Anaïs Nin was never afraid of new ways to disseminate her work, working in several different media, much of it ahead of its time. Her words were on the page, read at spoken word events, recorded on vinyl, made into film, and were accompanied by electronic music.
In Volume 10 of A Café in Space, yet another platform for Nin’s work has appeared: comic book (or graphic novel, or manga). Joel Enos, a frequent contributor to A Café in Space and who works in the graphics media, decided to put Nin’s famous story “Under a Glass Bell” into comic book form, using the artwork of the talented Fiona Meng to visualize Nin’s ethereal Jeanne and her two brothers, who, according to critic Oliver Evans, are living out a life of psychological incest in their house. The siblings’ isolation from the world is represented by the glass bell, which, as Nin says, “covered the entire house.”
The prospects of such a representation of Nin’s fiction are tantalizing indeed, and I hope we will see more in the future. Below are some frames from A Café in Space, which can be ordered both in print and digital format.
Below, Jeanne has rushed from disturbing images she sees in the “room of mirrors” to her sleeping brother:
Under a Glass Bell (the ebook) can be ordered by clicking here.
There is big news for those worldwide who are eager to read the works of Anaïs Nin digitally. Amazon has recently opened markets in England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, Brazil, and Canada, making it possible for anyone either with a Kindle or a Kindle app on their computer, phone, or tablet to download Nin titles instantly. Nin’s fiction and A Café in Space are available, as well as the diaries and erotica. To visit the Amazon sites in your country, click on the appropriate link below:
It is a little-known fact that electronic music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron supplemented their income by recording avant-garde writers reading from their own work, including Aldous Huxley, Henry Miller, and Anais Nin, under the label of Sound Portraits. The Barrons had heard Nin reading and were captivated not only by the nature of her work, but by the author herself. Nin’s 1936 “prose poem,” House of Incest, was perhaps Nin’s most creative fiction, called “surrealist” by some, “French poetry written in English” by others, and “unique” almost universally. Some have devoted theses, articles, and books to the exploration of the meaning of House of Incest, but perhaps the best way to interpret it is to listen to Nin’s masterful performance of reading it aloud. It is then the words come alive and weave together in ways not obvious by merely reading them on paper. Nin breathes significance into each passage, each phrase, each word, masterfully emphasizing and enunciating only as she can. To listen to the entire work in 64 minutes parallels dreaming it with Nin. Her voice is the music, her words the lyrics, both of which precipitate images unique to each listener. This book has no definite and concrete meaning–it is an experience that we each can call our own. That is the magic of Nin’s work in general, and House of Incest in particular.
Adam Barron, the son of Louis and Bebe Barron, has finally released the CD version of his parents’ recording of Nin, and with the modern technology of remastering and digitization, the product sounds every bit as pristine as the original. It is available through his web site, http://www.barronsoundportraits.com for $15.00US, postage included in the U.S., and it includes many extras, such as a facsimile of the original liner notes, a synopsis, and a glossary of some of Nin’s terminology.
The proceeds from the sale of the CD go to UNICEF.
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The idea of The Portable Anaïs Nin came from Gunther Stuhlmann, who was Nin’s literary agent and co-editor of her Diary of Anaïs Nin. At the time, which was in the mid-1990s, he felt that too much attention was being given by biographers and critics to the sordid side of her love life, and not enough to her work. Complicating all of this was the release of her unexpurgated diary Incest, which covered not only adult-onset incest with her father, but also the fact that she’d had a long, horrifying abortion of a late-term child, both of which she wrote about graphically. This combination of biographies and unexpurgated diaries naturally turned attention to the “verboten” aspects of Nin’s life rather than her literary achievements.
Stuhlmann proposed an anthology that would “introduce a new generation of readers to the writer Anaïs Nin rather than to the ‘personality’ which has been distorted and denigrated in recent years… I visualize a handy volume which creates an overall view of the many facets of Nin’s work and ideas by drawing on her actual writing.” In short, he wished to return the attention to the art, and through the art, the artist.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems of Nin publication is the way they were presented originally. Nin not only had the need to write about her life, even early in her career, she longed to share the diaries with her readers. For obvious reasons (the fact that the nature of her life meant multiple deceptions and lies to her significant partners), she could not possibly have published the diaries as they were. Her first attempt to express what she’d written in secret was through her fiction, which was mainly a veiled version of her life and its principle personages. This she found unsatisfactory, and the critics agreed. While there is plenty of psychological truth in the fiction (which in itself makes it valuable), it was still smoke and mirrors, illusion, and vague.
