Myth: Delta of Venus and Little Birds contains all of Anais Nin’s erotica.
Fact: In spite of editor John Ferrone‘s insistence that the only Nin erotica that did not get published were “scraps” that ended up on the cutting room floor, an important collection of unpublished erotica existed. In fact, Ferrone himself knew of it by 1985, as his correspondence to Nin literary executor Rupert Pole proves.
An auction house approached Harcourt, for whom Ferrone worked, wanting biographical information about Nin since they were about to auction off a book called Auletris by “A. Nin,” which was one of only five copies produced by Press of the Sunken Eye in 1950. Auletris was divided into two “books”: “Life in Provincetown,” none of which had ever been seen before, and an uncut version of “Marcel,” which appears in abbreviated form in Delta of Venus. Upon reading the text, Nin was verified as its author.
For some reason unknown to me, neither Ferrone nor Pole pursued this book any further, and no one mentioned it again until I discovered the correspondence earlier this year. Upon reading Auletris, I recognized its importance and literary value and realized that it needs to be published. Therefore, Sky Blue Press will release it in October 2016.
To learn more about Auletris, read our recent post.
To hear an 11-minute history of Auletris, click here.
For a reliable source of Anais Nin quotations, get THE QUOTABLE ANAIS NIN: 365 Quotations with Citations.
Myth #20: Anais Nin did not want the unexpurgated diaries published, and Rupert Pole defied her wishes by seeing to it that they were.
Fact: There has always been debate about whether Anais Nin really wanted her unexpurgated diaries (Henry & June, Incest, Fire, Nearer the Moon, Mirages,and the upcoming Trapeze) published. Rupert Pole was often quoted as saying that it was her wish, but some argue he did it strictly for the money, that she had no such intentions. There are even those who claim that he wrote some of the most scandalous passages himself.
This issue is cleared up in the postscript to Anais’s introduction to Delta of Venus. In the last paragraph (and, by the way, this is one of the last things she wrote before she died) she says: “If the unexpurgated version of the Diary is ever published, this feminine point of view [displayed in Delta] will be established more clearly. It will show that women (and I, in the Diary) have never separated sex from feeling, from love of the whole man.”
This clearly indicates that she was at the very least open to the idea, certainly not opposed to it.
Myth #19: The woman in the photo with Henry Miller is Anais Nin.
Fact: Recently photos of “Henry Miller and Anais Nin” taken by Man Ray have been popping up on Twitter and various blogs. The photos have been dated as either 1942 or 1945, which piqued my interest since by that time, Nin and Miller’s relationship was over. Furthermore, there is no mention of such a photo in Nin’s diaries, including Mirages, which covers those years. Posing nude with Miller for Man Ray would, one would think, make it into the diary.
The woman does resemble Anais Nin, except she is more endowed, curvier. The face and hands, however, could be hers. I have to admit that I was in doubt for a brief moment until I did a little research and discovered her true identity: she is Margaret Neiman, wife of Gilbert Neiman, both of whom were Miller’s friends in Los Angeles, where they invited Miller to stay with them at their home. Documentation of this relationship can be found on The Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company: A Henry Miller Blog. The photos were indeed taken in 1942.
Miller was at the Neimans’ when Nin broke off her relationship with him, blasting him for his propensity for living off others, Nin and the Neimans included. “I don’t want you back,” she famously wrote, after Miller said he planned to return to New York and get a job.
For more on the Miller/Neiman relationship, visit the Miller Blog by clicking here.
To read the breakup letters between Nin and Miller, order Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947.
Myth: Anaïs Nin made her first return to France since 1939 in 1955, as The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 5, 1947-1955 says.
Fact: In Nin’s personal calendar, she states on April 9, 1958 “first return to Paris (not in 1955 as in Vol. 5).” This is confirmed in her original handwritten diary of 1958. The question one would naturally ask is, “Why would Diary 5 place the return three years earlier?” No one today could truly know the answer because both Nin and her co-editor Gunther Stuhlmann are no longer with us. But I have a theory. Although Diary 5 covers an eight-year period, it is only 262 pages long, by far the shortest of all the published diaries. Why is this? Because she could not publish the major events of that period—her affair with Rupert Pole and all the time and energy it took to maintain it. So, the publisher could have pressured Nin and Stuhlmann to come up with some more (and interesting) material to round out the volume. The return to Paris takes up eight pages and is indeed interesting…so this is very possible.
