Anais Nin Mystery: What are the symbols in House of Incest?

They appear at the beginning of each section of Anais Nin’s first published work of fiction, beginning with the Siana edition in 1936. They appear to be woodcut prints, and they have appeared in every edition since, including Gemor Press, Dutton, Anais Nin Press and Swallow. But what do they mean? I posed this question to the foremost Nin scholars in the world, and no one seems to know.

Can you help us solve this mystery? If you know anything about these strange symbols, please leave a comment and perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of it.

HoISymbol

Barrons’ recording of Anais Nin reading House of Incest released

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.

 

Barrons’ recording of House of Incest (1949) to be released

Guest post by Adam Barron

My parents, Louis and Bebe Barron, were close friends and collaborators with Anaïs Nin beginning in the 1940s. They recorded her reading some of her works and scored some of her husband Ian Hugo’s (Hugh Guiler) films with their ground-breaking electronic music. My mother told me that Anaïs was my Godmother, and she told me a story about the events surrounding my birth in 1959. I never believed it was really true until I looked up “Bebe Barron” in Anaïs’s diary index, and there was the story of a bizarre Greenwich Village baby shower, given by actress/filmmaker Maya Deren:

Maya Deren, a few years before she died, felt isolated from the community and tried to reintegrate her life in the most naïve way imaginable by giving Bebe Barron a “shower” for her expected baby, a traditional shower like the housewives of the West give, with pink decorations, pink pastry, pink-wrapped gifts. Because we loved Bebe we all joined in this celebration…

The pink shower party could not neutralize the studio, which was like a voodoo shack, filled with masks, drums, necklaces, shells, African baskets, textiles, pillows, and filled with friends provincial mothers would not have wanted around their babies, musicians, filmmakers, writers, electronic engineers, science-fiction writers, all such dangerous influences from a bourgeois’s point of view!

…Maya Deren could not permit this afternoon to remain innocent, bourgeois…and asked Bebe when she was expecting her child. Bebe told Maya in a few weeks, then Maya said: “You are wrong, it is coming much sooner, I can tell by the constellations and the formation of the clouds.” Suggestible Bebe began to have her child on her way down Maya’s stairs. (Diary 6 p. 350)

Louis and Bebe Barron, ca. 1955

Louis and Bebe Barron, ca. 1955

Was this power of suggestion, or the effect of an herbal cocktail Maya gave her, as my mother claimed? After the event, Anaïs started a short, but exquisite diary for me, with the story of my birth followed by blank pages in order for me to continue it someday.

Aided by my diary’s auspicious beginning, journal writing is now a vital part of my life. It helps me to relax, gain personal perspective, and record events for posterity. I’ve come to view Anaïs as the “good witch,” or Godmother, providing me life-giving forces to balance the negative ones I encounter. Sometimes I can feel Anaïs’s inspirational presence.

Following an extended illness, my mother passed away two years ago, after living a full life. Steven Reigns, the force behind 2008’s “Anaïs @ 105” event, which my mother and I attended, loaned me a 1949 recording entitled “Anaïs Nin, Folio II, Reading From Her Own Prose Poem House of Incest (unabridged), Contemporary Classics, Sound Portraits, Louis and Bebe Barron.” It had been a very limited release on vinyl, all but lost today. I later purchased a copy myself.

The reading was beautifully done and the quality well preserved. Steven challenged me with: “Why not sell it as a CD?” Maintaining the original spirit, I had the recording cleaned up, and I designed a jacket cover and a booklet based on my mother’s liner notes, originally done in beautiful calligraphy. It was decided that all post-production profits will go to charities for Haitian relief. This collector’s-item-quality CD will be available for only $16.00 plus shipping.

The album is a tribute to the creative work of Anaïs and my parents, and to their strong bond and friendship. I hope it will delight existing and new Nin fans alike.

Stay tuned for ordering information.

A special note: my parents also recorded Anaïs reading stories from Under a Glass Bell, entitled “Folio I, Under A Glass Bell,” a recording that seems to be lost. If you have a copy, or know the whereabouts of one, please contact the blog editor here.

To see Bebe Barron’s last interview, which was presented at Anais @ 105, click here.

To see an excerpt of Bebe discussing cybernetics, click here.

House of Incest ebook offer

Cover of Gemor Press edition

Cover of Gemor Press edition

We have spent the last couple weeks celebrating  The Portable Anais Nin, an upcoming entirely new and compelling anthology, by tweeting the entire prose poem House of Incest on Twitter. The process was fascinating because within each phrase there is beauty and hauntingness, not to mention a deep and sometimes disturbing truth. After examining each element of the book, reading the entire interwoven text is mind-blowing, at least in my opinion. To give readers this experience, we are offering the entire ebook free for the next week (until Sept. 17, 2010). To obtain your own copy, visit us on Twitter. If you go back a few tweets, you will find a code, which, when entered on the Smashwords site, will allow you to download the book in any format you wish for nothing. (House of Incest will also be included in The Portable Anais Nin.)

Although the book has been considered unfathomable, even by Henry Miller, it is a matter of letting one’s self go, to submit to the dream, as Nin put it. And as in most dreams, symbolic truths are flavored with their “real” counterparts (or, if you will, manifestations): June Miller (Sabina), D. H. Lawrence (the modern Christ), Louveciennes, the ancient house with a “lost” room, the heavy green gate that symbolized imprisonment, the struggle for freedom, completeness, and rebirth.

We hope you take up the offer and that you enjoy your “trip” out of the house of incest into a new and more elevated world.

Tweetfest of Anais Nin’s House of Incest

Gemor edition of House of Incest

Gemor edition of House of Incest

As mentioned in the last post, to celebrate the upcoming publication of The Portable Anais Nin, we are tweeting Nin’s House of Incest, 140 characters at a time. Join us on Twitter to follow the enchanting words as they wind about one like dream filaments, each one standing alone as a stroke of unconscious genius, and all of them creating an epic work as they are woven together.

The House of Incest was originally published in 1936 by Siana (Anais spelled backwards) Editions in Paris as a small edition. Nin republished it in 1947 through her Gemor Press (named after Gonzalo More, her lover and collaborator), handset with engravings by Ian Hugo (pseudonym of Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband), and once again by Swallow Press including photomontages by Val Telberg. Soon, it will be included in its entirety in The Portable Anais Nin. No matter the edition, Nin’s famous prose poem inspires the reader to plunge into the interior where creation begins.

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. 

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).

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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. 

The Barrons: The music behind ‘Bells of Atlantis’

Bebe and Louis Barron in their studio

Bebe and Louis Barron in their studio

If Anais Nin was known for her diaries, she should also be known for her circle of friends, which included the electronic music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron. The friendship ultimately turned into collaboration with Nin and Ian Hugo (Hugh Guiler, Nin’s husband) on his experimental film Bells of Atlantis (1952). The music and images work together to provide the audience with a full range of stimulation, both aural and visual, not to mention literary as Nin recites lines from her House of Incest (1936), upon which the film is based. Thanks to NPR, a retrospective of the Barrons and their impact on the music world can be seen here.

Bebe Barron died in April 2008; a video of her last interview can be seen here, conducted by Steven Reigns and Ian McKinnon.