Nin struggled for years to find a way to publish her diaries, and it was only late in life that she came up with the only possible solution: to offer extremely expurgated versions of them, versions that would not hurt those still living. Her husband, Hugh Guiler, asked to not be mentioned, which added another complication, because she could only recount her life without mention of the husband who financially and emotionally supported her (this omission was ammunition for attack by feminists, who were attracted to her in the first place because the diaries made it appear she’d live an independent life). So, seven volumes of heavily edited diaries appeared on the market, and it was left to readers to “read between the lines” to figure out that Henry Miller and her own father were among her many lovers. When the unexpurgated diaries came out posthumously (beginning with Henry and June in 1986), several of Nin’s friends, fans, and associates felt betrayed. The revelations are many, and some of them are stunning. I remember being invited to a get-together of some women who’d thought they knew Anaïs Nin until the unexpurgated diaries came out. Some of them refused to believe that their Anaïs was capable of such atrocities, especially incest. One of them said, “I think Gunther Stuhlmann and Rupert Pole concocted those passages themselves just to make money.” No one seemed to disagree.
This fractured approach to Nin publications eventually led to the point where the world seemed to turn against what was once the champion of self-discovery, the lover of life, the one who refused to despair, the one whom an entire generation admired for daring to seek and tell the truth. Reviewers of the biographies and the unexpurgated diaries didn’t bother to review the books—instead, they laid judgment on the author’s life. Lost in all of this was the work.
Gunther Stuhlmann’s proposal for The Portable Anaïs Nin was rejected by certain publishers who by that time had formed some harsh opinions about Nin, and it was placed in a folder and filed away in a drawer. After Stuhlmann’s untimely death in 2002, his wife, Barbara, discovered the proposal while sorting through the massive amount of documents he’d left behind. She sent it to me. There were only a couple yellowed pages in the folder, but the idea was as fresh and as important as it had ever been. I contacted Benjamin Franklin V, who is the world’s foremost Nin scholar and bibliographer, and he was overjoyed with the idea of a new anthology. After months of painstaking work of selecting, introducing, and annotating selections from the entire spectrum of Nin’s writing, Stuhlmann’s vision was realized. The Portable Anaïs Nin was first released as an ebook, and now it is finally available in print.
It is, as Stuhlmann envisioned, “an open invitation to an engaging literary adventure trip, which could, and should, gain an entirely new audience for Anaïs Nin’s work.”
To order a print copy of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.
To order a digital version of The Portable Anais Nin, click here.
To see our complete list of available Anais Nin ebooks, click here.
To order books from Anais Nin’s and Rupert Pole’s Silver Lake Collection, click here.
Sky Blue Press is offering their titles, including their Anais Nin publications as well as the poetry of Stephane Mallarme and Daisy Aldan, at incredibly good prices. Worldwide shipping is available, and any buyer gets a priceless but free gift. Details are below (clicking on each icon will take you to the bookstore directly):
The Portable Anais Nin, by popular demand, will be available in print. In fact, we are using this sale to fund its publication. It is a chronological anthology of Nin’s most important writings, beginning at age 12 and continuing to just before her death. It is not only a handy guidebook to her work, it also follows her evolution as a writer and as a woman. Introduced and annotated by Benjamin Franklin V, it is projected to be in print by October 1, 2011. Sky Blue Press is taking advanced orders at a 25% discount for a limited time. (reg. $19.99): $14.99
The Winter of Artifice: a facsimile of the original 1939 Paris edition. This book had been out of print for nearly 70 years because it was banned in English-speaking countries and war had obliterated its distribution in France. This book is made from the original unexpurgated version. (hardcover, reg. $29.50): $5.99
One of 25 limited edition copies of the above title (signed and numbered by Benjamin Franklin V, including a rare glossy photo of Nin in 1939 Paris, and a facsimile of her handwritten diary entry describing how the edition was doomed; hardcover, reg. $100.00): $49.50 (less than 5 left).
