Anaïs Nin’s Greatest Human Triumph

By 1973, Anaïs Nin and Hugh (Hugo) Guiler had been married for 50 years, yet neither of the two ever ceased trying to discover themselves or to understand their relationship. Also by 1973, Nin had for decades been splitting her personal life between Guiler in New York and Rupert Pole in California, trying (and not really succeeding) to keep the two men unaware of each other. In Nin’s unexpurgated diaries Mirages and Trapeze, we discover how Nin used her double life as a means of attaining a sense of wholeness—for in Guiler she had security, artistic understanding, a meaningful social life and access to medical and psychological care; in Pole, she had sexual passion and sensual fulfillment. Since there was seemingly no man alive capable of giving Nin everything she needed, she resorted to two—but this was by no means an ideal situation. As one discovers in Trapeze, Nin was often terribly frustrated by both the point of using each as someone to escape to because of the other.

Guiler, who was a complicated man with two distinct sides—a banker obsessed with money and a sensitive artist who dabbled in engraving and film— from the very beginning was unable to sexually satisfy his wife, who turned to multiple lovers six years into the marriage. Eventually, in 1947, she met the ideal lover in Pole. During that time, Nin was financially bound to Guiler—neither she nor Pole were capable at the time of supporting themselves alone. The arrangement led to resentment and a feeling of being trapped on Nin’s part, and as she spent more and more time away from Guiler, he began to realize he was losing his wife and, like Nin, turned to psychoanalysis to help cope with the situation. The dichotomy between banker and artist widened, and Guiler often felt inadequate as a banker (he had a habit of reckless speculation and was always trying to compete with his dead father, a successful businessman) and as an artist (he was, whether he admitted it or not, competing with his wife). The marriage deteriorated to the point when, in 1949, Guiler floated the idea of divorce by Nin—which, because of her need for security, she rejected. For the next three decades, the Guiler marriage stumbled from one crisis to the next, and, near the end of her life, she declared she and Guiler were “bad for each other.”

After Nin’s success with the Diaries in 1966, she became the breadwinner of the Guiler family. While she abhorred living with Guiler for even short periods of time because of his constant psychological and financial floundering, she would not divorce him out of a sense of gratitude for all he’d done for her—a sense she often labeled as “guilt.” Instead, she supported him and allowed him in his later years to continue filmmaking and to live a comfortable life. While Nin was resigned to the failure of the marriage, Guiler continued to see personal evolution through psychoanalysis and science, which brings us to a letter he wrote to Nin in 1973 after she had spent a “miserable month” with him:

New York, September 13, 1973

Darling: I am terribly sorry to have given you a miserable month after my return from Europe. I am so glad to hear that you have also recovered physically and emotionally. [Psychologist Inge] Bogner says it is crises like this one that strengthen us—or [give us] the ability to surmount them. But she has already helped by saying that most of what happened was due to forces (some of them world forces) that were not under my control.

Certainly it is now clear to me that I brought back from my work only the worries and the tensions, and that I could not expect you to understand that there were also many real satisfactions in the work itself. The truth is that I never really felt adequate in the business world, an inadequacy that was symbolized by my apparent difficulty with arithmetic. Great light has been thrown on this kind of problem by an article by a woman scientist [Maya Pines] in last Sunday’s NY Times. It is a long extract from a book, which Harcourt Brace is bringing out next month [The Brain Changers, 1973]. I hope you will see to it that they send you a copy. Essentially, scientific experiments have proved that our brain is in two segments—the right side inarticulate in language, mute, understanding only in images, and it is clearly related to our dream life. The left side is intellect, analytical (like a Virgo), and is something like a computer. [Each of] these two segments are locked under their own shell and normally connected by hundreds of fibers. But when these fibers are severed (as in the case of an operation for epilepsy) the result is two personalities in the same person, and the left, intellectual personality is always trying to give rational explanations of apparent irrational (or strange) reactions in the other. You helped me to keep these two personalities joined, rather than severed as they would have been with any other kind of wife. So I think that while my father had something to do with my actions, the whole thing is more mysterious than just that, and the woman scientist herself says that no one has been able to penetrate that area.

