Podcast 14: The Maternality of Anaïs Nin with Jessica Gilbey

Australian scholar Jessica Gilbey explains an often ignored relationship—that between Anaïs Nin and her mother. Nin’s connection with her father has received a lot of intention, and to this day search data for their incestuous relationship on this blog remains among the top five. Searches for Rosa Culmell de Nin? Virtually none.

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Jessica Gilbey

When Gilbey decided to write her doctoral thesis on how motherhood played a major role in Nin’s writing, her supervisor advised her to also explore Nin’s relationship with her own mother, which, at first, Gilbey was reluctant to do—mainly because the mother seemed to be mundane, plain, prosaic. But when she truly began to explore the bond between them, she discovered how much it informed Nin’s decisions, her rebellions, her path in life, her art, and even the other relationship in her life, including her father.

All of these topics are included in Gilbey’s contribution to Volume 13 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, “Our Mother (Re)Born—The fertile treasure of Nin’s matrilineality.”

Listen as Gilbey brilliantly and objectively discusses how Nin became a symbolic mother to many and biological mother to none, and how critics lashed out at her for her life choices, not to mention her decision to write about them.

Run time: 39 minutes

To listen with iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

To order a copy of Volume 13 of A Café in Space, click here.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 13

As editor of this journal for the past 13 years, I can personally say that this is one of the most satisfying issues we’ve ever produced, with an excerpt from the forthcoming diary Trapeze, a memoir from one of Anaïs Nin’s lovers, powerful testimonies from women writers affected by Nin’s life and work, critical articles about Nin and those who affected her own work by talented scholars, an introduction to Trapeze by Benjamin Franklin V, poetry, short fiction, photographs and visual art.

CafeVol13-CoverLarge-1Anaïs Nin recounts her first weeks with Rupert Pole in 1947, Lanny Baldwin counters Nin’s account of her relationship with him in the only known memoir by one of the characters in her diary, Barbara Kraft offers an excerpt from her new memoir Henry Miller: The Last DaysJessica Gilbey explores the little-known relationship between Nin and her mother while Jean Owen tackles the father-daughter entanglement, Erin Dunbar discusses the affect Djuna Barnes had on her work, and Lana Fox delivers a moving account of how Nin came along at the right time as Lana was transitioning from a tragic beginning to a triumphant present.

Other contributors include Diana Raab, Marina Ferrer, Ellie Kissel, Chrissi Sepe, Danica Davidson, Colette Standish, David Wilde, Marc Widershien and Kennedy Gammage.

You can order A Café in Space, Vol. 13 in both print and digital issues by clicking here.

And stay tuned for the next Anaïs Nin Podcast, which will be dropped Feb. 21, 2016.

Anaïs Nin’s Incest: A Key To Understanding Her Art

Recently I was interviewed by Anaín Bjorkquist, hostess of the SexLoveJoy podcast, about Anaïs Nin. Part of the discussion had to do with the fact that Nin had adult-onset incest at the age of thirty with her father, Joaquin Nin, in 1933 after two decades of estrangement. Nin described it in the unexpurgated diary aptly titled Incest, and she wrote about it honestly, explicitly, and beautifully from a literary point of view. The significance of it in terms of discussing Anaïs Nin’s sexuality was, naturally, part of the podcast. 

Despite the fact that the podcast is rated “explicit,” some listeners felt the incest portion was inappropriate, that somehow incest was “romanticized,” or that it should have been edited out, never mentioned. I feel Anaín was courageous for not making any changes, even after the feedback. But the feedback prompts me to discuss this hot topic further here, distasteful or not, as it may be.

Question: how can one truly understand the life and work of Anaïs Nin if the nature of her most important relationship—the one with her father—is edited, disguised, or sugar-coated?

Answer: it cannot.

CoverIncestIncest, of course, is taboo in most cultures, disturbing to say the least, and is usually referred to in hushed voices. But Nin never backed down from any aspect of life, and I, for one, cannot back down from mentioning incest within the context her writing—that’s part of my job, to tell the truth as I know it so that readers can better understand her, her relationships, and ultimately the meaning of her work. Nin scholar Benjamin Franklin V and I discuss this very topic in our recent podcast interview.

