Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #11

Myth #11: Anaïs Nin deceived her readers by not including her husband in the original published diaries.

Fact: During the years after the publication of The Diary of Anaïs Nin, there were those, particularly amongst the feminists, who charged that Nin deceived her reading public by implying that she was able to live on her own as an artist and make her way in the world during a time when few women did. Instead, they said, she had the safety net of a businessman husband who financed her life and work. While they were correct in the assertion that such a husband did exist, they were wrong in their accusation that Nin kept this a secret.

Perhaps they should have read the introduction to Volume One of The Diary of Anaïs Nin 1931-1934.

It was made clear that Anaïs Nin was married and that her husband chose to not be included in the text. On page xi of introduction, Gunther Stuhlmann states:

In preparing this volume for publication, Miss Nin, and the editor, still faced certain personal and legal considerations inherent in the nature of the diary. Several persons, when faced with the question of whether they wanted to remain in the diary “as is”—since Miss Nin did not want to change the essential nature of her presentation—chose to be deleted altogether from the manuscript (including her husband and some members of her family)… Miss Nin’s truth, as we have seen, is psychological.

So, because of Hugh Guiler’s wish to not be included, Nin obviously could not bring attention in the diary itself to his presence, and in the promotion of the diaries, she also was obligated to not mention him for the same reason. This was mistaken for deception.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #10

Myth #10: Anaïs Nin’s sex life was ideal.

Fact: When Anaïs Nin married Hugh (Hugo) Guiler at the age of twenty, she was a virgin. Her sexual relationship with her new husband was very unsatisfactory, according to Nin in a diary passage written some twenty years later:

[We] were never made for each other. He was too big for me. And then he would always come too quickly, almost immediately, and I was slow. In fact, for months I did not know the deeper orgasm. I only felt the superficial orgasm of the clitoris, which he excited with his hands, but nothing deep down. The amazing thing was that it was only a year later in Paris that I felt the deep orgasm. (unpublished diary, 1943)

The lack of sexual fulfillment with her husband prompted her to seek comfort elsewhere. She had a botched affair with writer John Erskine in 1928, which left her feeling depressed to the point of contemplating suicide (Early Diary 4). It was not until 1932, at age twenty-nine, that she had a bona fide affair with another man—Henry Miller. Miller was the one who taught Nin about sex, but a month into the affair, she said:

I am thinking that with all the tremendous joys Henry has given me I have not yet felt a real orgasm. My response does not seem to lead to a true climax but is disseminated in a spasm that is less centered, more diffuse. I have felt an orgasm occasionally with Hugo, and when I have masturbated, but perhaps that is because Hugo likes me to close my legs and Henry makes me open them so much. (Henry and June 130)

Gonzalo More, 1930s

Gonzalo More, 1930s

Eventually, Nin would achieve the “deeper orgasm” she sought with Miller, and he would prove to be one of the very few lovers who could consistently satisfy her, but only while she was not sharing herself with other significant men. In 1936, Nin began an affair with the Peruvian bohemian Gonzalo Moré, whose style was radically different than Miller’s: while Miller let Nin dominate their sexual relationship, Moré demanded complete submission from her. (The diversity of these two relationships is represented in her erotic story “Hilda and Rango,” from Little Birds, the topic of which is discussed in Anaïs Nin Myth 5.) It took Nin a long time before relinquishing Miller as her primary lover and adopting Moré, but her relationship with the latter was tumultuous, to say the least. As Miller’s, and then Moré’s, sexual prowess declined, Nin’s frustration grew.

So, while it is true that Nin had sex with more than one man at a time, she rarely enjoyed it freely and completely. She was “faithful” to one lover emotionally, which affected her sexual response, and this was something that troubled her, something she tried for years to conquer. When she began an incestuous affair with her father, Joaquín Nin, it did not result in her unrestrained sexual pleasure. Instead, the gravity of the affair denied her of the “supreme spasm” that she desired, despite the fact her “yielding was immense, with [her] whole being” (Incest 211).

