Anaïs Nin valued writer Marguerite Young’s opinions about her as-of-yet unpublished Diary 1, which begins in 1931, just before the 28 year old Nin met Henry Miller. While Young understood why Nin and her editor/agent Gunther Stuhlmann decided to begin the first published diary at that stage of Nin’s life (because it was arguably the most interesting period), she still expressed a desire to know more about Nin’s early years and her family members, all of whom are briefly mentioned in the diary for the sake of background.
In this revealing conversation, Young gets Nin to open up about her feelings towards her brother Thorvald, her mother, and her father. Nin explains how, as a child, she knew everything about her father’s infidelity and that when he left the family at Arcachon in 1913 he would never return.
She reveals why she felt Thorvald had estranged himself from the family, and Young offers her own rather surprising opinion, as you shall hear.
In response to her Aunt Anaïs’s remarks, Thorvald’s daughter, Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz, says, “I must respond to the theory about my Dad’s going into the business world. My poor Dad had no choice in the matter. His mother made him turn down a four year engineering scholarship at Cornell and told him he had to get a job to help support the family. He was obedient. He went into business because that is all an 18 year old boy could do. Get a ‘go-fer’ job in a bank and hope it leads to something. Believe me, he was broken hearted.”
She adds that Thorvald “was never ‘estranged’ from his family. He always remained loving towards his mother and [his brother] Joaquín. He helped support his mother throughout her life. He was not a great letter writer, that is for sure, but ‘estranged’ is not the right word. When I was growing up we never lived in the States so we never saw my grandmother or Uncle Joaquín or Aunt Anaïs except during the brief times we spent in New York in between living in one Latin American country or other. When we were there we did spend time with both Anaïs and Hugo and Grandmother and Joaquín, and I remember in particular how warm and caring Hugo was with us. In the late 40s and early 50s Anaïs and sometimes both Anaïs and Hugo would come to Mexico and spend time with my Dad and his second wife Kay quite often. When Kay and Dad retired and moved to Florida, Anaïs and Hugo visited them off and on. Now my Dad was critical of Anaïs, no doubt about that. He did not think she was a ‘good’ writer and thought her novels were impossible to understand. He also knew that she was not living a straight and narrow domestic life, and because he cared for and admired Hugo, he disapproved of her infidelities. He talked about this to me when I was much older and long after Anaïs died. When I was growing up, Dad never discussed Anaïs in a hostile manner.
“My Dad loved music so even though he himself was not a professional musician, he did appreciate the arts. He always remained close to Joaquín.
“When Anaïs started publishing her diaries, in the 1960s, my Dad very clearly requested that she not include anything about him. She ignored that, and he was furious. The last time they saw each other was in San Francisco in 1971 for the Mass of Dedication of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary. Joaquín had been commissioned to compose the music for the Mass so Dad and Kay flew in from Florida and Anaïs came up from Los Angeles. [My husband] David and I took everyone out for dinner that evening and the exchange between Dad and his sister was not pleasant for the rest of us. So, yes, my Dad became estranged from his sister, but not from the rest of his family.”
To listen to the 16 minute conversation between Anaïs Nin and Marguerite Young, click here.
Other related posts
For more on Nin’s parents, click here.
To hear Young and Hugh Guiler discuss Nin’s diary, click here.
To listen to Nin read “Under a Glass Bell,” click here.
To listen to Nin reading about her fictional characters Lillian, Djuna, and Sabina, click here.
To see all Nin titles available as e-books, visit our e-bookstore.
To purchase books from Anaïs Nin’s Silver Lake collection, click here.
By the time Anaïs Nin returned to New York in late 1939, driven from Paris by the war, she had already begun writing a series of short stories that would be collected under the title of Under a Glass Bell. According to Benjamin Franklin V’s Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts, Nin self-published (Gemor Press) the original collection in 1944, which contained the following stories: “Birth,” “House Boat,” “Je Suis le Plus Malade Des Surrealistes Antonin Artaud,” “The Labyrinth,” “The Mohican,” “The Mouse,” “Rag Time,” and “Under a Glass Bell.” For the 1948 Dutton edition, Nin added the titles “The Child Born out of the Fog,” “The Eye’s Journey,” “Hejda,” and “Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth.”
Before Nin released her now-famous diaries in 1966, she spent decades promoting her fiction, sometimes by reading passages or entire stories during lectures—in this case it is the title story “Under a Glass Bell.” It is very possible that this audio recording was made not long after Swallow Press re-released the collection in the early 1960s.
The story, as Nin reads it, is reminiscent of the incestuous isolation that is the theme of her first fictional work House of Incest or Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. Nin’s delivery gives the story a dimension that may otherwise be undetectable. It is advised to empty your mind and let Nin’s words take it on a short but fascinating journey.
To listen to the 18 minute sound clip, click here. (Courtesy of The Anaïs Nin Trust; all rights reserved)
To listen to Young and Hugh Guiler discuss Nin’s diary, click here.
For more information on Under a Glass Bell, click here.
To order the digital version of Under a Glass Bell, click here.
To order the print version of Under a Glass Bell, click here.
Beginning with the novel This Hunger, which was later incorporated into Ladders to Fire, Anaïs Nin expressed herself through three key female characters: Lillian, Djuna, and Sabina.
These female characters (as well as certain male characters, such as Jay) appear throughout the five novels in the Cities of the Interior collection: Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, The Four-Chambered Heart, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur. While all three female characters appear in Nin’s earlier fiction (see Benjamin Franklin V’s Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary), they were redefined and reintroduced in Ladders to Fire. As Nin sought acceptance in New York’s harsh literary climate in the 1940s, she ran into criticism about the lack of realism and plot in her stories, and her characters were declared “nebulous.” Nin’s response to this broad misunderstanding of her work was expressed in two works about her theories on writing fiction: Realism and Reality (1946) and On Writing (1947), both of which were, in part, incorporated into The Novel of the Future (1968).
In this reading, held in Washington, D.C. (the date is uncertain, but it is most likely pre-1966), Nin reads passages from Ladders to Fire and A Spy in the House of Love that serve as introductions to her female characters. Nin also mentions that each of them appear in the “party section” of Ladders to Fire.
Note how Nin never skips a beat (except for a giggle) when someone apparently trips over some furniture while she is reading.
To listen to the nine minute sound clip, click here. (Recording courtesy of The Anais Nin Trust)
For information on each of the novels from Cities of the Interior, see the links below: