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.

Podcast 29: Anaïs Nin’s Lost World with Britt Arenander

Swedish author Britt Arenander discusses the new English language version of her Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which is in now in print. Lost World contains more than 50 photographs, many of them vintage, of Anaïs Nin’s and Henry Miller’s favorite haunts and living quarters in and around Paris during the most interesting period of their lives. Included is a concise but thorough guide through the streets of Paris.

hotelorphila

Hotel Orphila, immortalized by August Strindberg

As Arenander says, the book was a labor of love and required a great deal of detective work to retrace Nin’s steps as she visited the places described in the 1920s and 1930s diaries. Astoundingly, most of them still exist, and some retain the ambience that Nin and Miller enjoyed some 85 years ago.

And there are surprises: Nin, shortly after moving to Paris in the 1920s, unwittingly inhabited a room at Hotel Orphila, which the writer August Strindberg made famous in the late 1800s. The brothel Nin mentions in Henry and June is still located at 32 rue Blondel and is still a brothel. The lawn furniture Arenander photographed in the yard of the famed Louveciennes house was there as early as 1910, evidenced by a rare photograph of the owner reclining on the same chaise that was photographed 80 years later. The street where Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès lived in Clichy was immortalized in a post card from 1932—which includes their apartment building.

Arenander also dispels the myth about why Nin was denied entrance to her former Louveciennes home in 1971, as revealed by a conversation with the owner, the reputed Monsieur Auzépy, the very man who allowed the house to lay empty and crumbling for decades.

LostWorld-Front-Cover

Run time: 20 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order the print version of Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

To order the digital version of Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

Podcast 25: Anaïs Nin’s Sense of Style with Gwendolyn Michel

We often discuss Anaïs Nin’s writing, her love life, her life choices, but we rarely delve into her incredible, creative sense of style—her clothing, her interior designs, even what perfumes she wore. This podcast aims to rectify this. Today I speak with Gwendolyn Michel, PhD candidate and recipient of the Stella Blum Research Grant from the Costume Society of America about how Anaïs Nin’s creativity was far-reaching. When you think about the scope of it, it’s really incredible. Not only did she dress exotically, she oftentimes designed her own clothing, which was occasionally plagiarized by various couturiers. She designed furniture and interior schemes that awed those who experienced them—her apartment at 47 blvd Suchet in Paris and her fabled Louveciennes house are but two examples.

Listen as we discuss how these creations came to be and what has happened to them. Anaïs Nin’s clothes are still around, in various hands, each article a treasure. Gwendolyn Michel has done plenty of detective work and has made some fascinating discoveries—for example, did you know what happened to the dress Nin word in Henry Miller’s favorite photograph of her, or where a shawl she wore when she was an artist’s model ended up? Find out here.

Run time: 48 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955, which can be pre-ordered here.

Below, I have posted images of some of the clothing articles discussed in the podcast. I hope you agree that this is a fascinating topic and should not be overlooked.

Anais Nin at Louveciennes

Anais Nin at Louveciennes

 

Helba Huara and Anais Nin, 1936

Helba Huara and Anais Nin, 1936. Photo: Emile Savitry, courtesy of Sophie Malexis.

 

Anais Nin, 1920s

Anais Nin, 1920s

 

AnaisShawl

Anais Nin’s shawl today

 

Nin's leopard beret

Nin’s leopard beret today

 

Anais&Beret

Anais Nin & her beret, 1955

 

Tassels for Nin's Tahitian grass skirt today

Tassels for Nin’s Tahitian grass skirt today

 

Nin in Tahitian grass skirt, 1967

Nin in Tahitian grass skirt, 1967

Draft of Cacharel’s description of ANAIS ANAIS:

CACHAREL CREE AVEC DIPARCO son PREMIER PARFUM ANAIS ANAIS

INVENTE POUR LA FEMME CONTEMPORAINE SUR UN THEME FLEURI
CONSTRUIT AUTOUR DE LA FRAGRANCE DU LYS AVEC UN BOUQUET DES ARÔMES LES PLUS VOLUPTUEUX
SEPTEMERE 1978
ANAIS ANAIS UN FLEURI “INSPIRÉ” ?

