Anaïs Nin Podcast 9: A Half Century with Anaïs Nin—Benjamin Franklin V

Benjamin Franklin V has been devoted to Anaïs Nin studies since 1966, the year the first volume of The Diary of Anaïs Nin was published, catapulting her from decades of obscurity to instant fame and acceptance from a wide audience. Despite all the hoopla surrounding Nin, Franklin was determined to go about the meticulous business of compiling a complete list of all her work, resulting in Anaïs Nin: A Bibliography in 1973, the first and only such compilation. He then collaborated with Duane Schneider on Anaïs Nin: An Introduction, which came out in 1979. In 1996 he compiled and edited Recollections of Anaïs Nin.

Benjamin Franklin V and Anais Nin, 1973. Photo: Jeanne Rockwell.

Benjamin Franklin V and Anais Nin, 1973. Photo: Jeanne Rockwell.

Since then, he has spearheaded the republication of The Winter of Artifice, the lost 1939 edition; he authored the Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts, compiled, edited and introduced The Portable Anaïs Nin, and has written the introduction to the upcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955. He is a frequent contributor to A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal.

Dr. Franklin not only studied Anaïs Nin, but also knew her and worked with her for several years. His experience with Nin, along with his extensive work on her, gives him a unique understanding of both the writer and the work, and he tells all during this podcast. This is a must-listen for anyone interested in Anaïs Nin and the history of Nin scholarship.

Run time: 47:06

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

Comments are welcome.

The Birth of Anaïs Nin’s Writing Theory

In 1939, after publishing two works of fiction in Paris—The House of Incest (1936) and The Winter of Artifice (1939)—Anaïs Nin was forced by war to flee to New York, thus tearing her away from France at a time when she felt herself maturing as a writer and as a woman. Suddenly, she was thrust into the hostile world of New York publishing, not to mention a dreary literary atmosphere heavily influenced by “realism” and “puritanism.” Nin purged much of Artifice, including an entire novella, partly because of the fear of U.S. censors, and partly as a rebellion against Henry Miller’s heavy influence on the text. No publisher wanted the revised book, so Nin purchased her own press and published it herself in 1942, with the help of her Peruvian lover, Gonzalo Moré. She then collected a series of short stories begun in Paris and self-published it under the title Under a Glass Bell (1944). The commercial failure of these two titles and the increasing chaotic nature of her personal life left Nin in such a depressed state that she contemplated suicide on several occasions.

In spite of the tragic nature of her New York life, or perhaps in part because of it, she turned to writing like never before, perhaps as a form of salvation. She began to develop the characters and themes for what she called Cities of the Interior, a continuing series of novels that were intended to explore psychological realities, something Nin was quite familiar with. She self-published the first installment of these novels in 1945 under the title of This Hunger, which was later revised and expanded into Ladders to Fire (Dutton, 1946). In Ladders to Fire, Nin introduces and develops the main characters of her continuous novel: Lillian, Djuna, Sabina, and Jay, all based on real-life personages found in her diary. Neither This Hunger or Ladders to Fire were critical or commercial successes, and Nin had to face the fact that neither critics nor readers could grasp the essence of her work. So, she sought to explain her writing to the masses in two different publications—Realism and Reality (1946, Alicat Bookshop) and On Writing (April 1947, Daniel Oliver Associates; August 1947, Alicat Bookshop).

Realism and Reality, a pamphlet published in a limited edition of 750 copies, begins by explaining that the reason Nin’s writing was misunderstood came from “the fact that I write as a poet in the framework of prose…” She continues by saying that there was a “purpose and form behind my partial, impressionistic, truncated characters.” She compares her writing to modern art, in which “a column can signify more than a whole house, and that one eye can convey more than two at times.” Arguably, a key to understanding her work is as follows: because her “books take place in the unconscious, and hardly ever outside of it, they differ from poetry not in tone, language or rhythm, but merely by the fact that they contain both the symbol and the interpretation of the symbol.”

