The Portable Anais Nin TOC

Anais Nin, Paris, 1930s

Anais Nin, Paris, 1930s

As promised in a previous post, we are releasing the Table of Contents of The Portable Anaïs Nin, the most comprehensive Nin anthology yet, which debuts only days from now on Kindle at It comes out just as many of Nin’s titles are becoming available digitally. The selections in The Portable Anaïs Nin were made chronologically and in their entirety by Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V, whose other titles include Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts (author, 2007); Recollections of Anaïs Nin by Her Contemporaries (editor, 1996); Anaïs Nin: An Introduction (co-author, 1979); and Anaïs Nin: A Bibliography (author, 1973).

The fashion by which Franklin put together this table of contents allows the reader to follow Nin’s growth as a writer and to see how life experiences and relationships contributed to character development, fiction, and overall writing philosophy, which was revolutionary in that Nin sought to speak as a woman, and not an imitator of man.


  • Preface and Introduction
  • Biographical Sketches
  • Linotte (September-October 1915; on Maman and Papa)
  • Early Diary 2 (July 1921; considering Hugh Guiler)
  • Early Diary 3 (January 1925; an early marital crisis)
  • Early Diary 4 (May 1929; attraction to John Erskine)
  • Henry and June (January 1932; on June Miller)
  • Henry and June (March 1932; on Henry Miller)
  • Henry and June (April 1932; Henry Miller and Nin on Guiler)
  • Henry and June (May-June 1932; on René Allendy)
  • Incest (June 1933; in Valescure)
  • Diary 1 (October 1933; remembering Paco Miralles)
  • Incest (August 1934; abortion)
  • Fire (April 1935; on Otto Rank)
  • The House of Incest (1936)
  • Fire (January 1937; on Gonzalo Moré and Henry Miller)
  • Diary 2 (August 1937; on Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller)
  • Nearer the Moon (March 1939; on Thurema Sokol)
  • “Manuel” (1940-1941; erotica from Delta of Venus)
  •     Preface to Little Birds
  •     Postscript to the Preface of Delta of Venus
  • “Houseboat” (1941; from Under a Glass Bell)
  •     Prologue to Under a Glass Bell (1944)
  •     Preface to Under a Glass Bell (1968)
  • Diary 3 (November 1941; on Robert Duncan)
  • Unpublished diary (June 1943; an affair with Albert Mangones)
  • Diary 4 (April 1945; on Joaquín Nin-Culmell)
  • “This Hunger” (1945)
  •     Prologue to Ladders to Fire (1946)
  •     Prologue to Ladders to Fire (1963)
  •     Preface to Cities of the Interior (1974)
  • “Stella” (1945)
  • Diary 4 (December 1945; on Gore Vidal)
  • Realism and Reality (1946)
  • On Writing (1947)
  • Diary 5 (August 1954; on mother’s death)
  • Diary 6 (Summer 1965; on publishing the diary)
  • An Interview with Anaïs Nin (March 1969)
  • Diary 7 (Fall 1969; on editing the diary)
  • Diary 7 (1975-1976; facing death)

Our Nin titles on Kindle are: 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. 





Tweetfest of Anais Nin’s House of Incest

Gemor edition of House of Incest

Gemor edition of House of Incest

As mentioned in the last post, to celebrate the upcoming publication of The Portable Anais Nin, we are tweeting Nin’s House of Incest, 140 characters at a time. Join us on Twitter to follow the enchanting words as they wind about one like dream filaments, each one standing alone as a stroke of unconscious genius, and all of them creating an epic work as they are woven together.

The House of Incest was originally published in 1936 by Siana (Anais spelled backwards) Editions in Paris as a small edition. Nin republished it in 1947 through her Gemor Press (named after Gonzalo More, her lover and collaborator), handset with engravings by Ian Hugo (pseudonym of Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband), and once again by Swallow Press including photomontages by Val Telberg. Soon, it will be included in its entirety in The Portable Anais Nin. No matter the edition, Nin’s famous prose poem inspires the reader to plunge into the interior where creation begins.

Our Nin titles on Kindle are: 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. 

New Anaïs Nin anthology coming soon

We are only a few weeks away from the release of a new collection, The Portable Anaïs Nin, which will appear on Kindle in the coming weeks. It will be the first full-length anthology of Nin’s writing since Phil Jason’s The Anaïs Nin Reader (1973).


