deren:

Maya Deren, a few years before she died, felt isolated from the community and tried to reintegrate her life in the most naïve way imaginable by giving Bebe Barron a “shower” for her expected baby, a traditional shower like the housewives of the West give, with pink decorations, pink pastry, pink-wrapped gifts. Because we loved Bebe we all joined in this celebration…

The pink shower party could not neutralize the studio, which was like a voodoo shack, filled with masks, drums, necklaces, shells, African baskets, textiles, pillows, and filled with friends provincial mothers would not have wanted around their babies, musicians, filmmakers, writers, electronic engineers, science-fiction writers, all such dangerous influences from a bourgeois’s point of view!

…Maya Deren could not permit this afternoon to remain innocent, bourgeois…and asked Bebe when she was expecting her child. Bebe told Maya in a few weeks, then Maya said: “You are wrong, it is coming much sooner, I can tell by the constellations and the formation of the clouds.” Suggestible Bebe began to have her child on her way down Maya’s stairs. (Diary 6 p. 350)

Louis and Bebe Barron, ca. 1955

Louis and Bebe Barron, ca. 1955

Was this power of suggestion, or the effect of an herbal cocktail Maya gave her, as my mother claimed? After the event, Anaïs started a short, but exquisite diary for me, with the story of my birth followed by blank pages in order for me to continue it someday.

Aided by my diary’s auspicious beginning, journal writing is now a vital part of my life. It helps me to relax, gain personal perspective, and record events for posterity. I’ve come to view Anaïs as the “good witch,” or Godmother, providing me life-giving forces to balance the negative ones I encounter. Sometimes I can feel Anaïs’s inspirational presence.

Following an extended illness, my mother passed away two years ago, after living a full life. Steven Reigns, the force behind 2008’s “Anaïs @ 105” event, which my mother and I attended, loaned me a 1949 recording entitled “Anaïs Nin, Folio II, Reading From Her Own Prose Poem House of Incest (unabridged), Contemporary Classics, Sound Portraits, Louis and Bebe Barron.” It had been a very limited release on vinyl, all but lost today. I later purchased a copy myself.

The reading was beautifully done and the quality well preserved. Steven challenged me with: “Why not sell it as a CD?” Maintaining the original spirit, I had the recording cleaned up, and I designed a jacket cover and a booklet based on my mother’s liner notes, originally done in beautiful calligraphy. It was decided that all post-production profits will go to charities for Haitian relief. This collector’s-item-quality CD will be available for only $16.00 plus shipping.

The album is a tribute to the creative work of Anaïs and my parents, and to their strong bond and friendship. I hope it will delight existing and new Nin fans alike.

Stay tuned for ordering information.

A special note: my parents also recorded Anaïs reading stories from Under a Glass Bell, entitled “Folio I, Under A Glass Bell,” a recording that seems to be lost. If you have a copy, or know the whereabouts of one, please contact the blog editor here.

To see Bebe Barron’s last interview, which was presented at Anais @ 105, click here.

To see an excerpt of Bebe discussing cybernetics, click here.

Anais Nin’s Novella Stella is on Kindle

Stella, a lesser-known work written by Anais Nin in 1945, is an examination of self-discovery and self-worth, a theme central to much of her fiction. The title character is loosely based on actress Luise Rainer, with whom Nin had a contentious friendship. Stella is faced with the contrast between her love affair with a public that adores her for her film roles and her personal inability to find human love. The men in Stella’s life include an ex-husband, a Don Juan lover, and a father who is not unlike Nin’s own.

Luise Rainer, who was sometimes mistaken for Anais Nin's sister

Luise Rainer, who was sometimes mistaken for Anais Nin's sister

It is ironic that Stella, like Rainer herself, is an orphan, since the novella itself is somewhat of a orphaned child. Nin experimented placing it in her 1946 Dutton edition of Ladders to Fire, and eventually in Swallow’s 1961 edition of Winter of Artifice, where remains today, as well as in Sky Blue Press’s 2010 anthology The Portable Anais Nin. Nin herself expressed the difficulty of finding Stella a home, so it only makes sense to offer it as a single title.

According to critic Oliver Evans, who compares Stella to D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, the novella “remains one of [Nin’s] most thoroughly realized performances. She has taken the timeworn theme of the possessive female and examined it through her microscopic lens from new and interesting angles.”

To see and/or purchase Stella at Amazon.com, click here. (The cover art is based on an engraving by Ian Hugo, aka Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband.)

