Anaïs Nin’s Childhood Writings: The Storm

During a rainy period in June of 1916, Anaïs Nin, then 13 years of age, recorded the following in her diary (translated from the French in Linotte):

Thursday, June 8, 1916

It has rained without stopping all day today. Since I couldn’t go for a walk, I studied all my lessons, and then I began to look out the window. The rain kept falling and the drops fell ceaselessly with little “floc floc” sounds. Floc! Floc! the rain continued and this time I looked at the sky. The sky was full of clouds and that made me feel a little sad because it seemed to me those clouds were made expressly for me, as if to announce the clouds in my future life. Then I put those thoughts aside and left the window.

Sunday, June 11, 1916

Yesterday and today it has rained all day and we didn’t go to Riverside as we usually do. Saturday I spent the day sewing, reading, writing and thinking…

After Mass [this morning], I came home to breakfast and I spent the morning helping Maman. Then we had lunch and Maman took us to the cinema. After seeing 3 very nice films, we came home; it was 6. We had a little cold supper of sandwiches, cake and milk. That is how we spent Sunday.

Now I am thinking of tomorrow, Monday, and with sadness I see the school doors opening just enough to let us in, then closing on our dear freedom. Next come serious lessons, punishments, long stern faces, and above all the big blackboard with little chalk marks that dance before my eyes like little demons that are there just to torture the brain and tire the eyes. Then all that disappears and I sit here sadly, looking at the clock. 10 ½ hours separate me from the studies that I like but fear because of the teachers who scold and are so hard to please.  (Linotte, pp. 129, 130-131)

Cover of Compagnon de L'oublie June 1916

Cover of Le Compagnon de L'oublie June 1916

To help her escape from the mundane and sometimes menacing daily life, young Anaïs absorbed herself in a monthly “magazine” entitled Le Compagnon de L’oublie. In her June 1916 “issue,” one of her works was a poem entitled “La Tempête” (“The Storm”), perhaps inspired by the long melancholy period of rain she wrote about in her diary. A translation appears below:

 

The Storm

In the country, the trees bend

Under the weight of the rain

That is falling in huge drops, under the name cheater,

For it brings a second night.

The sky clears, illuminating the earth for a second,

And then frightens the sleeping birds

With a great clap of thunder, and like bitter tears

The drops of rain become noisily mixed with those already fallen.

Nature, frightened, hides under the rustling leaves,

The flowers close under this brutal dew

And the soaked earth boasts of bearing this squall alone.

The birds, flapping their wings, lift themselves up

And murmur softly, “The Storm.”

 

On the sea, the holy anger becomes rage,

The waves beat furiously,

Sharing the sky’s fury.

The gloomy wind blows and beats the sails with a clamor,

While the ocean, in a supreme effort,

Hesitating and becoming one great wave,

A new voice conjuring,

In its sad and plaintive timbre,

A new force among the other cries,

And while the terrified seabirds seek a hiding place

In the depths of the few rocks along the coast,

The seamen in their crumbling boats

Shake their heads, saying, “Here is The Storm.”

 

And God contemplates His work,

A smile appearing in his white beard,

Seeing the fear,

In his black columns, becoming white,

And while the weather continues shuddering,

God says to Himself softly,

“Poor Man! He cannot see

Anything in my greatness.

Blind, undisciplined! Poor Man!

It’s a storm!”

Copyright The Anais Nin Trust; translation copyright Sky Blue Press. All rights reserved.

 

Anais Nin Myth of the Day #6

Myth #6: Anaïs Nin had a life-long love affair with Paris

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

Fact: By the time Anaïs Nin and her family immigrated to New York at the age of 11, she had spent very little time in Paris, traveling across the European continent as her pianist/composer father did musical tours. Though she missed France while in New York and romanticized her homeland during World War I, she rarely mentioned the City of Light in her childhood diary. In America, she became enamored with the English language classics and began to consider herself Anglo, not Latin. So, when her banker husband Hugh Guiler was transferred to a Paris branch in the mid-1920s, Anaïs did not have the sense of coming home, but rather that of being uprooted. Her first impressions of Paris as a young adult were anything but glowing. On Jan. 2, 1925, only a few days after arriving, she said in her diary:

“Tonight I hate Paris. The wind is blowing heaving raindrops about; the streets are wet and muddy; the automobile horns, more discordant than ever.” (Early Diary 3 82)

The next day she wrote:

“My ridiculous attitude towards Paris shows that I love with my intellect, not with my instincts and my emotions. My intellect was bred in English letters, and no instinct of race or birth can influence me. This dullness of the heart, this lack of responsiveness, shock me and please me at the same time. The humorous side of it is that the French would be the first to understand and to approve of me. The English would, by contrast, urge me to love my native city without reasoning about it. Through recognition of the supremacy of the intelligence, I belong, then, to Paris. Yet I kneel here, humbly sentimentalizing about the English. What inconsistencies! I shall truly end by being spiritually repudiated by all nations.” (Early Diary 3 83-4)

On March 11, she said:

“Spiritually, I hate Paris for the importance of sensuality in its literary and human life.” (Early Diary 3 115)

She shunned the Montparnasse scene of expatriate writers and artists and locked herself within the four walls of her apartment, keeping her diary and trying to be an ideal wife in a basically sexless marriage—this went on for years before a slow awakening to her environment occurred. Just as she began to identify herself as an artist and sought to associate with other artists in Paris, she and Hugh were forced by their shrinking finances—caused by the onset of the Great Depression—to move to the suburbs, ending up in Louveciennes. Once again she felt imprisoned, until the fateful day in 1931 when she met Henry Miller, who liberated her and introduced her to the guts of the city she had essentially ignored for six years.