A Cafe in Space, Volume 2, which includes Nin’s “dream of Haiti,” a love affair with a culture and its members, essays on Nin’s writing, Henry Miller, and an excerpt from Anton Chekhov’s sister’s memoir. (reg. $15.00): $4.99
A Cafe in Space, Volume 4 includes correspondence between Anais Nin, her agent Gunther Stuhlmann, and publisher Alan Swallow, which details the frustration, pain, hope, breakthroughs, betrayals, and heartbreak on the way to Nin’s ultimate fame; revealing letters between editor John Ferrone and Rupert Pole, who were at odds about how to present Nin’s first unexpurgated diary, Henry and June. (reg. $15.00): $4.99
A Cafe in Space, Volume 5 is a special issue with Nin’s unpublished critical writing, treatments of her fiction, and an extensive interview conducted at the height of her fame in 1969. (reg. $15.00): $4.99
A Cafe in Space, Volume 6 contains “Prelude to a Symphony,” recently discovered letters from Joaquin Nin to his daughter in 1933 around the time of the beginning of their incestuous affair. These letters make clear who the aggressor in this relationship was, and to what lengths Nin’s father went to entice his grown daughter to his lair in the south of France. Also included are several articles regarding Nin’s writing, Henry Miller, and poetry. (reg. $15.00): $4.99
To Purify the Words of the Tribe: The Verse Poems of Stephane Mallarme, including his masterpiece “Un Coup De Des,” translated by Daisy Aldan, recoginized worldwide as Mallarme’s premier translator. This bilingual volume contains the French symbolist’s poems in both French and English, in the same visual format used by Mallarme himself, with expositions by Aldan. By far the best Mallarme translation on the market today. (reg. $19.95): $3.99
The Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan: 1933-2000. Daisy Aldan, who was Anais Nin’s close friends, was more than just a maverick Beat publisher and translator; she was also a very accomplished poet whose style was always evolving and always deeply spiritual. From her lush early poems to her minimalist later ones, this book chronicles the birth and evolution of one of the twentieth century’s best kept secrets. (reg. $29.95): $5.95 (there are less than 20 left)
Check out these and Sky Blue Press’s other titles at their new bookstore: http://www.skybluepress.org
To see all available digital titles by Anaïs Nin, visit our Nin e-bookstore.
To order books from the Nin house in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), visit the Anaïs Nin Trust bookstore.
On the surface, the match between writer Anaïs Nin and publisher Alan Swallow seemed perfect. Both were passionate about their work, neither of them trusted the world of big-time publishers, and both had struggled long and hard to achieve what they had. In fact, Swallow predicted the collaboration would be a “good wedding of work and publisher.”
By the time Nin wrote to Swallow in 1961 about becoming her publisher, she and her agent, Gunther Stuhlmann, had vainly struggled for years to find an American publisher for her body work, and Nin was on the brink of giving up [see Anaïs Nin and Gunther Stuhlmann, "The Incubation of Fame: Early correspondence," A Café in Space, Vol. 3, pp. 100-126]. Swallow was a self-made man, a tireless optimist and a workaholic who, in the early years, ran his operation out of his Denver garage. He’d made a success by the sweat of his brow and by giving everything he had—to his health’s detriment—to his business. He was an inspiration to many, a folk hero to small publishers far and wide, and was completely devoted to his authors.
When Alan Swallow was presented with the chance to become Anaïs Nin’s publisher, he jumped at it, plunging in with enthusiasm and bold plans to revamp the presentation of Nin’s fiction. In recently found correspondence included in Volume 4 of A Cafe in Space, just released on Kindle, we witness the birth of the form in which the fiction exists today as Swallow took up the many bits and pieces that had been haphazardly published over the years into a cohesive collection. He did, however, unknowingly step into a longstanding situation with high innate entropy—years of failure, starts and stops, and bad business habits—against which he fought mightily. He had to plead for information, tried to keep up with Nin’s bicoastal habits, and had run-ins with Gunther Stuhlmann concerning the logistics of existing catalogues versus new publications, money, costs, storage, and all the other details of taking over a huge responsibility with a highly disorganized and fractured structure. Swallow’s letters indicate his ability to think on the run, to cover all the bases, and they also reflect incredible honesty and a remarkable willingness to comply with demands that taxed him greatly, especially those of the monetary kind. There is little doubt he put his author first, even when it hurt, a fact that was not lost with Nin and Stuhlmann.
The relationship between Nin, Stuhlmann, and Swallow, however cordial it usually was, was not void of controversy. Swallow’s letter of December 2, 1964 to Nin leaves little doubt he’d felt betrayed by both Nin and Stuhlmann when Swallow was bypassed as a potential publisher of Letters to Anaïs Nin by Henry Miller (who had just won his obscenity trials, clearing the way for the publication of his Tropics and other books the USA) in favor of the mainstream publisher Putnam:
And then I find that the letters are sold, and by this time the whole idea of cooperation and a joint imprint was forgotten. Perhaps they object at Putnam (which, by the way, has become a despicable publisher); perhaps it was just more convenient to make the arrangements that way. Neither you nor Gunther ever told me; I never heard another word about the idea.
Now then, next step: undoubtedly the letters will sell and will bring attention. The name of H. Miller is now magic. Even the corner shoeshine boy, if he would publish this, would sell it! But once it is ready to go, then it has to be “big time” or whatever the conception is. I want to register right now this notion: I do not want it held up in any way that the sales of the H. Miller letters will indicate what a big time outfit can do that a small time one can’t—first, because anyone can sell that book, not because of its value (which I think it undoubtedly has, although I’ve seen none of the work) but because of the name; so it is no test. I, too, could sell thousands and thousands of that book and more quickly than I will sell, note, thousands and thousands of your former books. Second, because the ice has already broken, just as I predicted it would. Too late, in one sense, but just right for Putnam to grab onto it. In fact, a part of the success they will have with that book will be due to my work—and I don’t mind saying that I resent it like the devil…
Alan Swallow died only weeks after the release of what would become Nin’s vehicle to fame: the Diary, in which at least he was named co-publisher with Harcourt. Swallow Press continues to publish Nin’s fiction today in association with Ohio University Press.