Anais Nin with her self-published Under a Glass Bell

Editor and compiler Benjamin Franklin V notes in his introduction, “Since [the publication of The Anaïs Nin Reader]…the number of Nin titles has approximately doubled, with eleven new volumes of the diary and two books of erotica being most important. Now, the time seems right for another sampling of Nin’s work, not only because of the existence of this new material or because almost forty years have passed since the publication of Jason’s book, but also to encourage a reconsideration of Nin’s writing, which no longer attracts the dedicated readership it did in 1973.” Another consideration is that The Portable Anaïs Nin will appear in conjunction with several new Nin titles on Kindle, acting as a sort of guidebook to her work, helping to gain the new audience Franklin envisions.

Franklin’s philosophy is to include entire passages of Nin’s work in The Portable Anaïs Nin, including titles of fiction such as House of Incest. Soon, we will post the table of contents here, and will provide regular updates on the book’s progress.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, where we are about to do something along the lines of what was done to promote Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: Nin and several others read the entire 1200 pages on the New York radio station WBAI over the course of a year. In this light, I feel Anaïs would approve of our tweeting her House of Incest, 140 characters at a time, to celebrate The Portable Anaïs Nin.

Our Nin titles on Kindle are: 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. 

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #15

Myth #15: Rupert Pole “romanticized” the story of his first meeting of Anaïs Nin.

After Anaïs Nin’s death in 1977, Rupert Pole loved to tell the story of how he met her, the great love of his life, for the first time. In early 1947, they had both been invited to the same party, and they happened to get into the same elevator on their way up. He said one of the first things he and Anaïs noticed were each other’s ink-stained hands, which became the basis for their conversation that night—they both worked at print shops. It has been said in at least one Nin study that there was no basis for his description, that Nin’s version of the evening was quite different than Pole’s, that she never mentioned having ink on her hands, nor on his, in any of her writings. The conclusion was that Pole invented these details in a “romanticized” and “charming” version of the story.

However, in one of Anaïs Nin’s final unpublished diaries, she recalls the meeting:

Rupert Pole in 1943, 4 years prior to meeting Nin

The young Rupert Pole

There was a party at the Chelsea Hotel, the old fashioned Hotel writers loved. I wore a black taffeta long skirt and a blouse. I entered the elevator. A very tall, very slender young man lowered his head to see the other passengers. I suddenly became aware of large eyes, brown, green, gold, eyes the color of Venice. His eyelashes were dark and very thick. His eyebrows very hairy. He had a long slender neck. This whole design of his neck and shoulders was of extreme stylization and yet he looked sturdy. We happened to sit on a couch. And then it was we noticed each other’s hands: ink stained only as printers get stained. We talked about printing. He was an actor, and between jobs he helped his friend to print Xmas cards. And I was printing my own books. He appeared to me the ideal figure for Paul in the Children of the Albatross.

While this memory was recorded late in Nin’s life, it matches Pole’s version of the story closely, disproving the argument of romanticized embellishment.

Anais Nin’s Response to a Critic

When Dutton published Anaïs Nin’s first full-length novel, Ladders to Fire, in 1946 (which then contained a section entitled “Stella”), the critics railed against Nin’s use of language in general and her distillation of characters in particular. Nin had revolted against America’s tradition of detailed and realistic descriptions in favor of symbolism, striving to describe the events occurring beneath the surface. 1940s America was not, perhaps, ready for her work, which scholars agree today was far ahead of its time, and thus began the war between Nin and her critics.

One critic in particular raised Nin’s hackles: The New York Times’ Herbert Lyons, whose review was entitled “Surrealistic Soap Opera.” In it, Lyons not only stated that Nin’s male characters were “pale, weak young men,” but also said,

Insomuch as the “avant garde” may not listen to the radio, it is perhaps worth noting that numerous daytime serials are almost exclusively devoted to less fancy variations on this same theme of woman’s struggle to understand her own nature… As in much of modern music, there is little originality. The novel contains traces of Djuna Barnes, Henry Miller, and Edmund Wilson and a large deposit of French surrealism. These days many things get by under the banner of complexity and super-sensitivity; artiness and obscurantism, as always, are sometimes disguises for second-rate talents. But Miss Nin’s novel has a certain interest as a pastiche of contemporary preciousness.The New York Times, October 20, 1946

Nin’s response in a letter dated shortly thereafter:

Dear Mr. Lyons: When it comes to modern literature you show yourself to be almost totally illiterate. You cannot decipher the simplest facts and resort to distortions.

You see a book full of pale, weak young men when there is only one of them and he plays a minor role. The rest of the men are more than full length, ruddy, lusty characters.

Number One: Bruno. An able bodied and most satisfactory lover whose only handicap in Stella’s eyes lies in his loyalty to his wife and children which is clearly described in the book as being only a problem to Stella’s lack of confidence.