What is remarkable is how you have been able to throw so much light on an area [business] which was, as you say, alien to you, and in this sense you have achieved, for yourself, as well as for me, an extraordinary equilibrium, helped probably by your persistent efforts to be articulate, which in someone less balanced would have made a Virgo of you. In this sense your writing did more than make you a great artist, but also kept the connection between the two shells in a state of communication, and this to me stands out as perhaps your greatest human triumph.

Love, Hugo

While this letter could be filed under the “too little, too late” category (they would permanently separate only a year later), it certainly provides insight into how Guiler saw himself within the context of his marriage, and it demonstrates his recognition of Nin’s incomparable ability help others find themselves.

Hugh Guiler, New York, 1974

Anais Nin and Lawrence Durrell, 1958: the end of estrangement

I am currently working on the next Anais Nin diary: The Diary of Others (1955-1966), and came across this May 13, 1958 description of Lawrence Durrell’s home in Provence in a letter to her lover Rupert Pole:
     Saturday night, hearing the Durrells could not come to Paris, I boarded a train and went to Nîmes. I’m so glad I did. Not only are Durrell and his wife wonderful, he so deep and she so gay, but to see the Arlesienne countryside, the Nîmes Arena, to find again the beauty I had missed so much, the river, the house, the Roman town, the bridges, the castles. The Durrells have a small peasant house, but a lovely garden. They grow all their own vegetables. No hot water, no bathroom, no W.C.! It is like Mexico.
      You cool bottles by lowering them down the well. He is very poor as they have two sets of children whom other parents take half the time. Both were married before. Claude is more international than I am—Irish, French, brought up in Alexandria, in New Zealand, in France—a saucy girl. They took me to an arena where bulls wear tassels on their horns and the men have to remove them for a prize. They try, and they run for their lives and jump the barrier, and some bulls jump too. The whole thing is very gay as there is no death. The men do get hurt now and then, but not as seriously as during bullfights. They drink red wine from morning till night, which keeps everyone glowing but never really drunk. Durrell has known so much poverty that he is obsessed with succeeding. He has already been compared to Proust in France.
     We explored Nîmes, sat at the cafés, talked non-stop for two days, and I returned this morning tired out, but with my spiritual batteries recharged for years to come.
I had to see Durrell to complete the carnet de bal. No one could be homelier and so humorous. He has an Irish prizefighter face, a thick potato nose, a large head on a small body, shorter than I, and as fat as [my brother] Joaquín… So there is nothing to threaten any husband! But you and he would hit it off—he hates cities, loves the sea, used to have a boat; they paddle a canoe down the river and swim. As soon as you get out of Paris you can live on nothing.
     The meeting marked the end of a long estrangement that began after Nin and Durrell had parted ways in France just before World War II, an estrangement Nin attributed to a lack of communication rather than any animus.

Anais Nin (top, center) with the Durrell family, 1958

Anthology of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal is here!

Not only are we celebrating Anaïs Nin’s 116th birthday, which occurs on February 21, 2019, but also the publication of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Anthology 2003-2018.

Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine on February 21, 1903. A Café in Space was born 100 years later, 15 volumes of which were published annually. The legacy of the journal is captured in a one-of-a-kind anthology, some 400 pages of the best representative work collected over the 15 years of its existence.

The authors’ list is quite impressive:

Anaïs Nin
Henry Miller (Nin’s former lover)
Alfred Perlès (Miller’s best friend)
Hugh Guiler (Nin’s “east coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin (Nin’s father)
Rupert Pole (Nin’s “west coast” husband)
Joaquín Nin-Culmell (Nin’s younger brother)
Eduardo Sánchez (Nin’s cousin)
John Ferrone (Nin’s editor)
Lanny Baldwin (Nin’s 1940s love interest)
John W. Bagnole (Miller scholar)
Simon Dubois Boucheraud (Nin scholar)
Sarah B. Burghauser (Nin scholar)
Ruth Charnock (Nin scholar)
Béatrice Commengé (Nin’s French translator)
James M. Decker (Miller scholar)
Lynette Felber (Nin/Miller scholar)
Janet Fitch (American novelist)
Lana Fox (erotic writer)
Benjamin Franklin V (Nin scholar)
Kennedy Gammage (poet and Durrell scholar)
David Green (Durrell scholar)
Anita Jarczok (Nin scholar)
Dawn Kaczmar (English scholar)
Jane Eblen Keller (Durrell/Nin scholar)
Harry Kiakis (friend of Miller)
Richard Pine (Durrell scholar)
Eduardo Pineda (historian)
Bruce Redwine (Durrell scholar)
Steven Reigns (Nin scholar)
Chrissi Sepe (novelist)
Colette Standish (visual artist)
Yuko Yaguchi (Nin scholar and Japanese translator)

