The Story Behind A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal

The inaugural issue of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which celebrated Nin’s 100th birthday, is now available on Kindle.  This is the story of how it came to be.

After Gunther Stuhlmann, who edited the amazing 19 annual issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, died in 2002, there was suddenly a severe vacuum in Nin studies. Stuhlmann had planned a special centennial issue of ANAIS for 2003, and even began gathering material for it when he became seriously ill and had to abandon the project. After encouragement from several Nin and Miller scholars, this editor decided to create a new Nin journal that would pick up where ANAIS left off. Because Nin described Richard Centing’s and Benjamin Franklin V’s Under the Sign of Pisces as “a café in space” in which the literary community could gather, we were inspired to so name the new journal.

In February of 2003, I traveled to France with the intention of visiting famous Nin sites, especially her birthplace in Neuilly-sur-Seine and the house in Louveciennes, which Henry Miller called “the laboratory of the soul.” I was fortunate enough to find the Neuilly house newly refurbished, probably looking much as it did when Nin was born there. But the most amazing stroke of luck was being invited to the Nin house in Louveciennes by its new owner, actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, with a group of distinguished guests, one of them a famous actress from the Comédie-Française. After having spent more than a decade wishing for the chance to enter this fabled house, after watching it

From left: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Genevieve Casisle, Anne-Marie Thomas, at Louveciennes

From left: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Genevieve Casisle, Anne-Marie Thomas, at Louveciennes

decay to the point where it was being considered for demolition, to be inside the house on Nin’s 100th birthday, toasting her with a group of people Nin would have admired, was nothing short of miraculous. Of course, I took dozens of photos and recorded each moment of the day, and wrote it up for A Café in Space. (Click here to see a previous post on the Louveciennes visit.) On top of this, I met Claudine Brelet, who was a close friend of Lawrence Durrell, and she took us on a nostalgic tour of Montparnasse. She agreed to write an article about the special places that Durrell and Miller frequented, through which readers can experience the tour themselves.

I was able to contact some of the contributors to the never-to-be-finished issue of ANAIS, including veteran scholars such as Franklin, Lynette Felber, Phil Jason, and others, all of whom agreed to partake in the first issue of A Café in Space. Furthermore, after attending a centennial Nin conference in California early in 2003, and after hearing talks given by author Janet Fitch and Kazuko Sugisaki, Nin’s Japanese translator, I was able to collect article versions of the talks for the new journal. Fitch’s talk, titled “No Women Writers,” describes how she discovered Nin after her a junior high school substitute teacher declared that there were no important women writers. “He challenged the class to think of a single one… And then a girl in the front row raised her hand, I can still see her, her frizzy ash-blonde hair, her plump arm, waving, and she asked, What about Anaïs Nin? …And I ripped off a note which I passed up the row… WHO IS ANAÏS NIN?” The girl “corrected the spelling and sent it back, saying, ‘Read the Diaries, they’re incredible!’” The rest is history, and Fitch says that Nin’s influence is present in her famous novel White Oleander.

After the conference, we took a drive up to Oakland, CA to visit with Nin’s last surviving family member, her brother Joaquín Nin-Culmell, who, although he’d suffered a stroke shortly beforehand, was incredibly lucid, welcoming, and enthusiastic. He took us on a journey back to his childhood, explaining how cruel and selfish his father was, how Anaïs was protective of her brothers, how the family was instructed by the mother to speak only French in the household in order to keep alive their native language after coming to America. He showed us photographs and artifacts from the past, but the sight of his piano sitting silent in his living room was haunting—since his stroke, he neither played nor listened to music again. Less than a year later, he was gone. How fortunate it was to catch him on that day, a clear, warm, sunny day, the aura of which shined through Joaquín’s face. Not having originally planned to, I ended up writing up the occasion (“An Afternoon With Joaquín Nin-Culmell”) for A Café in Space.

But what about Anaïs Nin herself? What would she contribute to A Café in Space? Serendipity once again played a role in this: I was given a portion of Nin’s unpublished 1940s diaries, and in it I found passages that epitomized Nin’s first years in America after fleeing war in Europe. Disillusioned and disconnected to anything vital, she was drowning in depression and despair when she met a young and somewhat naïve young man from Iowa, who’d arrived in New York to seek artistic freedom. His youthful zeal and exuberance were exactly what Nin was lacking in her life, and thus began a torrid affair. The entire experience Nin summed up in one word: “Mirage,” a word which could be applied to her entire existence in New York.

John Dudley, 1940

John Dudley, 1940

After reading about Nin’s affair with the young John Dudley, I couldn’t help but wonder if a photo of him didn’t exist somewhere. Nin’s descriptions were vivid, but one likes to have a real image with which to compare them. Only weeks before the publication of Vol. 1, I was in Massachusetts gathering up boxes of back issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, which I’d volunteered to distribute. I opened a desk drawer (with permission) and discovered a pile of photographs that had, I imagined, been set aside for future issues of ANAIS. Among them was a young blond man standing, smiling, in front of what looked like a plantation house. Was the house Hampton Manor, where the affair occurred? Was the young, vivacious man John Dudley? I collected this and several other photos, and after some research, I discovered that yes, these were indeed of Dudley. I had barely enough time to submit them before publication.

Looking back on all this, I can say that nearly everything in the first issue of A Café in Space was the result of bonne chance.

To see further information and/or to order a print version of  Vol. 1, click here.

A Café in Space, Vol. 1, 2003, the Kindle version, can be ordered here.

Vol. 1 joins Vol. 6 (2009) and Vol. 7 (2010) on Kindle. More issues will be available in the coming months.

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).

anaisuagb1

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. 

From Gemor to Kindle: Anaïs Nin’s Under a Glass Bell

Anaïs Nin began writing the stories collected in Under a Glass Bell in Paris during the mid to late 1930s and finished in New York after she fled France because of the war. When she could not find a publisher for her original collection of eight short stories, she resorted to self-publishing (with engravings by her husband Hugh Guiler) with her Gemor Press in 1944, hoping that she would win the interest of a commercial firm. It received the notice of critic Edmund Wilson, who favorably reviewed the book for The New Yorker.

The first commercial firm to republish the collection was Editions Poetry London in 1947. Because the original edition consisted of only 65 pages, Nin added another short story, “The All-Seeing,” as well as The House of Incest (her famous 1936 prose poem) and the two novellas from her self-published (Gemor Press in 1942) Winter of Artifice: “The Voice” and “Winter of Artifice.” In 1948, Nin’s then friend and supporter Gore Vidal used his clout to encourage his publisher, Dutton, to publish Under a Glass Bell as well as other Nin fiction. The Dutton edition consisted of the original eight stories, “The All-Seeing,” and four new short stories: “The Child Born out of the Fog,” “The Eye’s Journey,” “Hedja,” and “Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth.” Also included were the two novellas from Winter of Artifice.

Hugh Guiler's cover art

Hugh Guiler's cover art

In 1957, the collection was republished as a facsimile of the Dutton edition minus the Winter of Artifice novellas by the Anaïs Nin Press. Swallow Press republished the collection of thirteen short stories in the 1960s, but in 1995 the order of the stories was changed, leading to a bit of controversy. In his introduction to the 1995 edition of Under a Glass Bell, Gunther Stuhlmann explains that his rationale for reordering the stories “chronologically” (meaning that since Nin used diary passages as source material, Stuhlmann sequenced the stories in the order of the events that inspired them), his rationale being that Nin’s growth as a writer would then be reflected in this new order.

Benjamin Franklin V, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on Nin bibliography, argued that reorganizing the stories violated Anaïs Nin’s literary intentions in his 1997 article “Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not”). In his article, Franklin quotes Nin herself from her introduction to the original edition as saying that “Everything is related and interactive,” and therefore the order of the stories was a significant ingredient in the collection’s content—reading the stories in order results in a more enriching experience, and reordering them robs the reader of this effect. Franklin went as far as proposing that the new Swallow Press edition be allowed to go out of print and the original order be re-established in subsequent editions. However, the current Swallow Press edition retains the order that Gunther Stuhlmann had placed them.

When it came time to place Under a Glass Bell on Kindle, an issue that had to be addressed was in what order to place the stories. Sky Blue Press decided to use Nin’s original placement, feeling that her intentions should be honored. So, Under a Glass Bell has come full circle after a 65 year odyssey.

An interesting set of facts compiled by Franklin is below—citations of diary sources that inspired the stories of the collection. (This list was created to illustrate that the current Swallow Press order is not exactly chronological.)

“Houseboat”: Diary II, 119 (September 1936), 126 (September 1936), 127 (September 1936), 129 (October 1936), 168 (February 1937), 176 (February 1937), 303 (Summer 1938), 318 (January 1939).

“The Mouse”: Diary II, 179 (March 1937), 186 (March 1937), 206-08 (Summer 1937), 316 (January 1939).

“Under a Glass Bell”: Diary I, 167-70 (January 1933), 171-73 (January 1933); II, 61 (October 1935).

“The Mohican”: Diary II, 85 (June 1936), 99-101 (August 1936), 134 (October 1936), 165 (February 1937), 257-58 (October 1937), 311 (October 1938).

“Je suis le plus malade des surrealistes”: Diary I, 187 (March 1933), 229 (June 1933), 230-34 (June 1933), 245-46 (August 1933); II, 188-91 (March 1937).

“Ragtime”: Diary II, 104-06 (August 1936).

“The Labyrinth”: Linotte, 3-14 (25 July-12 August 1914).

“Through the Streets of My Own Labyrinth”: Diary II, 71-81 (April 1936), 184 (March 1937).

“The All-Seeing”: Diary II, 192 (March 1937), 275-77 (November 1937), 288-89 (January 1938), 295 (March 1938), 315 (October 1938).

“The Eye’s Journey”: Diary II, 162-63 (January 1937).

“The Child Born out of the Fog”: Diary IV, 141 (April 1946).

“Hejda”: Diary III, 225-28 (Winter 1942), 233-35 (Winter 1942), 303-04 (January 1944); IV, 33 (December 1944).

“Birth”: Diary I, 337-49 (June and August 1934).

(Details of book history from Anaïs Nin Character Dictionary and Index to Diary Excerpts by Benjamin Franklin V)

(List from Studies in Short Fiction Fall, 1997)

To see or order Under a Glass Bell on Kindle, click here.

Sky Blue Press has also put the original Obelisk Press edition of The Winter of Artifice on Kindle.

Anaïs Nin’s Artistic Associations: Val Telberg

When Anaïs Nin republished her House of Incest in 1958, she incorporated the surrealistic photomontages of the artist Val Telberg. The collaboration became well-known, as all subsequent editions of the book contained his work, including Nin’s own image within the photomontages.

Val Telberg: Self-Portrait

Val Telberg: Self-Portrait

Val Telberg was born in Moscow in 1910 to Finnish parents and was brought up in China. He moved to New York in 1938 and was introduced to surrealism while working as a photographer, thus sparking his interest in photomontage.

A remembrance of Telberg and Nin’s association by Gunther Stuhlmann appeared in Volume 14 of his ANAIS: An International Journal (1996):

IN THE SUMMER OF 1958, while travelling in Europe, Anais Nin sent an enthusiastic note to her friend Vladimir Telberg von Teleheim, the Russian-born artist-photographer who had been experimenting for some time with photographic images to enhance a planned re-issue of her House of Incest, which had been out of print for almost a decade. “Dear Val;” she wrote on stationery from the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, “I love the photomontages, the selection, the cover—perfect I feel… It’s wonderful how you have welded the images and the texts. They are poetic in their own terms, in their own language. The feeling of a floating world is so powerful.”

Their project had been part of Anais Nin’s determined effort in the late 1950s to republish and distribute once again her own books. She had discovered that a new offset process enabled a Chicago printer, Edward Brothers, to reproduce at reasonable cost the pages of her own hand-set and hand-printed 1947 Gemor Press edition of House of Incest (and those of other titles) directly from the original. Val Telberg, who then made his living on Sixth Avenue in New York as a dealer in maps, atlases, and scholarly books on Eastern Europe and Asia, was an experienced bookman. But it was Telberg the artist, who had studied at the Art Students League, the experimental filmmaker and inventive photographer, whom Anais Nin invited to collaborate with her. “I like so much what you are doing,” she had written to him initially, after seeing some of the images he had begun to create in the 1940s. She had given him a free reign and set no deadline. “When your dummy is ready, your cover photo, etc., then you can send it to me.”

WHEN THE FIRST 1,000 paperbound copies of the re-born House of Incest finally appeared, they featured, in front and back, one of Telberg’s subtly imagined montages, which seemed a perfect summary visualization of Anais Nin’s poetic text: A partly obscured female head and partial, nude body, with arms raised, appeared to rise into a sea of shimmering clouds overspreading the shadowy outlines of roofs and, in the left bottom corner, the light-framed silhouette of what might be an ornamental bedstead or the fragment of a metal fence. (“Ghosts of past defeats flaunting forgotten wounds and imagined dreams,” reads one of Telberg’s worknotes, “…and the sudden burst from under water up to sky.”) Of the hundreds of prints composed by Telberg on his light table by manipulating layers of negatives of photos taken of people and objects in the “real” world, only nine appeared in the finished book. Some of these “unreal,” dreamlike, spatial compositions incorporated floating images of the real Anais Nin, and one of the photomontages reveals a partial view of the artist’s face with one dark-rimmed demonic eye, enmeshed in a cubist swirl of hands and hair juxtaposed against the massive slice of a brick wall.

telbergcoverhoi

Cover of 1958 edition of House of Incest

Val Telberg missed some of these celebratory events, and the first copies of the new House if Incest became available only a few days after his death, at the age of eighty-five, in April 1995.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #11

Myth #11: Anaïs Nin deceived her readers by not including her husband in the original published diaries.