A little history:

The loss of Nin’s pianist/composer father at age ten (he abandoned the family for a young and beautiful piano student) was by far the most significant event in her life; it created the path she would take and the woman she would become. There was severe psychological damage—she not only lost her father, but her grandparents, the countries she adored (France and Spain), her language, her culture, and the entirety of her life as she knew it.

She began her diary at age eleven onboard the ship that would bring her, her mother and two brothers to New York in 1914. It was originally intended as a letter to her father, naïvely pleading with him to come to New York and rejoin the family. In it, she painted a distorted but alluring picture of America to win him back…yes, she learned ruse and enticement at a tender age, but its first application was for naught since her father never did come back.

When her father failed to return, and the reality of the impossibility of such a return became apparent, Nin began to seek him in others. This began when she married Hugh Guiler, a man whom she saw, in some ways, as a substitute father, but one who was kind, gentle and faithful. However, the nature of her attraction to him, coupled with Guiler’s own inexperience with women, created a sexual incompatibility that would last for the rest of their lives. She then began a search for a man who not only could fill the role of father figure, but who could also make her feel like a desirable woman. Her first attempt was with John Erskine, Guiler’s former professor, in 1929. But Erskine, overwhelmed by the young Anaïs’s beauty and a sense of loyalty to Guiler, was unable to finish the act in a hotel room. This sent Nin into a tailspin of self-doubt and shame. She had feelings of incompleteness, of failure as a woman, and most of all—of abandonment. She contemplated suicide, thought of jumping off a ship into the ocean. This depression lasted for years.

Henry Miller, whom Nin met in 1931, seemed to be the man she’d been seeking—not only was he older, wiser, and took Nin under his wing, he was also the one who initiated Nin to sex as she hoped it would be—raw, passionate, all-consuming. This, coupled with the fact he would mentor her writing, gave her the sense of having finally become a woman in the true sense of the word, as she writes in the unexpurgated diary, Henry and June.

By 1933, Nin was sexually alive, her impulses were strong, and she was engrossed in Miller’s life. But she soon began to realize that Miller had an inhuman quality, one that, especially when he was writing, shut out all others, Nin included. Nin realized he could never be completely hers, or anyone else’s, and his long list of romantic failures bears this out. When Miller locked himself in his room with his typewriter, Nin felt the presence of the old demon—abandonment—once again. How could she rid herself of this constant imbalance, this constant fear of being left alone? Her desires, of course, had long been distorted and amplified by the original abandonment, and she grew to feel that no singular man could provide her with a sense of being loved or could commit to her absolutely, so that even with two main men in her life (Miller and Guiler), she felt utterly alone.

Then, Nin’s father, after a long silence, began to write her again after a friend told him what a beautiful woman she had become. This led to a reunion at her house in Louveciennes almost exactly twenty years after he’d left the family. This meeting, of course, had a huge impact on Nin, who was finally beginning to realize she was a desirable woman, a fact most men in her company did not fail to notice, most notably her Don Juan father.

The elusive father, dashing, charming, romantic, aristocratic, impeccably groomed, with a grandiose personality, then began an all-out campaign to woo his daughter. He told her that of all the women he’d known, she was the one—and he lamented the fact that the “one” was his own daughter! “You are the synthesis of all the women I have loved,” he told her. He said that if she visited him in the South of France, everyone would believe they were lovers, thereby introducing the concept to her. His letters were frequent and increasingly emotional. He predicted “chapters” would be written in his hotel room that would surpass those of D. H. Lawrence. All of this, combined with everything else that had preceded his return, was a potent elixir she had no ability to resist. She had spent most of her life trying recapture the father she had lost, and he was giving her a way to do it literally, a way to face the demons and to destroy them at long last.

She described the affair in eloquent detail in her diary; she called the passages the “father story.” The incest itself was, for her, a living symbol. She looked at it from the inside, through the lenses of literature and psychology, not one of morality or artificial convention. She did not condemn herself, nor her father, and some readers find this outrageous. They expect guilt, remorse, atonement, but Nin had none. It was part of her life, an event that occurred, a stone in the mosaic, and like all other events, she recorded it in her diary from the depths of her psyche.

