Myth: Delta of Venus and Little Birds contains all of Anais Nin’s erotica.
Fact: In spite of editor John Ferrone‘s insistence that the only Nin erotica that did not get published were “scraps” that ended up on the cutting room floor, an important collection of unpublished erotica existed. In fact, Ferrone himself knew of it by 1985, as his correspondence to Nin literary executor Rupert Pole proves.
An auction house approached Harcourt, for whom Ferrone worked, wanting biographical information about Nin since they were about to auction off a book called Auletris by “A. Nin,” which was one of only five copies produced by Press of the Sunken Eye in 1950. Auletris was divided into two “books”: “Life in Provincetown,” none of which had ever been seen before, and an uncut version of “Marcel,” which appears in abbreviated form in Delta of Venus. Upon reading the text, Nin was verified as its author.
For some reason unknown to me, neither Ferrone nor Pole pursued this book any further, and no one mentioned it again until I discovered the correspondence earlier this year. Upon reading Auletris, I recognized its importance and literary value and realized that it needs to be published. Therefore, Sky Blue Press will release it in October 2016.
To learn more about Auletris, read our recent post.
To hear an 11-minute history of Auletris, click here.
For a reliable source of Anais Nin quotations, get THE QUOTABLE ANAIS NIN: 365 Quotations with Citations.
Listen to how Anaïs Nin’s erotica collection was lost during the 1940s and has only resurfaced today under the title Auletris.
Auletris is virtually unknown to Nin scholars and readers alike. Originally written for Barnett Ruder in the early 1940s, it was sold to a California collector in the 1940s, and five copies were typed up and sold under the table in 1950. Amazingly, its existence became known in 1985 when a copy was being auctioned—but it was never published, and the public never knew about it.
Unknown to all, a copy of this mysterious book was housed at a major university library, and after much detective work, it was located, transcribed, and will be published in October by Sky Blue Press.
This is nothing short of a major literary event. Be among the first to learn about the details of this find.
Run time: 11 minutes
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This podcast is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations
This is the story of how I discovered that not all of Anaïs Nin’s erotica has been published, despite Delta of Venus and Little Birds editor John Ferrone’s insistence to the contrary.
When Ferrone approached Nin in the 1970s about publishing the erotica she had written in the 1940s for a collector at a dollar a page, she initially bristled at the idea, fearing it may taint her reputation as a serious writer. However, Ferrone made a convincing argument after reassuring Nin that not only would it not harm her reputation, but it would bolster it since the writing was, as we now know, brilliant and ground-breaking. The rest is history—Delta of Venus and Little Birds became New York Times bestsellers shortly after Nin’s death in 1977 and have been translated into dozens of languages across the world.
Ferrone said that of the 850 pages of raw material he was given, only scraps remained, nothing worth publishing. But I, by a minor miracle, was to find out that this is not so.
Gunther Stuhlmann was Nin’s longtime literary agent and, I’m proud to say, a friend of mine. After he passed, his wife Barbara gave me much of his archive because she felt I might be able to do something with it. One day, not long ago, I was going through a folder that held a collection of correspondence from the 1980s, and among it was a letter from Ferrone to Stuhlmann saying that an auction house was selling a copy of a book illicitly printed in 1950 called Auletris, which supposedly contained original Nin erotica. The book was one of five copies in existence and contained two stories—“Marcel,” which is about 50 pages long, and “Life in Provincetown,” which is a similar length. A severely edited version of the former story appears in Delta (17 pages long), while the latter is nowhere to be found in any Nin book or archive.
What intrigued me were the half dozen opening pages of “Life in Provincetown” (page 1 is below) that the auctioneer had Xeroxed for Stuhlmann—they most definitely contained Nin’s writing, and they seemed to indicate she was at the top of her game when they were written. I had to find the rest of this book!
After a lot of research, I found out that a copy was hiding in plain sight in the special collections of a university library, and I was able to obtain a copy of the text. When I read the entire manuscript, I knew it had to be published, because it is valuable for three reasons—first, not a word of the Provincetown story has ever seen the light of day; second, “Marcel” appears in its original form, unedited, with several lengthy passages that landed on the cutting room floor, never to be seen again; and third, because the quality of the writing is superb and not tinkered with for commercial reasons.
Auletris breaks many taboos—there are tales of incest, sex with children, rape, voyeurism, cutting, sadomasochism, homoeroticism (both male and female), autoerotic asphyxiation, to name a few, all set in old Provincetown, Paris, and other exotic locales; the characters are deliciously decadent, and the themes are largely based on Nin’s own experiences recorded in her unexpurgated diaries. This book comes along just as interest in both Nin and the genre of erotica is booming.
Auletris will be published by Sky Blue Press this autumn.
Another book inspired by the Stuhlmann archive: The Portable Anais Nin.
When one thinks of Anaïs Nin’s Henry and June, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, one thinks of her “blockbusters,” her most popular and bestselling works, titles that put her on the map. Two of the three books were made into Hollywood films, and Henry and June became notorious because of its first-ever NC-17 rating. The two volumes of erotica, Delta of Venus and Little Birds, propelled Nin’s reputation as a groundbreaking feminine erotica writer. While Nin wrote all of the material in these volumes, the man who made them bona fide successes was John Ferrone, Nin’s editor.
Nin met Ferrone in 1969, and by 1973 he was her fulltime editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Nin was so impressed with his editing that as she gave him 850 pages of raw erotica, written some thirty years prior for a dollar a page, she gave him the following instructions: “Do anything you like with it. I trust you.” Ferrone wrote “The Making of Delta of Venus” for Volume 7 of A Café in Space in which he describes the great lengths he had to go to in order to sort out the entangled and complicated stories, to craft them into top-notch literary collections.
