New Anaïs Nin Podcast and A Café in Space

We are celebrating Anaïs Nin’s 114th birthday with two major events: First, the publication of the 14th volume of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, and the 24th episode of The Anaïs Nin Podcast.

The theme of this year’s A Café in Space is twofold: erotica and Nin’s relationship with her parents. Scholars from India and England look at Nin’s childhood and how it affected her life: Kastoori Barua’s essay uses popular theory to explain how Nin’s life choices were influenced by the unusual relationship she had with both parents, while Jean Owen explores adult-onset incest, using Nin and Kathryn Harrison as examples. Casandra Lim uses Freud’s theory of Oedipus to explains Nin’s relationships. The erotica aspect comes from the recent release of Nin’s long-lost collection Auletris: Erotica, and we present the introduction to the book as well as a lengthy excerpt. Erotica writer Lana Fox then uses Auletris as inspiration for her short story “L’Étalion.”

Also included is never-before-published correspondence between Anaïs Nin, Joaquin Nin-Culmell and Eduardo Sanchez regarding contentious character descriptions of family members in the first volume of The Diary of Anaïs Nin, some of which is explosive.

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Nin scholars Simon Dubois Boucheraud and Jessica Gilbey also provide article to volume 14, while David Green treats us to his experiences in Durrell country in France. There is an excerpt from and a review of Kazim Ali’s new book Anaïs Nin: An Unprofessional Study and a tribute to John Ferrone from Tristine Rainer.

Short fiction, poetry and art are from Danica Davidson, Katie Doherty, Kennedy Gammage, Harry Kiakis, Steven Reigns, Chrissie Sepe, Colette Standish, David Wilde and Changming Yuan.

At $15, and with this caliber of work, it’s a steal.

Podcast 24 concentrates on the history and future of Anaïs Nin’s diary publication. As you may know, we are fast approaching the May 2017 release of the sixth unexpurgated diary, Trapeze, which covers the beginning of Nin’s double life with husband Hugh Guiler and lover Rupert Pole on opposite ends of the country. We talk about the misconceptions behind the original series (the controversy surrounding the “missing husband”), the development of the early diary series, and a look at the rocky unexpurgated series, one which has reached incredible heights with Henry and June, and horrible lows after Incest was published in 1992, setting up the collapse of Nin’s popularity. I talk about the editing of both Mirages and Trapeze, and the two future diaries, about which few know at this point.

Coming in at 20 minutes, I guarantee it’s worth the listen.

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.
To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order volume 14 of A Café in Space, click here.
It is also available as a digital edition.

Podcast 19: Anaïs Nin’s Family with Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz

Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz was the daughter of Thorvald Nin, the middle child of the Nin family, between his big sister Anaïs and little brother Joaquín. She was born in Latin America during the 1930s and has vivid memories of not only her aunt, uncle and father, but also of her grandparents, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos and Rosa Culmell. Listen as she, like no one else can, describes the family dynamics, how Aunt Anaïs kept them at arm’s length to keep her bigamy secret, a humorous account of her grandfather calling her and her brother “savages” after they met him in Cuba in 1939, and her stories about her father and uncle, many of which are entirely unknown until now. If you are interested in Anaïs Nin, this podcast is a must-listen, for it contains some real treasures from one of the only descendants of the original Nin family.

Run time: 41 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To learn more about the Nin family, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin, which contains 365 cited quotations.

Opening track: Joaquin Nin “Suite Espanole II

Closing track: Joaquin Nin-Culmell: “Ball pla i l’esquerrana

 

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Thorvald, Rosa, Joaquin, Juan Manen, Anais Nin ca. 1920

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Anaïs Nin’s Incest: A Key To Understanding Her Art

Recently I was interviewed by Anaín Bjorkquist, hostess of the SexLoveJoy podcast, about Anaïs Nin. Part of the discussion had to do with the fact that Nin had adult-onset incest at the age of thirty with her father, Joaquin Nin, in 1933 after two decades of estrangement. Nin described it in the unexpurgated diary aptly titled Incest, and she wrote about it honestly, explicitly, and beautifully from a literary point of view. The significance of it in terms of discussing Anaïs Nin’s sexuality was, naturally, part of the podcast. 

