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.

Henry and June, the Movie

On this day in 1990, Henry and June, the first NC-17 movie, premiered. The only reason I wanted to see it was because of the rating—I had to know what it meant. I knew it was the new X, so there had to be sex, and lots of it. I could tell from the trailer that it wasn’t the American formula of sex and violence, which I abhor (think Basic Instinct), and that it was set in Paris in the 1930s, which intrigued me, so off we went.

hjmovieWhen the film began, I must have missed the part that said it was based on the diary of Anaïs Nin, so I thought that Nin and Henry Miller were fictional characters. The theatre was mostly empty—I was later to find out that the NC-17 rating killed any chance for a wide audience. I feel that the rating was uncalled for, that there was nothing in the film that didn’t cry out “R”—but I suppose it was because of the so-called “lesbian scene,” during which Nin asks two female prostitutes to make love while she watched (and most of that scene was left to the imagination). Henry and June would never be rated NC-17 today, and I imagine the rating still keeps many from seeing it, which is a shame, in my opinion.

The film, I thought, was a bit over-acted, and it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the sexiest of films—and yet it “got” me. I felt the same way I did when I saw the first Star Wars film—like a kid on an adventure. Only this adventure was of the mind, of sensuality, of freedom, of daring, risk-taking, creativity, and joy. It was a rebellion against the status quo.

And then, when the final credits rolled, I discovered that not only were Nin and Miller real people, they wrote about everything I’d just seen. On the way home, we stopped at the used book store and I bought Diary 1 and Tropic of Cancer.

Little did I know that my curiosity about a sexy movie would shape the rest of my life and career.

To order Henry and June, the movie, click here.

To see the full trailer of the movie, click here.

This blog post is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations and The Portable Anaïs Nin.

Anais Nin Podcast 7: Ménage à Trois: Nin, Miller and Money

The love affair between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller is one of the most famous literary liaisons in modern history. In episode 4 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast, we learned how it came to an end, through a series of incredible letters, published in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947.

But was the relationship over for good? Was there any shred of it that survived?

Listen to Nin’s comments on their failed reunion in 1947, and how their relationship reached a new low when Miller’s friend Alfred Perlès revealed details about the Nin/Miller affair in his book, excerpted from an article in A Café in Space, Volume 12.

Henry Miller, 1961

Henry Miller, 1961

Episode 7 tells us how money played a big role in the ultimate reconnection of Nin and Miller. Miller had won the famous “obscenity trials” and got a huge advance from his publisher just at the time when Nin was down on her luck. Did Miller come through for her, as she had done for him time and again for decades? And how did their meeting go after a 15 year hiatus? Read Nin’s remarks from her unpublished 1962 diary, which are both disturbing and moving.

Run time: 18 minutes

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order Mirages, click here.

To order A Café in Space, Vol. 12, 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 Podcast 3: How Anais Nin Changed a Life

The third Anais Nin podcast is here! In response to a question I sometimes get–“Who are you and how did you get this way?”–I share my journey that began with the movie Henry and June and has resulted in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947–and everything in between.

The podcast is 12 minutes long. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Click here: Podcast 3

From Henry and June

From Henry and June

Revisiting 1930s Paris With GPS Technology

It wasn’t long after discovering Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller some 20 years ago that I developed a hunger to follow in their footsteps in Paris. I recall writing down some of the addresses of Nin’s and Miller’s haunts and homes, names of famous Montparnassian cafés, and in particular the fabled house in Louveciennes. Back then, I had only Michelin maps and travel guides (the names of which I patched together as “Fodommerbaum”) to help me piece together some sort of plan. Nothing, though, prepared me for the actual act of walking the streets to seek out the remnants and echoes of what once existed.

La Belle Aurore in the late 1930s, quai des Tuileries

The very first site I wanted to see was the quai where Nin moored her houseboat, La Belle Aurore. I only had old photographs to help me figure out exactly where it was. I stood holding the photo on Pont Royal, straining to match the 60 year old image with the current scene, and I had to guess. I stood at my declared spot and tried to feel the magic of knowing that once upon a time, an old, leaky barge sat in these waters, that Nin and her lover Gonzalo walked down the same staircase I did to board it. Was I right? Was this the spot?