Fact: During the years after the publication of The Diary of Anaïs Nin, there were those, particularly amongst the feminists, who charged that Nin deceived her reading public by implying that she was able to live on her own as an artist and make her way in the world during a time when few women did. Instead, they said, she had the safety net of a businessman husband who financed her life and work. While they were correct in the assertion that such a husband did exist, they were wrong in their accusation that Nin kept this a secret.

Perhaps they should have read the introduction to Volume One of The Diary of Anaïs Nin 1931-1934.

It was made clear that Anaïs Nin was married and that her husband chose to not be included in the text. On page xi of introduction, Gunther Stuhlmann states:

In preparing this volume for publication, Miss Nin, and the editor, still faced certain personal and legal considerations inherent in the nature of the diary. Several persons, when faced with the question of whether they wanted to remain in the diary “as is”—since Miss Nin did not want to change the essential nature of her presentation—chose to be deleted altogether from the manuscript (including her husband and some members of her family)… Miss Nin’s truth, as we have seen, is psychological.

So, because of Hugh Guiler’s wish to not be included, Nin obviously could not bring attention in the diary itself to his presence, and in the promotion of the diaries, she also was obligated to not mention him for the same reason. This was mistaken for deception.

Anaïs Nin and the inauguration of Two Cities

twocitiesvol12

In the winter of 1958/9, Anaïs Nin wrote: “When Larry Durrell wrote to me in Paris to look up Jean Fanchette, and I did, I did not know that he was giving me a link with France. I sat waiting at the Deux Magots, and there came a young and beautiful Negro, slim, not tall, delicate features like those of the Haitians, small straight nose, soft, warm eyes and a sensuous mouth. He was a student of medicine. He published a small newspaper for medical students. He had just received a prize for his poetry. He was full of charm, with a balance between earth and poetry. He had written a critique of Durrell, and Durrell had spent much time with him in Paris” (Diary 6 190). Fanchette, a Mauritian, was in the process of creating the bilingual (French and English) literary journal Two Cities. He told Nin that he’d already garnered promises from Durrell, Henry Miller, George Sykes, Richard Aldington and others for contributions. The meeting would not only shape the future of the publication, but it also resulted in a roller-coaster friendship between Nin and Fanchette, punctuated by miscommunication and misunderstanding. Inspired by Fanchette’s praise of her work, Nin readily agreed to help Two Cities get off the ground. The inaugural issue came out only months later, April 15, 1959, and Nin was not only a contributor, but the “American Editor,” one of the dozen editors listed on the title page.

At the time, Henry Miller, according to his then wife Eve, was “dissolving,” cut off from his source of inspiration: Paris. In a letter to Nin, she wrote, “Henry needs France. This hunk of veritable Paradise [Big Sur, California] in which he’s put down taproots is insidious for him, and he refuses to recognize it… He is another person in Europe. How long can an artist feed on himself? The stimulus is there, not here” (Diary 6 178). Miller’s decision to write for Two Cities and to revisit France was vigorously encouraged by Eve, who confided that part of her insistence was based on her own growing annoyance with the “inertia” of life with him in Big Sur: “I doubt he has ever asked me once, in these entire seven years together, what my hopes and dreams might include!” (Diary 6 178) The trip and the article did come to fruition, but the marriage, like all of Miller’s marriages, was doomed. Some time after Eve and Henry Miller were divorced, Eve committed suicide. There is debate whether the years spent with Miller had contributed to this tragedy.

Nin said, “I helped the magazine. I was grateful for Fanchette’s understanding. I count him as my best friend in France. The magic link. It was strange that at the time I felt bad to be returning to the same old constellation, Miller-Durrell. It seemed like regression.
But then I realized it was not a return to Miller and Durrell, but to France and to Fanchette. The present asserted itself
” (Diary 6 180).

What also enticed Nin was Fanchette’s comments about her work: “The gift of Anaïs Nin is to name and define the alchemy of body and soul, to explore the roots of obscure instincts, define them” (Diary 6 180). Statements like this were sustenance to a writer who’d been denied for decades by the publishers and critics, and she, out of a mix of desperation and gratitude, gravitated to those who fed her including Fanchette. Her feelings are described in a letter from Nin to French agent Marguerite Rebois: “Jean feels something will happen [with my work] after Two Cities appears because he is writing an article on l’Art d’Anaïs Nin. This is to me a symbolic link with France. As you know, the reason I have been so obsessed with getting published in France is that I was afraid that my failure in America would influence all of Europe, and it has. I have been made to feel that I belong there, not here, and want to return there gradually” (Diary 6 175-6).