Despite the fact that the podcast is rated “explicit,” some listeners felt the incest portion was inappropriate, that somehow incest was “romanticized,” or that it should have been edited out, never mentioned. I feel Anaín was courageous for not making any changes, even after the feedback. But the feedback prompts me to discuss this hot topic further here, distasteful or not, as it may be.

Question: how can one truly understand the life and work of Anaïs Nin if the nature of her most important relationship—the one with her father—is edited, disguised, or sugar-coated?

Answer: it cannot.

CoverIncestIncest, of course, is taboo in most cultures, disturbing to say the least, and is usually referred to in hushed voices. But Nin never backed down from any aspect of life, and I, for one, cannot back down from mentioning incest within the context her writing—that’s part of my job, to tell the truth as I know it so that readers can better understand her, her relationships, and ultimately the meaning of her work. Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V and I discuss this very topic in our recent podcast interview.

A little history:

The loss of Nin’s pianist/composer father at age ten (he abandoned the family for a young and beautiful piano student) was by far the most significant event in her life; it created the path she would take and the woman she would become. There was severe psychological damage—she not only lost her father, but her grandparents, the countries she adored (France and Spain), her language, her culture, and the entirety of her life as she knew it.

She began her diary at age eleven onboard the ship that would bring her, her mother and two brothers to New York in 1914. It was originally intended as a letter to her father, naïvely pleading with him to come to New York and rejoin the family. In it, she painted a distorted but alluring picture of America to win him back…yes, she learned ruse and enticement at a tender age, but its first application was for naught since her father never did come back.

When her father failed to return, and the reality of the impossibility of such a return became apparent, Nin began to seek him in others. This began when she married Hugh Guiler, a man whom she saw, in some ways, as a substitute father, but one who was kind, gentle and faithful. However, the nature of her attraction to him, coupled with Guiler’s own inexperience with women, created a sexual incompatibility that would last for the rest of their lives. She then began a search for a man who not only could fill the role of father figure, but who could also make her feel like a desirable woman. Her first attempt was with John Erskine, Guiler’s former professor, in 1929. But Erskine, overwhelmed by the young Anaïs’s beauty and a sense of loyalty to Guiler, was unable to finish the act in a hotel room. This sent Nin into a tailspin of self-doubt and shame. She had feelings of incompleteness, of failure as a woman, and most of all—of abandonment. She contemplated suicide, thought of jumping off a ship into the ocean. This depression lasted for years.

Henry Miller, whom Nin met in 1931, seemed to be the man she’d been seeking—not only was he older, wiser, and took Nin under his wing, he was also the one who initiated Nin to sex as she hoped it would be—raw, passionate, all-consuming. This, coupled with the fact he would mentor her writing, gave her the sense of having finally become a woman in the true sense of the word, as she writes in the unexpurgated diary, Henry and June.

By 1933, Nin was sexually alive, her impulses were strong, and she was engrossed in Miller’s life. But she soon began to realize that Miller had an inhuman quality, one that, especially when he was writing, shut out all others, Nin included. Nin realized he could never be completely hers, or anyone else’s, and his long list of romantic failures bears this out. When Miller locked himself in his room with his typewriter, Nin felt the presence of the old demon—abandonment—once again. How could she rid herself of this constant imbalance, this constant fear of being left alone? Her desires, of course, had long been distorted and amplified by the original abandonment, and she grew to feel that no singular man could provide her with a sense of being loved or could commit to her absolutely, so that even with two main men in her life (Miller and Guiler), she felt utterly alone.

Then, Nin’s father, after a long silence, began to write her again after a friend told him what a beautiful woman she had become. This led to a reunion at her house in Louveciennes almost exactly twenty years after he’d left the family. This meeting, of course, had a huge impact on Nin, who was finally beginning to realize she was a desirable woman, a fact most men in her company did not fail to notice, most notably her Don Juan father.

The elusive father, dashing, charming, romantic, aristocratic, impeccably groomed, with a grandiose personality, then began an all-out campaign to woo his daughter. He told her that of all the women he’d known, she was the one—and he lamented the fact that the “one” was his own daughter! “You are the synthesis of all the women I have loved,” he told her. He said that if she visited him in the South of France, everyone would believe they were lovers, thereby introducing the concept to her. His letters were frequent and increasingly emotional. He predicted “chapters” would be written in his hotel room that would surpass those of D. H. Lawrence. All of this, combined with everything else that had preceded his return, was a potent elixir she had no ability to resist. She had spent most of her life trying recapture the father she had lost, and he was giving her a way to do it literally, a way to face the demons and to destroy them at long last.