Philip: also a healthy, humorous, confident character, guilty of merely liking too many women.

Stella’s father. Equally powerful and dominant.

Lillian has a perfectly adequate husband.

Jay is big, healthy, joyous. “He sat like a workman before his drinks, he talked like a cart driver to the whores at the bar; they were all at ease with him.”

Djuna, you say, also has trouble with various men, but Djuna has no relationship to any man in the book.

No pale weak men appear at the party. Nowhere in the book can you find that Sabina represents modern woman.

The men in the book are in fact powerful and self confident. You must be one of the pale weak young men of our times to identify so exaggeratedly with one of the minor characters.

Sincerely yours,

Anaïs Nin

Gore Vidal, 1940s

Gore Vidal, 1940s

Not only did Nin berate Lyons, but Gore Vidal (who was an editor for Dutton at the time, and, since he promoted Nin to his superiors, may have had self-interest in mind) lambasted him with his own diatribe:

Dear Sir:

I have just finished reading Herbert Lyons’ review of Anais Nin’s new novel LADDERS TO FIRE. I consider his attack on her work absurd, irresponsible, and an excellent example of sloppy reviewing. Since Anais Nin is a literary figure of considerable stature, I wish to come to her defense and to examine the Lyons review.

After making his case, he sums up with:

It is certainly healthy to disagree on the merits of a writer. Mr. Lyons might very well be on the right side, but he has not, certainly, proven his case. He has written an emotional and inaccurate review, bristling with antagonism and not much else. It is sad for authors to read reviews like his; one has the feeling that books can be reviewed by anyone, that reputations can stand or fall on the opinion of some near-illiterate with an axe in need of grinding.

Gore Vidal

Of course, Nin’s and Vidal’s responses fell upon deaf ears, and for most of her life, until the Diaries were published in 1966 when she was 63 years of age, she would endure the harshness of the New York literary establishment.


Anaïs Nin’s Under a Glass Bell is now being offered in mulitple formats on Smashwords. Other Nin titles on Kindle are: 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. 

Anais Nin in a Digital World

When I published Sky Blue Press’s first book, Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors, 14 years ago, there was then only one truly viable format: paper. The nearly 500 page manuscript was sent to a massive press, which began spitting out gigantic sheets on each of which several pages of text appeared. The pages were cut, assembled, and forged into a thick, heavy book, which was placed into a cloth cover with gold stamping, shrink-wrapped, and placed into weighty boxes. Unpacking that first box, ripping through the plastic, I was able for the first time to hold this treasure in my hands. It was elegant, heavy, and the cover felt rich and luxurious. Opening it released the fragrance of fresh paper and ink. The sensation of opening a real book in one’s hands evokes reactions from many senses simultaneously, and readies one for the act of reading in a way similar to that of standing in the grand foyer of the Opéra with a crowd of stylish people before seeing a ballet. Everything is in context. The experience is heightened by an interconnection similar to that of a mosaic, no matter how insignificant each individual piece may be.

When I took the book to the famed Gotham Book Mart in New York, desperately hoping to have it placed on its sacred shelves, I encountered a harried, overly busy, impatient product evaluator, who was known for his brutal honesty and stinginess. “What is it you want?” he asked, while bending his head over a phone receiver. I, unable to speak coherently, handed him a copy of the book. He stiffly took it, but as I watched he began to melt as he hefted it and ran his hand over the cover. He hung up the phone and crooned over the feeling of cloth in his hands. He then took it into a back room where he wanted to read a few pages undisturbed. He came out and told me he had read an article entitled “Looking for Anaïs,” which was written by a medical doctor in California about placing an ad in the personals and his experiences with each of the “Anaïses” he encountered. It was a crude article, to put it mildly, and yet the buyer loved the irony of this piece appearing in such a handsome volume—he was sold. He bought several copies on the spot—and this was a man who, according to Anaïs’s agent Gunther Stuhlmann, never paid for anything, ever.

Anais Nin at work at her Gemor Press

Anais Nin at work at her Gemor Press

The point here is that a book is like a person—one’s interior must be taken in context with the exterior in order to perceive one’s overall character. We can argue that it is the content that really matters, and Anaïs would be first to do so, but she never failed to make her self-published books beautifully crafted works of art. So, in this increasingly digital age, publishers and readers alike must ponder the introduction of naked text cast upon a screen, a screen indifferent to the title, author, age, and origin of the work. 

