Vol. 7 of A Café in Space: The Anais Nin Journal debuts Feb. 21

In Volume 7 of A Café in Space, which is due Feb. 21 and is ready for ordering now, we examine Anaïs Nin’s husband Hugh Guiler, separating myth from fact. Was he the unsuspecting cuckold many have been led to believe he was, or is there another side to the story? Recently discovered correspondence and diary passages shed light on the Nin-Guiler marriage from his point of view, in the form of recently recovered correspondence between Guiler and his wife as well as extensive excerpts from a diary he kept during perhaps the most critical point in their relationship—when Nin took her first swing on the bicoastal “trapeze” with Rupert Pole.

 

cafeinspace_2010coverAlso included is an excerpt from the unpublished diary of Anaïs Nin from 1944-5 which gives us a glimpse of the emotional upheaval she experienced since her arrival in New York in 1939—in the midst of an unraveling marriage and a surge in creativity, she continued her search for the one man who could save her from her demons, but in the end found strength and resolve within herself in an inspiring story of psychological decimation and rebirth.

 

A Café in Space is the only current comprehensive source of serious critical study of Anaïs Nin’s contributions to literature. In Volume 7, Tristine Rainer, who has studied Nin’s work since befriending her nearly forty years ago, allows us to newly appreciate The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 2 by illustrating that Nin’s emotional sense of time can be compared with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. John Ferrone, a former editor at Harcourt, reveals that if it had been Anaïs Nin’s decision alone, Delta of Venus never would have been published; he then gives his first-hand account of how the book ended up outselling all her other titles combined and its implications in her literary résumé. Academy Award nominee Kim Krizan uncovers a shocking letter from Hugh Guiler that will forever change your impressions of Anaïs Nin’s beleaguered husband. Several young Nin scholars share their important work in Volume 7, especially in the area of reading Nin through the lens of feminist theory.

 

Finally, Nin biographer Deirdre Bair speaks about issues relating to Anaïs Nin: A Biography, describing in detail how the book came to be, and also responds to criticism it received by some of Nin’s most important supporters, including Rupert Pole and Gunther Stuhlmann.

 

In this editor’s opinion, this could be the most poignant issue yet of A Café in Space.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #13

Myth #13: Anaïs Nin’s two husbands, Hugh Guiler and Rupert Pole, were unaware of each other until after Nin’s death.

Fact: Rupert Pole knew Anaïs Nin was married to Hugh Guiler shortly after meeting her in 1947 in New York. Nin and Pole made a famous cross-country trip to California during that summer, which commenced her “trapeze” life, swinging back and forth between Guiler in New York and Pole in California for the rest of her life. In 1955, after she convinced Pole that she’d divorced Guiler, Nin reluctantly married Pole in Quartzite, Arizona. For the next 11 years, Pole believed he was Nin’s legal husband, and Guiler believed he was also. The truth is that Pole was never legally married to Nin because she was still married to Guiler.

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Anais Nin's and Rupert Pole's marriage certificate

Once Nin’s diaries were about to be published, she realized her impending fame was about to bring the kind of scrutiny which would surely shed light on her bigamy. So, in 1966, she told Pole that she was still married to Guiler. She blamed Guiler for not being able to live without her and that he needed her emotional and financial support. She convinced Pole that she no longer had sexual relations with Guiler (which is most likely not true) and that her visits were necessary to keep him happy. Once Pole found out that it was Guiler’s money that had made it possible for Nin to financially help Pole and to spend much of each year with him in the first place, he agreed to the annulment of his “marriage” with Nin. The annulment occurred June 16, 1966.

Perhaps a more intriguing question is, did Guiler know about Pole? The popular belief is that he only found out after Nin’s death when she was mentioned as “Mrs. Pole” in her Los Angeles obituary. After Nin’s death in 1977, Guiler wrote a letter to Pole and in the first paragraph told him that he had been aware of his and Nin’s “special relationship” for more than ten years and that he was grateful to Pole for caring for her during her final illness. (The full text of this letter will appear in the 2011 edition of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal.) The tone is congenial and business-like.

So, in short, while they didn’t meet until after Nin’s death, Pole and Guiler knew about each other for at least the last 10 years of her life.