To see all current Anais Nin titles on Kindle, you can visit our Anais Nin ebookstore.

A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 is on Kindle

CafeInSpace_Cover2009-out2.inddToday, Vol. 6 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal was released on Amazon’s Kindle. Vol. 6 (2009) contains the remarkable letters between Anaïs Nin and her father, composer Joaquín Nin, during the time just before and after the first nine days of their incestuous relationship in the south of France. Also included are essays by several prominent Nin scholars, such as Tristine Rainer and Sarah Burghauser, analysis of Henry Miller’s writing, feminist literary theory, poetry, and reviews of Nin-related events.

For more information about the contents of the journal, and/or to order the print version, click here.

To order Vol. 6 of A Cafe in Space on Kindle, click here.

Anais Nin Myth of the Day #16

Myth #16: Anais Nin didn’t have a sense of humor.

Fact: In his 1969 interview with Nin, Duane Schneider asked: “Do you have a sense of humor?” Nin was surprised by the question, but said: “I think the Diary is humorous; I think Collages is humorous… I don’t think I have what is called humor in the American sense. I have playfulness, and fantasy. But my humor is quieter; it’s more like the Japanese. I don’t like farce, broad humor” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 111).

What follows are some examples of Nin’s brand of humor:

In her published Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4, Nin describes a party shortly after the release of her Ladders to Fire, when one of the partygoers noticed smoke pouring into the room. Nin says:

“I telephoned the fire department. But the man who answered heard my French accent, and the gaiety in my voice, and believed it was a student hoax. I called out to Kendall: ‘You talk to him. He does not believe there is a fire because of my accent.’ We were laughing, uncontrollably, because we could not really believe the fire, because it seemed so absurd, because Jimmy stood there with his manuscripts, and because he said: ‘Oh, Anaïs, this is a publicity stunt, of course. On the occasion of Ladders to Fire, we set fire to the house and we will have to come down a ladder.’ We opened the windows. The house was only two floors high and we would fall on the grass and bushes, if the ladders to fire did not arrive soon. We heard the sirens. A huge fireman opened Jimmy’s door, ready to rescue us. How do you rescue people taken with uncontrollable laughter? ‘It was a publicity stunt,’ we said. He thought it was the champagne. There was a lot of noise around. Neighbors had come to watch. Two engines were standing there. And the climax came when the fireman said: ‘No danger. It was the lady downstairs, who left a cake in the oven, and that made all the smoke’” (Diary 4, pp. 171-172)

In a letter to Rupert Pole, dated Nov. 20, 1961, Nin, who was in New York, had their dog, Piccolo, “write” an addendum:

“Dear Rupert—there is a serious shortage of dog psychiatrists. Nobody understands I only pee at the United Nations just to be polite and international, I pee on the 57th St. corner of Tiffany’s just to be fashionable, but I reserve my fullest pee for my temporary home, to assert my temporary ownership, and each time the old German elevator man comes out and grumbles. It’s true I’m not paying any rent—but he should know dog psychology. Cold rainy day—Anaïs tells me you had the same. She hangs on that phone—I don’t feel I own her whole heart! But she brought me a leftover meal from her dinner with rich cousins. Love Piccolo” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 89).

In the novel Collages, which, in her dedication, she calls her “humorous book,” Nin describes a scene with her characters Renate and Bruce, based on her friends Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen:

“And then one day at Christmas, the terrified animals ran down from the mountains. Renate saw them running before she heard the sound of crackling wood or saw the flames leaping from hill to hill, across roads, exploding the dry brush, driving people and animals down the canyons and pursuing them satanically down to the very edge of the sea. The fire attacked houses and cars, lit bonfires above the trees, thundered like burning oil wells.

Planes dived and dropped chemicals. Huge tractors cut wide gashes through the forest to cut off the spreading fire. Firefighters climbed up with hoses, and vanished into the smoke.

Somewhere, a firebug rejoiced in the spectacle.

Around Renate’s house there was no brush, so she hoped to escape the flames. She wrapped herself in a wet blanket and stood on the roof watering it down. But she could feel the heat approaching, and watch its capricious somersaults, unexpected twists and devouring rages.

Bruce helped her for a while and then climbed down. She was still holding the hose and soaking the house when she looked down and saw what first appeared to be the portrait of Bruce walking. The large, life size painting was moving away from the house and two feet showed below the frame, two feet in shoes just below the naked feet of the painting.