“Je ne veux vivre que pour l’extase”. Anaïs Nin. Journal. Tome I.

Ailleurs, cette femme ardente déclarait : “J’ai le pouvoir de brûler comme une flamme”.

En son hommage – et pour toutes les femmes qu’elle incarnait – Anaïs Anaïs exhale le plus extatique des parfums, celui des pétales du lys fraîchement éclos. Mystérieux lys, orgueilleux et pur dont le parfum enivre pourtant avec les plus sensuels des effluves. Non moins énigmatique sans doute était dans le mythologie Persane la déesse Anaïtis, Immaculée, tantôt vierge, tantôt prostituée. L’essence dominante du lys, accompagnée d’une touche d’éléments fruités, est soutenue qu’un ensemble de notes florales luxuriantes et voluptueuses : jasmin du Maroc, rose de Grasse, iris de Florence, fleur d’oranger, ylang-ylang de la Réunion.

Non moins cosmopolites, quelques senteurs boisées complètent ce bouquet fleuri : vétiver, patchouli de Singapour, mousse de chêne de Yougoslavie…

Anaïs Anaïs enfin se décline sur fond ambré de musc, d’épices et de cuir de Russie.

Inspiré du visage de femme-fleur d’Anaïs Nin – inexplicablement irradié de quelque chose d’asiatique – une illustration florale, délicatement ombrée de pastels estompés, orne tous les emballages d’Anaïs Anaïs.

PRET-A-PORTER… PARFUM-A-PORTER

La femme se réfugie dans son parfum. Hue, elle est encore revêtue des senteurs qu’elle affectionne. Livrée au sommeil, Marylin parait sa nudité de quelques touches d’un parfum… Insupportable trahison pour un couturier : la femme qui suit fidèlement ses créations échappe à sa griffe dans cette ultime parure. Alors, conscient ou non, un désir de totale possession mène un jour ou l’autre tout grand créateur d’un style ã signer son œuvre par un parfum… C’est-à-dire une image olfactive de la femme rêvée.

(CACHEREL-DIPARCO)

Crée en 1958 par Jean CACHAREL, la marque est aujourd’hui du prêt-à-porter. Elle doit semble-t-il son succès à un effort continu pour une meilleure diffusion d’un style unique et de qualité comme les vêtements et accessoires CACHAREL, Anaïs Anaïs tiendra le haut de la gamme parmi les griffes du prêt-à-porter. Créateur d’Eau Jeune, Diparco entend poursuivre une démarche comparable dans le domaine du parfum : la diffusion la plus vaste de la qualité.

ANAIS ANAIS…UN FRAGMENT SOYEUX DE FEMME
Ardente et douce, féminine, raffinée et sensuelle – ainsi se découvre l’auteur du Journal et de Venus Erotica  la jeune Cacharel ?

“Je suis un fragment soyeux de femme” disait-elle. Le femme CACHAREL n’est-elle pas attentive au moelleux d’une étoffe, ã le rare perfection d’une coupe ?

A l’image d’Anaïs Nin – toujours vêtue avec une recherche très personnelle – elle accorde une grande importance au vêtement “inséparable de l’art des relations ou de l’art de vivre”. Comme elle aussi, elle sait que l’accessoire peut “jouer cette note lyrique qui révèle la richesse intérieure de la femme”.

Raffinés, cette femme l’est sans sophistication : le goût du détail lui est naturel et l’harmonie nait spontanément de ses compositions de matières et de couleurs. Elle intègre son élégance ã la vie quotidienne. Passéiste en quelque sorte, son goût des raffinements va de avec une adhésion sans réserve au monde d’aujourd’hui : engagée dans la vie active, la femme CACHAREL est consciente de participer à l’évolution de sa condition.

Elle est la femme contemporaine et en assume les contradictions.