This is not the first time that events were presented out of sequence in the published diaries. In his 1969 interview with Nin, scholar Duane Schneider noted that material from a 1938 letter from Henry Miller about his childhood wound up in the typeset of Diary 1 that covered 1931. Nin responded, “I wanted to give the background of Henry’s childhood, and I felt that he had done it better than I did…”
Nin’s original descriptions of her return to Paris will be featured in the upcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955, as well as everything that was removed for the publication of Diary 5.
Myth: Anais Nin adapted to living in America.
Fact: In the soon-to-be-released Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1940, Anais Nin reflects on her life in America after fleeing wartime France in 1939. These excerpts leave little doubt as to her sentiments about being “American.”
November 24, 1940
… Henry [Miller] returns from his wanderings. We talk about America. I said, “Were you looking for something to love? There is nothing to love here, it is a monster, a huge prosaic monster, buying all the creative wealth of Europe at bargain prices, buying it as they buy paintings, giving jobs to the refugees, yes, but only jobs, only money, no respect or evaluation or devotion, devouring with huge, empty jaws. It is nothing, a void, a colossal robot, a commercial empire, made for caricature, all ugly because it is all materialistic. Every artist born here was killed. You escaped and found yourself, and now you have the strength to grapple with it; it cannot swallow you into its rivers of cement. Look at America for what it is: concrete, iron, cement, lead, bricks, machines, and a mass of blind, anonymous robots. It is a huge monster, but made of papier mâché with marble eyes.”
December 3, 1941
American style in writing—current and general—is commonplace, prosaic, pedestrian, homely, as French never is. Even in Harper’s and Vogue, so-called aristocratic publications, there is a total absence of elegance, subtlety, nuances. Even there the plainness and ugliness is apparent. No wonder I have failed here. I am their antithesis. The poet is the antithesis of America. Just as they don’t know “race,” clothes, distinction, of any kind, their writing reflects vulgarity and looks shabby, seamy, like faded slippers for tired feet. Mongrels. But real mongrels acquire a personality from their wanderings. The American mongrel is bourgeois and colorless besides.
May 17, 1945
I can see what I dreaded: that the future of America is schizophrenic, the youth has been born dead at the roots of feeling. They can think, they can desire, take, absorb, but they cannot feel or give. They are automatons, born of Puritanism, of loneliness, of hardness and callousness of American life. Their souls are atrophied.
Now I come to the critical break with America. If I am convinced that the youth is schizophrenic and therefore dead at the roots and incurable, then I should not sacrifice myself to America. I want to leave it.
And in her 1952 diary, Nin dispels the myth that her California life with Rupert Pole was idyllic:
The truth is I hate Sierra Madre, the people, the lives they lead. I hate the life we lead. It is mediocre and filthy and dull. Last night, the level of the conversation was 1000 feet below animal life, the narrowness…and awkwardness below all possible measurements, the talk at the Barrons…mostly prosaic, almost totally devoid of imagination. Their worst sin is that they don’t wish to know other lives, they are ensconced in their gopher existence, and when you tell them of other places they almost invariably say: “I prefer hamburgerism, automobilities, drive-in weddings, and good homemade syphilis, Goodrich sprinklers, piethrowing humor, telewithoutvision, robot men American made, women untouched by human hands like the bread, absence of miracles and chromosomes…
After one martini I was delirious: American civilization is functional, purely functional. Bridges, water closets, conveyances, etc. So out of boredom they drink gin to anesthetize themselves. They can’t bear what they have created. Then the gin stupefies them so they turn to jazz. Jazz wakes them up, make them feel alive. Gin comes from England, so all in all they have given to the world nothing but a purely functional world.
Either this functional world has caused an atrophy of the mind or America is congenitally moronic. The ones I like I like as human beings—but never for qualities of mind, perception or wisdom. I can’t bear to live here anymore. Once should never live in a place you hate so deeply. I regret every hour I have spent here. It was wasted, meaningless, unproductive, uninspiring…
Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947 will be released October 15, 2013. To pre-order at a 30% discount, click here.
Myth #16: Anais Nin didn’t have a sense of humor.