I was only able to discover this past week that I was indeed pretty close, and I was able to do so sitting in front of my computer screen, thanks to today’s GPS technology. While editing and formatting Britt Arenander’s Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, I began to toy with the idea of making what was mainly a photo-book with a nice, concise synopsis of Nin’s and Miller’s Paris years into something more: an interactive travel guide using GPS technology, something than can not only be read, but used. Once I began seeking out the more than 40 specific locations listed in the book on Google Maps, I began to see that not only can one visit these locations virtually, but one can also navigate between them and create virtual walking tours. Had I had access to something like this twenty years ago, my first Paris visit would have been very different. For example, one of Henry Miller’s apartments was on Avenue Anatole France in Clichy, and it was the setting for the famous battle between Miller and his wife June over the fact that Miller and Nin were lovers, a final cataclysmic explosion that resulted in divorce. How could any self-described aficionado not visit this place and reconstruct that scene? The sad fact is that I spent half a precious day trying to find the place only to come up empty. How was I to know that there are two Avenues Anatole France, one in Paris and one in Clichy, to the north? It is only now that I can walk that street and look up at the art-deco building where emotions ran amok that day in 1932, thanks to Google’s “street view” option. In fact, I decided one day to do what Miller himself did on a regular basis: walk from his favorite restaurant at Place Clicy, the Wepler, to his apartment, simply by using the navigation tools. The same was true in Montparnasse and all the other locations.

Steps leading down to quai Tuileries, where Nin’s houseboat was moored. The iron rings use to moor the boats are still on the wall. This image is taken from Google Maps’ Street View. Click to enlarge.

So, what I did was to mark each location and then to present some background of its significance, using facts from Arenander’s book and vintage photographs. (There are other options as well, such as including links that allows the viewer to delve further into its history, including sound and video clips, and this is something I aim on enhancing the map with often. To see an example, go to our intactive sample map and click on La Gare chemin de fer de petite ceinture.) I thought that if one were planning a trip to Paris and wanted to “practice” identifying historic locations beforehand, one could do so easily. Also, since many travelers bring smart devices along on their trips, one could use an iPad, say, or an iPhone to map out their walks as they were actually doing them. What a remarkable way to enhance a trip, especially when time is at a premium. And if one is unable to make such a trip, it is still possible to revisit the traces of the past at home. After all, I was finally able to use the street view navigation to scope out Nin’s houseboat location and finally pinpoint the spot by comparing it with the old photos. Not only that, but I discovered the old iron rings that once moored the houseboats are still affixed to the walls! (Go to the sample interactive map by clicking here and you can visit quai de Tuileries yourself.)

I have created a short walking tour which is based on an event that took place in March of 1932, chronicled in Anaïs Nin’s Lost World. Henry Miller had met Anaïs at Chez les Vikings and had a passionate conversation with her. After she left, he wrote his first love letter to her, saying, “I tell you what you already know—I love you.” After writing that letter, he walked home to Hôtel Central, where he and Nin had their first sexual encounter a few days later. Now, we can virtually walk that same path, just for the hell of it.

To take the walking tour, click here.

To order Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.

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.

47 blvd. Suchet: Anaïs Nin’s house of dreams

47 blvd Suchet today
Click to enlarge

In the summer of 1929, during a time of particular success on the part of Anaïs Nin’s banker husband, Hugh Guiler, the couple rented a lavish apartment at 47 boulevard Suchet, in a fashionable (and extremely expensive) part of Paris. Guiler would later say that this move was among their most foolish, but that may be due more to the Wall Street crash, which would occur only a few months later, prompting their move in 1930 to the less expensive Louveciennes, just outside of Paris.