As one of my recent podcast guests, Lana Fox, says, “She didn’t judge herself for this. She embraced it, made it her own, and she wrote about it in stunning language.” Fox, a childhood incest victim, says Nin’s incest passages changed her life, gave her permission to accept what had happened to her, to accept herself, to empower herself, to grow, to flourish. That is what we mean by the power of writing.

Nin’s incest is more than a taboo, more than a forbidden act, more than two family members engaging in a sexual affair—it is the culmination of many complex events and emotions, the result of trauma, loss, years of mourning and craving, a product of self-loathing, doubt, the feeling of being unloved and unlovable. And it was an event that would forever change her life, especially the nature of her work. Nin wrote about incest abstractly in The House of Incest (1936), lyrically in “Lilith” (1939) and injected its essence into much of her later fiction. It flavored who she was—it caused her to grow in a completely different direction. It didn’t save her—she ultimately rejected her father, who died alone in Cuba in 1949—but it made her more aware of who she was and what she needed from life and relationships.

There are those who refuse to accept Anaïs Nin because of incest. There are others who refuse to believe it really happened. There are those who wish this would never be mentioned again, that it is “icky,” “disgusting,” “immoral,” and so on…but the failure to include it in any comprehensive discussion of Anaïs Nin would be a failure to understand exactly who she was, how she got that way, and what informs her writing.

Podcast 8: Anaïs Nin and Lana Fox—From Tragedy to Triumph

Anaïs Nin’s erotica and especially the unexpurgated diary Incest have attracted a polarized response—on the one hand, readers enjoy Nin’s adventurous spirit and her powerful, haunting and eloquent writing; on the other is a very vocal and “moral” reaction to the point where some feel impelled to discard Nin from reading lists altogether. There are those cannot get past the notion of such “taboos” such as incest, intense sexuality and abortion. But what about those readers who have experienced some of these things themselves? Lana Fox, erotica writer and co-founder of the sex-positive Go Deeper Press, discusses how, as a sexual abuse and incest survivor who was bullied in school and shamed for displaying any sort of her own sexuality, was able to transform her life, and how Anaïs Nin played a very important role in her rebirth. She says that Delta of Venus and the Incest passages “totally changed” her life, validated her sexual fantasies and helped her overcome the impulse to end her life. Not only did Fox bloom as a writer, she was able to transcend her past and create a world in which she could live and thrive.

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Lana Fox

Lana Fox has also contributed an article entitled “Love Will Come: How Anaïs Nin Fostered My Erotic Creativity” to A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 13, which appears in February 2016.

Run time: 36:11

To listen to Podcast 8 on iTunes, click here

To listen without iTunes, click here

Links:

Lana Fox on Twitter: @foxlana

Go Deeper Press

Lana Fox’s fan fiction book based on Nin’s writing: Cathedral of Furs

Incest: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin: 1932-1934

Delta of Venus

Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947

Pre-order volume 13 of A Café in Space

 

Anais Nin Podcast 5, part 2: 5 more questions for Anais Nin with answers

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

La Coupole: 1930s social media?

Part 2 of episode 5 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast picks up where Part 1 left off: with answers to the last five of the ten questions Nin fans said they would have liked to ask her, the answers to which are thoroughly researched and explained.

The subject matter of Part 2 includes the Paris café life as a precursor to social media and how Anaïs Nin would have used Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts today; the end of her love affair with the famed “laboratory of the soul,” her home in Louveciennes, and her undying affinity with France; how Nin kept (or didn’t keep) her two husbands unaware of each other; Nin’s choice to not bear children—whether it was selfishness, as commonly thought, or a much deeper reason; and how Nin went about the construction her most ignored genre of work, her fiction.

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The “laboratory of the soul”

With the invaluable help of Sex Love Joy podcaster, Anaín Bjorkquist, these questions are addressed, discussed and answered as closely as possible to how Anaïs Nin herself would have.

Once again, special thanks go to Lulu Salavegesen (@Shimmerinbloom) for the concept of this series.

You can listen to Podcast 5, Part 2 on iTunes by clicking here, or, if you don’t have iTunes, by clicking here.

To learn about Part 1 and listen to it, click here.