Fact: In his 1969 interview with Nin, Duane Schneider asked: “Do you have a sense of humor?” Nin was surprised by the question, but said: “I think the Diary is humorous; I think Collages is humorous… I don’t think I have what is called humor in the American sense. I have playfulness, and fantasy. But my humor is quieter; it’s more like the Japanese. I don’t like farce, broad humor” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 111).
What follows are some examples of Nin’s brand of humor:
“I telephoned the fire department. But the man who answered heard my French accent, and the gaiety in my voice, and believed it was a student hoax. I called out to Kendall: ‘You talk to him. He does not believe there is a fire because of my accent.’ We were laughing, uncontrollably, because we could not really believe the fire, because it seemed so absurd, because Jimmy stood there with his manuscripts, and because he said: ‘Oh, Anaïs, this is a publicity stunt, of course. On the occasion of Ladders to Fire, we set fire to the house and we will have to come down a ladder.’ We opened the windows. The house was only two floors high and we would fall on the grass and bushes, if the ladders to fire did not arrive soon. We heard the sirens. A huge fireman opened Jimmy’s door, ready to rescue us. How do you rescue people taken with uncontrollable laughter? ‘It was a publicity stunt,’ we said. He thought it was the champagne. There was a lot of noise around. Neighbors had come to watch. Two engines were standing there. And the climax came when the fireman said: ‘No danger. It was the lady downstairs, who left a cake in the oven, and that made all the smoke’” (Diary 4, pp. 171-172)
In a letter to Rupert Pole, dated Nov. 20, 1961, Nin, who was in New York, had their dog, Piccolo, “write” an addendum:
“Dear Rupert—there is a serious shortage of dog psychiatrists. Nobody understands I only pee at the United Nations just to be polite and international, I pee on the 57th St. corner of Tiffany’s just to be fashionable, but I reserve my fullest pee for my temporary home, to assert my temporary ownership, and each time the old German elevator man comes out and grumbles. It’s true I’m not paying any rent—but he should know dog psychology. Cold rainy day—Anaïs tells me you had the same. She hangs on that phone—I don’t feel I own her whole heart! But she brought me a leftover meal from her dinner with rich cousins. Love Piccolo” (A Cafe in Space, Vol. 5, p. 89).
In the novel Collages, which, in her dedication, she calls her “humorous book,” Nin describes a scene with her characters Renate and Bruce, based on her friends Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen:
“And then one day at Christmas, the terrified animals ran down from the mountains. Renate saw them running before she heard the sound of crackling wood or saw the flames leaping from hill to hill, across roads, exploding the dry brush, driving people and animals down the canyons and pursuing them satanically down to the very edge of the sea. The fire attacked houses and cars, lit bonfires above the trees, thundered like burning oil wells.
Planes dived and dropped chemicals. Huge tractors cut wide gashes through the forest to cut off the spreading fire. Firefighters climbed up with hoses, and vanished into the smoke.
Somewhere, a firebug rejoiced in the spectacle.
Around Renate’s house there was no brush, so she hoped to escape the flames. She wrapped herself in a wet blanket and stood on the roof watering it down. But she could feel the heat approaching, and watch its capricious somersaults, unexpected twists and devouring rages.
Bruce helped her for a while and then climbed down. She was still holding the hose and soaking the house when she looked down and saw what first appeared to be the portrait of Bruce walking. The large, life size painting was moving away from the house and two feet showed below the frame, two feet in shoes just below the naked feet of the painting.
The first thing he had asked of her was to stop painting animals and women and to paint a portrait of him. He had shown her the long hairs which grew on his ear lobes and said: ‘You know that I am Pan, and I want you to paint me as Pan.’ He had posed nude, in the red-gold afternoon sun of Mexico, always showing the same half-smile, the pleasure loving, non-human smile of Pan. He loved the painting, admired it every day. It was the god of the household. When they traveled, it was he who had packed it lovingly. He would say: ‘If any injury came to this painting, it would damage me, something fatal would happen to Pan.’
