One Hundred Biographers: The Genesis of Anaïs Nin: A Biography

By the early 1990s, it was apparent that Evelyn Hinz, the so-called “official” biographer of Anaïs Nin, was never going to get around to writing a biography. Rupert Pole, Gunther Stuhlmann, and many Nin scholars were growing impatient, especially since scholars did not have free access to the unpublished portions of the Nin archive and therefore there were great chasms in the understanding of Nin’s life. By 1990, all of the early diaries had been published, as well as the first “unexpurgated” diary, Henry and June, which covered the years 1931 and 1932. However, even Henry and June was a frustrating endeavor for scholars, since the book was not indexed and left out many details of Nin’s life. That’s not a criticism of the book, for the intent was for it to read well, like a novel…indeed, it read well enough for Philip Kaufman to use it as a basis for the screenplay of the movie Henry and June, which was released in the fall of 1990 to critical acclaim.


Around this time, Deirdre Bair, who was finishing the manuscript for her biography on Simone de Beauvoir, was alerted to the lack of a Nin biography through her agent. This planted a seed in her head, and soon she became intrigued by a woman “who wrote reams and reams, hundreds of thousands of words, but they were only about her, about her personal life,” as opposed to Beauvoir, who wrote only about her public life. When Bair read the entire diary series, she “was seeing tremendous holes in…shall we call it the truth? There were tremendous questions, unresolved questions that needed to be resolved. In Diary 1, for example, she’s enjoying this marvelous life and I’m wondering who is paying for this; where is the money coming from? What’s the background of her career? What’s her financial status? There are all these questions Anaïs never answered. But then she didn’t really have to—this was autobiography, this was memoir, and this is what she wanted the reader to know. But a biography is a different animal altogether, and so as a biographer it was my job to fill in the holes.”


She called John Ferrone (who edited the erotica and Henry and June, among other famous titles at Harcourt) and Gunther Stuhlmann, the Nin estate’s literary agent. She met with Stuhlmann, who, she says, welcomed her with open arms, and then she traveled to Los Angeles and met Rupert Pole, who took her on a tour of the Silver Lake house and the archives at UCLA. He told Bair that Hinz’s status was unchanged (i.e. she was no longer considered as a candidate for the biography), but that another biographer, Noel Riley Fitch, had approached him as well. Bair made it clear that there could only be one official biographer—Pole and Stuhlmann consequently granted her exclusive access to the archives until the book was published.


Bair visited Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Nin’s youngest brother, in San Francisco and learned of his vehement disagreements with Pole and Stuhlmann about the manner in which his sister’s work was being handled. Bair concluded that she was not about to get in the middle of what was an ongoing war within the Nin camp, and, while gathering information from both sides, made it a point to not share information from one with the other.


The work commenced, a massive collection of data from numerous sources. About the process, she says, “I joke and I say that a biographer can’t say it was a nice day until you check the weather reports for three weeks before and after in twenty-five different newspapers. I did this to a degree I don’t think I did with any of my other books. I knew what a controversial topic she was.”


Coming soon: Deirdre Bair answers her critics

An interview with Deirdre Bair will appear in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7

One Hundred Biographers: Evelyn J. Hinz—a mystery

Anaïs Nin’s diaries came out in heavily edited form because the times and circumstances dictated it to be so. The unexpurgated diaries came out for the very same reasons. In short, Nin’s “autobiography” came out scattershot, and it was left to the devices of the readers to interpret and put together the seemingly infinite number of pieces to get the complete portrait of the woman Nin herself claimed to be one “no one could hold.”


According to the scholar Sharon Spencer, who was a close friend of Nin, the genesis of the idea of a biography occurred when, in the mid-70s, Canadian scholar “Evelyn J. Hinz persuaded Anaïs to name her ‘official’ biographer. In a brief letter which does not specify Hinz’s exclusive access to the unpublished diaries, Anaïs authorized her to proceed with research for a biography (“Forever Anaïs”).


How did Hinz get to the point where she would be entrusted with such important responsibilities, ones that would directly affect Nin’s legacy? Having written about D.H. Lawrence, Hinz’s first book-length study was The Mirror and the Garden (Ohio State Libraries, 1971–out of print), a criticism on Nin’s writing up to that point, only the second such book. In 1975, Hinz edited A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars, and Interviews of Anaïs Nin. So, needless to say, she had credentials. While Diary 7 contains relatively few references to Hinz, the idea of a biography is mentioned: “Evelyn Hinz persuaded me that a biography would supply a factual, objective completion of the Diary, which sometimes does not cover all the ground. If I agree, it will be for the Diary as well, to fill in” (Diary 7, 228). There is no development of the idea in Diary 7, however, since it ends in 1974.


After Nin’s death in 1977, Hinz did not follow through with a biography. Instead, she became more of a barrier to Nin study rather than a catalyst. Spencer says in “Forever Anaïs”: “It is now 1998. Twenty-three years later Evelyn Hinz has published nothing biographical on Anaïs and has ceased professional activity in seminars and conferences devoted to Anais’s life and writings. However, Hinz has struggled to bar other critics and scholars from access to Anaïs’s manuscripts and correspondence.”


By 1990, Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann had given up on the idea that Hinz would ever produce a biography and began a search for someone who would. The official biographer would be Deirdre Bair.


Some years later, Rupert Pole recognized his mortality and began to worry about Hinz’s status as his successor as executor, so he took action, going to court to bar Hinz from any ownership to the Nin archive. Hinz died at the age of 64 in 2002. Rumors flew about her: she had become a recluse. She was an alcoholic. She was insane. None of this can be substantiated—it is all hearsay. Certainly, something caused Hinz to cease her scholarly activities, but what it was is up for debate. There is no question Hinz was a champion of Nin during the 1970s, although Spencer believed she used Nin for her own purposes. But what happened to her, and the biography, after that time remains somewhat of a mystery.