This talented and diverse group of contributors best represents  A Café in Space and offers insight into Nin, Miller, Durrell, and other contemporaries, including Rebecca West, Evelyn Hinz, Helba Huara and Luis Buñuel.

Never-before-published photographs of Anaïs Nin adorn the covers of the anthology, and several rare photos are included in the contents.

Articles include diary entries by Nin and her correspondence with many of her contemporaries and family members, revealing details of events previously unknown to the public, including a series of letters to and from her father during the incest period. There are offerings by some of the world’s most highly regarded Nin, Miller and Durrell scholars on far-ranging but always relevant topics, including Nin’s rise to fame, how she is regarded in the media, her history of readership in Japan, how she influenced some of today’s writers, the story behind Nin biographies, thoughtful looks at today’s studies on Nin, Miller and Durrell, and accounts of visits to some of the most iconic locations frequented by the “three musketeers” in France. Short fiction, art and poetry reflect Nin’s influence on today’s writers, and there are book reviews on studies of each of the “musketeers.”

This anthology is a grand adieu from the only Nin-dedicated literary journal in print today and will give the reader much to savor, something to dip into whenever the spirit is moved, or perhaps to binge on to satisfy the hunger for material on one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, whose influence reaches well into the twenty-first.

To purchase the print version of the Café in Space anthology, click here.

To purchase a digital version, click here.

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Anaïs Nin Podcast 34: How A Café in Space was born

In 2003, 100 years after the birth of Anaïs Nin, the first volume of the only current literary journal dedicated to Nin was born too. It came on the heels of the demise of ANAIS: An International Journal after its editor, Gunther Stuhlmann, died in 2002, before he was able to produce a special centennial issue the following year.

Paul Herron, a frequent contributor to ANAIS, was devastated by the loss of his friend and mentor, not to mention the fact that a huge void in Nin studies had suddenly opened up. Only a few months later, Herron attended a Lawrence Durrell conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was approached by another of his mentors, Roger Jackson, the Miller publisher who inspired him to produce Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (1996), and encouraged him to think about filling the gap in Nin scholarship himself. At first, the idea intimidated him because of his deep respect for Stuhlmann’s work, something he felt was untouchable. But certain travels and events soon changed his mind, some of which is revealed here for the first time.

Recorded on the eve of the publication of the Café in Space anthology (2003-2018), this podcast is Paul Herron’s story of how it all began.

Run time: 16:38

To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order a print copy of the Café in Space anthology, click here.

To order a digital copy, click here.

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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.

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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.

The Fate of an Anais Nin Portrait

This is a story about how working on the forthcoming book Father Letters: Correspondence between Anaïs and Joaquín Nin, 1933-1940 inspired a quest to locate what I thought was a long-lost portrait of Anaïs Nin.

In one of Joaquín’s letters to Anaïs, dated Sept. 6, 1933, he expresses gratitude for two items his daughter had sent him: one was a photograph, and the other was a small reproduction of a portrait of Anaïs by Nastashia Troubetskioa (aka Princess Natasha Troubetskoi). About the portrait, Joaquín says:

There is a good resemblance in your portrait: the similarity of movement of both hands was unfortunate, but the whole is extremely attractive. Despite the fur coat, we can guess the “grace” of the body and all its finesse. And it is slightly “slavic.” One would want to call you Anaïscha Ninskaya Guilerova…!

In a letter dated the next day, he said:

Your little Russian portrait is there where I can see it; you seem to be observing the procession of a fiancé that Madame Troubetskoia has offered you so you can reign legally…and as such you seem to lack what you really need.

I had seen photographs in some of Anaïs Nin’s diaries and other Nin-related publications, in which she sits in front of the finished portrait. Naturally, I began to wonder about its fate—who owns it? Does it even still exist?