Rose Kaufman recalls the making of Henry and June

Rose Kaufman, wife of Philip Kaufman, the director of Henry and June (1990), and co-writer of the screenplay for the film, died December 7, 2009 at her home in San Francisco at the age of 70. For Anaïs Nin: A Book of Mirrors (Sky Blue Press, 1996), she and her husband submitted a series of responses to interview questions, the compilation of which appears in the article “On Henry and June: The Making of the Movie,” pp 264-268. These are excepts from her commentary:

Henry and June sort of fell off the shelf over on Fillmore Street, at Browser Books, and I happened to have the time that night to read it, and I stayed up and finished it and got to bed about two or three in the morning. I was pretty wildly excited by it. And I felt, “Maybe there’s a film here.” It was the revelation of these two people that we had known, had met, and had been inspired by. And then we were inspired all over again by their wild passion, particularly since there was this June element. The wild card, the pivot, was June.

[Anaïs Nin’s] sense of the personal is just extraordinary; it comes out of her intuition. That’s the thing she really sought to preserve among women during a time of liberation, that we not become clones of men or less than men—like the newscasters who try to be tougher than men. She wanted us to preserve the virtues that women have, and at the same time to have the confidence and the intellect and the strength to believe in ourselves.

We responded to the fact that Henry [Miller] could respond to this delicate sort of hothouse person—that he honestly was moved and inspired by her, by her passion and her givingness and all of it, and at the same time that she could receive the strength of his own rough character, with his terrifying sincerity, his pain, his struggle. That she could perceive the strength of this guy and he could perceive the uniqueness of this woman—really, it was astonishing to me, because usually men and women go after the same. In a sense, we go after ourselves, but they didn’t. And they could help each other. She could make him more tender, more reflective—more feminine, if you will. And he could see the brilliance in her, and at the same time go half-mad trying to deal with the problems that she had with the way she expressed herself. He adored the diaries, but I think he wanted to strengthen the fiction.

[Nin] wasn’t s wealthy as most think. Miller and June were so terribly poor that Anaïs seemed wealthy next to them. In fact, her husband, Hugo, was the low man at the bank, and they didn’t have that much money. But you could live outside Paris, like Anaïs and Hugo, and have a maid for very little.

On [the set of] Henry and June it was very fluent, very open. I happened to get into the Picasso Museum, actually, and he has this series of engravings of women watching each other sleep. And it inspired the scene of women watching each other. In Paris, we would constantly improvise on things we saw… Phil’s very inventive that way. He worked out the routines with the out-of-work magicians and clowns that hung out with Henry. The performers who played them were geniuses!

The French accept it all. That’s why it was so great to shoot in Paris because the French do accept sex. It’s the course after dessert—a liqueur or whatever. They really have accepted pleasure in all its forms.

[Shooting in Paris] inspired me to think about sexuality, my own and everybody else’s, and the way sexuality is treated in our society. We still have, I think, a Playboy mentality. I hate to see that phrase because it seems so passé. But in view of the MPAA controversy [Henry and June was the first film rated NC-17] I think we have the mentality that sexuality isn’t something we feel, it isn’t part of us. So many people can’t accept that sexuality doesn’t have to be prurient or prudish.

So many people are ashamed of sex and want to get rid of it after a certain point in their lives, because they haven’t worked it out in a loving way. And then the best thing to do is to brush it away and scrape it away and say that we don’t need to think about it, read about it, see films about it, any of it.

Some people want to have sex just for the purpose of having children, and then get on with their household chores and their jobs and have an asexual existence. And some people prefer sex to be underworld, prefer the women in the boudoir so they can just have their perverse dream they want with this person, and have no relationship—they prefer sex to be separated from love.

That way they didn’t have to make the commitment that they have never made with anyone in their lives, on any level. In the Playboy brand of sex, sex with the Barbie doll, there’s no intimacy. It may contain the most flagrant insertions and everything, but there is no intimacy between two beings. It’s sort of masturbatory. And that’s part of the problem that we have in this country, this lack of flow, of caring, of the personal, the thing Anaïs wanted—to know that intimacy.

Source material is originally from Image (November 11, 1990) and American Film (September 1990).