She described the affair in eloquent detail in her diary; she called the passages the “father story.” The incest itself was, for her, a living symbol. She looked at it from the inside, through the lenses of literature and psychology, not one of morality or artificial convention. She did not condemn herself, nor her father, and some readers find this outrageous. They expect guilt, remorse, atonement, but Nin had none. It was part of her life, an event that occurred, a stone in the mosaic, and like all other events, she recorded it in her diary from the depths of her psyche.

As one of my recent podcast guests, Lana Fox, says, “She didn’t judge herself for this. She embraced it, made it her own, and she wrote about it in stunning language.” Fox, a childhood incest victim, says Nin’s incest passages changed her life, gave her permission to accept what had happened to her, to accept herself, to empower herself, to grow, to flourish. That is what we mean by the power of writing.

Nin’s incest is more than a taboo, more than a forbidden act, more than two family members engaging in a sexual affair—it is the culmination of many complex events and emotions, the result of trauma, loss, years of mourning and craving, a product of self-loathing, doubt, the feeling of being unloved and unlovable. And it was an event that would forever change her life, especially the nature of her work. Nin wrote about incest abstractly in The House of Incest (1936), lyrically in “Lilith” (1939) and injected its essence into much of her later fiction. It flavored who she was—it caused her to grow in a completely different direction. It didn’t save her—she ultimately rejected her father, who died alone in Cuba in 1949—but it made her more aware of who she was and what she needed from life and relationships.

There are those who refuse to accept Anaïs Nin because of incest. There are others who refuse to believe it really happened. There are those who wish this would never be mentioned again, that it is “icky,” “disgusting,” “immoral,” and so on…but the failure to include it in any comprehensive discussion of Anaïs Nin would be a failure to understand exactly who she was, how she got that way, and what informs her writing.

Anais Nin Podcast 5, part 2: 5 more questions for Anais Nin with answers

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

Part 2 of episode 5 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast picks up where Part 1 left off: with answers to the last five of the ten questions Nin fans said they would have liked to ask her, the answers to which are thoroughly researched and explained.

The subject matter of Part 2 includes the Paris café life as a precursor to social media and how Anaïs Nin would have used Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts today; the end of her love affair with the famed “laboratory of the soul,” her home in Louveciennes, and her undying affinity with France; how Nin kept (or didn’t keep) her two husbands unaware of each other; Nin’s choice to not bear children—whether it was selfishness, as commonly thought, or a much deeper reason; and how Nin went about the construction her most ignored genre of work, her fiction.

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The “laboratory of the soul”

With the invaluable help of Sex Love Joy podcaster, Anaín Bjorkquist, these questions are addressed, discussed and answered as closely as possible to how Anaïs Nin herself would have.

Once again, special thanks go to Lulu Salavegesen (@Shimmerinbloom) for the concept of this series.

You can listen to Podcast 5, Part 2 on iTunes by clicking here, or, if you don’t have iTunes, by clicking here.

To learn about Part 1 and listen to it, click here.

Run time: 33 minutes. Enjoy.