A 30 ans elle porte à tout jamais l’âge de la jeunesse. Comme Anaïs Nin, éternellement adolescente. Comme une autre illustre Anaïs, Mlle Anaïs, née Anaïs Aubert, artiste dramatique (1802-1871), sociétaire au Français dans la première moitié vouée aux emplois d’ingénues par la grâce de son physique miraculeusement juvénile.

EAU DE TOILETTE, EAU DE PARFUM, PARFUM GEL ET SAVON
(Fiche technique de présentation et de prix des différents articles Distribution : toutes les parfumeries, et grands magasins. Comme les vêtements et accessoires CACHAREL, Anaïs Anaïs sera accessible au plus grand nombre. Dans l’univers de prestige, son prix est particulièrement compétitif.

L’EAU DE TOILETTE, Tout le monde connait : on aime s’en asperger le matin. Avec le maquillage, ce rituel constitue l’ultime garant de la beauté quotidienne. La journée peut commencer.

Plus concentrée, L’EAU DE PARFUM réserve ses sortilèges pour les instants privilégiés les fêtes du cœur et des sens, les voluptés secrètes ou partagées. La femme qui porte Anaïs Anaïs manie en experte l’art de se parfumer. Pour exhaler son odorant mystère, elle connait les heures favorables et les endroits propices. Elle a d’ailleurs délibérément choisi son eau de parfum, sans attendre qu’on lui offre. Attentive tout au long de la journée à sa fraîcheur et sa beauté, elle sait raviver quand il le faut la rare fragrance qui l’accompagne, avec une caresse de parfum gel discrètement volée ã son précieux boitier.

Anaïs Anaïs en PARFUM GEL : le geste d’une nouvelle féminité. Sortir un boîtier de son sac, l’ouvrir pour y vérifier dans un miroir sa beauté… Sous l’apparence anodine de ce geste familier se cache une nouvelle complicité entre la femme et son parfum : nonchalamment l’index glisse à la surface brillante du gel pour déposer, derrière l’ore1lle, au creux des seins ou à la naissance du poignet, toute la quintessence d’Anaïs Anaïs.

To learn about the Costume Society of America, click here.

Paul Herron dishes on Anais Nin with Rose Caraway

Rose Caraway

Rose Caraway

Erotic writer/blogger/podcaster Rose Caraway (found on Twitter as @RoseCaraway) recently had me as a guest on The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotic Podcast, and we discuss Anais Nin’s erotica (with an excerpt from a previously unknown erotic story), her use of language, sexuality, fiction, diary, and writing style. We take a sneak peek at the upcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1947-1955, which chronicles Nin’s perilous double life with two husbands. We ponder Nin’s unpublished erotic storyMontparnasse,” which is unlike anything in Delta of Venus or Little Birds and try to reason why she wrote the story in the first place. Was it just an example of bad writing, or was it the result of something her anonymous collector had said? Find out here. Run time: just over an hour.

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

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.

Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939

In 1995, Britt Arenander’s book Anaïs Nins Förlorade Värld (Anaïs Nin’s Lost World) was released in Sweden. Gunther Stuhlmann, Anaïs Nin’s literary agent, sent me a copy as a gift, and it was always a book, despite my inability to read Swedish, that I admired.

Louveciennes in 1900. The woman to the left was Anais Nin’s landlady, Mme. Leboeuf.

The author, who had recently moved to France, made the pilgrimage to Louveciennes to see Anaïs Nin’s legendary “laboratory of the soul,” the 200 year old house where she met Henry Miller in 1931. It then dawned on her to see if the apartment building where Miller and his friend Alfred Perlès lived still stood in Clichy, and it did. This series of events triggered her quest to research and rediscover each Paris address ever mentioned by Nin or Miller, and the result was a wonderful book filled with both vintage and recent photographs of these storied locations. In between was the synopsis of the life that Nin, Miller, and many of their cohorts lived in the 1930s, interlaced with the history of Paris, Montparnasse, and Louveciennes. I had always hoped that one day the book would be published in English.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when Britt Arenander contacted me recently with the idea of doing just that, and it was a project I was more than happy to undertake.

In her introduction, the author clearly states her inspiration: “A lost world, of which the outlines still remain, was what I wished to recreate, by help of photographic jigsaw puzzle pieces. But my hope is also that it might be an intimate guide to Paris outside the main tourist routes.”