After the failure of her next novel, Children of the Albatross (1947, Dutton), Nin felt compelled to expand her thoughts in On Writing, another pamphlet, the Alicat edition of which had a run of 1000 copies, 750 of which were for sale. This title includes an essay by a young scholar, William Burford, with whom, Nin says in her unpublished diary, she had a strong affinity in terms of writing philosophy. Because Nin focused on the psychological aspects of her characters, critics were quick to judge her as a chronicler of neurosis, which prompted her to respond in On Writing: “…on the contrary, I not only believe that we are suffering from a collective neurosis, but that this is precisely one of the most urgent themes for the novel today: the struggle between the forces of nature in us and our repressive and consequently destructive treatment of those forces.” This was cutting-edge thinking during the 1940s, a time when the country was preoccupied by the war and its aftermath. As one of the editors who rejected her said, these were not times for “morbid introspection.” Nin’s fiction was doomed to either misinterpretation or out-and-out thrashing, and, worst of all, indifference.

Naturally, perhaps partly because Nin’s two pamphlets were printed in small editions, her audience did not grow beyond a coterie, nor did critics cease to pummel or ignore her work. By the mid-1950s, she felt defeated as a writer, on the verge of giving up hope. It wasn’t until 1966 and the amazing success of her Diary of Anaïs Nin that she was finally vindicated. The immediate and warm response to the diary gave Nin the desire to revisit her long-ignored fiction in The Novel of the Future (1968, Swallow Press), in which much of the contents of Realism and Reality and On Writing appeared. Fittingly, the first line contains Jung’s quotation, “Proceed from the dream outward,” which symbolizes Nin’s approach not only to writing, but to life.

In retrospect, it may seem that having to explain one’s fiction in what amounts to “user’s guides” is problematic. One could argue that asking the reader to look upon fiction in an entirely new way is too great a demand. James Joyce, for example, inspired too many “how to read Joyce” publications to note here, but none of them were by Joyce himself. Anaïs Nin, because of frustration and the terrible notion of being misunderstood, left us such guides, explaining her work as no one else could.

One could also argue that Anaïs Nin’s fiction was the only way she could somehow express the contents of her diary, her chef d’oeuvre, which was unpublishable at the time (mainly because its characters were living). But there is another way to look at the fiction—it was created in a crucible of secrecy, desperation, upheaval, and chaos. All of these factors gave birth to what some Nin critics today believe are among the most unique creations by any novelist—the “distilled” scenarios, the fleshless characters, the dreamlike prose and images, the symbols which, if we sensitize ourselves to them, are universal.

How fortunate we readers are that Nin’s life did not permit her to publish her diary immediately, and how fortunate we are that she felt forced to explain her writing theory.

Both Realism and Reality and On Writing are available today in The Portable Anaïs Nin, which is available in both e-book and print form.

Cyber Monday and beyond: Promoting Anais Nin

Anais Nin with Gunther Stuhlmann, 1959 book-signing

There were few self-promoters as tireless as Anais Nin. When she wasn’t doing interviews, lectures, readings, and book signings, she was plotting new ways to get her work in the hands of readers.

In Paris during the 1930s, she partnered with two emerging modernist writers, Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, and together the “3 Musketeers,” as they called themselves, published 3 books in the “Villa Seurat Series,” named after the street where Miller’s apartment served as their headquarters.

In New York, when no one would publish her work, Nin bought a manually powered printing press and published her own work as beautifully crafted books. She joined forces with Frances Steloff, whose Gotham Book Mart was central to the Village counterculture literary scene.

During the 1940s, Nin began what would become a powerful vehicle for selling her books: lecture tours and readings. Slowly, she began to amass a small but passionate following despite the literary establishment’s failure to pay her any attention or respect.

At the end of the 1950s, Nin began a professional relationship with German expatriate literary agent Gunther Stuhlmann, whose never-say-die attitude and methodical approach finally began to break through to a larger public–first, publisher Alan Swallow undertook all of her fiction, and then, after Henry Miller had become famous in the USA after the obscenity trials allowed him to publish his banned books, Miller’s letters to her were published in 1964, bringing her the attention of a wider public. This set the stage for the release of her first Diary of Anais Nin in 1966. The rest is history. Nin then expanded her lectures, readings, and interviews, using auditoriums, films, recordings, radio and TV stations to express her message to a now adoring audience. She continued this until illness finally brought it to an end in the mid-70s.