New Guardian Article Raises Questions about Anaïs Nin

Recently The Guardian posted an article, written by Sady Doyle, about Anaïs Nin which chronicles her struggles as a young writer, her meteoric rise to fame, her downfall in the aftermath of Incest and Deirdre Bair’s biography, and finally her current resurgence in social media. I happen to feel that the article is well-balanced, well-written, and is based on solid fact. This leads me to confront some misconceptions seen in the article’s comments section about Nin’s incestuous relationship with her father, Joaquín Nin. anaisninphotobkFirst, there seems to be some disagreement about who wrote the incest passages, not just from some of the commenters of the Guardian article, but among those who actually knew Nin herself. I happened to be among a group of women, all of whom knew Nin on some level—none of them intimately—who argued that Nin’s “husband” and literary executor Rupert Pole and agent/editor Gunther Stuhlmann concocted the incest passage in the name of creating money-making scandal. Some believe that Pole was the editor of Incest, when, in fact, he transcribed the text from the original handwritten diary of Anaïs Nin, and Gunther Stuhlmann was the editor. I was Stuhlmann’s friend and had first-hand accounts of how the process unfolded—Pole was difficult to work with, he said, because he wanted Nin’s words exactly as she wrote them (Harcourt editor John Ferrone said the same thing—check out his article on the making of Henry & June in A Café in Space, Vol. 4). While Ferrone was very bold in editing Nin’s text, Stuhlmann was more prone to leave it alone. The proof of this lies in the handwritten diary itself. Fortunately, Pole xeroxed the entire thing before Nin’s death, and I happen to have this document—the Incest passage it is the same wording as in the handwritten diary. So, the account is Nin’s, and it is virtually unchanged (misspellings, punctuation, etc. were the only edits). Secondly, the question about who seduced whom is still debated. This is answered by the correspondence between Nin and her father Joaquín. The letters are clear: Joaquín Nin aggressively and relentlessly pursued his daughter and even predicted what would happen inside “the four walls” of his hotel room. We know from Nin’s account in Incest that she consented to his advances, but nowhere in any of the correspondence, or the diary, does she suggest a premeditated desire for a physical relationship. To learn more about these letters see the blog post or read a selection of them in A Café in Space, Vol. 6. The Guardian article does crystallize the fact that Anaïs Nin and social media is a good fit, and, as Tristine Rainer mentions, she would have loved to have an instantaneous connection with the world. To read the Guardian article, click here.

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.

Vol. 7 of A Café in Space: The Anais Nin Journal debuts Feb. 21

In Volume 7 of A Café in Space, which is due Feb. 21 and is ready for ordering now, we examine Anaïs Nin’s husband Hugh Guiler, separating myth from fact. Was he the unsuspecting cuckold many have been led to believe he was, or is there another side to the story? Recently discovered correspondence and diary passages shed light on the Nin-Guiler marriage from his point of view, in the form of recently recovered correspondence between Guiler and his wife as well as extensive excerpts from a diary he kept during perhaps the most critical point in their relationship—when Nin took her first swing on the bicoastal “trapeze” with Rupert Pole.

 

cafeinspace_2010coverAlso included is an excerpt from the unpublished diary of Anaïs Nin from 1944-5 which gives us a glimpse of the emotional upheaval she experienced since her arrival in New York in 1939—in the midst of an unraveling marriage and a surge in creativity, she continued her search for the one man who could save her from her demons, but in the end found strength and resolve within herself in an inspiring story of psychological decimation and rebirth.

 

A Café in Space is the only current comprehensive source of serious critical study of Anaïs Nin’s contributions to literature. In Volume 7, Tristine Rainer, who has studied Nin’s work since befriending her nearly forty years ago, allows us to newly appreciate The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 2 by illustrating that Nin’s emotional sense of time can be compared with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. John Ferrone, a former editor at Harcourt, reveals that if it had been Anaïs Nin’s decision alone, Delta of Venus never would have been published; he then gives his first-hand account of how the book ended up outselling all her other titles combined and its implications in her literary résumé. Academy Award nominee Kim Krizan uncovers a shocking letter from Hugh Guiler that will forever change your impressions of Anaïs Nin’s beleaguered husband. Several young Nin scholars share their important work in Volume 7, especially in the area of reading Nin through the lens of feminist theory.

 

Finally, Nin biographer Deirdre Bair speaks about issues relating to Anaïs Nin: A Biography, describing in detail how the book came to be, and also responds to criticism it received by some of Nin’s most important supporters, including Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann.

 

In this editor’s opinion, this could be the most poignant issue yet of A Café in Space.

