Upon the occasion of Anaïs Nin’s birthday

Where Nin was born

Where Nin was born

Today is Anaïs Nin’s birthday. She was born February 21, 1903 in Neuilly, France, near the Bois and the Seine. Her house was in a stately neighborhood where, perhaps, Proust’s characters could have lived. It was a time of horses and carriages, top hats, long voluminous gowns, gaslights and the rare telephone. In such a setting, who would have imagined someone was born who would become one of the leading modernists of the twentieth century, someone an entire generation not yet conceived would admire and look to as an inspiration, a guide, a guru, someone who would break all the rules, both in literature and in life? A little, sickly girl with a stern but musically gifted father, a mother whose own musical career would be stifled, a little girl who would nearly die from a burst appendix, a little girl whose father called “ugly,” whose father would abandon, thrusting her from all sense of comfort and security into a life of struggle and poverty in a foreign land? Who could imagine?

And yet, here we are, 113 years later, celebrating the birth of this amazing icon of feminine literature by reading her work, talking about her, listening to her words recorded long ago, watching Anaïs Nin Observed or Henry and June, or just thinking about her for a few moments. This day in 1903 was a gift to all of us who have somehow been touched by Anaïs Nin, or are yet to be. To you, to us, to Anaïs…I lift a glass of gratitude.

A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Volume 13, is out now. Check it out for the latest on Anaïs Nin.

Episode 13 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast has just dropped. You can listen to “The Music in Anaïs Nin” by clicking here. (14 minutes)

 

Feb. 21: Anais Nin’s Birthday

To celebrate Anais Nin’s birthday, February 21, 1903, this page gives you a chance to easily locate the related information we have posted in the past. If this is your first time here, we hope you enjoy the summaries of Nin’s birth, her family background, and her place of birth, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Feel free to comment if you have further information or questions.

Post 1: Anais Nin’s French and Danish ancestry

Post 2: Anais Nin’s Spanish and Cuban ancestry

Post 3: Anais Nin’s parents: Joaquin and Rosa

Post 4: Anais Nin’s birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine

Post 5: Anais Nin’s birth: the certificate

Post 6: Anais Nin’s 13th birthday

Celebrate Anais Nin’s birthday by purchasing one of the books (some extremely rare and out of print) from her and Rupert Pole’s personal collection at the Los Angeles house.

Or, if you are digitally inclined, visit our Anais Nin e-bookstore.

We celebrate Anais Nin’s birthday every year with a new issue of the only current Anais Nin literary journal, A Cafe in Space. To order your copy, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s birthday: The birth certificate

A copy of Anais Nin's birth certificate.

A copy of Anais Nin’s birth certificate.

On February 24, 1903, at 11 in the morning, this birth certificate was drawn up in Neuilly sur Seine. In it, we learn that Rose Jeanne Anaïs Edelmira Antolina Nin was born at 8:25, the evening of February 21, 1903, to father Joseph Joachim Nin, 23 years old, and to mother Rose Celeste Culmell, 25 years old, at their home on 7, rue du Général Henrion Bertier, Neuilly sur Seine. The midwife was Lucile Marie Anna Mabille, 41 years old. (The spellings of the names reflect the French versions of the Spanish names.)

 

Interestingly, Rosa’s age is incorrect: she was in fact 31 at this time. Whether this is a clerical error or whether Joaquín and/or Rosa wanted to keep their age difference a secret is pure speculation.

According to Nin biographer Deirdre Bair, Joaquín was not pleased at having a child so early on in his marriage and, perhaps more importantly, his career. He became jealous of the attention Rosa gave her delicate daughter. This seemed to interfere with the performance relationship the couple had…at first Joaquín insisted Rosa perform with him in order to get her away from Anaïs, and then, irrationally, insisted she not perform when he felt Rosa was neglecting both him and Anaïs. From that point forward, Joaquín Nin became a solo performer and Rosa was reduced to a mother who sat in the audience to cheer him.

By the time Anaïs’s brother, Thorvald, was born in Havana in 1905, she was afflicted with typhoid fever, becoming violently ill. Joaquín was repulsed by the sight of his now very thin, sickly daughter and made sure she knew how ugly he found her. By the time Anaïs’s youngest brother, Joaquín, was born in Berlin, the family life had deteriorated to the point of chaos and violence. Beatings were brutal and often, at the hand of the father. The violence between Joaquín Sr. and Rosa intensified to the point where Anaïs feared for her mother’s life (see the introduction to “Prelude to a Symphony—Letters between a father and daughter,” A Café in Space, Vol. 6). By 1913, the family as Anaïs knew it was destroyed when her father abandoned them, and for the rest of her life she would be torn by the loss.

It is also interesting to note that while we readily celebrate Anaïs’s birthday, she rarely refers to it—or to Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or other traditionally notable days—in her adult diary. On Feb. 20, 1925, just before her 22nd birthday, she wrote: “On the eve of my birthday and bowing to tradition, I try to consider thoughtfully the significance of this venerable day—in vain. Dates never agree with my transformations. My real birthday this year was when I read Edith Wharton’s books. My New Year began when I succeeded in having my story run smoothly, when I found a renewed interest in my second book. My holidays are many—every time I go downtown with Hugh, when the agitation of the city, like the quick rhythm of some Spanish danza, makes my heart beat faster. My religious festivals fall on whatever day the sun shines—those are my Mass-going days, when I can pray.”