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’s Artistic Associations: Daisy Aldan

During the 1950s, New Yorker Daisy Aldan (1918-2001), poet and renegade publisher, gained notice for her revolutionary translation of enigmatic French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s masterpiece, “Un Coup De Des” (“A Toss of the Dice”), and was the first to open the door to serious study of Mallarmé in the English-speaking world (the translation can be found in To Purify the Words of the Tribe). She founded Tiber Press in 1953, publishing her own work and that of Village poets such as John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, James Schuyler, Storm De Hirch, Charles Olson, and Harriet Zinnes, as well as the artwork of Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchel, Larry Rivers, Robert Motherwell, and Grace Hartigan.  Her Folder Magazine was for years a home to the work of then-unknown artists whose careers in many cases became stellar.

Although a recipient of many awards and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Aldan’s own career never achieved the heights of some who filled Folder Magazine’s pages. To support herself, she worked as a teacher at New York’s prestigious High School of Art and Design, where her presence became an institution; she retired in 1973 to devote herself to her writing. To this day, her former students’ blogs remember her glowingly.

In 1959, Aldan befriended Anaïs Nin, who at that time was a struggling novelist with a small but dedicated following. Aldan and Nin shared bold points of view, and both suffered the trials of self-publishing. Both women had to wage fierce battles to be heard and put into print. Nin noted in her diary, “Daisy is a magnificent poet, of the highest quality, yet she has to publish her poetry herself. Her teacher’s salary goes into that.”

Daisy Aldan and Anaïs Nin collaborated on many projects, including a 1960 reading of “Un Coup De Dés” at the Maison Française in New York, where Nin read the original French, and Aldan read her English translation. The reading was recorded and broadcast on radio. Aldan was also one of Nin’s New York friends who helped her keep her “trapeze life” (her bicoastal relationships with Rupert Pole and Hugh Guiler) from imploding. She often took calls from Rupert Pole (whom Nin told she was staying with Aldan) and explained that Anaïs “had just stepped out” and would have her return the call. She then referred to a card index upon which Nin’s schedule was written, call her with Rupert’s message, and she would then call him back, never missing a beat. According to Aldan, she was but one of many who partook in this very complicated process.

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

During the early 1960s, Aldan took over the editorship of poetry for the French/English literary magazine Two Cities which Anaïs Nin had co-edited. Contributors included Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, and Richard Wright. In the meantime, Aldan’s poetry was gaining recognition, and it was during this time (1963) she, through Two Cities Press in Paris, published her first acclaimed volume, The Destruction of Cathedrals and Other Poems (all of which is now included in her Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan), with several more to come. There was never an end to her experimentation in style, whether it was poetic or visual. She worked until her health began to decline in the mid-1990s, still managing to publish the translations Mallarme’s major verse poems in 1998, and her Collected Poems was published less than a year after her death in 2001.

The late Stanley Kunitz, when he was Poet Laureate of the United States, said of Aldan: “The world that engages her imagination lies beyond the ‘merely temporal and physical.’ Like Mallarmé, to whom she has devoted much of her primary and influential work as a translator, her poems evoke an interior landscape of dream and reverie, from which she ‘wakes to the miraculous.’”

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #10

Myth #10: Anaïs Nin’s sex life was ideal.

Fact: When Anaïs Nin married Hugh (Hugo) Guiler at the age of twenty, she was a virgin. Her sexual relationship with her new husband was very unsatisfactory, according to Nin in a diary passage written some twenty years later:

[We] were never made for each other. He was too big for me. And then he would always come too quickly, almost immediately, and I was slow. In fact, for months I did not know the deeper orgasm. I only felt the superficial orgasm of the clitoris, which he excited with his hands, but nothing deep down. The amazing thing was that it was only a year later in Paris that I felt the deep orgasm. (unpublished diary, 1943)

The lack of sexual fulfillment with her husband prompted her to seek comfort elsewhere. She had a botched affair with writer John Erskine in 1928, which left her feeling depressed to the point of contemplating suicide (Early Diary 4). It was not until 1932, at age twenty-nine, that she had a bona fide affair with another man—Henry Miller. Miller was the one who taught Nin about sex, but a month into the affair, she said:

I am thinking that with all the tremendous joys Henry has given me I have not yet felt a real orgasm. My response does not seem to lead to a true climax but is disseminated in a spasm that is less centered, more diffuse. I have felt an orgasm occasionally with Hugo, and when I have masturbated, but perhaps that is because Hugo likes me to close my legs and Henry makes me open them so much. (Henry and June 130)