Anais Nin and her press, 1940s

After her death, it was left to others to promote her work, and admittedly there has been and never will be such an effective advocate as she. However, we continue her work as best we can. We have just celebrated Cyber Monday, and I know in my heart that Anais would have embraced this concept and would have taken advantage of it somehow. With that in mind, we are offering her work here at Sky Blue Press for attractive prices, and if you want to get Anais into your hands, this is a good opportunity. It is also a great chance to get her into the hands of your friends, loved ones, and colleagues, the uninitiated. There is little doubt that Anais Nin’s writing has been a positive influence on those who are fortunate enough to have found her, and we strive to widen the circle.

We are offering The Portable Anais Nin, the new print version, which contains the best of Anais’s writing, chronologically arranged; Anais’s only banned book, the original 1939 version of The Winter of Artifice; all issues of A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal, and more.

Visit http://www.skybluepress.org for details.

The Genesis of The Portable Anais Nin

The idea of The Portable Anaïs Nin came from Gunther Stuhlmann, who was Nin’s literary agent and co-editor of her Diary of Anaïs Nin. At the time, which was in the mid-1990s, he felt that too much attention was being given by biographers and critics to the sordid side of her love life, and not enough to her work. Complicating all of this was the release of her unexpurgated diary Incest, which covered not only adult-onset incest with her father, but also the fact that she’d had a long, horrifying abortion of a late-term child, both of which she wrote about graphically. This combination of biographies and unexpurgated diaries naturally turned attention to the “verboten” aspects of Nin’s life rather than her literary achievements.

Review of one of the Nin biographies (click to enlarge)

Stuhlmann proposed an anthology that would “introduce a new generation of readers to the writer Anaïs Nin rather than to the ‘personality’ which has been distorted and denigrated in recent years… I visualize a handy volume which creates an overall view of the many facets of Nin’s work and ideas by drawing on her actual writing.” In short, he wished to return the attention to the art, and through the art, the artist.

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems of Nin publication is the way they were presented originally. Nin not only had the need to write about her life, even early in her career, she longed to share the diaries with her readers. For obvious reasons (the fact that the nature of her life meant multiple deceptions and lies to her significant partners), she could not possibly have published the diaries as they were. Her first attempt to express what she’d written in secret was through her fiction, which was mainly a veiled version of her life and its principle personages. This she found unsatisfactory, and the critics agreed. While there is plenty of psychological truth in the fiction (which in itself makes it valuable), it was still smoke and mirrors, illusion, and vague.

Nin struggled for years to find a way to publish her diaries, and it was only late in life that she came up with the only possible solution: to offer extremely expurgated versions of them, versions that would not hurt those still living. Her husband, Hugh Guiler, asked to not be mentioned, which added another complication, because she could only recount her life without mention of the husband who financially and emotionally supported her (this omission was ammunition for attack by feminists, who were attracted to her in the first place because the diaries made it appear she’d live an independent life). So, seven volumes of heavily edited diaries appeared on the market, and it was left to readers to “read between the lines” to figure out that Henry Miller and her own father were among her many lovers. When the unexpurgated diaries came out posthumously (beginning with Henry and June in 1986), several of Nin’s friends, fans, and associates felt betrayed. The revelations are many, and some of them are stunning. I remember being invited to a get-together of some women who’d thought they knew Anaïs Nin until the unexpurgated diaries came out. Some of them refused to believe that their Anaïs was capable of such atrocities, especially incest. One of them said, “I think Gunther Stuhlmann and Rupert Pole concocted those passages themselves just to make money.” No one seemed to disagree.

This fractured approach to Nin publications eventually led to the point where the world seemed to turn against what was once the champion of self-discovery, the lover of life, the one who refused to despair, the one whom an entire generation admired for daring to seek and tell the truth. Reviewers of the biographies and the unexpurgated diaries didn’t bother to review the books—instead, they laid judgment on the author’s life. Lost in all of this was the work.