Run time: 33 minutes. Enjoy.

Ask Anais Nin anything you want

NOTICE: WE ARE NO LONGER TAKING QUESTIONS. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED–YOUR QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED ON OUR NEXT PODCAST. STAY TUNED TO OUR BLOG FOR DETAILS.

Imagine you had the chance to ask Anaïs Nin any question you’d like. What would it be? Would it be about a book? A lover? Somewhere she lived? Her double life? Incest? Her writing philosophy? Her family? Her upcoming diary?

anaisnincapedemandemoiAnd what if you had the chance to actually ask the question and get an answer from Nin experts who will use their extensive knowledge and resources to provide an in-depth and accurate response?

And what if your question and answer would appear on our next Anaïs Nin podcast?

I would say thats a unique opportunity.

The podcast will be hosted by Paul Herron and Anaín Bjorkquist (of Sex Love Joy fame). Air date will be posted here and on Twitter soon.

New Guardian Article Raises Questions about Anaïs Nin

Recently The Guardian posted an article, written by Sady Doyle, about Anaïs Nin which chronicles her struggles as a young writer, her meteoric rise to fame, her downfall in the aftermath of Incest and Deirdre Bair’s biography, and finally her current resurgence in social media. I happen to feel that the article is well-balanced, well-written, and is based on solid fact. This leads me to confront some misconceptions seen in the article’s comments section about Nin’s incestuous relationship with her father, Joaquín Nin. anaisninphotobkFirst, there seems to be some disagreement about who wrote the incest passages, not just from some of the commenters of the Guardian article, but among those who actually knew Nin herself. I happened to be among a group of women, all of whom knew Nin on some level—none of them intimately—who argued that Nin’s “husband” and literary executor Rupert Pole and agent/editor Gunther Stuhlmann concocted the incest passage in the name of creating money-making scandal. Some believe that Pole was the editor of Incest, when, in fact, he transcribed the text from the original handwritten diary of Anaïs Nin, and Gunther Stuhlmann was the editor. I was Stuhlmann’s friend and had first-hand accounts of how the process unfolded—Pole was difficult to work with, he said, because he wanted Nin’s words exactly as she wrote them (Harcourt editor John Ferrone said the same thing—check out his article on the making of Henry & June in A Café in Space, Vol. 4). While Ferrone was very bold in editing Nin’s text, Stuhlmann was more prone to leave it alone. The proof of this lies in the handwritten diary itself. Fortunately, Pole xeroxed the entire thing before Nin’s death, and I happen to have this document—the Incest passage it is the same wording as in the handwritten diary. So, the account is Nin’s, and it is virtually unchanged (misspellings, punctuation, etc. were the only edits). Secondly, the question about who seduced whom is still debated. This is answered by the correspondence between Nin and her father Joaquín. The letters are clear: Joaquín Nin aggressively and relentlessly pursued his daughter and even predicted what would happen inside “the four walls” of his hotel room. We know from Nin’s account in Incest that she consented to his advances, but nowhere in any of the correspondence, or the diary, does she suggest a premeditated desire for a physical relationship. To learn more about these letters see the blog post or read a selection of them in A Café in Space, Vol. 6. The Guardian article does crystallize the fact that Anaïs Nin and social media is a good fit, and, as Tristine Rainer mentions, she would have loved to have an instantaneous connection with the world. To read the Guardian article, click here.

A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 is on Kindle

CafeInSpace_Cover2009-out2.inddToday, Vol. 6 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal was released on Amazon’s Kindle. Vol. 6 (2009) contains the remarkable letters between Anaïs Nin and her father, composer Joaquín Nin, during the time just before and after the first nine days of their incestuous relationship in the south of France. Also included are essays by several prominent Nin scholars, such as Tristine Rainer and Sarah Burghauser, analysis of Henry Miller’s writing, feminist literary theory, poetry, and reviews of Nin-related events.

For more information about the contents of the journal, and/or to order the print version, click here.

To order Vol. 6 of A Cafe in Space on Kindle, click here.