Nin was inspired to make the Suchet apartment a work of art. In her Early Diary, Vol. 4, in July 1929, she says: We moved Wednesday, July 17. House not finished and full of workmen. Until Sunday I never sat down except for my meals, which we ate at a pension almost next door… First night—just the bed made. No hot water, or telephone, or gas, or light. I was worn out but cheerful and hungry, and I felt a great sense of power because the whole thing was done with order and a thousand obstacles were overcome… Physical exhaustion but mental elation at the feeling that I am using my force, fully at last, on tangible work… On this homemaking I am using imagination, sense of color, of form, of comfort, of beautiful living… I have learned to mix colors and create some which surprise the painters. I have designed furniture, have quickly caught on to the proportions, etc. I can figure out how much wood it takes to make a closet (and I never passed an arithmetic class!). The men who have to work for me are surprised that I understand all their trades, that I never change my mind, and always know exactly what I want.

Recently, a blog post by Yolanda De Leon commented on Nin’s sense of décor, and in it is an excerpt from Early Diary 4, which says: While sewing gold thread on a sapphire-blue pillow I thought about the spiritual value of Decoration. Through it, I realize, I have gained in assurance, audacity, authority… Besides all the keen, profound delight I get from an assembling of color, stuffs, wood, and stone, I feel the joy of a visibly beautiful work. The immense studio is already painted, turquoise blue with more Veronese green than usual so it will harmonize with the blue and gold fireplace. The large Hindu lamp is hung. While the sawing of wood, hammering, and painting are going on, I make pillows or I paint room designs on the paper I should be using for that famous Novel.

After reading this passage, it occurred to me that I had seen some of these very drawings Nin mentions, in a folder that was tucked away at her Silver Lake house in Los Angeles. Nin is often criticized, sometimes without substantiation, for embellishing events in her diary. However, this is one case where the evidence seems to bear out her claims. I have scanned a few of these drawings (sometimes collages interspersed with photos) along with pictures taken inside the apartment. One can plainly see Nin’s visions put into action in the décor of this elegant apartment occupied for only a year.

By August of 1930, the effects of the crash forced Nin and Guiler to Louveciennes, the future “laboratory of the soul.” Nin’s comments reflect her mixed feelings: Yesterday we signed the lease for our House in the Country! I came home, and as we sat talking about it, my eyes wandered off to the turquoise walls, so high and spacious, and I began to cry…intolerable pangs of regret for my beautiful, beautiful place. Yet the other house is lovely, in a different way…

Nin concept (click to enlarge)

Nin concept (click to enlarge)

 

Interior of Suchet apt (click to enlarge)

Interior of Suchet apt (click to enlarge)

 

 

Nin's concept for bedroom (click to enlarge)

Nin’s concept for bedroom (click to enlarge)

Anais Nin in 1929, Blvd. Suchet

Nin's desk at Suchet (click to enlarge)

Nin’s desk at Suchet (click to enlarge)

 

 

Nin's concept of fireplace (click to enlarge)

Nin’s concept of fireplace (click to enlarge)

For more information on the Suchet apartment, refer to Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which includes a detailed description and an interactive map.

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

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, which includes 47 blvd Suchet, click here.

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.

Remnants of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller at Shakespeare & Co.

In the summer of 2008, the Lawrence Durrell Society held its biannual conference at Université Paris X at Nanterre, France, at which I was scheduled to speak about the lost book of the Villa Seurat Series—Anaïs Nin’s The Winter of Artifice. We stayed in Vincennes, outside of Paris…you couldn’t visually tell it wasn’t Paris, except it was outside the périphérique, the freeway that encircles the city. But once you walked the streets and went into the first fruit stand or café, you realized you were in a place with a definite and unique identity. First, no one speaks English. Second, people don’t treat you as an inconvenience because they are not overrun by tourists—instead you are welcomed with a warmth that arises from curiosity. The first person I talked to was a drunk. I was buying ingredients for lunch (wine, cheese and fruit, basically) and he asked if he could cut in front of me with his two bottles of cheap liquor. When I let him go ahead, he thanked me profusely, and then struck up a hilarious conversation, including the clerk, whom he knew well for obvious reasons, in his banter. When I get into this sort of conversation, I feel warmth throughout my entire body. I get loose, relaxed, and the blood flows. I get emotional (not weepy, but exalted). On the way back to the apartment we’d rented, there was a man leaning on the rail from his first floor room smoking a cigarette. He hung out so far there was barely room to walk around him, in his white singlet, a long black page boy haircut, huge dark eyes and a well-worn face. I saw him there every day, and he would talk to the woman with a baby carriage, want to see the baby, talk to the postman, talk to anyone he recognized. The street was his café; he was a fixture that added character to the entire neighborhood.