Fanchette went a few steps further in ingratiating Nin—he not only flattered her by asking her to help with Two Cities, but also offered to present her novel Spy in the House of Love to his publisher in Paris, and, if it were accepted, would translate it into French. In return, Nin began to dispatch letters to her literary friends, encouraging them to contribute to Two Cities. In a letter to Durrell, she said: “This month I gave my energy to Two Cities, which will be good for all of us. I want to thank you for introducing me to Jean Fanchette. His friendship is a delight” (Diary 6 182).

Lawrence Durrell and Jean Fanchette

Lawrence Durrell and Jean Fanchette (courtesy of Veronique Fanchette and www.jeanfanchette.com. All rights reserved.)

By the time Two Cities came out, it had morphed into a partial “hommage à Lawrence Durrell,” with Miller’s article, “The Durrell of the Black Book days” leading off, followed by Alfred Perlès’s “Enter Jupiter Jr,” Frederic J. Temple’s “Contstruire un mur de pierre sèche,” Richard Aldington’s “A note on Lawrence Durrell,” and Edwin Mullins’ “On Mountolive: Durrell answers a few questions.” The rest of the issue contained articles not associated with Durrell, including Nin’s “The writer and the symbols,” and Fanchette’s “Pour une préface,” the article Nin mentioned to Rebois, which lauded House of Incest (1936) and Solar Barque (1958, later incorporated into Seduction of the Minotaur), and much of what written in between. He proclaimed Spy in the House of Love her best novel. Undoubtedly, Fanchette won Nin’s allegiance with this article, but there was already trouble brewing.

Nin’s unconditional acceptance of Fanchette’s offer to promote not only Spy but her other titles to French publishers rankled her young agent, Gunther Stuhlmann, who was trying to organize Nin’s work into a cohesive package to be presented in a consistent manner. His approach ran counter to Nin’s, who had historically (and mostly unsuccessfully) used friends and contacts to get her work out. In a letter dated April 29, 1959, Stuhlmann, who’d usually handled Nin with kid gloves, blasted her: “At this point, we can’t just give [Fanchette] carte blanche with the other books—he was only involved with Spy as I recall… I firmly believe we ought to conduct all business discussion as to terms and contracts etc. through our office and subject to your and our scrutiny so that we go not get into [a] situation which would be embarrassing to all of us” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 110).

In an undated letter some weeks later, Nin wrote to Stuhlmann complaining of Fanchette’s refusal to publish some of Nin’s friends’ articles, which caused her great embarrassment: “It is so discouraging that I offered to resign. Then he threatens me with loss of his friendship!” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 112). In spite of this, Nin continued supporting Two Cities, even asking Stuhlmann to find an American distributor, which he reluctantly agreed to do (although was not successful). In the meantime, Fanchette’s failure to so much as return the articles Nin had solicited from her friends was causing rifts between them and her, and she was losing patience. In the fall of 1959, she wrote to Fanchette, telling him she could no longer continue as American Editor of Two Cities, but that she would send along good writing when it came along. She continued, “I begged him to send me the material he did not want to use. I explained I was losing friends and creating enemies for Two Cities. No answer” (Diary 6 205).

By the fall of 1961, more than two years after Fanchette’s agreement to translate Spy in the House of Love, the result was what she termed “rough,” which frustrated Nin since she was trying to market the novel in Europe as a source for a movie script. (Despite years of trying, Spy was never made into a film). Around the same time, she reported a drunken Fanchette shouting to her in Paris: “I met you too late. You could have been my first mistress, the mistress one never forgets!” (Diary 6 293).

Two Cities continued to be published until 1964, with Nin friends such as Daisy Aldan taking turns at editorship. Two Cities ETC (Paris) released a limited edition of Letters to Jean Fanchette1958-1963 by Lawrence Durrell. Subsequent Fanchette publications included his poetry volumes Identité provisoire in 1965, Je m’appelle sommeil and La visitation de l’oiseau pluvier in 1977, as well as essays and a novel. His poetry was anthologized by Stock shortly after his death in 1992, under the title L’Ile Equinoxe, a new edition of which has recently been released by Editions Philippe Rey, Paris, with a preface by J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2008.

