Slut-Shaming Anaïs Nin, 2019: Enough!

Meghan Markle has stirred up some waves by using Anaïs Nin’s “I must be a mermaid” quote from The Four-Chambered Heart as inspiration for her collaboration with the British edition of Vogue. Consequently, articles have popped up scrutinizing just who this Anaïs Nin is. One such article, which was published today (August 5, 2019) by Brinkwire and written by an anonymous author, portrays Anaïs Nin (and Henry Miller) in a most unflattering light and is riddled with errors and plain, old-fashioned venom. In order to shed light on the actual truth about who Nin was, I am offering some insight and corrections below.

“The first time Henry Miller made love to Anais Nin, he pounced on her with such ferocity that she felt she’d been ravished ‘by a cannibal’.” [Not true—he actually asked her afterward: “You were expecting more brutality?”]

“It was 1932 and the 20th century’s most notorious writers of erotica were together at her rented chateau outside Paris.” [Neither of them had yet written “erotica.” That did not begin until around 1940 when both were in New York. And her house, which was formerly a living quarters for wine workers, was anything but a “chateau.”]

“Nin’s husband was a rich banker, so she had paid for the impoverished Miller to travel from Dijon, where he was eking out a living as a teacher.” [Nin’s husband had just taken a huge salary cut, and it was drastic enough that he and Nin gave up living in Paris and moved to Louveciennes, a suburb where the rent was cheaper.]

“But even a seasoned philanderer such as Nin was taken by surprise when Miller threw her to the ground and ‘attacked’ her. She was utterly smitten.” [Nin, at this time, had never had sex with any other man other than her husband—she was hardly a “philanderer.” And Miller never threw her to the ground or “attacked” her. Read the diary Henry and June.]

“Nin, who died in 1977 aged 73, was once derided as a ‘monster of self-centredness whose artistic pretensions now seem grotesque’. Yet today her aphorisms are frequently quoted online by a growing legion of fans who are rediscovering her.” [Nin was never attacked this way during her lifetime. The “monster” quote comes from a puritanical reaction to the morally scathing posthumous biography of Nin by Deirdre Bair, which, in spite of its excellent scholarship, reads like an indictment of a woman guilty of high crimes.]

“Nin was a wildly promiscuous woman whose bold sexual experimentation included bigamy, a menage a trois, incest with her own father and writing a book about sexual perversion so sordid — including paedophilia and necrophilia — that even today online retailer Amazon hides it in its ‘adult content dungeon’. She certainly hasn’t always been a fashionable name to drop into conversation.” [The author is probably writing about Auletris: Erotica (Sky Blue Press, 2016), which is clearly no longer in the dungeon.]

“Born in 1903 near Paris to a Spanish-Cuban father and French-Danish mother who split up when she was eight, the beautiful Nin earned a reputation for her untrammelled sex life long before anyone noticed her writing.” [First, she was ten when her father left the family. Second, her highly-regarded book D.H. Lawerence: An Unprofessional Study was written before she knew Miller, her first extramarital lover.]

Meghan Markle

“As she recorded in her diaries and in novels that were thinly disguised memoirs, Nin repaid his devotion by cheating on him relentlessly with the many men who became besotted with her.” [Miller also “cheated” on her, even with prostitutes. Funny, no mention of that.]

“She was fixated with Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis and seduced two leading practitioners who agreed to analyse her.” [First of all, her first analyst, Rene Allendy, was the one who lured Nin to a hotel room where he brandished a whip, not the other way around. As for Rank, the seduction was mutual.]

“She even briefly practised as a ‘shrink’ herself — a deeply unethical one — having sex with her patients on her couch and cheekily later complaining that she couldn’t help but want to ‘intercede’ in their problems.” [I have studied Nin for nearly 30 years and know of no account of her having sex with her patients on her couch. I defy anyone to quote and cite such a passage by anyone who was present then.]

“In fact [Delta of Venus] had never been intended for publication as [Nin] had written it to order, at a dollar a page, in the 1930s for a millionaire businessman in Paris. ‘More porn, less poetry,’ she accurately explained.” [Nin, at Miller’s suggestion, didn’t write erotica until after she returned to New York in late 1939. And the “collector” was an American, not a Parisian. Read the diary Mirages.]