Gonzalo More, 1930s

Gonzalo More, 1930s

Eventually, Nin would achieve the “deeper orgasm” she sought with Miller, and he would prove to be one of the very few lovers who could consistently satisfy her, but only while she was not sharing herself with other significant men. In 1936, Nin began an affair with the Peruvian bohemian Gonzalo Moré, whose style was radically different than Miller’s: while Miller let Nin dominate their sexual relationship, Moré demanded complete submission from her. (The diversity of these two relationships is represented in her erotic story “Hilda and Rango,” from Little Birds, the topic of which is discussed in Anaïs Nin Myth 5.) It took Nin a long time before relinquishing Miller as her primary lover and adopting Moré, but her relationship with the latter was tumultuous, to say the least. As Miller’s, and then Moré’s, sexual prowess declined, Nin’s frustration grew.

So, while it is true that Nin had sex with more than one man at a time, she rarely enjoyed it freely and completely. She was “faithful” to one lover emotionally, which affected her sexual response, and this was something that troubled her, something she tried for years to conquer. When she began an incestuous affair with her father, Joaquín Nin, it did not result in her unrestrained sexual pleasure. Instead, the gravity of the affair denied her of the “supreme spasm” that she desired, despite the fact her “yielding was immense, with [her] whole being” (Incest 211).

Nin’s often awkward forays into casual sex could be summarized by a bungled ménage à trois she had with a couple in early 1936. When she felt arousal but no orgasm, she lamented:

It is the abandon I like…freedom from care and jealousy. The smoothness. There is a world where people play joyously and naturally the tricks I play for alibis, without being blamed. (Fire 230)

When she met a dashing opera singer, who called himself “Chinchilito,” in Provincetown in 1941, they had an encounter in the sand dunes. Her description:

Slowly I got undressed as his hands searched for buttons and bows. Afterwards, his nakedness as he stood in the wind, laughing. Truly godlike in his physical magnificence. The waist and hips slender, not thick, the torso marvelously ample, shoulders wide. A golden blondness. If only I didn’t have the usual stage-struck feeling, it would have been magnificent. (unpublished diary, 1941)

It wasn’t until two years later when Nin finally declared:

Let me celebrate my freedom. I am as free as man has been—I am free to enjoy—today with Chinchilito…, I experienced for the first time an orgasm within adventure. For the first time I did not feel the orgasm linked to emotional fidelity, as an emotional surrender, as necessarily and fatally bound to love. So that love, being a slavery to a master who could not fulfill me, became an anguish. (unpublished diary, 1943)

Nin’s “freedom,” as she put it, would be short-lived, however, as the problems achieving sexual fulfillment continued, especially when she began to experiment with young gay men.

Her decades-long search for an “ideal lover” who could truly satisfy her didn’t end until she met her future “California husband,” Rupert Pole, in 1947. While vacationing in Mexico in 1973, at the age of seventy, she wrote in a notebook: “Rupert is passionate several times a week. Once our lovemaking was so pleasurable I cried! He is too much!
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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #9

Myth #9: Anaïs Nin kept a continuous diary from age 11 to her death.

Fact: Beginning in 1914, when Anaïs Nin and her family departed Spain for New York, after having lived temporarily with her estranged father’s parents, she began recording daily events in a notebook given to her by her mother. Nin would later famously say that her intention was to write her father an extended “letter” that she hoped would entice him back.

The diary became the centerpiece of the young Anaïs’s life, and she continued the practice of recording her innermost thoughts and impressions in bound notebooks for a good portion of her adult life. Of course, the diaries she kept during her tumultuous years in Paris with Henry Miller became the basis for her fame as a writer when they were finally released in the mid-1960s. What most did not know then was that Nin had given up the daily practice of diary writing some twenty years previous.

After war forced Nin, her husband Hugh Guiler, and many of her circle, including Miller and Gonzalo Moré, to New York around 1940, she became desperately depressed for years, yearning for the “ideal” lover, success in her art of writing, and eventually descended into a downward spiral of failed love affairs and failed books. She began to express a desire to be free from the diary.

On September 25, 1943, she recorded in her unpublished diary: “I wish I could write the END to the Diary and turn to the outside story,” meaning that she felt her creativity was being sucked dry, which was a theme that had been pounded into her head by the likes of Miller, psychoanalyst Otto Rank, and Gore Vidal.