The first thing he had asked of her was to stop painting animals and women and to paint a portrait of him. He had shown her the long hairs which grew on his ear lobes and said: ‘You know that I am Pan, and I want you to paint me as Pan.’ He had posed nude, in the red-gold afternoon sun of Mexico, always showing the same half-smile, the pleasure loving, non-human smile of Pan. He loved the painting, admired it every day. It was the god of the household. When they traveled, it was he who had packed it lovingly. He would say: ‘If any injury came to this painting, it would damage me, something fatal would happen to Pan.’

And so today this was Bruce rescuing Bruce, or Bruce rescuing Pan in himself. At first the painting turned its luminous face to her, but as he proceeded down the hill she saw him behind the painting in dungarees and a thick white sweater. She saw a group of firefighters below; she saw the expression on their faces as the painting walked towards them, as they saw first of all a naked Pan with faunish ears, a walking painting with feet, and then the apparition of the same figure dressed in everyday costume upholding its twin, duplicate half-smile, duplicate hands; and they looked startled and puzzled, as if it were superfluous to rescue a mere reproduction of an original.

So Bruce saved Pan, and Renate saved the house but the fire seemed to have finally consumed their relationship” (Collages, pp. 27-28).

Nin’s relationship with her Peruvian lover, Gonzalo Moré, while fiery and chaotic, was also one in which humor thrived in their conversations. In the unpublished diaries from the 1940s, there are several examples of their discourse:

During a romantic tryst:

“Gonzalo unfastening my new panties with the garters attached and saying: ‘It looks like a pulpo (octopus)—how many pulpos do I have to unfasten?’”

A lazy conversation on a summer evening in New York:

“I said to Gonzalo how strange it is that the spermatozoa sometimes lingers in the womb before fecundating the egg. Gonzalo said: Yes, it’s slumming!'”

I said to Gonzalo: “Janet saw a hermaphrodite, half of her body a man’s, half a woman.” “And the sex,” said Gonzalo, “was it a banana split?”

He talked to me for a whole evening about the activity of the microbes. Coming home we saw lovers sitting in Washington Square. Gonzalo said: “I wonder what makes people fall in love!”

“Don’t tell me it’s microbes,” I said.

After one of their many quarrels:

“I said: ‘Last night I was enmerdé (bored stiff), and I was looking for you in the rain, and I was out for a fight, in fact all ready to throw lightning around and you must have felt it and you ran, off to the movies. You escaped a big scene!’

‘What was it,’ said Gonzalo, laughing.

‘I wrote about it and so it’s all in a book, and you’re safe.’

‘Estoy contento,’ he said. And slept with his hand on my leg.”

From a Spanish newspaper Nin and Moré read together:

“A man has to deliver a coffin. He takes it on the bus as soon as the deliveries are paralyzed after the Spanish revolution. There is no room in the crowded bus. He is sent up to the top. It is raining hard. He is getting soaked. He decides to get into the coffin and cover himself. More people come to sit on the top of the bus. They sit with their backs against the coffin. The man inside of the coffin listens to their conversation, gets bored, lifts the top of the coffin, sits up and says: ‘Is it still raining?’ The people threw themselves off the bus with fright, broke their legs.”

In the 1940s diary, Nin describes going to the staid home of Virginia Admiral:

“At Virginia’s house Hugo said: ‘It looks like the House of Crime and Punishment.’ I answered: ‘But it’s the House of Punishment without Crime.’”

A conversation with Robert Duncan in the 1940s diary:

“Wrote an article on astrology to order. Was nervous about it, being told it might be for Vogue. Wrote it lightly but Robert and Hugo thought it was not light enough. Robert took it up to make it humorous. I was sad…not to be able to be flippant.

I said: ‘I can’t flip!’

Robert said: ‘You must flip! Start on me if you wish. Make fun of me.’”

Special thanks goes to Rebecca (@anaisnin on Twitter) for inspiring this post.

The Rebirth of Anais Nin’s Writing Philosophy

After Anaïs Nin self-published the revised Winter of Artifice (1942) and Under a Glass Bell and Other Stories (1944), she was faced with a formidable dilemma: to begin writing new material—the two previous publications were largely written before 1939, the year Nin fled Paris for New York because of the war, and they were both described as ethereal and dreamlike, neither of which interested the big publishers.