“It was the affair with Miller that helped define her. It was in the early 1930s when Nin, then in her late 20s, met the impoverished, foul-mouthed and bullying author.” [Miller was not a “bully.” He was a robust yet gentle lover and an effective editor of Nin’s work.]

“Soon after, Nin embarked on an affair with the equally lascivious Miller. After that first sexual encounter in the garden, she recorded how in trysts he would treat her like a prostitute, asking her to whip him or crawl on her hands and knees. ‘It is like a forest fire, to be with him,’ she confessed.” [Nin’s first sexual encounter with Miller was at his hotel in Paris, not a garden. And Miller was a not a sadist.]

“Nin became obsessed with [June] Miller and they clearly had a sexual dalliance. In her diaries, she mused about the attractions of sapphism and how the ‘passivity’ of the woman’s role in sex with men ‘suffocates me’.” [Nin and June Miller never had a consummated sexual encounter.]

“When this menage a trois was portrayed in the 1990 film Henry & June — in which Uma Thurman played June — it won a U.S. film classification usually reserved for hardcore pornography.” [Unfairly so, as almost every critic agrees.]

“[Nin] never expressed anything other than delight over the shocking liaison [incest with her father], which perfectly illustrated Nin’s complete inability to feel guilt. [Untrue—the affair deeply conflicted her. Read the diary Incest.]

Anais Nin, 1940s

“For years, Nin was able to keep up a precarious trans-America balancing act (she called it her ‘bicoastal trapeze’), alternating between Pole’s spartan log cabin in the wilds of Arizona, and Guiler’s luxurious flat in New York — fobbing off each man that she occasionally needed to get away for work or relaxation.” [First, they never lived in Arizona. Second, Pole was the one taking money from Nin. Read the diary Trapeze.]

“It never occurred to Nin to consider something as tediously conventional as divorce: she married Pole bigamously in 1955, choosing for the ceremony a remote desert village in Arizona, where she hoped marriage records would be hard to find.” [It was Pole who insisted on marrying her in Arizona—she did not want this, but relented to keep Pole happy. And Nin did consider divorce, but her economic status would have been decimated if she left Guiler.]

“Even after being heavily censored, [the originally published Diaries] remained jaw-droppingly candid about her sexual history and her many lovers — an international array of celebrities including Miller and fellow writers Edmund Wilson and Antonin Artaud, and Freud’s colleague, the famous psychiatrist Otto Rank — and of course her father.” [The original edited Diaries did not clearly assert (or even strongly hint) that she had multiple lovers. This was not known until after 1986, when the unexpurgated diaries began coming out.]

“A friend recounted how they once stopped their car at a petrol station and Nin was surprisingly friendly to all the attendants and mechanics. ‘Oh yes,’ she explained. ‘I sleep with all the men here.’” [That account, by Lila Rosenblum, is untrue. Nin carefully recorded her affairs, even the most insignificant, and nowhere does she write about having sex with mechanics.]

“Nin never had children, although in 1942 she aborted a child at six months. She later admitted she was never sure whether the child was her father’s or Miller’s.” [This abortion, made famous in her diary Incest, was in 1934, and Nin never considered her own father as the father of the child. She was sure it was Miller.]

While these corrections will most likely not reach the many readers of the Brinkwire article, or those it will in turn spawn, at least there is a written rebuttal here. Nin scholarship, for at least the last three decades, has been compromised with misstatements, inaccuracies, puritanical poison pens, all of which add up to slut-shaming. It’s time to set the record straight. The best way to do this is to read her work and do some basic research before exploiting Nin and Markle in a public forum.

The see the original Brinkwire article, click here.

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

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

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

The authors’ list is quite impressive:

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

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

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

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

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

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

To purchase a digital version, click here.

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Podcast 33: Understanding the Art of Anaïs Nin: Incest

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

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

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Joaquin Nin, ca. 1930

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

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

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

The Fate of an Anais Nin Portrait

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

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

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

In a letter dated the next day, he said:

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

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

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

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

The next day, Anaïs wrote:

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

On January 26, 1929, she added:

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

Anais Rosa Troubetskoia 2_edited-1

Anais Nin and Nastashia Troubetskoia, 1929, Paris

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

But what happened to the portrait?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

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

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

 

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

 

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.

CafeVol14-Cover-Draft-1

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.

louveciennes1931smaller

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.

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