We have taken this idea and enhanced the original book with updated information, a well-planned table of contents complete with links to not only each photograph, some of which, as the one to the left, are at least 100 years old, but also to street maps of several of the chief Nin/Miller haunts. The last new touch is an interactive map that one can view with their ebook device or computer that offers background information, vintage photos, and current street views of such places as Nin’s Louveciennes house, the location of her houseboats, the hotel where Nin and Miller began their affair, the brothel where Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler witnessed a “show,” and on and on.

All of this, I believe achieves Britt Arenander’s quest to offer an intimate guide to Paris that is definitely out of the ordinary. The reader will be able wander through Anaïs Nin’s lost world visually, literarily, virtually, and if in Paris, truly.

The book can be ordered with Kindle and with any Apple product (iPad, iPhone, etc.) after downloading the Kindle app.

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.

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

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

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

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

Henry Miller at Louveciennes
Henry Miller at Louveciennes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures in Louveciennes: entry to Anaïs Nin’s house of incest

Two years after my last visit to Louveciennes in 1994, the Anaïs Nin house was finally sold to someone who not only restored the main building, where he lived, but also developed the grounds to include a few maisons particulaires, which were to serve as apartments. My friend Jacques, who kept tabs on developments there for me during my absence, told me the house had been repainted in a burnt orange color, which he termed affreux (hideous), but that it was finally, after decades of neglect, habitable once again. This was wonderful news, for I had spent an inordinate amount of time fearing the place would eventually be demolished. I was told, however, that the new owner had no interest in Anaïs Nin and did not particularly care that she once lived there—therefore, he had no inclination to entertain Nin fans who occasionally stopped by to take pictures or to sit at the gate with her Diaries in hand. During the several years away from Louveciennes, although I was still heavily involved with Nin’s work, I had lost hope of ever seeing the house from the inside.

But in 2002, Jacques wrote me an exuberant e-mail, telling me that it had been sold once again, this time to an academy award nominated French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade. Jacques, through the Director of Culture in Louveciennes, managed to secure a rendezvous at the Nin house on February 21, 2003, Anaïs’s 100th birthday. Not only would we finally gain entry to the house, but on Anaïs Nin’s centennial. This was too good to be true, I thought, but did not hesitate to book a flight to Paris. I kept waiting for something awful to happen, such as an airline or rail strike, but nothing did.

While in Paris, a woman who’d once romanced Lawrence Durrell, Claudine, took me on a wonderful tour of Durrell’s and Miller’s Montparnasse, walking the same routes they took, stopping at the same haunts, and the result was an article in the premier A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (2003). I invited her to attend the rendezvous in Louveciennes, thinking it would have special meaning for her, since Nin, Miller, and Durrell were linked by their budding artistry in the Paris of the 1930s. I found out that a famous actress from the Comédie-Française would be in attendance, as well the Director of Culture, and other actors and actresses from the theater. Of course, Claudine couldn’t resist the idea of visiting the house of one of Durrell’s friends and collaborators.

On the train to Louveciennes, we reacquainted ourselves with Anaïs’s descriptions of her house:

My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house... (Diary 1 3)

We had lunch at Jacques’ house, devouring a meal that was traditionnelement français, washed down with wine, topped off with cheeses of every sort. Jacques then pointed to his watch: it was time to leave, first to the Director of Culture’s house, where we would meet the other guests before going on to the Nin house. After a light-hearted gathering, we set out for the ultimate: the laboratory of the soul, some seventy years after its most famous resident had lived there.

We parked on the narrow rue de Monbuisson, and Jean-Hugues Anglade met us at the pedestrian gate of the Nin house. Handsome, soft-spoken, and dressed casually, he shook everyone’s hand, and we entered into the courtyard where we all stood in awe. The grounds were well-kept, and the flowers were already beginning to bud. It was a fine day: sunny, warm, still. Jean showed us the outbuilding which once served as a garage for Hugh Guiler’s car—he been reading the Diary to discover the significance of each feature of the house and garden from Nin’s point of view. He expressed a desire to find the now-buried fountain and pool and to restore them. He’d located the same garden furniture Nin had used and displayed it prominently in the front of the house. There was a massive tree in the garden that looked as though it had been severely pruned at some point—Jean-Hugues told us that during World War II, much of it had been cut up for firewood.