I did a little research and found that on January 23, 1929, Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary:

Visited Princess Troubetskoi, who is a painter and decorator. I had heard of her furniture and wanted to see it for my future home. While I admired the furniture she admired me: “You have a dream face. I must paint you, like that, in your sapphire-blue coat against the background of my chair (her own work, copper designed with figures of a Pushkin legend and inlaid with colored stones). You like this furniture? Pure Russian. No—all Russian wouldn’t do for you, too heavy. Russian-Oriental. Yes, a delicate Oriental. When will you come? I am going to get a canvas right now” (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 157).

The next day, Anaïs wrote:

The Princess has made a deep impression on me—her enthusiasm, frankness, her genius for color and decoration, the quality of her mind, her love of legends, her understanding of sadness. […] What I feel in her studio has a stronger hold upon my imagination than any other emotion (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 157).

On January 26, 1929, she added:

I am too occupied with the Princess and almost too happy to find out she has very few friends and that she wants me to “come upstairs as often as possible” because I fit into her background (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 159) and Every morning I posed for the Princess (Early Diary of Anaïs Nin 1927-1931, p. 161).

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Anais Nin and Nastashia Troubetskoia, 1929, Paris

Shortly after the massive portrait was finished, both Anaïs and Nastashia Troubetskioa posed for a small photoshoot, and the photo of Anaïs sitting next to the painting was one of them.

But what happened to the portrait?

I googled the artist’s name, which is listed in later diary entries as “Natashia Troubetskoia,” and went to images: Among the dozens of images, I saw was one in color, which stood out because all the others were black and white. Next, I visited the source of the image and was shocked to learn that it was the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D. C., just down the freeway from where I live. First, I was relieved that it still exists, and second, I found out that it is among their non-displayed collection, meaning they had it, but it was kept in their archives and was not available for public view.

There was no way that this painting and I were not going to be in the same place at the same time, so I immediately called and asked for a private viewing.

I was asked all the questions one would expect: Who are you? Why do you want to view the painting? What are your credentials? What are your intentions?

When I replied that I am a Nin publisher and had come across Joaquín’s comments in the father letters, I was put in touch with Dorothy Moss, who is the Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and the Coordinating Curator of the Smithsonian Women’s History Initiative, which I was unaware of up to that point.

Dorothy was more than helpful: she arranged a private viewing on a sunny summer weekday morning. We came too early and were told to wait outside, and I noticed more than one side-eye from the security people; but once the clock hit 9:00, we were allowed back in and introduced to Jennifer Wodzianski, the Smithsonian Registrar of Collections, who acted as our guide. We were practically the only people in the mammoth gallery, since the doors don’t open to the public until 11:00 AM, so the trip through a labyrinth of hallways and up an elevator was sort of surreal.

Then, we entered what looked like a store room, and there it was: The six-foot tall Troubestkoia portrait, the color and texture of which was stunning. No photograph can reveal the three-dimensional quality of the painting; thick applications of oil seemed to have one purpose: to permit the face of the then-26-year-old Anaïs Nin to practically leap out of the canvas. When I stood near the visage, I had the feeling that it is a living thing, that the eyes can see, and that the smile is intended for whoever views it. I’m no art expert, but I can say that I have never seen a painting like it anywhere. It profoundly affected me. I practically had to be pried away from it; the only reason I allowed this to happen is because it was apparent that the other people in the room had other things to do—it is the Smithsonian, after all.

The obvious question for me was: Will the portrait ever be displayed? It had been purchased from a private collector in Paris in 2000; but here’s the kicker: the collector had purchased it in the 1980s at an antiques fair in Ile de Chatou, a White Russian enclave, which is just west of Paris and only a few miles from the village where Anaïs once lived, Louveciennes.

So, will it be displayed? As of today, no one has a definitive answer, but there are two facts that have to be considered: One, thousands of dollars have been spent to restore it; Two, thousands more are being spent to frame it. The logical conclusion is that yes, it will be on display for the public, otherwise such an investment (the original purchase , the restoration and the framing) would never have been made.

The question now seems to be not if, but when. I, for one, will keep you posted. And I wonder if you will have the same reaction I had when you finally see it in person.