Gunther Stuhlmann’s proposal for The Portable Anaïs Nin was rejected by certain publishers who by that time had formed some harsh opinions about Nin, and it was placed in a folder and filed away in a drawer. After Stuhlmann’s untimely death in 2002, his wife, Barbara, discovered the proposal while sorting through the massive amount of documents he’d left behind. She sent it to me. There were only a couple yellowed pages in the folder, but the idea was as fresh and as important as it had ever been. I contacted Benjamin Franklin V, who is the world’s foremost Nin scholar and bibliographer, and he was overjoyed with the idea of a new anthology. After months of painstaking work of selecting, introducing, and annotating selections from the entire spectrum of Nin’s writing, Stuhlmann’s vision was realized. The Portable Anaïs Nin was first released as an ebook, and now it is finally available in print.

It is, as Stuhlmann envisioned, “an open invitation to an engaging literary adventure trip, which could, and should, gain an entirely new audience for Anaïs Nin’s work.”

To order a print copy of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.

To order a digital version of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.

To see our complete list of available Anais Nin ebooks, click here.

To order books from Anais Nin’s and Rupert Pole’s Silver Lake Collection, click here.

New Anais Nin Literary Journal issue coming soon

Volume 8 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal will be released after Anaïs Nin’s 108th birthday, February 21, 2011.

websitecoverimageThis issue contains letters from Anaïs Nin, Hugh Guiler, and Rupert Pole, between 1975 and the end of 1977. Never seen before, these letters shed light on two very important considerations near and just after Nin’s death: first, the degree to which Nin’s marriage with Guiler had deteriorated; second, the amazing alliance Pole and Guiler forged after Nin’s death. Guiler’s very first letter begins:

Dear Rupert: As we are going to be communicating with each other from now on I think it is well that I do what I can to make things as easy as possible for us both, and I want to start by being quite frank with you.

And then he reveals that he had been aware of the “special relationship” that Pole and Nin had “for more than ten years.” In what could have been a bitter exchange, Guiler instead reached out to Pole, and the two men developed mutual sympathy and ultimately respect. Volume 8 contains the first two letters between Pole and Guiler and subsequent correspondence as well.

Nin’s illness and subsequent death was the backdrop for this group of letters, and her illness was something she never publicly discussed or wrote about, except in her unpublished diaries, The Book of Music and The Book of Pain. Now, one of Nin’s friends during the last two or three years of her life, Barbara Kraft, has written a memoir entitled Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, from which the preface and first chapter are included as an introduction to this difficult and mostly unknown period.

Most of us are aware of the effect Nin’s father’s abandonment had on Nin’s love life, of the psychological need to re-conquer him through other men, and finally by trysting with her father himself. But there were other ramifications as well, which Kim Krizan highlights in her article, “Anaïs Style.” Nin is known to have dressed exotically, to have created her own outfits, to always have stood out from the crowd no matter her age. Where did this fascination—and even obsession—come from? Krizan insightfully makes a connection between the scars left by Nin’s father’s abandonment—and perhaps just as importantly, his exclamation of “How ugly you are” when she was ill as a little girl—and her need to dress beautifully, to “de-uglify” herself. Using quotations from the childhood diary, Krizan makes her case that Anaïs Nin’s lifelong fascination with style was actually an act of self-healing.

Tristine Rainer, a friend of Nin’s, was also close to another Nin friend, Renate Druks, the heroine of Nin’s final novel, Collages. In a sometimes humorous and sometimes distressing film treatment, Rainer uses Druks’ own commentary to tell the saga of her torrid affair with a young and tragic sports hero, Ronnie Knox, in her “The Bohemian and the Football Player.”