While the relationship between Nin and Fanchette had ended on a sour note, she reminisced in her diary more than a decade later: “The Diary has one blessed function. When a friendship breaks, the good is erased. Only the disappointment is engraved in the memory. In the Diary, I found the friendship with Jean Fanchette intact, in its period of honeymoon” (Diary 7 312).

[Qualifying statement: One of the most consistent questions regarding diary content–especially Nin’s–is whether it should be considered fact. Nin said that her truth was “pyschological” and not literal. Her comments and portraits of characters appearing in her diary are, in part, her creations, something she readily admits. Therefore, when Nin describes a personage, it must be remembered that it is her version–she rarely wrote with the idea of pleasing those populating her diary. This blog is largely based on the diary and therefore anything that is repeated therefrom must be regarded through the lens of how the diary came to be–part of Nin’s intimate thought process, a tool for her survival in a world she often felt unfit for habitation.]

 

Daisy Aldan’s poem for Anaïs Nin

Daisy Aldan, longtime friend and collaborator with Anaïs Nin, wrote this moving poem in Anaïs’s memory after she’d succumbed to a long battle with cancer in 1977. This poem is taken from Aldan’s volume Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan. The poem, read by Aldan at a memorial for Nin in 1977, was also included in ANAIS: An International Journal, Vol. 10, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann, and in Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors, edited by Paul Herron. Aldan remarked, “I was with her a few days before she died, and for this I am grateful. Although in great pain, although she knew she was dying, she was noble, with thoughts of others—of helping particular young writer friends. The dignity and beauty emanating from her startled me, and I experienced a kind of illumination around her as she lay in bed. Among her last words to me were that she was trying to establish a ‘a circle of good’ in the midst of much ugliness in the life of our time. She was a remarkable human beingANAIS: An International Journal, Vol. 10, 77.

For Anaïs
d. January 14, 1977 at
midnight

1.
in the obscurity of the room
illumination: you and phosphorescent death
fusing

your voice
usurped by the wizard

our hands meeting
eloquent final

your embrace took me with you
a moment into the source of dream
where you were returning

phosphor / ash to gold
raying upward
from the Sea

2.
wound-up bone
prepares to explode

a coiled-in moment
prepares for sunburst

a fluttering
you awake into radiance

3.
You die
but you advance
as wings of light
move in the expanse
of sky

Unique as compassion.
in the air we breathe
we meet the light
you begin to shed
toward us

We had not dreamed that gone
you would be accessible
in the place
of intangible light
as new dimension

For crossing
you had to become bone/
cross: And that flame bore you beyond
the gravity of ground: joined
you to the light.

Daisy Aldan, all rights reserved

One Hundred Biographers: Deirdre Bair explains her bibliographic decisions

Following is a portion of the interview I conducted with Deirdre Bair that deals with some of the questions that have been asked:

 

PH: How do you feel about Anaïs Nin, the woman, 14 years after the publication of your biography?

 

DB: More and more, as the years pass, I recognize how important she was as a woman of her time. She really paved the way—many ways—for women at a time when everything, in the world of women, was in flux and changing. She allowed women to realize all the possibilities that were out there in the world for them. And she did this so instinctively and naturally. A partial response to one of your questions—you’d mentioned how some women had said, “She ruined my life. I did what she told me to do, ended relationships and went on into the world.” Well, there were an equal number who said, “She gave me my life. She raised possibilities for me that I’d been to timid to embrace before I read her writing. After that, my life changed dramatically.” So I would say that for every woman who said, “She ruined my life because I did what she did and it didn’t work out for me,” there were an equal number who said, “She allowed me to realize so many possibilities for myself.” So I think the more we look back on her during the historic time in which she lived and wrote, we’re going to realize the importance of her contributions, not only to arts and letters, but to life.

 

PH: How do you respond to the criticism that your biography is judgmental and moralistic?

 

DB: I would to tell those people to look at the mail I received when the book was published. For every critic who accused me of that, there are other critics who said, “You were too easy on her. You were too soft on this terrible, dreadful person.” So what we’re looking at here is an individual response on the part of the reader, and I actually welcome both judgments. Basically I think it really comes down to the reader. Those who adore Anaïs will be disappointed—and Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann were certainly first among them.

 

PH: This is a question to which I know some would like an answer: did you like Anaïs Nin?

 

DB: I try to not like or dislike anybody I write about. Writing is my work; my life is elsewhere. I’m a scholar. I’m an intellectual and cultural historian of literature, and my job is to write a book that future generations will use in order to form their own opinions. It’s not my job to like or dislike; it’s my job to understand, and to present the totality of the person’s life and work with as much integrity and objectivity as possible.