On the other hand, electronic reading devices can contain thousands of titles. When relocating recently, I realized that nearly half of my possessions, according to weight (and therefore moving expenses), were due to hundreds, if not thousands of books—and these are just the ones I have purchased over the years for my own education and reading pleasure. If all these titles were on my Kindle, half (literally) of my logistical headaches would be cured.

Another issue is the physical limitations of books. One beautiful but breezy afternoon I was sitting in a chaise longue reading an old volume of Proust. The binding broke under the weight of its more than 1,000 pages, and the wind began to scatter several of them here and there, leaving me to run and gather them up, resort them, and stuff them back into the ruined casing. None of these problems exist with a Kindle, iphone, or other portable device. But as I sat there with the withered Proust, its pages stained with grass and violently wrinkled, the bits of dried, aged glue falling out of the binding, the cover sagging, I felt a sort of compassion for the death of a book, which I certainly would never feel if my Kindle’s batteries died.

So it is with mixed feelings that I have continued my labor of love—getting Anaïs Nin in front of readers—by digitizing her words, reducing them to binary zeros and ones, and placing them on the electronic platform. It is the same ambivalence I feel when I shoot off concise e-mails to friends rather than writing four page letters. I haven’t forgotten the thrill of receiving in the mail a fat envelope from someone special, the excitement when tearing it open and unfolding the handwritten pages within, pages upon which the impressions left by the pen measured the intensity of the writer. One trades sensation for instantaneousness, emotion for convenience, soulfulness for readiness. When I announce another Nin title on Kindle, or Smashwords, or some other platform, I realize that I am involuntarily depriving the reader of the chance to feel what the buyer at Gotham felt, that feeling which melts one, readies one for the reading experience.

However, electronic books make it possible for anyone, anywhere, to obtain any title they wish—and there is no having to go to the bookstore only to find the book is sold out, out of print, or too expensive; no having to find a way to travel with books taking up valuable luggage space; no having to search through boxes upon boxes to find your lost treasure. One must grow, change, adapt, to meet the expectations of the customer, and publishers above all find themselves in the midst of a revolution, with new technologies swirling about, morphing almost daily. As far as publishers go, it’s cheaper and easier to produce e-books, but then again the profit margin is much lower, and then there’s the issue of piracy—I have lost track of how many sites offer Anaïs Nin’s erotica illegally. For readers, it’s extremely convenient and economical to purchase an e-book—it takes seconds and costs little, not to mention that it’s like walking into a book store with several hundreds of thousands of titles from which to choose.

What really matters to the publisher is connecting readers with authors, and in order to fulfill this purpose, especially now, we must do whatever it takes. Like those first conversationalists who realized that the newly invented telephone disembodies the speaker and listener, we forge ahead—but we must not forget what it means to hold a book in our hands.

Anaïs Nin’s Under a Glass Bell is now being offered in mulitple formats on Smashwords. Other Nin titles on Kindle are: 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. 

The Characters of Anaïs Nin’s Collages: Renate Druks

The character who serves as a sort of Master of Ceremonies in Anaïs Nin’s final novel, Collages, named Renate, is based on one of Nin’s closest friends, Renate Druks. When Paul Mathiesen, one of Anaïs Nin’s many young homosexual friends at the time, paid her a visit in Sierra Madre in 1953, he mentioned Druks, a “Viennese painter” with a young son from a previous marriage. Shortly thereafter, Nin met her at Druks’ Malibu home and was instantly enamored. She’d found a soul not unlike hers: “Renate’s gift is a heightened mood which communicates itself to others. She creates in a state of natural intoxication” (Diary 5, 132).

Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen

Renate Druks and Paul Mathiesen

It was Druks and Mathiesen who concocted a masquerade party for which guests were encouraged to “Come as your madness,” and this inspired one of the guests—avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger—to create Inauguration of the Pleasuredome, [the entire 38 minute film can be watched by clicking here] in which Nin, Druks, and Mathiesen appeared. One of the most iconic scenes is an abstraction of the costume Nin wore at the party, which she describes below:

I wore a skin-colored leotard, leopard-fur earrings glued to my naked breasts, and a leopard-fur belt around my waist. Gil Henderson painted on my bare back a vivid jungle scene. I wore eyelashes two inches long. My hair was dusted with gold powder. My head was inside of a birdcage. From within the cage, through the open gate, I pulled out an endless roll of paper on which I had written lines from my books. The ticker tape of the unconscious. I unwound this and handed everyone a strip with a message. (Diary 5 133)