In New York, Nin’s life was in upheaval as she tried in vain to adjust to the indifference her work received and the arid climate in which she did not feel creative. Her personal life, too, was in tatters, and she often confessed to her unpublished diary that she was suicidal. Her relationship with Henry Miller was finished, bitterly, and Gonzalo Moré, her lover of some seven years, was weighing Nin down with his shiftlessness, his suffocating dependency, and the burden presented by his neurotic wife, Helba Huara. Because of these glaring and harsh realities, Nin, for the first time, was forced to face the true nature of her situation and those to whom she’d allied herself. She said often that she created those in her life by seeing them through the eyes of a dreamer, a mystic, which filtered out everything except what she found endearing, beautiful, miraculous.

At first, Nin’s forced awakening put her in unfamiliar territory—the real world, reality, unfiltered, undistilled, in all its ugliness and toxicity. She foundered, not able to find the footing, the philosophy, on which to create her new fiction. On a vacation at the beach house of her friend, Irina Alexander, where Nin went to recuperate from her severe bouts of depression, she was to find the symbol of her new direction:

Valentina Orlikova

Valentina Orlikova

July 23, 1943

The image which has supported, inspired me, upheld me, put me to shame, is strangely that of the woman Captain Soviet Valentina Orlikova with whom Irina had a friendship. Her photograph gave me the same shock I felt when I first saw it in a magazine cover and heard about her life. A shock of admiration, of love, of identification.

She is born February 22.

La vie frappe. Il faut y faire face, recevoir le coup, et continuer… [Life beats you down. One must face it, receive the blow, and continue…] Every day Valentina faces death, separation from her husband and child, the great tragedy of war, greater catastrophes, universal tragedies. Il y a une self-indulgence dans la souffrance. [There is self-indulgence in suffering.]

Nin became inspired to emulate this “woman of action,” and she found herself buying a coat she would call “Harper’s Bazaar elegance,” rather than her now old and somewhat tattered (but exotically unique) clothing from her Paris years.

Sept. 21, 1943

Symbolically, I fell I love with a Coat—a coat that represents the great change in me. It is not the coat of fire-fish or peacock, but of the woman captain. It is a very beautiful, masculine-material, tailored coat, fitted, with a velvet collar

Note the similarity in this photo of Nin and that of Orlikova

Note the similarity in this photo of Nin and that of Orlikova

and cuffs. It is expensive, aristocratic, simple, very pure, for action—and far from mirages or Byzance or the dream! I shall wear it a long time. It is enduring, of good quality. I chose it boldly, in an expensive shop. Then I hesitated because of the high price. But Hugo then insisted I should make him feel like a man of power able to get such a coat for his wife, and when I saw it was a symbol for him too then I yielded. The coat for a new life…

Armed with new inspiration came the excitement of designing an entirely new philosophy of writing, that of selflessness, like the woman captain’s. The seeds just begin to sprout in the following passage:

Sept. 14, 1943

I cannot begin a work casually. Have a concept of something big. Cannot begin—select, eliminate. Feel whatever I do will have to be all encompassing.

What happens if I leave myself out? Then everyone will be restored to his natural value, not mythical, not romantic, not enlarged—not symbolic.

With me absent and only the other characters present, I shall be in a human world, purely of feeling, which is my link with all the world. Irina [Alexander, Nin’s friend] said she always understood my emotions, not my interpretations or analysis of these emotions. Possibly if I eliminated myself as representing the legend, the vision, the far reaching and the cosmic, I might get into direct contact with the natural aspect of human beings. It is only in relation to me that they become “poetized” or translated into a dream. […] No one will see the poetic Gonzalo—only the fêtard [reveler] and the masochist, the adventurer and the masochist. It will be a diminished world. A natural world, not an intensified one. Me absent, passion and intensity will be removed, [as well as] the mirror reflecting people’s potential selves. It might be a way into the human. While I am there it will be mystical and mythical.

It might be good to begin writing about characters as unrelated to me. For example, I see […] the impossible woman, my mother, the extension of her. In a state of destructive revolution—the black anima.

If I disappeared as a character and became merely the vision—if I disappeared as an ego and used myself as the chemical which brought certain elements to light, I might accomplish the objective work of human dimensions which might relate me to the present. For the dream and the myth situate one in the past or the future but not in the present. They cause tragedy and not happiness. They destroy life in favor of the eternal.

These early thoughts laid the groundwork for Nin’s greatest volume of fiction, the novels which would make up the Cities of the Interior series, beginning with This Hunger, which would be published in 1945.

Stay tuned for other posts examining the development of Nin’s writing philosophy.

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