On September 25, 1943, she wrote: “What a potent awakener the Diary is. As I get ready to leave it, I pay it a slight tribute. This should be the last volume [it turned out she would write one more]. At forty I enter a new maturity, stripped of my mirages, dreams and miracles, of my delusions and illusions and my heavy romantic sorrows. What awaits me is the expression of this strength, in action. I am about to lay down my magician’s wand, my healer’s paraphernalia…and to confront the act, in writing as well as in living. Without the diary…the tortoise shell, houseboat and escargot cover. No red velvet panoply over my head, no red carpet under my feet, no Japanese umbrellas growing on the hair, no stage settings, tricks, enchantments…”

On March 13, 1946, she wrote: “This Diary will end when I find the [ideal] lover.”

On April 1, 1946: “I may perhaps attain freedom from the diary itself, from watching myself live, from having to make stories to make it more marvelous. Freedom from my idealized self, the idealization of others.”

Indeed, by the time Nin made her cross-country trip with her “ideal” lover, Rupert Pole, in 1947, she had abandoned the idea of bound diaries altogether, opting to write occasional descriptions of events on loose paper and keep them in folders along with correspondence and articles. After she became famous in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, her diary became what she called the “diary of others,” since she had no time to write new material. She essentially stopped writing in the 1970s, including fiction.

However, as death approached and she came to grips with it, she kept two hardbound diaries in which she handwrote her thoughts on life and death. One volume was the “Book of Music,” the other the “Book of Pain,” presenting both sides of her final years—the joy of living and the struggle with the cancer that would kill her.

Book of Music (L) and Book of Pain

Book of Music (L) and Book of Pain

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #8

Myth #8: Henry and June is exactly as Anaïs Nin wrote it.

Fact: Anaïs Nin’s first unexpurgated diary, Henry and June, which came out some nine years after her death in 1977, was as heavily edited as her original Diary 1 (1966). Nin did most of the editing of Diary 1, which mainly concerned cutting the sexual affair with Henry Miller and her erotic longing for his wife June. The material in Henry and June (i.e. the Miller/June entanglement), according to Nin’s wishes, was not to be published until after the death of her husband, Hugh Guiler, who died in 1985. The task of editing was given to Harcourt’s John Ferrone, who edited Delta of Venus, Nin’s only bona fide bestseller. Ferrone described himself as a “hard-nosed editor” with little use for material not on topic, repetitious, or muddled. His goal was for Henry and June to read smoothly, as a novel would, and to not stray from its premise—the Anaïs-Henry-June triangle. Rupert Pole, Nin’s “California husband” and Trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust, however, did not take well to Ferrone’s extensive cuts and rewording of Nin’s text and let him know about it in his letters. Ferrone found himself defending his editorial decisions while Pole often made demands that certain passages be left in, or left alone. This led to a rather contentious working relationship between the two, who otherwise were very fond of each other.

Pole had put his foot down and demanded: “as the trustee of the Anaïs Nin Trust I must insist that you restore the following passages:” (and he listed no less than nine). (A Café in Space 4 16)

Ferrone summed up his deletions and changes by saying, in a letter to Pole: “I took my cue from Anaïs’s own editing of Diary I. She rewrote passages that were unclear and, believe me, she deleted things that were excessive, not because they related to Henry but because, from the vantage point of maturity, she knew they were a mistake.” (A Café in Space 4 18)

One of the most contested passages was the final one. Ferrone didn’t want to use what Pole suggested at all, but finally agreed to use an edited form of it. About this, he said:

“I know you will pooh-pooh all of this, but the ending is too important to leave as it is. This is how I would like to edit it:

‘Last night I wept, because the process by which I have become woman has been painful, because I am no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes are opened to reality, to Henry’s selfishness, to June’s need of power. Yet I can still love passionately, humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and am not yet accustomed to its absence.’” (A Café in Space 4 14-15)

Pole responded with:

“Anaïs’ ending must be preserved as she wrote it. The repetition of ‘I wept’ is the essence of Anaïs’ poetic prose style.

‘…my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe.’ This is the essence of Anaïs’ philosophy which she maintained throughout her life.I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. That means my imagination has ceased to embellish desperately—so that there is no more danger of delusion for me. I wept because there was no more danger and I had lost my faith in Christmas.’ This was her belief (in Linotte) that her father would join them at Christmas.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

Ferrone replied:

“I throw up my hands and restore the passages you insist upon, but I do not agree with you. You lack objectivity.” (A Café in Space 4 17)

However, the published version of Henry and June ends with:

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become a woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality—to Henry’s selfishness, June’s love of power, my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.

