Podcast 33: Understanding the Art of Anaïs Nin: Incest

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

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

JoaquinNin

Joaquin Nin, ca. 1930

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

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

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

Anaïs Nin’s Auletris Erotica Censored by Amazon

NOTE: Amazon has since rescinded it censorship of Auletris. I am leaving this post up as a matter of history.

Anaïs Nin’s new erotica collection, Auletris, has achieved a status that no Nin book has had since The Winter of Artifice (1939) was banned in the USA: censored by the world’s largest bookseller, Amazon. If one does a search for “Auletris,” nothing shows up unless one does the search in “books” or “Kindle store.” So, to the casual observer, Auletris does not exist. There has been a concerted effort on the part of Amazon to block customers from this book.

auletriscensoredAmazon says that it has made the decision that Auletris shall not be searchable because of its “adult content.” Even the cover is obscene, they say. Delta of Venus? Searchable. Little Birds? Searchable. Auletris? In a class by itself. Why?

The contents of all three books are written by the same author, in the same fashion, touching upon many of the same taboos. Delta of Venus has incest, rape, necrophilia, among other topics, and yet anyone can find it easily on Amazon. What sets Auletris apart? What is it about the book that has Amazon skittish about its status? Has Nin gone too far? It is true that Auletris exceeds the taboo standards set by its predecessors, but is that the reason for the censorship?

Or is it a sign that the literary climate in America is returning to the days when censorship boards, whether governmental or private, decide for us what we can see or not see?

Sky Blue Press was told to make changes to Auletris if it is to be deemed searchable: to change the cover, which contains an image from an erotic card from Nin’s personal collection; to change the contents, which is tantamount to telling an artist to alter a masterpiece to make it more palatable to the masses. Sky Blue Press has refused this request. Auletris, it says, is pure Nin, and no changes will be made.

There is only one way to solve this problem—and to make a statement—buy the book from Amazon and prove that censorship will not deter sales.

To order a print copy of Auletris, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.