To see all available digital titles by Anaïs Nin, visit our Nin e-bookstore.
To order books from the Nin house in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), visit the Anaïs Nin Trust bookstore.
By the time Anaïs Nin returned to New York in late 1939, driven from Paris by the war, she had already begun writing a series of short stories that would be collected under the title of Under a Glass Bell. According to Benjamin Franklin V’s Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts, Nin self-published (Gemor Press) the original collection in 1944, which contained the following stories: “Birth,” “House Boat,” “Je Suis le Plus Malade Des Surrealistes Antonin Artaud,” “The Labyrinth,” “The Mohican,” “The Mouse,” “Rag Time,” and “Under a Glass Bell.” For the 1948 Dutton edition, Nin added the titles “The Child Born out of the Fog,” “The Eye’s Journey,” “Hejda,” and “Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth.”
Before Nin released her now-famous diaries in 1966, she spent decades promoting her fiction, sometimes by reading passages or entire stories during lectures—in this case it is the title story “Under a Glass Bell.” It is very possible that this audio recording was made not long after Swallow Press re-released the collection in the early 1960s.
The story, as Nin reads it, is reminiscent of the incestuous isolation that is the theme of her first fictional work House of Incest or Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. Nin’s delivery gives the story a dimension that may otherwise be undetectable. It is advised to empty your mind and let Nin’s words take it on a short but fascinating journey.
To listen to the 18 minute sound clip, click here. (Courtesy of The Anaïs Nin Trust; all rights reserved)
To listen to Young and Hugh Guiler discuss Nin’s diary, click here.
For more information on Under a Glass Bell, click here.
To order the digital version of Under a Glass Bell, click here.
To order the print version of Under a Glass Bell, click here.
Beginning with the novel This Hunger, which was later incorporated into Ladders to Fire, Anaïs Nin expressed herself through three key female characters: Lillian, Djuna, and Sabina.
These female characters (as well as certain male characters, such as Jay) appear throughout the five novels in the Cities of the Interior collection: Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, The Four-Chambered Heart, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur. While all three female characters appear in Nin’s earlier fiction (see Benjamin Franklin V’s Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary), they were redefined and reintroduced in Ladders to Fire. As Nin sought acceptance in New York’s harsh literary climate in the 1940s, she ran into criticism about the lack of realism and plot in her stories, and her characters were declared “nebulous.” Nin’s response to this broad misunderstanding of her work was expressed in two works about her theories on writing fiction: Realism and Reality (1946) and On Writing (1947), both of which were, in part, incorporated into The Novel of the Future (1968).
In this reading, held in Washington, D.C. (the date is uncertain, but it is most likely pre-1966), Nin reads passages from Ladders to Fire and A Spy in the House of Love that serve as introductions to her female characters. Nin also mentions that each of them appear in the “party section” of Ladders to Fire.
Note how Nin never skips a beat (except for a giggle) when someone apparently trips over some furniture while she is reading.
To listen to the nine minute sound clip, click here. (Recording courtesy of The Anais Nin Trust)
For information on each of the novels from Cities of the Interior, see the links below:
Stella, a lesser-known work written by Anais Nin in 1945, is an examination of self-discovery and self-worth, a theme central to much of her fiction. The title character is loosely based on actress Luise Rainer, with whom Nin had a contentious friendship. Stella is faced with the contrast between her love affair with a public that adores her for her film roles and her personal inability to find human love. The men in Stella’s life include an ex-husband, a Don Juan lover, and a father who is not unlike Nin’s own.
It is ironic that Stella, like Rainer herself, is an orphan, since the novella itself is somewhat of a orphaned child. Nin experimented placing it in her 1946 Dutton edition of Ladders to Fire, and eventually in Swallow’s 1961 edition of Winter of Artifice, where remains today, as well as in Sky Blue Press’s 2010 anthology The Portable Anais Nin. Nin herself expressed the difficulty of finding Stella a home, so it only makes sense to offer it as a single title.
According to critic Oliver Evans, who compares Stella to D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, the novella “remains one of [Nin’s] most thoroughly realized performances. She has taken the timeworn theme of the possessive female and examined it through her microscopic lens from new and interesting angles.”
To see and/or purchase Stella at Amazon.com, click here. (The cover art is based on an engraving by Ian Hugo, aka Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband.)
To see all current Anais Nin titles on Kindle, you can visit our Anais Nin ebookstore.