Nin’s often awkward forays into casual sex could be summarized by a bungled ménage à trois she had with a couple in early 1936. When she felt arousal but no orgasm, she lamented:

It is the abandon I like…freedom from care and jealousy. The smoothness. There is a world where people play joyously and naturally the tricks I play for alibis, without being blamed. (Fire 230)

When she met a dashing opera singer, who called himself “Chinchilito,” in Provincetown in 1941, they had an encounter in the sand dunes. Her description:

Slowly I got undressed as his hands searched for buttons and bows. Afterwards, his nakedness as he stood in the wind, laughing. Truly godlike in his physical magnificence. The waist and hips slender, not thick, the torso marvelously ample, shoulders wide. A golden blondness. If only I didn’t have the usual stage-struck feeling, it would have been magnificent. (unpublished diary, 1941)

It wasn’t until two years later when Nin finally declared:

Let me celebrate my freedom. I am as free as man has been—I am free to enjoy—today with Chinchilito…, I experienced for the first time an orgasm within adventure. For the first time I did not feel the orgasm linked to emotional fidelity, as an emotional surrender, as necessarily and fatally bound to love. So that love, being a slavery to a master who could not fulfill me, became an anguish. (unpublished diary, 1943)

Nin’s “freedom,” as she put it, would be short-lived, however, as the problems achieving sexual fulfillment continued, especially when she began to experiment with young gay men.

Her decades-long search for an “ideal lover” who could truly satisfy her didn’t end until she met her future “California husband,” Rupert Pole, in 1947. While vacationing in Mexico in 1973, at the age of seventy, she wrote in a notebook: “Rupert is passionate several times a week. Once our lovemaking was so pleasurable I cried! He is too much!
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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #9

Myth #9: Anaïs Nin kept a continuous diary from age 11 to her death.

Fact: Beginning in 1914, when Anaïs Nin and her family departed Spain for New York, after having lived temporarily with her estranged father’s parents, she began recording daily events in a notebook given to her by her mother. Nin would later famously say that her intention was to write her father an extended “letter” that she hoped would entice him back.

The diary became the centerpiece of the young Anaïs’s life, and she continued the practice of recording her innermost thoughts and impressions in bound notebooks for a good portion of her adult life. Of course, the diaries she kept during her tumultuous years in Paris with Henry Miller became the basis for her fame as a writer when they were finally released in the mid-1960s. What most did not know then was that Nin had given up the daily practice of diary writing some twenty years previous.

After war forced Nin, her husband Hugh Guiler, and many of her circle, including Miller and Gonzalo Moré, to New York around 1940, she became desperately depressed for years, yearning for the “ideal” lover, success in her art of writing, and eventually descended into a downward spiral of failed love affairs and failed books. She began to express a desire to be free from the diary.

On September 25, 1943, she recorded in her unpublished diary: “I wish I could write the END to the Diary and turn to the outside story,” meaning that she felt her creativity was being sucked dry, which was a theme that had been pounded into her head by the likes of Miller, psychoanalyst Otto Rank, and Gore Vidal.

On September 25, 1943, she wrote: “What a potent awakener the Diary is. As I get ready to leave it, I pay it a slight tribute. This should be the last volume [it turned out she would write one more]. At forty I enter a new maturity, stripped of my mirages, dreams and miracles, of my delusions and illusions and my heavy romantic sorrows. What awaits me is the expression of this strength, in action. I am about to lay down my magician’s wand, my healer’s paraphernalia…and to confront the act, in writing as well as in living. Without the diary…the tortoise shell, houseboat and escargot cover. No red velvet panoply over my head, no red carpet under my feet, no Japanese umbrellas growing on the hair, no stage settings, tricks, enchantments…”

On March 13, 1946, she wrote: “This Diary will end when I find the [ideal] lover.”

