Anaïs Nin had always favored writers who were outside of what was considered the norm of modern literature, beginning with D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and Djuna Barnes in the 1930s. In the 1960s, Marguerite Young, the author of the massive Miss MacIntosh My Darling, was championed by Nin as a writer extraordinaire of poetic prose. Both before and after the book was published, Nin mentioned Young in articles, a review, interviews and lectures whenever she had the chance. Young repaid Nin the favor by offering to write a “statement” about Nin’s forthcoming The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One, which debuted in 1966. I have recovered the handwritten draft of Young’s reaction to the diary and have rendered it below without editing. This is indeed a rare gem. Whether the statement was actually used (I find no trace of it anywhere) it certainly does capture the nature of Nin’s writing and how it came to be. The statement was given to Hiram Haydn, Nin’s editor at Harcourt Brace & World, as annotated on the first page of the draft (see the figure below).
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, covering the years 1931-1934, is a fascinating segment of that journal which she began as a Spanish-speaking child who came from a fabulous, sophisticated, and aristocratic European background to live the impoverished life of a displaced person in New York City.
When she stepped off the boat with her mother and two younger brothers who came here because of their abandonment by their father, a famed pianist, the darling of European musical circles—she clutched in her hand that notebook in which, like Henry James’ Maisie, she would tall all she knew of life’s displacements, discussions, and cruel tragedies which needed the illumination of her vision, her intelligence, her compassion, her transmuting imagination.
Like Henry James’ Maisie who triumphed over the childhood sorrows cause by the perversities of tempestuous and temperamental adulthood—in this case, the foibles and fantasies of the wandering father, for mother was a source of peace and strength—the little girl writing down first intuitions and perceptions lived to become that beautiful lady whose portrait we see in the diary—a literary lady who had grown up to fall in love with the beauties of English prose, who became herself a master of lyric style, the visual and the energetic, the luminous revelation of the psyche, ever the psyche dreaming at her glass, returned to Europe as one who is half American, half European. Say that hers is a transatlantic consciousness—she has made many journeys back and forth although probably the one journey which interests her most is a journey into the underworld of memory or a journey across a sea of dreams.
America is fortunate in having at least this quasi-citizen—though we may entertain the suspicion that in Europe she seems the European who never left the place of her beginnings, perhaps because she is a seeker always of origin. And yet by chance we may claim her as most distinctly our—one who gives a new dimension to the crude immediacy of American life, a tone of elegance, that art which is always the most formal thing and which has elicited, because of its insistence upon informative musical tone and precise hieroglyphic image, the admiration and even the imitation of thousands of America writers, particularly the poets and the young experimenters with prose, a prose which should be something more than dull, flat, neutral, uncommitted—a prose which should burn with that personal and impersonal intensity which they have found in her as in the firefly and the star.—Marguerite Young
Anaïs Nin’s long-lost erotica Auletris is now in print after a 66 year wait: click here for details.
Anaïs Nin valued writer Marguerite Young’s opinions about her as-of-yet unpublished Diary 1, which begins in 1931, just before the 28 year old Nin met Henry Miller. While Young understood why Nin and her editor/agent Gunther Stuhlmann decided to begin the first published diary at that stage of Nin’s life (because it was arguably the most interesting period), she still expressed a desire to know more about Nin’s early years and her family members, all of whom are briefly mentioned in the diary for the sake of background.
In this revealing conversation, Young gets Nin to open up about her feelings towards her brother Thorvald, her mother, and her father. Nin explains how, as a child, she knew everything about her father’s infidelity and that when he left the family at Arcachon in 1913 he would never return.
She reveals why she felt Thorvald had estranged himself from the family, and Young offers her own rather surprising opinion, as you shall hear.
In response to her Aunt Anaïs’s remarks, Thorvald’s daughter, Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz, says, “I must respond to the theory about my Dad’s going into the business world. My poor Dad had no choice in the matter. His mother made him turn down a four year engineering scholarship at Cornell and told him he had to get a job to help support the family. He was obedient. He went into business because that is all an 18 year old boy could do. Get a ‘go-fer’ job in a bank and hope it leads to something. Believe me, he was broken hearted.”
She adds that Thorvald “was never ‘estranged’ from his family. He always remained loving towards his mother and [his brother] Joaquín. He helped support his mother throughout her life. He was not a great letter writer, that is for sure, but ‘estranged’ is not the right word. When I was growing up we never lived in the States so we never saw my grandmother or Uncle Joaquín or Aunt Anaïs except during the brief times we spent in New York in between living in one Latin American country or other. When we were there we did spend time with both Anaïs and Hugo and Grandmother and Joaquín, and I remember in particular how warm and caring Hugo was with us. In the late 40s and early 50s Anaïs and sometimes both Anaïs and Hugo would come to Mexico and spend time with my Dad and his second wife Kay quite often. When Kay and Dad retired and moved to Florida, Anaïs and Hugo visited them off and on. Now my Dad was critical of Anaïs, no doubt about that. He did not think she was a ‘good’ writer and thought her novels were impossible to understand. He also knew that she was not living a straight and narrow domestic life, and because he cared for and admired Hugo, he disapproved of her infidelities. He talked about this to me when I was much older and long after Anaïs died. When I was growing up, Dad never discussed Anaïs in a hostile manner.