Anaïs Nin’s Childhood Writings: First Christmas in New York

After Anaïs Nin’s father, Joaquín Nin, abandoned his family in Arachon, France in 1913, her mother took her daughter and two sons, Thorvald and Joaquinito, to New York to begin a new life. Ensconced in a house in Kew Gardens, outside of New York City, Anaïs marked her first Christmas outside of Europe, which was at the time embroiled in World War I. It was a bittersweet day, a mixture of joyous celebration with her extended family, and a mournful longing for the return of her father. The following comes from p. 37 of Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1914-1920:

December 25, 1914

“Merry Christmas!” That was the shout when we woke up. What a surprise, hanging near the bed…a stocking for each of the three of us. What a lovely Christmas. There was a top for Thorvald, caramels for Joaquinito, oranges, holly, snow (imitation), how beautiful! And that’s not all. Coquito led the way downstairs. New joy, new shouts. A beautiful Christmas tree, all lighted, and toys, it was wonderful. I was in the group of children too. Finally Uncle Gilbert calmed us down and it was with happy hearts and smiling faces that we sang “Adeste Fideles” all together. Then the blond heads and dark heads bent down to read the names and see a beautiful gun, skates, a box of chocolates for Coquito, a little car, a doll for Nuna, shiny proud soldiers for Thorvald, a little boat for Joaquinito, for Anaïs, a beautiful white bed from Aunt Edelmira, a book and a box of writing paper from Maman. Oh, I really don’t deserve it. The cries of joy ended and we had breakfast. The house is full of holly. Holly wreaths hang at the windows. The dining room lamp is ornamented with a beautiful white bell tied round with red ribbon, a charming effect. Afterward Uncle Gilbert, Thorvald and I went to take Communion. How sweet it is to be able to say, I belong to Jesus. The rest of the day was calm and happy. In spite of that, in spite of my happiness, I did not forget Papa. If he had been there, I could have shouted, I am in paradise. I have thought a lot about God’s goodness. I am here with my family, warm, needing nothing. How many children over there are dying of cold and hunger. Here I have Maman, I am happy and can feel her tender kiss. How many children over there weep for their mothers or weep for the father who will never return. I can console myself knowing that I have Papa, who is far away, it’s true, but he is there and I have the hope of receiving his kiss that I long for so much.

It’s not right to be sad on such a happy day, and to avoid that I am going to bed and dream about Papa’s homecoming. One word more. Today I couldn’t help thinking of Christmas 1912, which I spent in Brussels in a sickbed, with an operation in prospect. I couldn’t help telling God, O Jesus, your kindness is infinite. Thanks to your mercy, I have been allowed to have a merry Christmas here in New York with my family. I shall stop. I feel like crying with I remember my dear Brussels.

Prelude to a Symphony: Joaquín Nin’s seduction of his daughter Anaïs

Recently discovered letters between Joaquín Nin and his daughter Anaïs reveal what has been hidden for decades—his explicit use of the doppelganger theory (which Nin psychoanalyst Otto Rank made famous) to seduce his daughter after essentially twenty years of estrangement. One letter in particular, written on April 29, 1933 (a few months before their first sexual encounter), illustrates this maneuver. Anaïs, who’d shortly beforehand initiated contact with her father, had sent him a copy of part of her childhood diary, which was originally written for him as a sort of “letter” after he’d abandoned Anaïs and her family in 1913. In response, Joaquín says:

You are not only my daughter…you are two daughters, one by flesh and the other by spirit. There are coincidences—some of which are troubling and others which fill me with joy—between your “journal” and the one I wrote—yes—at your age. Like you, I sought the kind of solitude that liberates, and I wept over secret, indefinable disappointments. Like you, I found the ways of the world absurd. Like you, I hated school, because the dogma clipped the wings of my imagination. Like you, I loved flowers, books, music, worms, the sky and stars, the sea, the sun, trees, snow and the faithful claire de lune…benevolent confidants of my secret life.

Like you, I hated lies. Betrayals by my schoolmates made me literally sick with sorrow and despair…or furious to the point of wanting to beat them all senseless. For me, life seemed to be a farce, a sinister game impossible to play without leaving logic behind…and then I lost all my courage… Like you, I tried to raise my heart unto God himself, who, I believed by some miracle, could hear me. I was exactly thirteen years old when a sudden crisis of mysticism threw me into prayer, which I believed was the only possible consolation for my distressed heart and aimless soul. I spent, unbeknownst to my parents, hours and hours at night kneeling on the tiles of my tiny bedroom, reading and reciting prayers, in order to save myself and those I loved from the attacks of evil. The day before my first communion I almost fainted at the feet of the stern Priest to whom my Father had entrusted my religious initiation. Like you, I had a double life, a mysterious, burning and secret life; I spent hours of ecstasy in a world of dreams where all was just, beautiful and sweet. Alas! … “Life,” harsh, hard, ferocious, broke all that little by little. I learned how to work, to fight, to hit, to settle arguments with my fists, just like the others around me. I suffered the effects of the collective madness; I lashed out to defend myself, initially, and then in order to defend my ideas, my concept of the world (?), of life, of society. I fought against my companions, with the exaltations of illumination, so that they would no longer lie, so that they would no longer betray, so that they would be just, so that they would not behave like animals, so that they would not steal, so that they would not rip flowers from the neighbors’ gardens, so that they would not use vile words, so that they would not mock God and the poor, whom my father had taught us how to love and respect. But at the same time I sought, by all possible and conceivable means, to perfect myself because I felt—again like you—that I was filled with defects, ugly, weak and mal-conditioned, in the end, in every way.