The 1930s Paris years with Miller were arguably the most essential to Nin’s life and work, setting up the release of the Diary of Anaïs Nin, the first two volumes of which cover that period. During this time, however, visits to New York created ambivalence in Nin—her infatuation with the frenetic energy of New York, perhaps best represented by her love of jazz, which she felt symbolized New York, contrasted heavily with the slower, more languorous pace of Paris. She found herself longing to be in New York again. After returning from an extended visit in 1935, she wrote:

“I miss the animal buoyancy of New York, the animal vitality… Where is the jazz rhythm, the nervous energy of New York? …Face to face with a gentle, diminutive Paris, all charm, all intelligence, the new Anaïs feels: But I know it already. It is familiar. I am in love with a new, as yet uncreated world, vivid colors and large scales, vastness and abundance, a synthetic vast city of the future.” (Diary 2 42, 43)

Her desire to return to New York was to ultimately be realized, but not in the fashion she’d wished—the threat of World War II thrust her once again back into America. Once trapped in New York with no possibility of returning to Paris, she rebelled and fell into a deep depression that not only affected her personal life, but also her writing. But she was never to return to Paris to live, even when she had the chance after the war. However, especially in her later years, Nin would write wistfully of her native city and recapture some of the joy whenever she returned for visits.
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Anais Nin’s childhood writings: Birth

lecompangnondeloublieIn 1916, less than two years after arriving in America, 13 year old Anaïs Nin created a monthly “magazine” entitled COMPAGNON DE L’OUBLIE, which roughly translates into Companion of the Forgotten, although it is considered to be Companions of Oblivion in Linotte, the English translation of Nin’s childhood diary. These handwritten magazines contained drawings, poetry, and stories. In Linotte, Nin says:

“I had to wipe away the dust that covered my ‘Companions of Oblivion’ in order to show it to Godmother, who was very much interested. She promised to subscribe for 50 cents a month, and we agreed that after I read the monthly journal to Thorvald and Joaquín [Nin’s younger brothers], I am to send it to her, so that I don’t have to write the paper twice. I would spend the day writing happily and without getting tired, but Maman watches over my health and won’t let me do that, saying, “Don’t hurry so much, fifille, you have time.
“Miss Mary Devlin, a friend of Maman’s, came over yesterday in the evening and I had to read her my latest poem, ‘Birth,’ and it seems to me she says it was very good. She told Maman that I could write for ‘Le Courrier des Etats Unis.’ Ah, if I could! My goodness! What a joy for me if I could make use of my chicken tracks and earn a little money for Maman! But alas, I haven’t much hope”(Linotte 139).

The poem Nin refers to follows, from No. 10, the October 1916 issue, translated from the French. She seems to be depicting the idyllic family awaiting the birth of its newest member: the gentle mother, the worried father, the loving grandmother, the doting grandfather. And yet little Anaïs throws in a twist at the end…perhaps life is fragile even in a perfect world.

Birth

 The sun rose clear and proud
O’er a beautiful day in June
The merry birds sang their most beautiful airs
While the pure sky
Shed its protection on all the nests
Big or small
Nature is waiting for someone

A young mother in her room
Leaned her head o’er her work
A sunbeam illuminated her face
Which expressed joy and happiness
Her fine hands drew the needle
Through little pink and blue shiny ribbons
Folding beneath her activity
Mama is waiting for someone
Bent over a book
A man was concerned
It was a great problem
To be a good father
He had never even had dolls
And now he consults the heavens
To learn what it is to love
Someone smaller than he
Papa is waiting for someone

The yarn passes, and passes by again, the needle
With her wrinkled hands
Grandmother knits a little girl’s shawl
Whether she be beautiful or ugly
Does not matter—She has a grandmother to love her
Her white head wilts,
Falls, but is raised again with strength
Because Grandmother is waiting for someone
In a small corner, hidden
Lies a small purse
But here is the old Grandfather
Who, contrary to habit, empties it
And with a sigh slips his pennies into the hand of a shopkeeper
But his face cheers
At the blue and pink and white of the street
For…Grandfather is waiting for someone
Tenderly leaning o’er a wicker cradle
Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother, and Father
Contemplate the delicate baby
Who wiggles her pink feet and hands
And her small mouth, so pretty, drawn up in a smile
In the light of a day that does not want to die
On her fawn-colored face an angel wrote “Hope” 
Hope, repeats the Mother with love
Hope, repeats the Father with joy
Hope, murmurs the old Grandfather, Hope
And the old Grandmother exclaims, There is nothing but darkness!
Life is waiting for someone!

AN
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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