I became cozy with the fruit stand people, the Turkish guy who served up the best lamb I’ve ever gotten on the street (that’s not fair, because how often do you get your lamb on the street?)…the proprietor at the bistro, etc., etc. We got familiar with the haunts there, and our apartment windows overlooked the streets, which were in the shadow of the ancient Chateau of Vincennes, where Marquis de Sade was held prisoner for a while.

Thus, going to Paris, as great as the city is, almost was a letdown. Suddenly you are surrounded by the tourists and all those who prey upon them. Accosted so many times by opportunists who want something from you, trying to trick you, make a fool of you if you let them. How many times can a woman pick up a gold-colored ring from the street, vainly try to fit it on her finger, then give it to you for good luck, and demand money from you if you’re gullible enough to take it, before you decide to cuss them all out? One woman I met in Louveciennes told me that she took such a ring, put it in her handbag and ran away, laughing. I suppose that is a better response. But I do love going to the bookstores and trying to sell my books, as well as finding a few rare treasures on the way, such as Christopher Isherwood’s diary  or a worn Henry Miller novel.

Shakespeare & Company

The last bookstore we visited was Shakespeare & Company. I’d given up years ago trying to sell them anything—it’s the sort of place where you feel honored if they sell a book you’ve given them. So, with this in mind, I asked to see George Whitman, who was 94 years old at the time and has owned the place for decades. He used to be omnipresent in the store (see the video, which runs about an hour), but he doesn’t see many people now. He no longer runs things—his daughter has taken over the daily operations. A very suspicious woman at the cash register told me his health is bad, that he sleeps most of the day, only comes down (he lives upstairs) on occasion, and, like a relic, sits in a special chair and reads while people come to pay their respects. But I told her I had a gift for George. She reluctantly referred me to George’s daughter, who agreed, after scrutinizing me carefully, that I would be allowed upstairs to his living quarters to visit. I was accompanied by a young woman who was my “chaperone”—in other words, to make sure I wasn’t some sort of opportunist or maniac. I was led to a room I’d seen many times previously, but I barely recognized it. It once was crammed with bookshelves and stacks of books so tall they looked as though they were defying the laws of physics. Now, it was cleaned out. There was a table and a bed. Beyond the door was George’s room.

When the door opened, dozens of strange insects came flying out, hovering like tiny silent helicopters. George came out in his pajamas, unshaven, disheveled, but, in a way only he can master, hauntingly handsome, proud, with an air of noble defiance. He recognized me from my previous visits. We sat down at the table, and the chaperone, satisfied nothing terrible was about to occur, left us alone. George told me that ever since he ceased running things he has lost his sense of purpose. “I felt alive when I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors,” he told me, “but now all I want to do is to sleep. I never should have given up the store.” He still has a spring to his walk, his voice is still strong, and he was impressed with the book (The Winter of Artifice) I gave him. He told me he was going to put it into the reading room, where patrons can sit all day and read for nothing. This, to me, was even better than selling it. He asked me if I was a writer. I said yes, I’ve written things. He patted the bed and said if I ever need a place to stay, I could stay there for as long as I like, gratis. He told me people have written entire novels in his store. I’ve had this offer each time I’ve visited, and I regret not having taken him up on it—but a friend of mine told me that there were insects in the bed and in the breakfast, and if I didn’t mind that sort of thing, perhaps I’d enjoy the stay. He also added that Shakespeare and Company is perhaps the one place left in which you can experience the Paris Henry Miller describes in Tropic of Cancer, a place where, “In America…you wouldn’t dream of living in a joint like this. Even when I was on the bum I slept in better rooms than this. But here it seems natural—it’s like the books you read” (Tropic of Cancer  117).

To read more on Nin’s and Miller’s Paris, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which contains vintage photos, maps, and historical context of the many places they inhabited and frequented.

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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