…I will see you soon, dear Anaïs! Around your image and your memory I braid garlands of emotional tenderness, and I throw my trust to the heavens which separate us—the beautiful heavens of France—the soft murmer of my grateful heart, the clear message of the love of…

Your father  (A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 11-12, 13)

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

The many parallels between their lives (though there is no evidence to verify his version of his life) create a spiritual link between the two of them, which is followed up with sentimentality. Joaquín’s motivation is up for speculation—he’d always sought a relationship with his daughter, especially during the time shortly after he’d left the family, for his own purposes—he was no doubt jealous of his wife Rosa’s control over Anaïs and her two younger brothers, Thorvald and Joaquín Jr., and often used Anaïs’s lingering affection for him to create a rift between the children and their mother, whom he loathed. Since he had not yet met Anaïs as a mature woman (except for a brief encounter some years previous, after she first arrived in Paris with her husband Hugh Guiler), there is no concrete evidence that he was plotting a physical relationship with her…but he was a seducer by nature, and if he saw himself in Anaïs’s writing, as he indicates in this letter, it is possible that his self-adoration led him to such a scheme even before meeting her some weeks later in Louveciennes.

For a more complete exchange of letters before and just after the incestuous encounter, see A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 (“Prelude to a Symphony: Letters between a father and daughter” pp 5-26).

To read more about Joaquin Nin, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which has descriptions and an interactive map that includes his house in Paris.

To see a sample or to purchase Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, click here.

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.
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One Hundred Biographers: The reaction to Deirdre Bair’s biography

When Noel Riley Fitch’s study of Nin (Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin) was published in 1993, the response of some in the Nin community was to swiftly brand it as “baseless” (in the sense Fitch did not have access to the Nin archive) and “sensationalistic” (in the sense it focused mainly on Nin’s love life). For the next two years, however, there were high hopes for the “official” biography, Deirdre Bair’s Anaïs Nin: A Biography, which was to be released in March of 1995. However, ominous rumblings arose even before its publication: Rupert Pole, in a letter to a friend, said the book was a “betrayal.” Gunther Stuhlmann said in a phone conversation that he had demanded his name be removed from the acknowledgements page. Once the book was published, the outcry grew, exacerbated by the response of the book reviewers, who often seemed more intent on reviewing Nin’s life rather than the biography itself.

 

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For example, Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer began his review with this statement: “Anaïs Nin lied and fornicated the way the rest of us breathe: regularly in order to live, and in deep gulps in order to flourish.” Nigella Lawson of The Times said: “An affair with Henry Miller—who matched [Nin] for self-centredness, grabbiness, and lack of talent…” Bruce Bawer of the New York Times said in response to Bair’s conclusion that “Nin was among the pioneers who explored three of the most important [concepts that brought sweeping societal change]: sex, the self and psychoanalysis” by retorting, “If Nin is remembered at all, it will not be as a pioneer but as a colorful peripheral character who embodied, in an extreme form, some of the more unfortunate distinguishing characteristics of our age: an obsession with fame; a zeal for self-advertisement; a tendency to confuse art and self-expression; a rejection of intellect in favor of feeling; a romantic glorification of neurosis, selfishness and irresponsibility.” The question begs to be asked: did the biography cause the responses, or did the pre-formed opinions of the reviewers and those in the Nin world skew their responses to the biography?