 

In response to questions I e-mailed to Deirdre Bair (including why she chose to term Anaïs Nin a “major minor writer”), she responded:

 

Dear Paul:

 

I’ve been re-reading my introduction to [Anaïs Nin: A Biography] since this afternoon, when I received your email request to respond to critics. As you know, I’ve published two books since I wrote the biography of Anaïs Nin and I am now on deadline for a third, so I haven’t re-read any part of the book since the last time I had to give a talk about it, and that was 3 years ago in Australia. But today, in response to your thoughtful query, I opened the book and re-read my introduction carefully and thoroughly. I was surprised by a number of things that made me wonder how much “reason” versus how much “emotion” had colored the perceptions readers brought to bear on their responses to the book.

 

My first response to the readers who are hostile to the book was to note from my very first sentence, how clearly and succinctly I told them what my aims, goals, and intentions were in writing the book. In doing so, I enumerated all the charges against Anaïs that I had heard before I started to write—about the “liary,” or how she did not “deserve” a bio such as mine (p. xvi), and how I believed it was the biographer’s responsibility to answer such charges.

 

I explained to the reader how I went about my work, (beginning on p. xvi and continuing on xvii). The paragraphs on p. xvii beginning “In every instance” and ending with “…evidence for further scholarly inquiry” explain in full how I worked to produce an “objective” biography, how I avoided attaching labels to her, and how I felt the obligation “to allow readers to form their own opinions about this woman I found so compellingly complex.”

 

Then, on p. xviii, I explain in full how and why I came to adopt Cynthia Ozick’s sophisticated and well-reasoned argument for calling the neglected novelist Arthur Chester a “major minor writer” and for applying this term to Anaïs Nin. I believe those several paragraphs clearly and carefully explain what I meant, so I choose not to try to explain my reasoning further here. I urge readers to re-read these paragraphs carefully, objectively, and with “reason” and without the excess of “emotion” that many bring to their thinking about Anaïs Nin.

 

I urge them to read the concluding paragraphs on p. xviii. After that, if they wish to think negatively of the book I wrote, that is certainly their prerogative. But I would like to end this email with two remarks I live by as I practice the craft of biography.

 

The first is by Desmond MacCarthy, literary critic and friend of Virginia Woolf. He said the biographer must be “the artist under oath.” In other words, the biographer has the moral obligation to tell the truth, but to do so in a book that is every bit as interesting to read as a fine novel.

 

Woolf herself gets the last word here, for I believe that if I have a Credo, this is it: “Each of us has as many as a thousand selves. Happy the biographer who captures six or seven of them.”

 

That was what I tried to do as I wrote about the life and work of Anaïs Nin.

 

Sincerely,

Deirdre Bair

 

The entire interview will be published in A Café in Space, Vol. 7.

One Hundred Biographers: The reaction to Deirdre Bair’s biography

When Noel Riley Fitch’s study of Nin (Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin) was published in 1993, the response of some in the Nin community was to swiftly brand it as “baseless” (in the sense Fitch did not have access to the Nin archive) and “sensationalistic” (in the sense it focused mainly on Nin’s love life). For the next two years, however, there were high hopes for the “official” biography, Deirdre Bair’s Anaïs Nin: A Biography, which was to be released in March of 1995. However, ominous rumblings arose even before its publication: Rupert Pole, in a letter to a friend, said the book was a “betrayal.” Gunther Stuhlmann said in a phone conversation that he had demanded his name be removed from the acknowledgements page. Once the book was published, the outcry grew, exacerbated by the response of the book reviewers, who often seemed more intent on reviewing Nin’s life rather than the biography itself.

 

bair-review-image

 

For example, Carlin Romano of the Philadelphia Inquirer began his review with this statement: “Anaïs Nin lied and fornicated the way the rest of us breathe: regularly in order to live, and in deep gulps in order to flourish.” Nigella Lawson of The Times said: “An affair with Henry Miller—who matched [Nin] for self-centredness, grabbiness, and lack of talent…” Bruce Bawer of the New York Times said in response to Bair’s conclusion that “Nin was among the pioneers who explored three of the most important [concepts that brought sweeping societal change]: sex, the self and psychoanalysis” by retorting, “If Nin is remembered at all, it will not be as a pioneer but as a colorful peripheral character who embodied, in an extreme form, some of the more unfortunate distinguishing characteristics of our age: an obsession with fame; a zeal for self-advertisement; a tendency to confuse art and self-expression; a rejection of intellect in favor of feeling; a romantic glorification of neurosis, selfishness and irresponsibility.” The question begs to be asked: did the biography cause the responses, or did the pre-formed opinions of the reviewers and those in the Nin world skew their responses to the biography?