Anger was a mutual friend of Nin and Druks, and through him both were introduced to Marjorie Cameron, a painter who appeared in Pleasuredome. According to Nin, “Curtis [Harrington], Kenneth [Anger], and Paul talked of Cameron as capable of witchcraft. She was the dark spirit of the group. Her paintings were ghostly creatures of nightmares. In connection with her, this was the first time I heard about [occultist] Aleister Crowley. There is an aura of evil around her. Her husband [Jack Parsons] was a scientist [with JPL] who delved in the occult. He was blown up during an experiment in his garage” (Diary 5131). (Today, there are those who wonder how it was possible a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer could wind up killing himself during a home experiment—but that’s a whole other consideration.) It is said that Nin largely dissociated herself from Anger and his circle because of her distaste for the occult—indeed, Nin only mentions one other meeting with Anger, in Paris in 1960.

"Come as Your Madness"

"Come as Your Madness"

Druks’ relationships with gay and bisexual men proved to be extremely painful. In Collages, the character Renate has a similar problem with her companion Bruce, who is a composite character of both Mathiesen and football player Ronnie Knox. Renate detests Bruce’s secret rendezvous with his young male lovers and is tormented by the lies and deception. Bruce then devises a method by which Renate can feel secure:

“It is my secrecy which makes you unhappy, my evasions, my silences. And so I have found a solution. Whenever you get desperate with my mysteries, my ambiguities, here is a set of Chinese puzzle boxes. You have always said that I was myself a Chinese puzzle box. When you are in the mood and I baffle your love of confidences, your love of openness, your love of sharing experiences, then open one of the boxes. And in it you will find a story, a story about me and my life. Do you like this idea? Do you think it will help us to live together?”

Renate laughed and accepted. She took the armful of boxes and laid them away on the top shelf of a closet. (Collages 29)

Of course, what Renate discovers in the boxes is too honest, too explicit and ultimately destroys her relationship with Bruce. In Nin’s diary, one can see from where the idea of Chinese puzzle boxes comes: “I have only seen [Mathiesen] angry and fierce once. Renate…is born to open Pandora’s box. Paul’s soul is like those Japanese boxes one can only open with infinite patience… (Diary 6 33). Paul says severely: ‘You insisted on entering a world which was locked to you. You crashed through. And now what you found hurts you… I have never given anyone what belongs to you (Diary 5 195). Renate and Paul eventually parted ways.

Druks’ son, Peter Loomer, as a young child was full of dreams and expressed himself through drawings that were far ahead of his age in their maturity. Nin collected several and eventually used some in her limited-edition paperback Solar Barque, privately published in 1958. Tragically, Peter committed suicide in December 1964 at the age of 21, just after the release of Collages. It was emotionally devastating to Druks, who, according to Nin, never truly recovered: “Renate went through an agony which was as terrible as the death itself. It was a nightmare from which she could not awaken…a period of insane grief. She wailed, and wept and lamented…her voice over the telephone was a long cry of pain. This was a bitterer sorrow than the ordinary death of a child. It was an unbearable burden on a mother’s sense of responsibility for her child” (Diary 6 371).

Although Druks and Nin remained friends till Nin’s death in 1977, the details of Druks’ life afterward is fuzzy, especially during her last years. According to a genealogy site, she died in 2007, but many of her friends today were, or perhaps still are, unaware of this. She seems to have dropped off the planet, so to speak, and those who tried to contact her during the past decade or so were given vague answers as to her whereabouts. Even her artist’s web site does not acknowledge her death. So there is a good deal of mystery surrounding Renate Druks, one of Anaïs Nin’s most loyal friends. Anyone having any information about her is encouraged to contact us at

Sky Blue Press has published Collages as an e-book for the first time. It joins several other Nin titles on Kindle: 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 others to follow. 

The Characters of Anaïs Nin’s Collages: Jean Varda

Anaïs Nin’s last novel, Collages, is populated with several characters taken from real life. We are beginning a series of posts based on these personages, and we continue with the collage artist, Jean (Janko) Varda. In 1944, Henry Miller introduced Anaïs Nin to Varda by giving him one of her books. Varda was so impressed that he mailed a gift to Nin, feeling he’d found a kindred soul:

Women Reconstructing the World

Women Reconstructing the World

One morning what appeared in place of a letter was a big square package, one yard around. I opened it and it was a collage by Jean Varda. He calls it “Women Reconstructing the World.” …All of woman is enclosed in a dance of forms, squares, diamonds, rectangles, parallelograms of moods and sidereal delights, subtle harmonies and pliant mysteries. They are made of intangibles, lights and space, labyrinths, and molecules which may change as you look at them. Elusive and free of gravity. They bring freedom by transcendence. (Diary 3, 312-313)

Nin met Varda on her first trip to California with Rupert Pole in 1947. Varda, who was born in Greece, had lived in a “crumbling twenty-room mansion that constantly overflowed with penniless artists, and where he was often visited by Picasso, Braque, and Miró” in Cassis, France. He came to New York for an exhibition and then left (“New York is a city of angry people”) for California and was in Monterey at the time of Nin’s visit.