If you have thoughts to share on this day, Anaïs Nin’s 107th birthday, leave a comment or visit our guestbook.

To read more about Nin’s birthplace, 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.

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.

Approaching Anaïs Nin’s birthday: The birthplace

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click to enlarge

Shortly before Anaïs Nin’s birth on February 21, 1903, Joaquín Nin and his wife, Rosa, moved to the plush Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine and took a flat at 7 rue du Général Henrion Bertier, a short walk from what is now avenue Charles de Gaulle, from where one can see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance to the east. Today, the neighborhood is overshadowed by the futuristic silhouette of La Défense and is choked with cars parked where there is no space, but at the turn of the 20th century it could have been the setting for a passage from Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. There would have been well-dressed couples strolling on the trottoir, elegant carriages coming up and down the narrow street, the well-heeled horseriding in the nearby Bois du Bologne. For Joaquín Nin, whose musical career was just beginning, it was the perfect place for his upper-crust tastes. For Rosa, it was a source of strain because it was very expensive and it was her father supplying the funds.

The house (and its identical neighbor at no. 11) is listed by the Invetaire générale des monuments et des richesses artisitiques de la France, Département des Hauts-de-Seine. It was designed by the architect Gustave Gridaine (who designed other prominent buildings in the area) and completed in November 1895. According to the Invetaire, there is a basement, 4 rectangular stories, and a penthouse, and it is constructed of cut stone with a slate roof. There is an interior suspended staircase, spiral and windowed, and the décor is listed as “sculpture.”

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Photo: Paul Herron; click to enlarge

The family didn’t spend much time in Neuilly; they traveled back to Havana in 1904 where Joaquín took Cuban citizenship and shortly thereafter performed in Paris for the first time as a Cuban. Rosa was by then pregnant with their second child, Thorvald, who was born in 1905 in Havana. Rosa’s father, Thorvald Culmell, was dying and sought to tighten the spending. So, after returning to France, the Nin family moved from Neuilly to a less expensive house in St-Cloud, outside of Paris. For an article on Neuilly, see A Cafe in Space, Vol. 1.

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To read more about Neuilly, 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.

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.

Approaching Anaïs Nin’s birthday: Her parents’ marriage

 

Rosa Culmell, 1901

Rosa Culmell, 1901

Joaquin Nin as a young man
Joaquin Nin as a young man

When Rosa Culmell, 30, met Joaquín Nin, 22, in Havana, Cuba, she was swept off her feet by his beauty, talent, charm, and eloquent manners. He had a habit of dazzling women by playing piano for customers in music stores, and Rosa, although defiantly single and of the elite class, was caught in his spell. Joaquín, who was penniless and living off his meager earnings and his Cuban relatives, felt Rosa was the perfect vehicle for his success in living the life of a dandy and in his professional career. Rosa, though not the most beautiful of her single sisters, was the most mature and forthright, not to mention she had a professional-quality singing voice. Joaquín and Rosa married April 8, 1902 in Havana, and soon left for Paris with enough money for a grand piano and a monthly stipend, thanks to Rosa’s father, Thorvald Culmell.

Once in Paris, the couple soon discovered their immense differences: she was honest, loving, and giving. He was selfish, arrogant, and wanted nothing but the best for himself. She provided the money, but he made the decisions. Their relationship became a series of monumental battles followed by passionate reconciliations, according to Anaïs Nin biographer Dierdre Bair.

Rosa became pregnant almost immediately after the marriage, perhaps the result of one of their clashes. Although Rosa had won a battle to live in St-Germain-des-Prés, which was relatively inexpensive, shortly before their first child, Anaïs, was born, Joaquín precipitated the move to Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris’s most luxurious suburb, setting an ominous pattern for the rest of their marriage.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #3

Thanks to Heather for the following:

Myth #3: Anaïs Nin was in therapy with Carl Jung.

Fact: Anaïs Nin was not in therapy with Jung; in fact, she never met him. However, she subscribed to many of his theories, especially when it came to the dream and its meaning, and she often used a quote attributed to him: “Proceed from the dream outward.” Nin used her legendary houseboat, La Belle Aurore, to illustrate the concept, which she mentions in Diary 3. Some twenty years before renting her houseboat, she visited the Maupassant house in Brittany; in the garden was a tool shed made from a boat that had been washed ashore during a storm. This sight reminded her of a recurring dream of boats unable to sail because there was no water. She had a dream about living in Maupassant boat. When she saw an ad for a houseboat for rent, she felt compelled to fulfill the dream by living in it, which, of course, she did.

Nin furthered the theory by writing a story of traveling down the Seine in her boat for twenty years only to return to the point of origin…it turned about to be prophetic, à la Jung, when her houseboat was ordered to be towed away in preparation for the onset of war; she was aboard when it was taken to the place of her birth, Neuilly.

Nin also attributed Jung’s writings for helping her conceive and develop her famous House of Incest.