To listen to a 9-minute podcast about this topic with iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

Detail of Nin portrait, Smithsonian (photo: Paul Herron)

Detail of Nin portrait, Smithsonian (photo: Paul Herron)

 

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Click on this image to see the Smithsonian information on the portrait

 

Recent publications by or about Anaïs Nin: A handy guide

It’s easy to get lost in Anaïs Nin’s literary ocean without a guide, so we have created a list ofrecent publications by Nin or about her, in a relatively chronological reverse order, along with a few faves.

cafe152018: A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 15. Contains original pieces by Anaïs Nin and Rupert Pole; essays by several renowned scholars and writers; rare photographs; interviews with Nin notables including one of the characters of Collages, Nobuko Albery.

 

lostworld2017: Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939 by Britt Arenander. A guidebook to the Paris of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, with complete historical documentation and more than fifty photographs of the literary duo’s favorite haunts, both then and now.

 

trapeze2017: Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947-1955. The long-awaited diary that chronicles the beginning of Nin’s “double” life with husband Hugh Guiler in New York and lover Rupert Pole in California. A complete rendering of the rigors, both physical and psychological, of a bicoastal affair with two very different men.

 

cafe142017: A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 14. Excerpts from Nin’s unpublished correspondence and much more.

 

 

auletris2016: Auletris: Erotica, a long-lost collection of Nin erotica consisting of two main stories: “Life in Provincetown” and “Marcel,” much of which had never been published before.

 

 

Other favorites include:

miragesMirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947. The first new Nin diary in seventeen years, Mirages is the record of Nin’s arrival in New York from Paris at the dawn of war and her mighty struggles as a woman and writer adapting to a harsher world. Features Henry Miller, Gonzalo More, Gore Vidal, and finally Rupert Pole.

 

quotableThe Quotable Anaïs Nin, a thematic collection of 365 of Nin’s famous (and occasionally obscure) quotations, with citations. You will note the poem “Risk” does not appear here, since it has been mistakenly attributed to Nin for decades. For verified quotes with sources, this is the book you need.

 

portableThe Portable Anaïs Nin, a sampling of all genres of Nin’s writing, in chronological order with comments by renowned Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V. Highly recommended for first-time Nin readers or anyone who wants a complete collection in one book.

Anaïs Nin Podcast 30: Gonzalo Moré and Helba Huara

To kick off the celebration of the 15th and final issue of A Café in Space, California artist and historian Eduardo Pineda discusses his two articles, “The Dreaming Tiger—On Gonzalo Moré” and “La Gitana—On Helba Huara,” which reveal the secrets and long-lost memories of Nin’s Peruvian lover Gonzalo Moré and his wife, the dancer Helba Huara.

Helba Huara and Anaïs Nin, 1936. Photo: Emile Savitry

Helba Huara and Anais Nin, 1936. Photo: Emile Savitry

As anyone who has read Nin’s 1930s and 1940s diaries knows, Nin met Gonzalo Moré at a party and was swept off her feet by his astounding presence, his Latin passion, and his utter bohemianism. When Nin visited Moré at his Paris apartment, she was shocked to find that he and his wife Helba were living in utter squalor. Once Nin and Moré commenced their decade-long love affair, she felt compelled to help him and Helba escape their sickly existence by giving them money for a new apartment, for food and medicine—Helba, at this time, had just fallen into a mélange of illnesses that incapacitated her and ended her once-celebrated dance career. While Huara was grateful for Nin’s financial support, she resented her presence in her husband’s live, and almost immediately a hate-infested relationship developed between the three of them. For ten years, it was a war between carnal passion and almost insane jealousy and hatred, a war in which the dark side eventually ultimately destroyed the Nin-Moré relationship in 1946. But before it ended, Nin and Moré founded the Gemor Press in New York to not only print Nin’s books, but also to provide Moré with a source of income. While the press produced several true works of art, Moré’s lack of discipline and Helba’s increasing demands on him for constant care rendered him unable to fulfill his duties as a printer.

Ironically, Moré came from a prominent Peruvian family and was due a significant inheritance. In order to save their relationship, Nin offered to send Moré back to Peru to get his inheritance, but his pride would not let him go—he was horrified by the idea of how his family would react to his sorry state of affairs and never went back.

