Auletris: Long Lost Anaïs Nin Erotica

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.

facsimileLIP

Page 1 of “Life in Provincetown” (click to enlarge)

Another book inspired by the Stuhlmann archive: The Portable Anais Nin.

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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