On April 1, 1946: “I may perhaps attain freedom from the diary itself, from watching myself live, from having to make stories to make it more marvelous. Freedom from my idealized self, the idealization of others.”

Indeed, by the time Nin made her cross-country trip with her “ideal” lover, Rupert Pole, in 1947, she had abandoned the idea of bound diaries altogether, opting to write occasional descriptions of events on loose paper and keep them in folders along with correspondence and articles. After she became famous in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, her diary became what she called the “diary of others,” since she had no time to write new material. She essentially stopped writing in the 1970s, including fiction.

However, as death approached and she came to grips with it, she kept two hardbound diaries in which she handwrote her thoughts on life and death. One volume was the “Book of Music,” the other the “Book of Pain,” presenting both sides of her final years—the joy of living and the struggle with the cancer that would kill her.

Book of Music (L) and Book of Pain

Book of Music (L) and Book of Pain

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #8

Myth #8: Henry and June is exactly as Anaïs Nin wrote it.

Fact: Anaïs Nin’s first unexpurgated diary, Henry and June, which came out some nine years after her death in 1977, was as heavily edited as her original Diary 1 (1966). Nin did most of the editing of Diary 1, which mainly concerned cutting the sexual affair with Henry Miller and her erotic longing for his wife June. The material in Henry and June (i.e. the Miller/June entanglement), according to Nin’s wishes, was not to be published until after the death of her husband, Hugh Guiler, who died in 1985. The task of editing was given to Harcourt’s John Ferrone, who edited Delta of Venus, Nin’s only bona fide bestseller. Ferrone described himself as a “hard-nosed editor” with little use for material not on topic, repetitious, or muddled. His goal was for Henry and June to read smoothly, as a novel would, and to not stray from its premise—the Anaïs-Henry-June triangle. Rupert Pole, Nin’s “California husband” and Trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust, however, did not take well to Ferrone’s extensive cuts and rewording of Nin’s text and let him know about it in his letters. Ferrone found himself defending his editorial decisions while Pole often made demands that certain passages be left in, or left alone. This led to a rather contentious working relationship between the two, who otherwise were very fond of each other.

Pole had put his foot down and demanded: “as the trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust I must insist that you restore the following passages:” (and he listed no less than nine). (A Café in Space 4 16)

Ferrone summed up his deletions and changes by saying, in a letter to Pole: “I took my cue from Anaïs’s own editing of Diary I. She rewrote passages that were unclear and, believe me, she deleted things that were excessive, not because they related to Henry but because, from the vantage point of maturity, she knew they were a mistake.” (A Café in Space 4 18)

One of the most contested passages was the final one. Ferrone didn’t want to use what Pole suggested at all, but finally agreed to use an edited form of it. About this, he said:

“I know you will pooh-pooh all of this, but the ending is too important to leave as it is. This is how I would like to edit it:

‘Last night I wept, because the process by which I have become woman has been painful, because I am no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes are opened to reality, to Henry’s selfishness, to June’s need of power. Yet I can still love passionately, humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and am not yet accustomed to its absence.’” (A Café in Space 4 14-15)

Pole responded with:

“Anaïs’ ending must be preserved as she wrote it. The repetition of ‘I wept’ is the essence of Anaïs’ poetic prose style.

‘…my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe.’ This is the essence of Anaïs’ philosophy which she maintained throughout her life.I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. That means my imagination has ceased to embellish desperately—so that there is no more danger of delusion for me. I wept because there was no more danger and I had lost my faith in Christmas.’ This was her belief (in Linotte) that her father would join them at Christmas.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

Ferrone replied:

“I throw up my hands and restore the passages you insist upon, but I do not agree with you. You lack objectivity.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

However, the published version of Henry and June ends with:

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become a woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality—to Henry’s selfishness, June’s love of power, my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.

“So Henry is coming this afternoon, and tomorrow I am going out with June.” (Henry and June 274)

The ending was not exactly how Pole envisioned it, nor what Ferrone wanted, nor what Anaïs Nin wrote verbatim in her diary.