Nin says: I loved his laughing eyes, his warm, colorful voice, his bird profile, his sturdy body… Janko Varda is the only modern artist who creates not the sickly-sweet fairy tales of childhood but the sturdy fairy tales of the artist… Everything that came from his hands was more wonderful than its origin, whether it was a salad, a bedspread, a pillow cover, a curtain, a candelabrum, a candle, a books… He created his own world. (Diary 4, 216)

It is no wonder that Nin and Varda felt affinity for each other—both of them believed in woman’s role in the arts, and both of them had created their own way of life, their own “world.” Thus began a friendship that would last until Varda’s death in 1971.

The Vallejo

The Vallejo

Varda eventually moved to Sausalito, California, and lived in the decommissioned ferryboat Vallejo with Gordon Onslow Ford, a British artist, and later, after Ford was bought out, with Zen Buddhist promoter Alan Watts. The Vallejo was the scene of artistic gatherings, elaborate costume parties, and, of course, the creation of Varda’s art, which was composed of cast-off materials of all sorts.

Nin’s novel Collages takes its title from Varda’s art, and is composed of several loosely connected stories. Varda, one of the book’s primary characters, tries to convince his daughter that his way of looking at life is something she should embrace. When she resists him, he uses his storytelling skills to convince her otherwise:

…Varda told her another story: “There was a woman from Albania who was famous for her beauty. A young man from America came, very handsome, slim and blond and he paid court to her and said: ‘I love you because you remind me of a cousin of mine I loved when I was in school. You also remind me of a movie actress I always adored on the screen. I love you. Will you marry me?’ The Albanian girl took a small pistol out of her boot and shot him. When she was brought to trial the old Albanian judge listened with sympathy as she made her own defense. ‘Your honor, I have been humiliated several times in my life.’ ‘How could that be,’ said the judge, ‘you are such a beautiful woman.’ ‘Yes, your honor, it has happened. I was humiliated the first time by a man who left me waiting in church when we were to be married. He was in a car accident, it is true, but still in my family there is a tradition of unfailing courtesy about marriage ceremonies. The second time I was told by a Frenchman that I was too fat. The third time I was “clocked” by a policeman on a motorcycle. He said I had been speeding and I contradicted him and he said he had “clocked” me. Imagine that. But, your honor, I never killed before. You know Albanian pride. Until this American came and told me I reminded him of two other women, and that, your honor, was too much. He offended my uniqueness.’”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Women in Albania do not carry pistols in their boots. And who wants to be unique anyway? It’s a dated concept.”

It is not until the daughter takes LSD that she can experience Varda’s world.

In the spring of 1965, Nin records a short autobiography by Varda:

Varda in his studio, 1970

Varda in his studio, 1970

Facts: Born out of a woman, weight at birth 9 pounds and a half… Immediately out of the womb I started playing with laces on the bed from which my mother inferred that I would be forever irresistibly attracted to women and concerned with their apparel… Not museum will have any of my work. I am only represented in every home where taste, intelligence and all the refinements of the spiritual and physical voluptuousness are enthroned. But above all I am proud of Rexroth’s title for me: a boudoir painter… (Quoted in Diary 6, 374-375)

Varda died in Mexico, where he had intended on visiting a friend.

For more on Jean Varda, click here.

Sky Blue Press has published Collages as an e-book for the first time. It joins several other Nin titles on Kindle: 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 others to follow. 

The Characters of Anaïs Nin’s Collages: Jean Tinguely

Anaïs Nin’s last novel, Collages, is populated with several characters taken from real life. We are beginning a series of posts based on these personages, and we begin with the Swiss “kinetic artist” Jean Tinguely. In Collages, some of Nin’s characters attend Tinguely’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Anaïs Nin met Jean Tinguely in 1960, just before his “Homage to New York,” perhaps better known as “The Machine that Destroys Itself” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In her Diary, she says:

Billy Kluver, a young Swedish scientist who worked for Bell Laboratories, and his wife drove me to their home in New Jersey. There I met Jean Tinguely and hear about his motion sculptures. They were constructed of objects from the junk yards of Paris where Tinguely loves to live. Their activities are animated by cast-off electric motors. The ultimate effect is one of chaos, humor, perversity… It is a mockery of the machine. The one which is designed to make bottles, breaks them… Some of the machines look so threatening and dangerous that when he dragged them through the streets of Paris to the gallery he was arrested on suspicion of possessing death-dealing instruments. For Americans, who believe in and admire the efficiency of machines, these machines which fell apart, jumped, exploded, shook with Dadaist humor, produced a startling shock and often gave them a feeling of sacrilege. (Diary 6 284-5).