“So Henry is coming this afternoon, and tomorrow I am going out with June.” (Henry and June 274)

The ending was not exactly how Pole envisioned it, nor what Ferrone wanted, nor what Anaïs Nin wrote verbatim in her diary.

In short, both of these well-intentioned men wanted the best of Anaïs Nin to shine through Henry and June, just as they believed Nin herself wanted. The verdict is the readers’ to make.

The complete exchange of letters between Rupert Pole and John Ferrone can be found in A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 4, 2007.
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Adventures in Louveciennes: entry to Anaïs Nin’s house of incest

Two years after my last visit to Louveciennes in 1994, the Anaïs Nin house was finally sold to someone who not only restored the main building, where he lived, but also developed the grounds to include a few maisons particulaires, which were to serve as apartments. My friend Jacques, who kept tabs on developments there for me during my absence, told me the house had been repainted in a burnt orange color, which he termed affreux (hideous), but that it was finally, after decades of neglect, habitable once again. This was wonderful news, for I had spent an inordinate amount of time fearing the place would eventually be demolished. I was told, however, that the new owner had no interest in Anaïs Nin and did not particularly care that she once lived there—therefore, he had no inclination to entertain Nin fans who occasionally stopped by to take pictures or to sit at the gate with her Diaries in hand. During the several years away from Louveciennes, although I was still heavily involved with Nin’s work, I had lost hope of ever seeing the house from the inside.

But in 2002, Jacques wrote me an exuberant e-mail, telling me that it had been sold once again, this time to an academy award nominated French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade. Jacques, through the Director of Culture in Louveciennes, managed to secure a rendezvous at the Nin house on February 21, 2003, Anaïs’s 100th birthday. Not only would we finally gain entry to the house, but on Anaïs Nin’s centennial. This was too good to be true, I thought, but did not hesitate to book a flight to Paris. I kept waiting for something awful to happen, such as an airline or rail strike, but nothing did.

While in Paris, a woman who’d once romanced Lawrence Durrell, Claudine, took me on a wonderful tour of Durrell’s and Miller’s Montparnasse, walking the same routes they took, stopping at the same haunts, and the result was an article in the premier A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (2003). I invited her to attend the rendezvous in Louveciennes, thinking it would have special meaning for her, since Nin, Miller, and Durrell were linked by their budding artistry in the Paris of the 1930s. I found out that a famous actress from the Comédie-Française would be in attendance, as well the Director of Culture, and other actors and actresses from the theater. Of course, Claudine couldn’t resist the idea of visiting the house of one of Durrell’s friends and collaborators.

On the train to Louveciennes, we reacquainted ourselves with Anaïs’s descriptions of her house:

My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house... (Diary 1 3)

We had lunch at Jacques’ house, devouring a meal that was traditionnelement français, washed down with wine, topped off with cheeses of every sort. Jacques then pointed to his watch: it was time to leave, first to the Director of Culture’s house, where we would meet the other guests before going on to the Nin house. After a light-hearted gathering, we set out for the ultimate: the laboratory of the soul, some seventy years after its most famous resident had lived there.

We parked on the narrow rue de Monbuisson, and Jean-Hugues Anglade met us at the pedestrian gate of the Nin house. Handsome, soft-spoken, and dressed casually, he shook everyone’s hand, and we entered into the courtyard where we all stood in awe. The grounds were well-kept, and the flowers were already beginning to bud. It was a fine day: sunny, warm, still. Jean showed us the outbuilding which once served as a garage for Hugh Guiler’s car—he been reading the Diary to discover the significance of each feature of the house and garden from Nin’s point of view. He expressed a desire to find the now-buried fountain and pool and to restore them. He’d located the same garden furniture Nin had used and displayed it prominently in the front of the house. There was a massive tree in the garden that looked as though it had been severely pruned at some point—Jean-Hugues told us that during World War II, much of it had been cut up for firewood.