In short, both of these well-intentioned men wanted the best of Anaïs Nin to shine through Henry and June, just as they believed Nin herself wanted. The verdict is the readers’ to make.

The complete exchange of letters between Rupert Pole and John Ferrone can be found in A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 4, 2007.
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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #7

Myth #7: Anaïs Nin had a lifelong loving relationship with Henry Miller.

Fact: Although Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller were passionate lovers and collaborators in Paris during the 1930s, and the publication of Nin’s Diaries forever linked the two, by 1942, a little more than two years after returning to New York at the onset of World War II, their relationship was becoming strained as a result of multiple factors. First, the return to America severed each from the life-blood of Europe that coursed through their veins…America proved to be a particularly arid artistic climate, stifling the creativity of both artists and robbing them of the élan they’d experienced together in Paris. Second, the increasing physical separation of the two—first with Miller’s stay in Greece before returning to New York, and then his tour of America for his The Air-Conditioned Nightmare project—gave Nin in particular time to ponder the changing nature of their relationship, or rather her changing perception of it. Third, Nin’s declining source of money and her deep depression caused extreme resentment for those who made constant demands on her.

henrymiller1940s

Henry Miller, 1940s

She questioned Miller’s character regarding The Air-Conditioned Nightmare in her unpublished diary:

Had to console Henry for his one failure: the American book. His worst book. I hope it is the deadly effect of America on him and not the disintegration I have seen take place now in every artist around me who has abandoned himself to his every whim, lack of discipline, fancy, dadaism, his instinct, negativism, that falling apart of the self-indulgent, the liberated unconscious, the loss of contact with human reality. I am concerned over Henry. In freeing him, protecting him, I have nurtured both his dream and his weakness. He has a cult of his own naturalness, he has defended his defects. Whatever influence I had on his writing was indirect—effect on his being—but when I judged a fragment directly, Henry has never yielded. (Jan. 8, 1942)

She was fatigued by his dependence on her for monetary and emotional sustenance, which was compounded by the fact she had a legion of other “starving artists” demanding her resources when she had little left—money or otherwise—to give. Nin was also facing failure as a writer in America. No one would publish her, and she was forced to print and publish her own books. She noted:

[I]t seems to me that I am heavily burdened, and I see no way out of it. I cannot make money. I’m a worker, I’m clever, I’m dexterous, I’m talented, yet I cannot make money. I wept. I am a failure. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)

Those who clamored for what she did not have became demons in her eyes. She chastised Miller for what she called his “irresponsibility,” his habit of boasting about his ability to suck his hosts dry while living in relative comfort. She implored him to begin taking the initiative in making his own way in the world and became hostile at his flippant suggestion that she join him in Hollywood, where he was living with (and off) a married couple. In her unpublished diary, she mused:

What I should write to Henry is that I no longer love him except as a child, and that I will continue to take care of him as a mother and thus free him to live where and how he pleases. Can I do this? That is the truth. Can I say it? (Sept. 23, 1942)

But a few weeks later, she capitulated:

The day I asked myself: has the time come for me to tell Henry the truth, I received in the evening a voluminous letter in which he says he cannot fall in love with anyone else, that I am perfection and have immunized him! So again I kept my secret. It would be cruel to abandon him when he needs me, when I am the only one who takes care of him, the only one. Henry has written ten books which everybody reads, and can’t have security even for his barest needs. Ben Abramson of the Argus Book Shop printed The World of Sex, sells it for $7 and Henry gets nothing. Fraenkel sells the Hamlet Letters and gets $100 checks from the Gotham Book Shop and Henry gets nothing (he wrote half the book and it is selling because of his name). His books are reprinted sub rosa and he gets nothing. Poor Henry. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)

But in the end, Miller’s insensitive letters from Hollywood, in which he was unable to detect the true nature of her anger, led Anaïs to this outburst:

Your passivity increased in proportion to my creative and protective activity. Ironically—you never recognized that my struggle was at the basis of your magnificent renunciations, and independences. You mocked the people who struggled. You said: “Look, look how I do it.” And it was all utterly crazy and inhuman. I can’t bring myself to let you down and show you. You think your way of life is wisdom—but it isn’t. It’s the way of life permitted to those who are protected by someone else’s struggle. That’s all. There is no triumph and no conquest in it. It’s a crystallization of the ego—that’s all. I repeat it, Henry. I do not want you back. There is no need of it. I shall continue to help you. I have always wanted you fulfilled. I have my own plans and it won’t be Hollywood. This is not a surprise or a shock. You mustn’t be concerned. This separation has been going on since you went to Greece. I have been fully aware of it. Your letters have effectively detached me from you. They are more revealing than you know. Believe me when I say I feel completely detached and you are free—to live as you please. (Unpublished diary, Nov. 17, 1942)

After this “blast from the Arctic,” as Miller called it, there was a lingering exchange of letters between the two, but the relationship was effectively dead; in fact, for Nin it had been dead—characteristically, it took a long time before she could muster the courage to admit to Miller what she’d been admitting to herself in the diary. While they continued to publicly express respect and admiration for one another, never again would they be more than distant friends brought together by occasional business concerns, such as the publication of his Letters to Anaïs Nin in 1965 and their biographical films produced by Robert Snyder.

The complete series of edited (by Gunther Stuhlmann) “break-up” letters can be found in ANAIS: An International Journal, Vol. 15 (1997). Oddly, they do not appear in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller 1932-1953 (1987).
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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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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #5

Myth #5: Anaïs Nin’s erotica disqualifies her as any sort of feminist.

 

In the February issue of Glamour, there is an article entitled “6 Crazy Sex Requests Women Just Like You Have Heard.” One of the requests, reported by a 32-year-old woman was, “My husband asked, ‘Can we do it, but can it just be all about me?’ It gets better: He said I could keep the TV on so I wouldn’t miss The Office” (Glamour, p. 100). On the Smoking Gun website, there is a “Contract of Wifely Expectationsin which a man lists requirements his wife must fulfill, which, it could be argued, are repressive to say the least. Both these articles reveal that for some men, patriarchy is alive and well.

As shown in the article “Feminist Smut(?)A study of Anaïs Nin’s erotica,” by Angela Carter in A Café in Space, Vol. 6, patriarchy is a thread running through Anaïs Nin’s erotica (Delta of Venus and Little Birds). For example, Carter uses a story from Little Birds to illustrate that Nin wrote of women’s struggle for sexual liberation in a time of patriarchal mores:

When read in the context of feminist criticism, “Hilda and Rango” is in many ways one of Nin’s more troubling stories. The reader sees the story’s protagonist struggle because her sexual actions are not socially acceptable for women. As the story unfolds, Hilda becomes more and more sexually passive in order to please a male lover who subscribes to conventional gender roles. When the story ends as Hilda submits passively to a dominant male lover, it is easy to assume, mistakenly, that Nin is sustaining gendered traditionalism. (A Café in Space, Vol. 6, p.97)

The story is based on actual events between Nin and Gonzalo More, the Peruvian who swept her off her feet in Paris in the late 30s. Despite his apparent bohemianism, More was very traditional in that he felt women should be submissive and allow the man to “have his way.” Before meeting More, Nin had been sexually awakened in her relationship with Henry Miller, who allowed her to be bold and daring. “Hilda and Rango” parallels this duality: the natural desire to be sexually adventurous and the social pressure to be passive.

Nin writes that when Hilda makes an advance on Rango, he suddenly “pushed her away as if she had wounded him” and tells her that she “made the gesture of a whore.”