Tinguely’s philosophy was expressed in a manifesto entitled “For Statics,” which was printed onto 150,000 fliers that were released from an airplane over Düsseldorf, Germany before an exhibition:

Everything moves continuously. Immobility does not exist. Don’t be subject to the influence of out-of-date concepts. Forget hours, seconds, and minutes. Accept instability. Live in time. Be static—with movement. For a static of the present moment. Resist the anxious wish to fix the instantaneous, to kill that which is living. Stop insisting on “value” which cannot but break down. Be free, live. Stop painting time. Stop evoking movement and gesture. You are movement and gesture. Stop building cathedrals and pyramids which are doomed to fall into ruin. Live in the present; live once more in Time and by Time—for a wonderful and absolute reality.

(After reading this manifesto, one has to wonder what Tinguely would have thought about the “machine that destroyed itself” in the Gulf of Mexico, and how America is about to drown in the very oil that sustains it.)

Nin continues in her diary:

Billy Kluver was taking Tinguely to the New Jersey dumps. They brought back balloons, bassinets, baby carriages, bicycle wheels, an old piano. Billy was working day and night at the wiring. They were preparing “The Machine that Destroys Itself” for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Diary 6 284).

Jean Tinguely and The Machine that Destroys Itself

Jean Tinguely and The Machine that Destroys Itself

Nin closes Collages with a detailed account of the event, an excerpt of which follows:

The whole structure rattled erratically, in counter-rhythms, steaming senselessly, all motions in reverse, each interfering with another, negating it, inverted activity, bending and twisting and tearing at itself, introverted activity ending sometimes in a deadlock so that the fire was allowed to spread more quickly. The ladder trembled, lost a few rungs, fell. The balloon at the very tip of the structure, a huge orange balloon, gasped and burst. The chemicals smoked green, orange and blue. The paper with the names of artists unrolled again, a few more names were added, and then it swallowed them all again, finally catching fire. It seemed at times like an infernal factory in which every operation had gone mad, in which the levers and buttons did the opposite of what they were designed to do, all the mechanisms reversed. The fire devoured one more note of the piano, and only three notes were left playing. Then two. Then one which would not die.

The Fire Chief interfered with the exhibition, out of fear of a catastrophe, and began to extinguish the fire. Tinguely then had to “help” his machine collapse by kicking and tugging at it. The crowd was angered by the interference and heckled the fireman.

Click here to see a video of an interview with Tinguely before the event, and a part of the event itself. It is fascinating to read Nin’s account and then to see what actually occurred—it gives us a glimpse into her writing process. One could watch the destruction and walk away bemused, or one could turn it into poetry.

Click here to read Tinguely’s thoughts on the 1960 exhibition.

Jean Tinguely died in 1991 in Bern, Switzerland.

Collages has been published as an e-book on Kindle. It will join several other Nin titles on Kindle: 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 others to follow. 

The Story Behind Anaïs Nin’s The Four-Chambered Heart

 In 1948, when Anaïs Nin first began writing her novel The Four-Chambered Heart, she described it as her “last act of love” for Gonzalo Moré, the Peruvian radical and bohemian with whom she’d been locked in a torturous, doomed relationship for more than a decade. “It is the monument that he will not be able to destroy as he destroyed our life,” she says in her unpublished diary.

In the novel, the character Djuna falls in love with Rango and becomes entangled in his chaotic life. She is introduced to Zora, Rango’s wife, a former dancer who has fallen into a morass of hypochondria and self-centered manipulation. These characters, of course, are modeled after Nin, Moré, and his wife Helba Huara.

Helba Huara in costume

Helba Huara in costume

When Nin first met Gonzalo in Paris in 1936, she astutely recognized him as a “tiger who dreams. A tiger without claws.” Helba was “the woman whose dance without arms inspired the dancer in House of Incest” (Fire243). Henry Miller, during his first visit to Nin in Louveciennes in 1931, said he’d seen Helba dance, but that “her husband is the interesting one.” Indeed, Gonzalo knew and was the intellectual equal of literary figures such as Antonin Artaud, Pablo Neruda, and César Vallejo. In 1931, Nin had “walked out of Helba’s first small recital, disgusted with her grotesque exaggerations, and Gonzalo was on the stage as accompanist and I did not see him—five years before we met.” But years later, Nin “saw the monstrous quality of the demon in Helba and was interested—not repulsed” (unpublished diary). Indeed, for a time during the 1920s and early 1930s, Helba was acclaimed as an exotic dancer embodying Incan culture who performed all over Europe and on Broadway.