Prelude to a Symphony: Joaquín Nin’s seduction of his daughter Anaïs

Recently discovered letters between Joaquín Nin and his daughter Anaïs reveal what has been hidden for decades—his explicit use of the doppelganger theory (which Nin psychoanalyst Otto Rank made famous) to seduce his daughter after essentially twenty years of estrangement. One letter in particular, written on April 29, 1933 (a few months before their first sexual encounter), illustrates this maneuver. Anaïs, who’d shortly beforehand initiated contact with her father, had sent him a copy of part of her childhood diary, which was originally written for him as a sort of “letter” after he’d abandoned Anaïs and her family in 1913. In response, Joaquín says:

You are not only my daughter…you are two daughters, one by flesh and the other by spirit. There are coincidences—some of which are troubling and others which fill me with joy—between your “journal” and the one I wrote—yes—at your age. Like you, I sought the kind of solitude that liberates, and I wept over secret, indefinable disappointments. Like you, I found the ways of the world absurd. Like you, I hated school, because the dogma clipped the wings of my imagination. Like you, I loved flowers, books, music, worms, the sky and stars, the sea, the sun, trees, snow and the faithful claire de lune…benevolent confidants of my secret life.

Like you, I hated lies. Betrayals by my schoolmates made me literally sick with sorrow and despair…or furious to the point of wanting to beat them all senseless. For me, life seemed to be a farce, a sinister game impossible to play without leaving logic behind…and then I lost all my courage… Like you, I tried to raise my heart unto God himself, who, I believed by some miracle, could hear me. I was exactly thirteen years old when a sudden crisis of mysticism threw me into prayer, which I believed was the only possible consolation for my distressed heart and aimless soul. I spent, unbeknownst to my parents, hours and hours at night kneeling on the tiles of my tiny bedroom, reading and reciting prayers, in order to save myself and those I loved from the attacks of evil. The day before my first communion I almost fainted at the feet of the stern Priest to whom my Father had entrusted my religious initiation. Like you, I had a double life, a mysterious, burning and secret life; I spent hours of ecstasy in a world of dreams where all was just, beautiful and sweet. Alas! … “Life,” harsh, hard, ferocious, broke all that little by little. I learned how to work, to fight, to hit, to settle arguments with my fists, just like the others around me. I suffered the effects of the collective madness; I lashed out to defend myself, initially, and then in order to defend my ideas, my concept of the world (?), of life, of society. I fought against my companions, with the exaltations of illumination, so that they would no longer lie, so that they would no longer betray, so that they would be just, so that they would not behave like animals, so that they would not steal, so that they would not rip flowers from the neighbors’ gardens, so that they would not use vile words, so that they would not mock God and the poor, whom my father had taught us how to love and respect. But at the same time I sought, by all possible and conceivable means, to perfect myself because I felt—again like you—that I was filled with defects, ugly, weak and mal-conditioned, in the end, in every way.

…I will see you soon, dear Anaïs! Around your image and your memory I braid garlands of emotional tenderness, and I throw my trust to the heavens which separate us—the beautiful heavens of France—the soft murmer of my grateful heart, the clear message of the love of…

Your father  (A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 11-12, 13)

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

Joaquin Nin, Paris, 1930s

The many parallels between their lives (though there is no evidence to verify his version of his life) create a spiritual link between the two of them, which is followed up with sentimentality. Joaquín’s motivation is up for speculation—he’d always sought a relationship with his daughter, especially during the time shortly after he’d left the family, for his own purposes—he was no doubt jealous of his wife Rosa’s control over Anaïs and her two younger brothers, Thorvald and Joaquín Jr., and often used Anaïs’s lingering affection for him to create a rift between the children and their mother, whom he loathed. Since he had not yet met Anaïs as a mature woman (except for a brief encounter some years previous, after she first arrived in Paris with her husband Hugh Guiler), there is no concrete evidence that he was plotting a physical relationship with her…but he was a seducer by nature, and if he saw himself in Anaïs’s writing, as he indicates in this letter, it is possible that his self-adoration led him to such a scheme even before meeting her some weeks later in Louveciennes.

For a more complete exchange of letters before and just after the incestuous encounter, see A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 (“Prelude to a Symphony: Letters between a father and daughter” pp 5-26).

To read more about Joaquin Nin, 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 his house in Paris.

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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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.

 

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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

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