Also in this issue are criticisms of Nin’s writing by Nin scholars Joel Enos and Sonya Blades; a critique of the relationship between Nin and Maya Deren by Japanese scholar Satoshi Kanazawa; an analysis of Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Henry and June for his movie of the same title by Anita Jarczok; a recollection of Rupert Pole’s father, Reginald Pole, by Harry Kiakis (followed by the editor’s research on the once-famous Shakespearian actor); the introduction to The Portable Anaïs Nin by Benjamin Franklin V; photography, art, fiction, poetry, and reviews.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 8 will be released in a limited edition, so be sure to reserve your copy now. You may order in three ways: by credit card; with PayPal; or by snail mail. Price is, as always, $15.00.

A list of available Anais Nin titles

How does one sort through hundreds of websites to find elusive Anais Nin titles? We’ve compiled a concise list to help you out.

To purchase a book that was once a part of Rupert Pole’s and Anais Nin’s personal collection at their Silver Lake house in Los Angeles, including rare and out of print titles, click here.

To find and purchase any title Swallow Press published (virtually all of Nin’s fiction and other titles as well), click here.

In the past year, several Nin titles have been made available as ebooks. To search the ever-growing list, click here.

To find the print versions of Nin’s (both original and unexpurgated) diaries, click here.

To locate Nin’s erotica, click here.

To examine or order print versions of A Cafe in Space, the only current Anais Nin literary journal, click here.

Sky Blue Press has the only print version of the original The Winter of Artifice, a facsimile of the Obelisk Press edition that was, according to Nin herself, banned in America. There are still copies of this limited printing left. To find out about the book, or to order, click here.

A complete list of all of Nin’s fictional characters is collected in Anais Nin Character Dictionary. To learn about this title, click here.

Are we missing anything? If so, leave a comment and we’ll attempt to answer all questions.

The Portable Anaïs Nin debuts

The Portable Anaïs Nin, the first comprehensive Nin anthology in nearly forty years, has just been released as an e-book, available from Amazon.com for $9.99. It is the equivalent of more than 300 printed pages of the most compelling and representative writings of Anaïs Nin, arranged chronologically over a broad spectrum of genres: passages from the edited and unexpurgated diaries, works of fiction (including House of Incest, “This Hunger,” “Houseboat,” and “Stella”—all in their entirety), erotica, critical writing, and a previously uncollected—and revealing—interview.

portablecoverBecause Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V has arranged the works in the order they were written (for the table of contents, click here), the entire book presents us with a sort of autobiography, beginning with young Anaïs’s views on her parents’ separation, and ending with facing death, and just about every major event in between. Topics from her diary include her early relationship with Hugh Guiler, a failed affair with John Erskine, her ménage à trois with Henry and June Miller, incest, abortion, Otto Rank, Gonzalo Moré, Robert Duncan, Gore Vidal, her family members, writing philosophy, fictional character sources, failure, editing the diaries, and fame. Franklin has chosen fiction that follows Nin’s life experiences so the reader can see how plots and characters evolved from the diary, and how portraits changed as Nin’s perspective and attitudes shifted. When read thus, The Portable Anaïs Nin becomes Nin’s life story.

Still, each portion of The Portable Anaïs Nin stands on its own, and the book can be read selectively. In this way, as Nin agent and literary collaborator Gunther Stuhlmann once envisioned, the collection is a sort of guidebook that invites a new generation of readers to sample her work and thus be able to make informed selections when diving more deeply in to Nin’s writing.

It occurred to me while reading the book several times (as a proofreader and publisher) is that there is yet another facet of the experience of reading Anaïs Nin, and that is of time. It was 20 years ago almost to the day when I first read Nin’s Henry and June, for example, and at that time it evoked a personal response from me. As I read it today, even though the words are exactly the same in every passage, it inspires something quite different, which reinforces my opinion that Nin holds up a mirror in her work in which we see ourselves—and as we change, so does the reflection.

So, no matter where one comes from in terms of reading background and experience, the bond formed between the author Anaïs Nin and the reader is unique and always evolving, sometimes in new and unforeseen dimensions. It is precisely why Benjamin Franklin V and I believe that The Portable Anaïs Nin possesses real value to readers of every sort.

Our other Nin titles on Kindle are: House of Incest, Collages, The Winter of Artifice, Under a Glass Bell, Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur, and The Four-Chambered Heart, with more to follow.