And so today this was Bruce rescuing Bruce, or Bruce rescuing Pan in himself. At first the painting turned its luminous face to her, but as he proceeded down the hill she saw him behind the painting in dungarees and a thick white sweater. She saw a group of firefighters below; she saw the expression on their faces as the painting walked towards them, as they saw first of all a naked Pan with faunish ears, a walking painting with feet, and then the apparition of the same figure dressed in everyday costume upholding its twin, duplicate half-smile, duplicate hands; and they looked startled and puzzled, as if it were superfluous to rescue a mere reproduction of an original.
So Bruce saved Pan, and Renate saved the house but the fire seemed to have finally consumed their relationship” (Collages, pp. 27-28).
Nin’s relationship with her Peruvian lover, Gonzalo Moré, while fiery and chaotic, was also one in which humor thrived in their conversations. In the unpublished diaries from the 1940s, there are several examples of their discourse:
During a romantic tryst:
“Gonzalo unfastening my new panties with the garters attached and saying: ‘It looks like a pulpo (octopus)—how many pulpos do I have to unfasten?’”
A lazy conversation on a summer evening in New York:
“I said to Gonzalo how strange it is that the spermatozoa sometimes lingers in the womb before fecundating the egg. Gonzalo said: Yes, it’s slumming!'”
I said to Gonzalo: “Janet saw a hermaphrodite, half of her body a man’s, half a woman.” “And the sex,” said Gonzalo, “was it a banana split?”
He talked to me for a whole evening about the activity of the microbes. Coming home we saw lovers sitting in Washington Square. Gonzalo said: “I wonder what makes people fall in love!”
“Don’t tell me it’s microbes,” I said.
After one of their many quarrels:
“I said: ‘Last night I was enmerdé (bored stiff), and I was looking for you in the rain, and I was out for a fight, in fact all ready to throw lightning around and you must have felt it and you ran, off to the movies. You escaped a big scene!’
‘What was it,’ said Gonzalo, laughing.
‘I wrote about it and so it’s all in a book, and you’re safe.’
‘Estoy contento,’ he said. And slept with his hand on my leg.”
From a Spanish newspaper Nin and Moré read together:
“A man has to deliver a coffin. He takes it on the bus as soon as the deliveries are paralyzed after the Spanish revolution. There is no room in the crowded bus. He is sent up to the top. It is raining hard. He is getting soaked. He decides to get into the coffin and cover himself. More people come to sit on the top of the bus. They sit with their backs against the coffin. The man inside of the coffin listens to their conversation, gets bored, lifts the top of the coffin, sits up and says: ‘Is it still raining?’ The people threw themselves off the bus with fright, broke their legs.”
In the 1940s diary, Nin describes going to the staid home of Virginia Admiral:
“At Virginia’s house Hugo said: ‘It looks like the House of Crime and Punishment.’ I answered: ‘But it’s the House of Punishment without Crime.’”
A conversation with Robert Duncan in the 1940s diary:
“Wrote an article on astrology to order. Was nervous about it, being told it might be for Vogue. Wrote it lightly but Robert and Hugo thought it was not light enough. Robert took it up to make it humorous. I was sad…not to be able to be flippant.
I said: ‘I can’t flip!’
Robert said: ‘You must flip! Start on me if you wish. Make fun of me.’”
Special thanks goes to Rebecca (@anaisnin on Twitter) for inspiring this post.
Myth #15: Rupert Pole “romanticized” the story of his first meeting of Anaïs Nin.
After Anaïs Nin’s death in 1977, Rupert Pole loved to tell the story of how he met her, the great love of his life, for the first time. In early 1947, they had both been invited to the same party, and they happened to get into the same elevator on their way up. He said one of the first things he and Anaïs noticed were each other’s ink-stained hands, which became the basis for their conversation that night—they both worked at print shops. It has been said in at least one Nin study that there was no basis for his description, that Nin’s version of the evening was quite different than Pole’s, that she never mentioned having ink on her hands, nor on his, in any of her writings. The conclusion was that Pole invented these details in a “romanticized” and “charming” version of the story.
However, in one of Anaïs Nin’s final unpublished diaries, she recalls the meeting:
There was a party at the Chelsea Hotel, the old fashioned Hotel writers loved. I wore a black taffeta long skirt and a blouse. I entered the elevator. A very tall, very slender young man lowered his head to see the other passengers. I suddenly became aware of large eyes, brown, green, gold, eyes the color of Venice. His eyelashes were dark and very thick. His eyebrows very hairy. He had a long slender neck. This whole design of his neck and shoulders was of extreme stylization and yet he looked sturdy. We happened to sit on a couch. And then it was we noticed each other’s hands: ink stained only as printers get stained. We talked about printing. He was an actor, and between jobs he helped his friend to print Xmas cards. And I was printing my own books. He appeared to me the ideal figure for Paul in the Children of the Albatross.