All this was proving to be too much—the front door was ajar, beckoning us, and my mind was racing. Was this actually happening? “Entrez,” Jean-Hugues said musically… “Entrez, entrez…”

louveciennesfoyer

Interior 1st floor

I could not feel my feet touch the floor in the foyer. I looked to the left, ahead, and to the right. Everything looked clean and fresh, hardly like the photos Noel Riley Fitch had taken 13 years earlier. The room to the left of the entrance, which once contained the pool table Henry Miller referred to in his entry in Nin’s diary (Incest 80-85), now housed a mini-stage with rock band equipment. The chandelier was gone, and the fireplace was restored, but not as it was when Nin lived there. The old mosaic tile had been replaced. I kept thinking about how silent it must have been in this room during the years when the house was empty—and now it would be filled with music. Alive, I felt. The house was alive again. Someone lived here again, created here again. Voices, music, the sounds of life filled the void again.

Nin said:

I chose the house for many reasons. Because it seemed to have sprouted out of the earth like a tree, so deeply grooved it was within the old garden. It had no cellar and the rooms rested right on the ground. Below the rug, I felt, was the earth. I could take root here… (Diary 1 4)

Jean-Hugues opened what appeared to be a closet door near the front entrance. Inside was a cool, dank room lined with solid stone, gravel on the floor—the earth. “In here,” he said, “you can see all the way back to the revolution.” Here were the guts of the house, a place no one, not even time, had touched since the beginning. The air smelled of antiquity. To the right of the entrance was a parlor, and behind it was a large kitchen. The kitchen was modern, clean, airy, well-lit. A door led out to the garden. The parlor was large with one window through which the afternoon sun poured, creating a silhouette of every person in the room. Suddenly they all became timeless…they could have been anyone, from any time. It could have been Anaïs leaning on the doorway and not the actress…they could’ve been Miller, Hugo, Anaïs’s father, June…

Once we were all seated and enjoying fruit punch and sweets, Jacques began to tell his stories about the history of Louveciennes, acquainting its newest resident with information he could have gotten nowhere else. We raised a toast to Anaïs and fell silent for a few moments. I noticed the actress had a copy of Incest with her, with a place marked in the book, as if she were going to read aloud some passages…but she didn’t. I wasn’t sure why not. We took the grand tour of the house. I had been dying to get upstairs. The narrow, winding staircase was not made for someone of my height—I’m certain Hugo must have had to duck just as I did to avoid crushing his skull on the ceiling. I then recalled reading on the train the passage from Diary 1:

There are eleven windows showing between the wooden trellis covered with ivy. One shutter in the middle was put there for symmetry only, but I often dream about this mysterious room which does not exist behind the closed shutter. (4)

In House of Incest, Nin evokes the imagery of one of her dreams:

In the house of incest there was a room which could not be found, a room without a window, the fortress of their love, a room without window where the mind and blood coalesced in a union without orgasm and rootless like those of fishes. (52)

louveciennes-room-that-doesnt-exist1

Space which is “room that doesn’t exist”

I sought this “room,” the place behind the shutter. Today, all the windows are open, but I came upon a narrow space in which the ceiling slanted severely, the ancient wooden beams making it impossible to pass by. On the wall was a window. Had I found the “room which could not be found”? It seemed to be in the right place, in the middle of the house.

We passed from room to room, as in a dream. The dimension of time seemed to be missing. All the modern trappings—a computer, a child’s toys, modern furniture—seemed to drop away, leaving only the essence of a dreamscape.

Nin said in her Diary:

Every room is painted a different color. As if there were one room for every separate mood: lacquer red for vehemence, pale turquoise for reveries, peach color for gentleness, green for repose, grey for work at the typewriter. (5)

We found reverie: a portion of the paint on one wall had been peeled back, layer by layer, and beneath was turquoise. In the bathroom was an antique bathtub, the porcelain worn off around the edges from the hands of all those who’d lifted themselves in and out. From one of the upstairs windows, we looked out at the massive green gate, which Nin had described as a prison gate, keeping her locked in and away from the artistic and bohemian Paris she was just beginning to discover.

louveciennespaint

The color of reverie

The shadows in the room began to lengthen and the day was growing old. The conversations in the parlor were scattering. It was time to leave. This dream of mine, to enter this house, had finally been realized. I still believe that I was incapable of understanding fully the significance of the moment, to feel it fully. My gratitude to Jacques is eternal.