The story ends with Hilda submitting completely to Rango, denying her own sexuality in favor of his. Carter goes on to say:

Her will was her desire to initiate sex and Rango drove it out of her. He now rules her sexuality by denying it and forcing her to lay almost corpse-like while he teases her. In the last candlelit moment, he leads their intercourse like the demon she first saw in him. Sadly, this moment when Hilda’s idealized dream of passivity comes true is instead Rango’s moment, “his desire, his hour” (Little Birds 120). The moment that should have fulfilled the passive Hilda’s dream is not her moment at all. By leaving Hilda’s sexuality completely out of the story’s conclusion, Nin provokes the reader to question what happened to her desire, her hour. (A Café in Space, Vol. 6, p. 102)

Carter shows us that Nin indeed used her erotica to highlight the suppression of female sexuality. While Nin was never a second wave feminist in the true sense of the term, her erotica could be viewed as feminist since it expresses the struggle of women to be sexually liberated in the early 1940s, long before second wave feminism took root.

Do you have an Anaïs Nin myth you would like addressed? Let us know by e-mailing us.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #4

Myth #4: Anaïs Nin was fluent in three languages: French, Spanish, and English.

Fact: When Anaïs Nin’s father, Joaquín Nin, abandoned his family in Arachon, France, in 1913, she, her mother and her two younger brothers went to Barcelona and stayed with Joaquín’s parents. During the year or so they spent in Spain, Anaïs learned her Spanish. When the fatherless family arrived in New York in 1914, French was the spoken language at home. Although Anaïs’s mother, Rosa, was fluent in English (as well as Spanish and French), she had determined the family’s “mother tongue” was French. Her philosophy was that since her children would learn English soon enough in school and in their social interactions, and that Spanish would be spoken with their Cuban relatives, the only way to keep the French alive was to speak it exclusively at home. When Anaïs began her diary on the trip to America, it was in French.

Although her English was improving over the next few years, Nin continued her diary writing in French, partly because she longed to retain her identity, and partly because she intended the diary as a long “letter” to her estranged father, who did not know English. As her English grew, her French withered. Her father chastised her for her misuse of words and accent marks, leading Anaïs to close one of her letters with all the accent marks at the end: “Put them where they belong,” she told him. Sometimes Anaïs would transcribe letters to English-speaking friends into her diary, and it was clear that she was better able to express herself with English. She began reading the English-language classics, and by 1920 had switched her diary to English. Her English was by far a better vehicle for her self-expression, but was still a work-in-progress, and would be for years to come.

As Anaïs began to attempt to write fiction in English after returning to Paris in 1925, her young husband, Hugh Guiler, in the name of helping her, criticized her incorrect (as he saw it) use of words, or the use of words that were considered archaic or odd. Later on, Henry Miller would do much the same (see Myth #2).

Consider this passage Miller corrects from “Djuna” in The Winter of Artifice (sometime in the mid-1930s):

“Are you afriad to forget your name and who you are, and where you live? Have you not played with the idea of amnesia, which only meens a somanabulistic condition of the ideal self. The conscince goes to sleep and then the critical self too, and you can walk the streets and act as you please without calms.”

Miller blasts her misspellings, and when he criticizes her use of “calms” for “qualms” he says: “Look it up!!!” He adds: “Bad sentence structure” and “Watch all your ‘ands,’ ‘buts,’ etc. Weakly used!” (See Benjamin Franklin V’s introduction to The Winter of Artifice: a facsimile of the original 1939 Paris edition.)

At times, Nin felt hopeless—she had Guiler and Miller criticizing her English, and she admitted to Miller that writing in French to her father was “like trying to create a river with twigs” (see “Prelude to a Symphony: letters between a father and daughter,” A Café in Space, Vol. 6). Her Spanish at this time was almost non-existent…her father occasionally wrote to her in Spanish, but Anaïs did not respond in kind.

