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

 

The Cover of Anaïs Nin’s Auletris Revealed

As you may know, Auletris, the new collection of Nin erotica, is about to be released. But first, let’s take a look at the cover of this long lost and fabled book.

The inspiration for the artwork came from the discovery of an erotic card among Nin’s personal collection, one that is very old, somewhat faded, and with a thumbtack hole at the top. When I found this card, I remembered I had read that the young Anaïs, newly married and having recently moved to Paris (which she found revolting at the time for its sexual openness and debauched mores), had found erotic photographs tacked to the walls of an apartment they had rented from a friend. This is portrayed in the film Henry and June, where she finds the photos (and cards) in a drawer…and this symbolizes her sexual awakening.

In any event, at the time, several years ago, I felt the card would come in handy someday, so I made a high-res copy of it.

Earlier this year, when I found out about the existence of Nin erotica that had never been published before, I naturally jumped at the chance to share it with the world. Once the transcription was done, it was time to design a cover. Both Delta of Venus and Little Birds incorporated vintage photographs, but I wanted to set Auletris apart somehow. Then I remembered the card. Not only is it perfect visually, it actually belonged to Anaïs Nin.

While we’ll never know if it came from the wall of her friend’s apartment, I like to think it did.

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

To read more about Auletris, click here.

auletriscover

 

 

 

Podcast 16: Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller with Barbara Kraft

In 1974, Barbara Kraft sent Anaïs Nin, who was offering to mentor writers, a submission that was accepted. Just after Kraft met the famous diarist, Nin discovered she had cancer and began a two-year descent into pain and suffering, but Kraft and Nin forged a deep friendship that helped Nin transcend the illness. Nin’s relentless spirit in the face of death is the subject of Kraft’s first memoir, Anaïs Nin: The Last Days (2011, Sky Blue Press).

FrontCoverEbookSoon after Nin died in early 1977, Kraft attended a talk by Henry Miller and was so impressed that she wrote “An Open Letter to Henry Miller,” which was broadcast on a local NPR station. When Miller heard a recording of the “Letter,” he immediately sought Kraft out, and he eventually asked her to be one of sixteen rotating cooks who would not only cook dinner for him, but engage in conversation. She accepted, and soon she was conversing with the Tropic of Cancer writer on a regular basis about life, art, religion, sex, philosophy and, of course, writing. Kraft became more than a cook, though—she also was Miller’s confidante and, in the end, the one responsible for making sure he didn’t die alone in the chaotic house in Pacific Palisades, all of which is included in her latest book Henry Miller: The Last Days (2016, Sky Blue Press).

Listen as Kraft reflects upon these two intimate, but very different, friendships and how she captures the essence of both Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.

Run time: 29 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

For more on Henry Miller: The Last Days, click here.

For more on Anaïs Nin: The Last Days, click here.

The Quotable Anais Nin is now in print!

The first print addition of The Quotable Anais Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations is now available for purchase. Not only does this volume contain most of Nin’s iconic quotations, it also includes many which are either largely unknown or previously unpublished. And all of them are cited with book titles and page numbers, not to mention that some of the myths surrounding Nin’s quotes are dispelled.

quotablecoverDivided into sections (Lust for Life, Love and Sensuality, Consciousness, Women and Men, Writing and Art), all of the entries are sorted by book titles and page numbers, making it easy for readers to find the quotes they are looking for.

An example of a quotation is the following, found in the section Lust for Life is as follows: “I want to live only for ecstasy. Small doses, moderate loves, all half-shades, leave me cold. I like extravagance.” —Diary 1, pg. 174

Or this, found in the Consciousness section: “The secret of joy is the mastery of pain.” —Mirages, pg. 287

Rare photographs of Nin along with six engravings by her husband Hugh Guiler (aka Ian Hugo) decorate the pages, making this book a work of art as well.

It is the perfect way to possess the best of Anais Nin’s quotations and perhaps the perfect gift for the literarily inclined or those seeking inspiration and aha moments.

To preview or order the new PRINT VERSION, click here.

To order the EBOOK version, click here.

As you probably know, it is one of the missions of Sky Blue Press to keep Anais Nin’s flame alive, so please spread the word about this newest effort. Thank you.

Anais Nin Podcast 1: “Come As Your Madness”

To help celebrate Anais Nin’s 112th birthday, we are offering you the first of a series of podcasts which focus on interesting and unknown parts of her life and work. Today, it is the “come as your madness” party which inspired the movie “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.” For a fuller description with previously unknown photos, read A Café in Space, Volume 12, either in PRINT or as a KINDLE BOOK. Enjoy the podcast. Running time: 10 minutes.

Click here for the podcast

Anais Nin and Rupert Pole, 1953

Anais Nin and Rupert Pole, 1953

Volume 4 of ANAIS: An International Journal released on Kindle

When Volume 4 of Gunther Stuhlmann’s ANAIS: An International Journal appeared in February 1986, Anaïs Nin’s husband, Hugh (Hugo) Guiler, aka Ian Hugo, had recently died suddenly in his New York apartment. Long the “silent” partner of Nin, the “East Coast” husband and banker-turned-artist whose experimental films are still revered today, Guiler is the main focus of this issue, with a remembrance by Nin’s brother Joaquin, excerpts from interviews and studies, his own thoughts on the arts of engraving and making movies as well as recollections of growing up in Puerto Rico and Scotland under extreme conditions, which influenced his life and art.