All this was proving to be too much—the front door was ajar, beckoning us, and my mind was racing. Was this actually happening? “Entrez,” Jean-Hugues said musically… “Entrez, entrez…”

louveciennesfoyer

Interior 1st floor

I could not feel my feet touch the floor in the foyer. I looked to the left, ahead, and to the right. Everything looked clean and fresh, hardly like the photos Noel Riley Fitch had taken 13 years earlier. The room to the left of the entrance, which once contained the pool table Henry Miller referred to in his entry in Nin’s diary (Incest 80-85), now housed a mini-stage with rock band equipment. The chandelier was gone, and the fireplace was restored, but not as it was when Nin lived there. The old mosaic tile had been replaced. I kept thinking about how silent it must have been in this room during the years when the house was empty—and now it would be filled with music. Alive, I felt. The house was alive again. Someone lived here again, created here again. Voices, music, the sounds of life filled the void again.

Nin said:

I chose the house for many reasons. Because it seemed to have sprouted out of the earth like a tree, so deeply grooved it was within the old garden. It had no cellar and the rooms rested right on the ground. Below the rug, I felt, was the earth. I could take root here… (Diary 1 4)

Jean-Hugues opened what appeared to be a closet door near the front entrance. Inside was a cool, dank room lined with solid stone, gravel on the floor—the earth. “In here,” he said, “you can see all the way back to the revolution.” Here were the guts of the house, a place no one, not even time, had touched since the beginning. The air smelled of antiquity. To the right of the entrance was a parlor, and behind it was a large kitchen. The kitchen was modern, clean, airy, well-lit. A door led out to the garden. The parlor was large with one window through which the afternoon sun poured, creating a silhouette of every person in the room. Suddenly they all became timeless…they could have been anyone, from any time. It could have been Anaïs leaning on the doorway and not the actress…they could’ve been Miller, Hugo, Anaïs’s father, June…

Once we were all seated and enjoying fruit punch and sweets, Jacques began to tell his stories about the history of Louveciennes, acquainting its newest resident with information he could have gotten nowhere else. We raised a toast to Anaïs and fell silent for a few moments. I noticed the actress had a copy of Incest with her, with a place marked in the book, as if she were going to read aloud some passages…but she didn’t. I wasn’t sure why not. We took the grand tour of the house. I had been dying to get upstairs. The narrow, winding staircase was not made for someone of my height—I’m certain Hugo must have had to duck just as I did to avoid crushing his skull on the ceiling. I then recalled reading on the train the passage from Diary 1:

There are eleven windows showing between the wooden trellis covered with ivy. One shutter in the middle was put there for symmetry only, but I often dream about this mysterious room which does not exist behind the closed shutter. (4)

In House of Incest, Nin evokes the imagery of one of her dreams:

In the house of incest there was a room which could not be found, a room without a window, the fortress of their love, a room without window where the mind and blood coalesced in a union without orgasm and rootless like those of fishes. (52)

louveciennes-room-that-doesnt-exist1

Space which is “room that doesn’t exist”

I sought this “room,” the place behind the shutter. Today, all the windows are open, but I came upon a narrow space in which the ceiling slanted severely, the ancient wooden beams making it impossible to pass by. On the wall was a window. Had I found the “room which could not be found”? It seemed to be in the right place, in the middle of the house.

We passed from room to room, as in a dream. The dimension of time seemed to be missing. All the modern trappings—a computer, a child’s toys, modern furniture—seemed to drop away, leaving only the essence of a dreamscape.