By 1936, however, Helba had become a self-created invalid, using imaginary illness to manipulate Gonzalo and anyone with whom they associated, and she and Gonzalo were impoverished, living in the squalor of a dungeon-like basement room.

Nin’s love affair with Gonzalo was unlike her concurrent affair with Henry Miller—waves of sexual fury and romance, violence followed by serenity, and above all a Latin emotional connectedness, which she lacked with Miller. The words Nin records in her diary reflect the passion she and Gonzalo shared, as he whispers to her while dancing: “Anaïs, Anaïs, you are so strong, so strong and so fragile, such strength. I fear you…the most beautiful music your father ever produced was your voice…you’re all sensitiveness…the perfume of all things, how unique you are, Anaïs.” She continues: “All this in Spanish. My blood hears Spanish…through dark subterranean channels” (Fire 247).

Acting on a dream she’d once had, Nin rented a houseboat on the Seine, which she and Gonzalo used as a setting for their explosive amorous rendezvous. The houseboat became a key symbol in Nin’s fiction, appearing in some of the stories from Under a Glass Bell, as well as The Four-Chambered Heart.

Because she truly loved Gonzalo, the revolutionary too lazy take up arms, the artist without creations, the worker without a clock, the intellectual mind dimmed by drugs and alcohol, Nin fought against impossible odds to rehabilitate him. She overlooked the obvious flaws and recognized his keen intelligence, charisma, fiery passion, and humor. However, the inertia of his personality, his uncontrolable jealousy, and Helba’s constant meddling slowly began to drag Nin into their hell.

After fleeing France for New York when the war began, Nin set up her own printing press and employed Gonzalo to work with her. She even named the business after him—Gemor Press—and felt she’d finally helped him develop a craft and a sense of self-worth. However, by the mid-1940s, she was the one doing most of the work, and anything left to Gonzalo was usually left unfinished or poorly done. Not only was she disillusioned by Gonzalo, she grew to hate Helba. In late 1943, she writes in her unpublished diary: “I meditated for two days how to kill Helba to save Gonzalo, to free him—calling it to myself a mercy killing. This is insanity.

Gonzalo Moré

Gonzalo Moré

The relationship continued to wither until Nin collapsed under the ever-growing burden. By 1947, Nin asked herself “how I turned to this sick sick sick primitive for fire, and who had this useless, raging, blind, destructive fire in the center of his being…this fire leading nowhere, a wasted, destructive fire.

Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband, after years of knowingly (and often unknowingly) supporting Gonzalo financially, finally cut him off, but not before setting him up with Social Services, in order to give him time to find a job, which, characteristically, he never did.

Nin says in her 1948 diary: “The Gonzalo I loved is dead. The one I knew at the end, without illusion, I did not love. People create an illusion together and then it is disintegrated by reality.

The relationship, after many cataclysms, was finished.

Nin sought to distill hundreds of diary pages into a highly concentrated document, to tell “the story of Gonzalo without its sordid, degrading end, for Gonzalo, like June [Miller], had the power to descend to the greatest vulgarities and I cannot even transcribe the slime into which our love dissolved.” What resulted is a book that truly does stand as a shrine to Anaïs Nin’s powerful love for Gonzalo Moré, and has been described by critics as comparable to the works of D.H. Lawrence and Carson McCullers. In the following passage, for example, Nin explains how an exterior force (Rango’s jealousy of Djuna’s former lover Paul) affects the interior, a familiar Lawrencian theme:

“[Rango] was driving the image of Paul into another chamber of her heart, an isolated chamber without communicating passage into the one inhabited by Rango. A place in some obscure recess, where flows eternal love, in a realm so different from the one inhabited by Rango that they would never meet or collide, in these vast cities of the interior.”

The Four-Chambered Heartwas published by Duell, Sloane and Pearce in 1950. It was later published by Swallow Press and then incorporated into Nin’s “roman fleuve,” Cities of the Interior.

Now, Sky Blue Press has published The Four-Chambered Heart on Amazon’s Kindle as an e-book for the first time. It joins several other Nin titles on Kindle: 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, with others to follow. 

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