 

Within the Nin community, much was made of the fact Bair did not know Anaïs Nin personally and that she was “judgmental” in the treatment of her subject. Gunther Stuhlmann, in his introduction to Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), addressed these issues in reaction to both Fitch’s and Bair’s books:

 

“In recent years a number of biographers, here and abroad, have tried to assemble their own images of Anaïs Nin. They seem to have been enthralled, most of all, by what they could glean of the erotic aspect of their moving target. With lipsmacking glee, or sour disapproval, they have turned their spotlights upon the supposedly “sensational” and “shocking” details of the private sexual life of the lady from Neuilly which, of course, fail to reveal a complete image of a complex personality, or to illuminate the nature of the impact her creations have had on a vast multi-generational audience.

 

“Biographers, especially when they have no personal knowledge of their subject, rely for their interpretations upon the sometimes dubious documentation of fragmented memory shards, the recollections of contemporaries often shaped by their own agendas, and most of all on the paper trail of the vanished person, the raw material of records and writings left behind.”

 

During the five years Deirdre Bair spent writing her biography of Anaïs Nin, she acknowledged that not having known Nin was a detriment. In her introduction, she says: “I had to settle for the verbal testimony of those who had known her…and I was astonished at the range of their responses, especially how, in so many cases, the mere mention of her name provoked vehemence and outrage… So a crucial issue became my trying to understand what there was about Anaïs Nin that made people react so strongly even though she had died more than a decade earlier.” So, were the “facts” again distorted by emotional responses to Nin? And how does one choose one response over the next as validation for factual information? And would knowing Anaïs Nin have helped in the end? To whom did she reveal her entire self during her lifetime?

 

In a recent interview, Bair said, “Any major event or happening or actions in Anaïs’s life began from what she wrote in her diaries at UCLA. If I wrote about something, it was because I fact-checked as thoroughly as I could. If she said she had an affair with somebody, if that person was still alive, I called them, I contacted them, I went to see them, and I asked, ‘Did you have an affair with Anaïs Nin?’ If I wrote about a possible incestuous relationship, it was because I checked every possible document, every possible person that I could. I think that was about as close to the truth as we were going to get.”

 

Explaining the issue of incest further, Bair says:

 

“The way I dealt with that was to photocopy those pages in the diary. I am a member of a group called the New York Institute for the Humanities, an NYU-affiliated body of public intellectuals, as we are called. Among them were some distinguished psychoanalysts and writers in that field—Jessica Benjamin, Muriel Dimen, Virginia Goldner, Sue Shapiro, and many of them specialize in the abuse of women. So I said to them, ‘I’m going to convene a special seminar.’ There were six analysts in total in the room. I said, ‘I’m going to pass out these photocopied pages from this diary that Anaïs Nin wrote, and at the end of the evening you have to give them back to me, and you have to swear secrecy to not tell anyone about this because I don’t know if it’s true, and I don’t know if I’m going to write it.’ So these six highly respected, important authorities in the field, they all turned to me and said, ‘It’s as if she is in my consulting room and that she’s one of my patients. This is the story that I hear.’ They called it adult onset incest. They said that often, when a parent and a child have been separated at a very young age, when they come together as adults, they see the reflection of themselves in the other and a love affair results. Shortly thereafter, a woman named Kathryn Harrison wrote just such a memoir, about her incestuous affair with her own father…it was word for word what Anaïs wrote in the diary. At that point, I knew I had to write it.

 

“So I said to Joaquin (Nin-Culmell), ‘I’m very, very worried. You have become a dear friend of mine, and I’m going to have to write this, and I’m afraid it’s going to end our friendship.’ And he thought very carefully for a long while. And he said, ‘Well, you’ve told me every terrible thing I’ve long suspected about my sister, but I know that you’re going to write it in such a way that you will still allow me to love her.’ And I burst into tears.”

 

Contrary to the reaction of Pole, Stuhlmann, and others in the inner Nin circle, both Joaquín Nin-Culmell and Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz (Nin’s brother and niece and her closest living relatives at the time) found the Bair biography to be sensitive and fair. Gayle said recently, “The problem with some is that they will say, ‘If I understand Anaïs Nin and you disagree with me, then you don’t understand her.’ Deirdre Bair didn’t paint a gallant, romantic picture of Anaïs, but overall I thought she did a very professional and sympathetic job. Perhaps Rupert felt upset because the book did not whitewash Anaïs’s life and did not sanctify his role in it.”

 

The entire interview will be published in A Cafe in Space, Vol. 7

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

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