Nin said in her Diary:

Every room is painted a different color. As if there were one room for every separate mood: lacquer red for vehemence, pale turquoise for reveries, peach color for gentleness, green for repose, grey for work at the typewriter. (5)

We found reverie: a portion of the paint on one wall had been peeled back, layer by layer, and beneath was turquoise. In the bathroom was an antique bathtub, the porcelain worn off around the edges from the hands of all those who’d lifted themselves in and out. From one of the upstairs windows, we looked out at the massive green gate, which Nin had described as a prison gate, keeping her locked in and away from the artistic and bohemian Paris she was just beginning to discover.

louveciennespaint

The color of reverie

The shadows in the room began to lengthen and the day was growing old. The conversations in the parlor were scattering. It was time to leave. This dream of mine, to enter this house, had finally been realized. I still believe that I was incapable of understanding fully the significance of the moment, to feel it fully. My gratitude to Jacques is eternal.

Claudine, knowing French architecture well, felt the house was not built for aristocracy, citing the bare beams on the ceilings and inexpensive building materials. She noted that the many small rooms and their layout suggested that the house was perhaps built as lodging for workmen on a plantation or a vineyard (and history tells us that wine was once produced in the region). There is no documentation of the house from before 1803, which would make it seventy years newer than what Nin was led to believe. The house’s origins are still mysterious.

A in-depth article on the 2003 Louveciennes visit (as well as Neuilly) with more photos can be found in A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal Vol. 1.

Epilogue: Only a year or two after our visit, Jean-Hugues Anglade sold the house for reasons unknown to me. At the time of this posting, it is once again on the market for 1.65 million Euros.

To read more about Louveciennes, 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 the house on rue de Montbuisson.

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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Adventures in Louveciennes: crashing Anaïs Nin’s gate.

In the summer of 1994, I had spent a few glorious days in Paris, browsing the bouqinistes and loitering in the parks, but couldn’t wait to rid myself of the crowded (with tourists, devoid of Parisians) streets, the summer stench, the never-ending construction, and escape to the luxurious calm of Louveciennes, of which I could now claim myself as a sort of honorary habitué, this my third visit. I boarded with my friends Henri and Thérèse, whom I had met during my first visit a couple years previously on my quest to find Anaïs Nin’s house. In the time between, I had learned that the Nin house was still owned by the people who’d turned Anaïs herself away when she appeared at the gate in 1970 with a German film crew that was documenting her return to France after she’d won acclaim and status upon the publication of her Diaries, in which the Louveciennes house was the setting for many of her now famous exploits. She wrote:

In Louveciennes we ran into trouble. I went to visit the owner of what was once my house. She now lives next door… I summoned all the charm I could and asked permission to enter, to film the house and the garden. I reminded her I had lived there for years. It was locked and neglected. The iron gate was rusty and corroded. The old lady became furious, said she would never allow us in, that this was the new way places are burglarized by so-called television groups. So we had to stay outside, photographing me at the gate, and what we could see of the house. The shutters of the old lady’s house were closed. Suddenly they opened and the old lady, as in a puppet show, sprang out and said if we did not leave immediately she would inform the mayor. (Diary 7 143)

I was to find out, more than twenty years later, that the house was owned by the same people, whose name, I was told, was Auzépy. The same old woman still lived in the house next door in the summer of 1993 when I revisited: I was holding my camera between the bars of the gate and snapping pictures when she appeared (perhaps at the very same window) and yelled: “Je vais appeler le police!” I edged away, and then slowly retraced my steps to the gate and noticed that she was examining me through the window, scowling. Jacques, the author of Louveciennes Mon Village, and town historian, said that the Auzépys refused to sell the house and yet did not have the money to restore it. There was a growing sentiment amongst the Louveciennois to tear the place down, so sorry was its condition.

How I longed to see the inside of this incredible house; how I wondered what remnants, if any, of Anaïs’s life were to be found—the paint on the walls, those exotic colors she used to mirror her essence in her homes, the study where she wrote with Miller looking over her shoulder… This now seemed increasingly impossible.