 

Within the Nin community, much was made of the fact Bair did not know Anaïs Nin personally and that she was “judgmental” in the treatment of her subject. Gunther Stuhlmann, in his introduction to Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), addressed these issues in reaction to both Fitch’s and Bair’s books:

 

“In recent years a number of biographers, here and abroad, have tried to assemble their own images of Anaïs Nin. They seem to have been enthralled, most of all, by what they could glean of the erotic aspect of their moving target. With lipsmacking glee, or sour disapproval, they have turned their spotlights upon the supposedly “sensational” and “shocking” details of the private sexual life of the lady from Neuilly which, of course, fail to reveal a complete image of a complex personality, or to illuminate the nature of the impact her creations have had on a vast multi-generational audience.

 

“Biographers, especially when they have no personal knowledge of their subject, rely for their interpretations upon the sometimes dubious documentation of fragmented memory shards, the recollections of contemporaries often shaped by their own agendas, and most of all on the paper trail of the vanished person, the raw material of records and writings left behind.”

 

During the five years Deirdre Bair spent writing her biography of Anaïs Nin, she acknowledged that not having known Nin was a detriment. In her introduction, she says: “I had to settle for the verbal testimony of those who had known her…and I was astonished at the range of their responses, especially how, in so many cases, the mere mention of her name provoked vehemence and outrage… So a crucial issue became my trying to understand what there was about Anaïs Nin that made people react so strongly even though she had died more than a decade earlier.” So, were the “facts” again distorted by emotional responses to Nin? And how does one choose one response over the next as validation for factual information? And would knowing Anaïs Nin have helped in the end? To whom did she reveal her entire self during her lifetime?

 

In a recent interview, Bair said, “Any major event or happening or actions in Anaïs’s life began from what she wrote in her diaries at UCLA. If I wrote about something, it was because I fact-checked as thoroughly as I could. If she said she had an affair with somebody, if that person was still alive, I called them, I contacted them, I went to see them, and I asked, ‘Did you have an affair with Anaïs Nin?’ If I wrote about a possible incestuous relationship, it was because I checked every possible document, every possible person that I could. I think that was about as close to the truth as we were going to get.”

 

Explaining the issue of incest further, Bair says:

 

“The way I dealt with that was to photocopy those pages in the diary. I am a member of a group called the New York Institute for the Humanities, an NYU-affiliated body of public intellectuals, as we are called. Among them were some distinguished psychoanalysts and writers in that field—Jessica Benjamin, Muriel Dimen, Virginia Goldner, Sue Shapiro, and many of them specialize in the abuse of women. So I said to them, ‘I’m going to convene a special seminar.’ There were six analysts in total in the room. I said, ‘I’m going to pass out these photocopied pages from this diary that Anaïs Nin wrote, and at the end of the evening you have to give them back to me, and you have to swear secrecy to not tell anyone about this because I don’t know if it’s true, and I don’t know if I’m going to write it.’ So these six highly respected, important authorities in the field, they all turned to me and said, ‘It’s as if she is in my consulting room and that she’s one of my patients. This is the story that I hear.’ They called it adult onset incest. They said that often, when a parent and a child have been separated at a very young age, when they come together as adults, they see the reflection of themselves in the other and a love affair results. Shortly thereafter, a woman named Kathryn Harrison wrote just such a memoir, about her incestuous affair with her own father…it was word for word what Anaïs wrote in the diary. At that point, I knew I had to write it.

 

“So I said to Joaquin (Nin-Culmell), ‘I’m very, very worried. You have become a dear friend of mine, and I’m going to have to write this, and I’m afraid it’s going to end our friendship.’ And he thought very carefully for a long while. And he said, ‘Well, you’ve told me every terrible thing I’ve long suspected about my sister, but I know that you’re going to write it in such a way that you will still allow me to love her.’ And I burst into tears.”

 

Contrary to the reaction of Pole, Stuhlmann, and others in the inner Nin circle, both Joaquín Nin-Culmell and Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz (Nin’s brother and niece and her closest living relatives at the time) found the Bair biography to be sensitive and fair. Gayle said recently, “The problem with some is that they will say, ‘If I understand Anaïs Nin and you disagree with me, then you don’t understand her.’ Deirdre Bair didn’t paint a gallant, romantic picture of Anaïs, but overall I thought she did a very professional and sympathetic job. Perhaps Rupert felt upset because the book did not whitewash Anaïs’s life and did not sanctify his role in it.”

 

The entire interview will be published in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7

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