Once the affair ended—and it ended bitterly—there were few entries in Nin’s diaries about Moré and Huara, and we, the readers, like Nin, lose track of them. There was confusion about how Moré and Huara left the country, when, and what happened next. Even the death date attributed to Moré in the published diaries (1966) turns out to be off by seven years.

But now, the lack of information and the mysteries have been in great part solved by Pineda’s dogged detective work, which has taken over twenty years. We find out how Moré and Huara met each other, how they had a daughter who Nin believed was Moré’s niece, and the incredible success Huara had as a performer of Peruvian indigenous dances, even to the point where she and Moré (who accompanied Huara on piano) appeared in New York City during the 1920s. We also discover that Huara was about to be awarded a national U.S. tour just as she fell ill, and how her plans for a return to dance many years later were tragically ended with an accident.

Listen as Eduardo Pineda reveals these details of the lives of these two once-famed but now enigmatic artists.

Run time: 50 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To order Volume 15 of A Café in Space, click here.

New Review of Henry Miller: The Last Days

Here is a new, abridged version of a review by Resources for American Literary Study:

Henry Miller, the Last Days: A Memoir
By Barbara Kraft. San Antonio: Sky Blue P, 2016. 203 pp. $15.

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller (1891-1980) both shared part of their private lives with Barbara Kraft, giving her the unimaginable opportunity of being alongside two of the more memorable writers of the twentieth century during their final years. Kraft became an important source of support and enjoyment for the ailing writers. Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, A Memoir (2011) is Kraft’s account of her time with Nin, and this current memoir details the events surrounding her friendship with Miller. Drawing from her diary recording that period, Kraft provides an intimate view into Miller’s ups and downs with his failing health. We are presented with a Miller very much alive and connected—albeit growing more disinterested—with the world around him, vivacious in his love for Brenda Venus, continuing his endless correspondence, and publishing short works. Miller’s home life, however, was increasingly troubled, and Kraft elucidates biographical details of Miller’s household that have been overlooked by his many biographers.

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Following the international fame Miller attained in the early 1960s due to his pornography trial and resulting American and British publication of his Tropic novels, he became a sought-after outsider. With this (mostly) unwanted attention, the aging writer tended to avoid many of his devoted fans. In reaction to this sometimes-aggressive public attention, Miller may have subconsciously tried to regain some privacy by keeping separate the various sections of his life. Kraft recalls that Miller had a revolving collection of sixteen different “chefs” visiting his house, of whom Kraft was one—these were people whom Miller had asked to cook him dinner a few times a month—yet, over the course of nearly three years, Kraft never met any of the others. Because of Miller’s tendency to pigeonhole his friends into various parts of his life, it is understandable that Kraft’s memoir is very much centered on Miller’s kitchen, a place where she spent many evenings conversing with Miller, sometimes bringing special visitors with whom Kraft thought Miller might find an affinity.

From a biographical perspective, Kraft’s Henry Miller, The Last Days is an important addition to the memoirs and reflections on Miller’s Pacific Palisades time.

By the beginning of 1980, the inevitable final decline in Miller’s health became apparent to Kraft. Death came slowly, and Kraft recalls the waiting for the moment when his life would end. During these last months, Miller was still mostly cognizant of his surroundings, but his body increasingly failed him. He refused to let Venus see him in such a condition and turned down an opportunity presented by Kraft to meet Eugene Ionesco, one of his favorite playwrights. As his body failed, Miller’s mind also drifted, sometimes back to his days in France, and he soon required Pickerill’s assistance with all of his daily functions. Kraft moves quickly through these months, as Miller’s ability to interact with guests decreased and she had to devote more attention to her own personal life.

The memoir ends with Miller’s death, and by ending there, it appears that Kraft had no personal involvement with Miller’s posthumous family affairs. Why it took Kraft twenty-three years to set down a detailed reflection on her friendship with Miller seems irrelevant; for those interested in Miller, Kraft recollects the events as if they had just recently unfolded, writing in the first person. Ultimately, the expanded details of the book-length memoir provide a final glimpse of Miller from a perspective that no other biographer will be able to portray.

WAYNE E. ARNOLD, The University of Kitakyushu, Japan, for Resources for American Literary Study

To order a print copy of Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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