During my 1994 visit, I had decided to call on a local novelist who lived only a few doors down from the Nin house…I had read in ANAIS: An International Journal (Vol. 7, 1989) that someone on a mission similar to mine had befriended him and together they paid a visit to the Nin house. Somehow they were able to get into the garden and snoop around. Perhaps he would be able to help me accomplish a similar feat. So, on a sunny afternoon, Jacques and I knocked on Pierre’s door. Pierre’s wife, a lovely elderly woman, opened the door and allowed us in. We met Pierre, who was in poor health, suffering from a weak heart. He was dressed in pajamas in the middle of the day, his hair askew under a nightcap, 3 days’ of stubble on his sunken face, his appearance contradicting his elegant Englishman’s English, which hinted at his supreme intelligence and worldliness. Pierre admitted he knew little about the status of the Nin house, that he wasn’t even sure who owned it. He began to get worked up and then wondered aloud if we might not simply appear at the gate and sound the bell. I realized he was a bit delusional, for even I knew the house had been empty for decades. But there was no stopping him. His wife pleaded with him, we pleaded with him, but he pulled on a pair of knee-high green rubber boots over his pajamas and put on a robe. He opened the front door and beckoned Jacques and me to follow him.

It was high noon in Louveciennes. This unlikely triumvirate strode down the middle of the narrow street as in some sort of surreal cowboy movie—Jacques, neatly dressed with a sweater tied about his neck, giving the impression of a cape, I, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and shades, and Pierre, looking like a tragic medieval character lost in time. People driving by stared. I can only wonder what they thought. We arrived at the Nin house, and Pierre stood at the pedestrian gate, trying to find the bell. Jacques went to the larger gate (which was different than the original, a cheaply made blue metal monstrosity) and realized it was not locked. He gave it a good push and it swung open. We entered the courtyard and could see the decay firsthand. Everything was choked in weeds. The house was locked tight and the shutters were closed, except for one window on the north wing of the house. There appeared to be old furniture piled up, blocking the view inside. Even though we’d managed to get into the courtyard, there was still no way to see the interior of the house. There was old garden furniture, rusted, strewn about (I would only realize much later that this same furniture appears in photos taken at the house during the Nin years), trash and broken bottles. I had been informed the house had become a hangout for drug users, but there didn’t seem any way to get in, so I never could validate this story.

We left, dejected. Jacques was saddened and declared the situation a “shame.” Pierre was very calm, very quiet. I was raging inside, very unsatisfied and feeling more frustrated than ever. The only positive development was that no old lady appeared at the window to shoo us away.

On the plane home, I couldn’t know then that events in my life would prevent me from returning to Louveciennes for nearly a decade, and during that time I could only follow the status of the Nin house from afar. A sort of “movement” to “save the house” was spearheaded by a young American woman in 1996. Ironically, this was in response to the fact that the Auzépys actually were selling the place to a private individual, who was planning on restoring it into a livable condition, dividing the garden up into smaller lots upon which apartments were to be built, and living in the original house himself. The “movement” managed to ruffle feathers in Louveciennes: a small group, including the American woman, appeared at City Hall and demanded the sale be blocked. A petition had been drafted and was presented. Instead of having the intended effect of making the powers that be realize the historical value of the house (which, according to the American’s plan, was to be turned into a writers’ retreat and museum, though no funding existed), they angered the officials, who were finally, after more than twenty-five years, on the verge of getting an owner in the house who had the money to fix it up. The fact Anaïs Nin had once lived there had little to do with the decision to allow the sale, which did go through—what the American didn’t realize, perhaps, is that the house was being saved.

Postscript: Before I published Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors later in 1996, Noel Riley Fitch, Nin’s first biographer, offered to write a story of her “invasion” of the Nin house (“A Dramatic Encounter at Louveciennes, 1990”). She snuck in with her camera and was able to snap some incredible photographs before being chased out by the owner, who was upstairs at the time. These photos would have to be a substitute for my own lack of success of getting inside. They would also provide me with a certain degree of perspective that allowed me to be even more grateful that someone, for whatever reason, was finally giving Anaïs Nin’s “laboratory of the soul” the attention it needed.

Room to left of entrance with pool table

To read more about Louveciennes, 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 the house on rue de Montbuisson.

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.


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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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