“My Dad loved music so even though he himself was not a professional musician, he did appreciate the arts. He always remained close to Joaquín.
“When Anaïs started publishing her diaries, in the 1960s, my Dad very clearly requested that she not include anything about him. She ignored that, and he was furious. The last time they saw each other was in San Francisco in 1971 for the Mass of Dedication of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary. Joaquín had been commissioned to compose the music for the Mass so Dad and Kay flew in from Florida and Anaïs came up from Los Angeles. [My husband] David and I took everyone out for dinner that evening and the exchange between Dad and his sister was not pleasant for the rest of us. So, yes, my Dad became estranged from his sister, but not from the rest of his family.”
To listen to the 16 minute conversation between Anaïs Nin and Marguerite Young, click here.
Other related posts
For more on Nin’s parents, click here.
To hear Young and Hugh Guiler discuss Nin’s diary, click here.
To listen to Nin read “Under a Glass Bell,” click here.
To listen to Nin reading about her fictional characters Lillian, Djuna, and Sabina, click here.
To see all Nin titles available as e-books, visit our e-bookstore.
To purchase books from Anaïs Nin’s Silver Lake collection, click here.
Marguerite Young, author of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, a book that Anaïs Nin championed, lived a few blocks away from the apartment on Washington Square in New York that Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler inhabited. Nin describes her first impressions of Young, recorded in the fall of 1959:
Her smile and her talk are enchanting. They are a continuation of her writing, an accompaniment to it. There is an extraordinary force of her imagination and language there… Her hair hangs absolutely straight on each side of her face. She monologues, without pauses… Everyone in her eyes is beautiful. She endows all her friends with beauty; but her own charm lies in the kaleidoscopic variations of her imagination, her power of storytelling, her human warmth. (The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 6)
As the friendship between Nin and Young grew, Nin and Guiler often recorded their phone conversations with Young. On November 15, 1964, more than a year before Anaïs Nin’s Diary 1 was published, Young called Guiler to give her reactions to the manuscript, which Guiler apparently had lent her.
This conversation captures Young’s prophetic predictions about the impact Diary 1 would have—money, fame, a youthful following—most of which came to pass after the diary’s release in 1966, ending Nin’s long history of obscurity.
Guiler, when he could get a word in (Young, as Nin noted, was a monologist), also expresses the uniqueness of the writing (an enthusiastic response in spite of the fact he elected to not be included in any of the diaries).
The conversation turns to Nin and Guiler’s “New York dog,” Chico, who was ill, revealing the compassionate natures of Guiler and Young.
To hear the 11 minute conversation between Young and Guiler, click here.
We are only a few weeks away from the release of a new collection, The Portable Anaïs Nin, which will appear on Kindle in the coming weeks. It will be the first full-length anthology of Nin’s writing since Phil Jason’s The Anaïs Nin Reader (1973).
Editor and compiler Benjamin Franklin V notes in his introduction, “Since [the publication of The Anaïs Nin Reader]…the number of Nin titles has approximately doubled, with eleven new volumes of the diary and two books of erotica being most important. Now, the time seems right for another sampling of Nin’s work, not only because of the existence of this new material or because almost forty years have passed since the publication of Jason’s book, but also to encourage a reconsideration of Nin’s writing, which no longer attracts the dedicated readership it did in 1973.” Another consideration is that The Portable Anaïs Nin will appear in conjunction with several new Nin titles on Kindle, acting as a sort of guidebook to her work, helping to gain the new audience Franklin envisions.
Franklin’s philosophy is to include entire passages of Nin’s work in The Portable Anaïs Nin, including titles of fiction such as House of Incest. Soon, we will post the table of contents here, and will provide regular updates on the book’s progress.
In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, where we are about to do something along the lines of what was done to promote Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: Nin and several others read the entire 1200 pages on the New York radio station WBAI over the course of a year. In this light, I feel Anaïs would approve of our tweeting her House of Incest, 140 characters at a time, to celebrate The Portable Anaïs Nin.
Our Nin titles on Kindle are: Collages, The Winter of Artifice, Under a Glass Bell, Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, A Spy in the House of Love, and Seduction of the Minotaur, and The Four-Chambered Heart, with more to follow.