While this memory was recorded late in Nin’s life, it matches Pole’s version of the story closely, disproving the argument of romanticized embellishment.
Myth #14: It was Anaïs Nin’s wish that Delta of Venus be published.
Fact: According to John Ferrone, Nin’s editor at Harcourt in New York, it was Rupert Pole who wanted the erotica to be published, predicting its bestseller status. For years, Pole tried to convince Nin that the erotic stories she wrote in the 1940s for a dollar a page were not only publishable, but would be immensely popular. Nin, however, insisted that the erotica was “imitative” of masculine pornography and nothing special, just pages she dashed off with “tongue in cheek.” Once Ferrone saw the stories, he immediately recognized their uniqueness and literary value. After he convinced Nin that her stories were more than worthy of publication, she finally gave in, although she didn’t live long enough to see Delta of Venus reign on the bestseller list for 36 weeks. Ferrone wonders whether she would have been disillusioned—that something she wrote as a “joke” would outsell all her other titles combined.
Although Nin wrote in the postscript of the book that in spite of only having male pornography as a model, she “was intuitively using a woman’s language,” Ferrone questions whether she actually felt that way or was simply capitulating to his own opinion that she was a pioneer in feminine erotic writing.
For John Ferrone’s wonderful recounting of the story of Delta of Venus, see A Café in Space, Volume 7, pp. 53-61.
Myth #13: Anaïs Nin’s two husbands, Hugh Guiler and Rupert Pole, were unaware of each other until after Nin’s death.
Fact: Rupert Pole knew Anaïs Nin was married to Hugh Guiler shortly after meeting her in 1947 in New York. Nin and Pole made a famous cross-country trip to California during that summer, which commenced her “trapeze” life, swinging back and forth between Guiler in New York and Pole in California for the rest of her life. In 1955, after she convinced Pole that she’d divorced Guiler, Nin reluctantly married Pole in Quartzite, Arizona. For the next 11 years, Pole believed he was Nin’s legal husband, and Guiler believed he was also. The truth is that Pole was never legally married to Nin because she was still married to Guiler.
Once Nin’s diaries were about to be published, she realized her impending fame was about to bring the kind of scrutiny which would surely shed light on her bigamy. So, in 1966, she told Pole that she was still married to Guiler. She blamed Guiler for not being able to live without her and that he needed her emotional and financial support. She convinced Pole that she no longer had sexual relations with Guiler (which is most likely not true) and that her visits were necessary to keep him happy. Once Pole found out that it was Guiler’s money that had made it possible for Nin to financially help Pole and to spend much of each year with him in the first place, he agreed to the annulment of his “marriage” with Nin. The annulment occurred June 16, 1966.
Perhaps a more intriguing question is, did Guiler know about Pole? The popular belief is that he only found out after Nin’s death when she was mentioned as “Mrs. Pole” in her Los Angeles obituary. After Nin’s death in 1977, Guiler wrote a letter to Pole and in the first paragraph told him that he had been aware of his and Nin’s “special relationship” for more than ten years and that he was grateful to Pole for caring for her during her final illness. (The full text of this letter will appear in the 2011 edition of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal.) The tone is congenial and business-like.
So, in short, while they didn’t meet until after Nin’s death, Pole and Guiler knew about each other for at least the last 10 years of her life.
Myth #12: Anaïs Nin is author of the following quote: “Good things happen to those who hustle.”
Fact: Not only did Anaïs Nin not write this quote, those who know her writing well realize the word “hustle” was not normally in her vocabulary. The author is Chuck Noll, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991. He made a play on “Good things happen to those who wait.”
So, how did Nin come to be credited with Noll’s quotation? It seems to have first appeared under her name on a web-based quote site not long ago, and a viable theory is that the compiler got Nin and Noll mixed up because of their alphabetic proximity. While Nin may have believed in the spirit of the quotation, and even exemplified it with her life, she did not coin it.