"Ian Hugo" from a photomontage by Val Telberg

“Ian Hugo” from a photomontage by Val Telberg

Also included in this issue is critical correspondence between Anais Nin and Henry Miller at the dawn of their relationship, most of which is focused on their respective writing efforts. These letters make it clear how much one influenced the other’s work, from Miller’s unadulterated criticism of Nin’s use of the English language to Nin’s efforts to keep Miller focused on the essentials in light of his tendency to go off on tangents and to exhaust every thought running through his over-active mind. We are given tangible examples of how Miller’s commentary on Nin’s fiction actually found its way into the finished products.

There is a study on Otto Rank by Nin scholar Sharon Spencer, whose hypothesis that Nin and Rank were lovers was spot on, and a look at Nin’s friend Caresse Crosby and her famed house, Hampton Manor, which attracted the likes of Nin, Miller, and Salvador Dali, among many other artists in the early 1940s.

To preview and/or order volume 4 of ANAIS: An International Journal, click here.

To preview and/or order ANAIS volume 3, click here.

For volume 2, click here.

For volume 1, click here.

To view other new Nin-related publications, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s The Novel of the Future Released on Kindle

Books rarely remain as relevant as Anaïs Nin’s The Novel of the Future, which was originally published in 1968. America then was in many ways the same as today—absence of imagination and poetics in its literature, increasing hostility to art, national hardness and callousness, and violence in place of imagination. Nin’s aim in her work was to provide a connection with the unconscious and, as Jung once put it, “proceed from the dream outward,” resulting in what she called “psychological truth” in fiction.

Photo of Anais Nin's studio: Karin Finell

Photo of Anais Nin’s studio: Karin Finell

When Nin met resistance and outright hostility to her novels in the 1940s, instead of acquiescing to her critics by making them more “realistic,” with sequential plots, crisply defined characters, beginnings, middles and ends, she published two documents explaining the value and purpose of her work. The first was Realism and Reality (1946), and the next was On Writing (1947), both published by Alicat Bookshop.

She also embarked on a lecture tour to bring her thoughts directly to her audiences, and this was a pattern she followed for the rest of her life—to get people thinking about tapping the vast unconscious and converting subterranean dreams into literature. In this sense, she was in accord with the surrealists.

Once the Diary of Anaïs Nin (1966) made her famous, she felt at liberty to incorporate the Alicat chapbooks and expand on the thoughts laid out in them in one book—and the result was The Novel of the Future. There are few publications which so clearly and deeply explore the creative process—and now The Novel of the Future is available as a digital book, as well it should be since most of Nin’s fiction is digitally available.

With chapters entitled “Proceed from the Dream Outward,” “Abstraction,” “Writing Fiction,” “Genesis,” “Diary Versus Fiction,” and “Novel of the Future,” Nin provides a blueprint for young writers seeking to rebel against the deadness of modern American fiction and produce psychological truth in their work.

“This book is dedicated to sensitive Americans,” Nin says. “May they create a sensitive America.”

To preview or purchase The Novel of the Future, click here.

Anais Nin and Henry Miller collections for sale

Recently a private collector in Manhattan decided to part with his massive collections of Anais Nin and Henry Miller books, which includes rare and first editions, some of them signed, and many of which simply cannot be found elsewhere. The collections have been catalogued by Clouds Hill Books in New York, and we are posting them here. A representative of the bookstore tells me that while the collections can be purchased in their entireties (asking price is $12,500 for the Nin collection and $17,500 for the Miller), they will also consider selling particular titles, or groups thereof, separately. If you are interested in knowing more about these collections, Clouds Hill Books can be reached by calling 212-414-4432 or by e-mailing them at cloudshill@cloudshillbooks.com.

Clouds Hill Books tells me that they soon will be offering substantial D. H. Lawrence and Lawrence Durrell catalogues, both from the same collector. We will post them when they are available.

Also, Nin scholar and friend Marion Fay is offering up her own personal collection of Nin materials, which includes personal correspondence, books, and other items of interest. If, after viewing the catalogue, you are interested in any of the items, you may contact Fay at marionf5@earthlink.net.

To view each collection, click the appropriate icon below:

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Click this icon for the Miller catalogue

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Click this icon for the Nin catalogue

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Click this icon for Fay's Nin collection

I should mention that we are doing this gratis, out of respect of those who have enough interest, passion, and devotion to put together such substantial collections by these iconic authors.

Also, don’t forget that the Anais Nin Trust has offered every title from Nin’s LA house to the public: visit the Anaïs Nin Trust bookstore.

To see all available digital titles by Anaïs Nin, visit our Nin e-bookstore.

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

47 blvd Suchet today
Click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

Nin concept (click to enlarge)

Nin concept (click to enlarge)

 

Interior of Suchet apt (click to enlarge)

Interior of Suchet apt (click to enlarge)

 

 

Nin's concept for bedroom (click to enlarge)

Nin’s concept for bedroom (click to enlarge)

Anais Nin in 1929, Blvd. Suchet

Nin's desk at Suchet (click to enlarge)

Nin’s desk at Suchet (click to enlarge)

 

 

Nin's concept of fireplace (click to enlarge)

Nin’s concept of fireplace (click to enlarge)

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

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

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

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.