When Ferrone was editing Henry and June in 1985, he clashed with Nin’s “West Coast Husband” and Trustee of The Anaïs Nin Trust over how the book would appear—Rupert Pole wanted none of Nin’s writing changed, whereas Ferrone recognized the need for significant alterations in order to produce a commercially successful book. Their letters were so incendiary that after the book was done, Ferrone never edited another Nin book. For more on this, read Ferrone’s “The Making of Henry and June the Book” in Volume 4 of A Café in Space. The exchanges are legendary.
I was saddened to learn that John Ferrone died on April 10, 2016 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. There will be a memorial service at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, 133 Amboy Rd., Matawan, NJ on May 24 at 11:30. For more information, visit mostholyredeemerchurch.org.
Podcast 15 is devoted to John Ferrone and tells the story of how he was instrumental in helping me with the most important project I’d ever undertaken at that point—the editing of 1,600 pages of handwritten diary pages into Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947, the first such diary in nearly twenty years.
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To order Volume 4 of A Café in Space, click here.
To order Volume 7 of A Café in Space, click here.
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. First, 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.
Volume 7 (2010) of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (the only current Nin journal anywhere) has just been made available on Kindle. In this issue are some amazing articles and excerpts from Nin’s unpublished diary, not to mention an interview with Nin biographer Deirdre Bair and John Ferrone’s account of the birth of Delta of Venus. Eventually, we hope to have Vols. 1 through 6 published as e-books as well.
Our aim is to make the journal easy to obtain no matter where one is, and to make the price one that is easy on the pocketbook ($3.99). There’s nothing like the print version in one’s hands, but the quality, photographs, and extra bells and whistles, such as an interactive table of contents, are all there in the e-book. We hope you will support our efforts!
To visit the Amazon.com location for A Café in Space, Vol. 7, click here.
To see a description of the contents of Vol. 7, click here.
Our other Nin titles on Kindle are: The Portable Anais Nin, House of Incest, 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.
A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 7, is a reality. Today we received shipment of the newest—and in some ways one of the best—issue of the only current Anaïs Nin publication in print. Its 150 pages contain Anaïs Nin’s previously unpublished diary excerpts, an intimate look at Hugh Guiler’s feelings about his marriage to Nin, an interview with Deirdre Bair, John Ferrone’s tale of how Delta of Venus was almost not published, and several articles and creative pieces from some of the most established and newest stars of Nin study.
We encourage you to order your copy now—we have sold more advance copies than ever before, and the supply is limited.
Table of Contents
Kim Krizan: Hugh’s Stand—Revelations of a letter from Hugh Guiler to Anaïs Nin
Paul Herron: Leaping Ahead of Reality—Hugh Guiler’s diary
Deirdre Bair: The Making of Anaïs Nin: A Biography—Paul Herron interviews Deirdre Bair
Anaïs Nin: L’Homme Fatal—From the unpublished diary
John Ferrone: The Making of Delta of Venus
Angela Meyer: Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus—Feminine identity through pleasure: a mini analysis
Dawn Kaczmar: Irigaray and Nin Through the Looking Glass—Mimetic re-appropriation of the masculine discourse
Adrian Haidu: A Masculine Perspective of Woman—(Considered as a perspective)
Joel Enos: Flow and Moments of Arrest—Anaïs Nin’s boat imagery
Cari Lynn Vaughn: A Literary Love Triangle—Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and D.H. Lawrence
Tristine Rainer: Les Mots Flottants—Anaïs Nin’s Diary 2
Sarah Burghauser: Ouroboros and Disorientation—Profile of a Nin lover
Laura Marello: Anaïs Nin and Her Contemporaries—Ahead of their time
Daisy Aldan: Three poems from the end
Marc Widershien: Four poems from Maine
Sharanya Manivannan: Possession
Connie Baechler: Overlay
Reviews and other items of interest: Reviews of The Mistress Cycle, The Heretics, and Ferlinghetti: A City Light; internet links
Myth #14: It was Anaïs Nin’s wish that Delta of Venus be published.
Fact: According to John Ferrone, Nin’s editor at Harcourt in New York, it was Rupert Pole who wanted the erotica to be published, predicting its bestseller status. For years, Pole tried to convince Nin that the erotic stories she wrote in the 1940s for a dollar a page were not only publishable, but would be immensely popular. Nin, however, insisted that the erotica was “imitative” of masculine pornography and nothing special, just pages she dashed off with “tongue in cheek.” Once Ferrone saw the stories, he immediately recognized their uniqueness and literary value. After he convinced Nin that her stories were more than worthy of publication, she finally gave in, although she didn’t live long enough to see Delta of Venus reign on the bestseller list for 36 weeks. Ferrone wonders whether she would have been disillusioned—that something she wrote as a “joke” would outsell all her other titles combined.
Although Nin wrote in the postscript of the book that in spite of only having male pornography as a model, she “was intuitively using a woman’s language,” Ferrone questions whether she actually felt that way or was simply capitulating to his own opinion that she was a pioneer in feminine erotic writing.
For John Ferrone’s wonderful recounting of the story of Delta of Venus, see A Café in Space, Volume 7, pp. 53-61.
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)
“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.
Anais Nin, Henry Miller, June Miller, Hugh Guiler, Rupert Pole, John Ferrone, Henry and June