As Nin developed artistically through these trials by fire, her writing became stronger, more economic, and possessed an exotically distinct quality. It is often described as “English written in the French style.” There is no question that Anaïs Nin became one of the most eloquent writers in the English language, and to this day one of the most oft-quoted…but during the transitions between her three languages, arguably caused by her constant resettling, she was fluent in none of them.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #3

Thanks to Heather for the following:

Myth #3: Anaïs Nin was in therapy with Carl Jung.

Fact: Anaïs Nin was not in therapy with Jung; in fact, she never met him. However, she subscribed to many of his theories, especially when it came to the dream and its meaning, and she often used a quote attributed to him: “Proceed from the dream outward.” Nin used her legendary houseboat, La Belle Aurore, to illustrate the concept, which she mentions in Diary 3. Some twenty years before renting her houseboat, she visited the Maupassant house in Brittany; in the garden was a tool shed made from a boat that had been washed ashore during a storm. This sight reminded her of a recurring dream of boats unable to sail because there was no water. She had a dream about living in Maupassant boat. When she saw an ad for a houseboat for rent, she felt compelled to fulfill the dream by living in it, which, of course, she did.

Nin furthered the theory by writing a story of traveling down the Seine in her boat for twenty years only to return to the point of origin…it turned about to be prophetic, à la Jung, when her houseboat was ordered to be towed away in preparation for the onset of war; she was aboard when it was taken to the place of her birth, Neuilly.

Nin also attributed Jung’s writings for helping her conceive and develop her famous House of Incest.

 

 

 

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #2

Thanks to Kim for the following:

 
Myth #2: “Anaïs Nin was a success because of Henry Miller. He taught her to write and she used him. If it wasn’t for him she would’ve been completely unknown.”

Fact:

Miller's notes in Nin's "Djuna"

Miller's notes in Nin's "Djuna"

pg523

From The Winter of Artifice

Henry Miller did indeed have a positive effect on Nin’s early fiction writing. The example above is a page from one of the working drafts of the story “Djuna” from The Winter of Artifice (1939) and the final product. Miller’s handwritten suggestions and deletions make it into the published version of the story. The paragraph beginning with “Here are my dreams for the month…” is verbatim from Miller’s notes. Examples like this are found throughout this and other versions of the manuscript. So there is little question that Miller not only gave Nin advice on her writing, she willingly accepted and incorporated it.

However, to indicate that Miller was responsible for Nin’s success is as flawed as saying she was responsible for his. They influenced each other. Miller’s Scenario, for example, is what many consider a poor rendering of Nin’s House of Incest, which was evidently, according to most critics and Nin herself, misunderstood by Miller. While Miller criticized Nin’s use of the English language (it was her third language, after French and Spanish, respectively), and sometimes rightfully so, Nin criticized Miller’s uni-dimensionality in his writing, most notably his tunnel-view, and therefore miscomprehension, of his own wife, June. While Nin was able to use Miller’s criticisms to her advantage, Miller was not as willing to use hers, which is most likely to his detriment (consider the flatness of the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy compared to the Paris books, for example). He certainly, however, was willing to use Nin’s resources to make it possible for him to write while in relative comfort.

Throughout the Nin-Miller relationship, the diary swelled with accounts of her tumultuous life, written freely and beautifully, without the restraints of what she called “literature.” History has shown us that the diary is her masterpiece, not the fiction, not the “literature.”

 

A side note: it was serendipitous that Miller’s Tropic of Cancer came out in the early 60s, followed by his Letters to Anaïs Nin in 1965. Nin’s Diary came out the following year, and there is little doubt that Nin’s agent Gunther Stuhlmann envisioned the letters, which he edited, as a segue to the Diary. So does that mean that Nin used Miller to gain success? No, it meant that while Stuhlmann was intelligent and crafty enough to let momentum build towards the release of the Diary—Miller, after all, was inherently linked to Nin whether or not anyone planned it—the time was right, the popular culture was right, the level of openness was right for both Nin and Miller’s books to be released, read, and lauded for the magnificent works they were.

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