Claudine, knowing French architecture well, felt the house was not built for aristocracy, citing the bare beams on the ceilings and inexpensive building materials. She noted that the many small rooms and their layout suggested that the house was perhaps built as lodging for workmen on a plantation or a vineyard (and history tells us that wine was once produced in the region). There is no documentation of the house from before 1803, which would make it seventy years newer than what Nin was led to believe. The house’s origins are still mysterious.

A in-depth article on the 2003 Louveciennes visit (as well as Neuilly) with more photos can be found in A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal Vol. 1.

Epilogue: Only a year or two after our visit, Jean-Hugues Anglade sold the house for reasons unknown to me. At the time of this posting, it is once again on the market for 1.65 million Euros.

To read more about Louveciennes, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which has descriptions and an interactive map that includes the house on rue de Montbuisson.

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

To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, click here.

Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.
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Anais Nin Myth of the Day #6

Myth #6: Anaïs Nin had a life-long love affair with Paris

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

Fact: By the time Anaïs Nin and her family immigrated to New York at the age of 11, she had spent very little time in Paris, traveling across the European continent as her pianist/composer father did musical tours. Though she missed France while in New York and romanticized her homeland during World War I, she rarely mentioned the City of Light in her childhood diary. In America, she became enamored with the English language classics and began to consider herself Anglo, not Latin. So, when her banker husband Hugh Guiler was transferred to a Paris branch in the mid-1920s, Anaïs did not have the sense of coming home, but rather that of being uprooted. Her first impressions of Paris as a young adult were anything but glowing. On Jan. 2, 1925, only a few days after arriving, she said in her diary:

“Tonight I hate Paris. The wind is blowing heaving raindrops about; the streets are wet and muddy; the automobile horns, more discordant than ever.” (Early Diary 3 82)

The next day she wrote:

“My ridiculous attitude towards Paris shows that I love with my intellect, not with my instincts and my emotions. My intellect was bred in English letters, and no instinct of race or birth can influence me. This dullness of the heart, this lack of responsiveness, shock me and please me at the same time. The humorous side of it is that the French would be the first to understand and to approve of me. The English would, by contrast, urge me to love my native city without reasoning about it. Through recognition of the supremacy of the intelligence, I belong, then, to Paris. Yet I kneel here, humbly sentimentalizing about the English. What inconsistencies! I shall truly end by being spiritually repudiated by all nations.” (Early Diary 3 83-4)

On March 11, she said:

“Spiritually, I hate Paris for the importance of sensuality in its literary and human life.” (Early Diary 3 115)

She shunned the Montparnasse scene of expatriate writers and artists and locked herself within the four walls of her apartment, keeping her diary and trying to be an ideal wife in a basically sexless marriage—this went on for years before a slow awakening to her environment occurred. Just as she began to identify herself as an artist and sought to associate with other artists in Paris, she and Hugh were forced by their shrinking finances—caused by the onset of the Great Depression—to move to the suburbs, ending up in Louveciennes. Once again she felt imprisoned, until the fateful day in 1931 when she met Henry Miller, who liberated her and introduced her to the guts of the city she had essentially ignored for six years.

The 1930s Paris years with Miller were arguably the most essential to Nin’s life and work, setting up the release of the Diary of Anaïs Nin, the first two volumes of which cover that period. During this time, however, visits to New York created ambivalence in Nin—her infatuation with the frenetic energy of New York, perhaps best represented by her love of jazz, which she felt symbolized New York, contrasted heavily with the slower, more languorous pace of Paris. She found herself longing to be in New York again. After returning from an extended visit in 1935, she wrote:

“I miss the animal buoyancy of New York, the animal vitality… Where is the jazz rhythm, the nervous energy of New York? …Face to face with a gentle, diminutive Paris, all charm, all intelligence, the new Anaïs feels: But I know it already. It is familiar. I am in love with a new, as yet uncreated world, vivid colors and large scales, vastness and abundance, a synthetic vast city of the future.” (Diary 2 42, 43)

Her desire to return to New York was to ultimately be realized, but not in the fashion she’d wished—the threat of World War II thrust her once again back into America. Once trapped in New York with no possibility of returning to Paris, she rebelled and fell into a deep depression that not only affected her personal life, but also her writing. But she was never to return to Paris to live, even when she had the chance after the war. However, especially in her later years, Nin would write wistfully of her native city and recapture some of the joy whenever she returned for visits.
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