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.
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.
To learn about Part 1 and listen to it, click here.
Run time: 33 minutes. Enjoy.
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?
And 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 that’s 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.
Gunther Stuhlmann (1927-2002) is one of the main topics in Volume 3 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which is now available on Amazon’s Kindle.
In 1957, Stuhlmann, then a young up-and-coming literary agent in New York, wrote a letter to Nin, whom he had met some years prior. Thus began a partnership and accompanying correspondence that was to last for the rest of Nin’s life. Volume 3 highlights their early letters to each other, which reveal that Nin’s writing career was in ruins. By the time Stuhlmann took Nin on as a client, she had very little to show for decades of work, self-publication, and relentless self-promotion. Reacting to constant rejection and failure, at one point she confided to Stuhlmann that she was entertaining the idea of “giving it all up.”
But Stuhlmann, a man known for tenacity and in-your-face business tactics, was only getting started with her. His patience with the free-wheeling Nin—who was wont to make bad decisions and trust the wrong people only to be repeatedly bailed out by her husband, Hugh Guiler—was remarkable. His was a monumental job: to re-mold Nin into a disciplined and logical businesswoman. Stuhlmann’s belief in her work was deep—he saw potential whereas most New York literary types saw badly crafted, narcissistic surrealism. As an ex-patriot European, Stuhlmann’s vision was not narrowed by 1950s American ideas of what books ought to be—realistic, easy-to-read, chronologically ordered plots, familiar characters, etc. Nin, as we all know, was anything but.
Because of their oppositely aligned personalities and tactics, Nin and Stuhlmann were often at odds with each other. On April 23, 1959, Nin wrote Stuhlmann from Paris and informed him of a deal she’d struck up with her friend Jean Fanchette, who edited the bilingual journal Two Cities, to which Nin contributed. He agreed to translate Nin’s work and to sell it to French publishers, none of which Stuhlmann, Nin’s official agent, knew:
Fanchette sold Spy to Stock by showing partly translated M.S. He understood you were to take over contract, and I have just written him to remind him that all contractual matters are to be sent to you. If it does not reach you soon and if you are in personal contact with anyone there you might refer to it. I gave Jean your address—the agreement was you would let him free to work as a friend. I also told Fanchette you would consider his novel—to be coming out soon—to see if you would care to be his agent—OK?
Stuhlmann, who had just extricated Nin from a messy relationship with the publisher Neville Spearman, reacted angrily to this latest bit of news:
I don’t see any reason why you should not authorize [Fanchette] as your translator for the Spy but I firmly believe that we ought to conduct all business discussion as to terms and contracts etc. through our office and subject to your and our scrutiny so that we do not get into another situation which would be embarrassing for all of us. It was no mean trick to solve the Spearman entanglement and I am somewhat weary of getting into a similar situation in France.
In the end, Fanchette never completed the translation of Spy in the House of Love, nor any other Nin title, and this delayed her publication in France for years.
The series of letters ends just before Nin found her true American publisher, Alan Swallow, and sets up the three-way correspondence between Nin, Swallow, and Stuhlmann, which is the centerpiece of Volume 4. The letters allow readers to discover the nuts and bolts, and sweat and tears, of Anaïs Nin’s ascendance to literary stardom, and the role that the man behind the scenes, Gunther Stuhlmann, played.
To order the Kindle edition of Vol. 3, click here.
To see the table of contents and/or order a print version of Vol. 3, click here.
To see all available digital titles by Anaïs Nin, visit our Nin e-bookstore.
To order books from the Nin house in Silver Lake (Los Angeles), visit the Anaïs Nin Trust bookstore.
Myth #7: Anaïs Nin had a lifelong loving relationship with Henry Miller.
Fact: Although Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller were passionate lovers and collaborators in Paris during the 1930s, and the publication of Nin’s Diaries forever linked the two, by 1942, a little more than two years after returning to New York at the onset of World War II, their relationship was becoming strained as a result of multiple factors. First, the return to America severed each from the life-blood of Europe that coursed through their veins…America proved to be a particularly arid artistic climate, stifling the creativity of both artists and robbing them of the élan they’d experienced together in Paris. Second, the increasing physical separation of the two—first with Miller’s stay in Greece before returning to New York, and then his tour of America for his The Air-Conditioned Nightmare project—gave Nin in particular time to ponder the changing nature of their relationship, or rather her changing perception of it. Third, Nin’s declining source of money and her deep depression caused extreme resentment for those who made constant demands on her.
She questioned Miller’s character regarding The Air-Conditioned Nightmare in her unpublished diary:
Had to console Henry for his one failure: the American book. His worst book. I hope it is the deadly effect of America on him and not the disintegration I have seen take place now in every artist around me who has abandoned himself to his every whim, lack of discipline, fancy, dadaism, his instinct, negativism, that falling apart of the self-indulgent, the liberated unconscious, the loss of contact with human reality. I am concerned over Henry. In freeing him, protecting him, I have nurtured both his dream and his weakness. He has a cult of his own naturalness, he has defended his defects. Whatever influence I had on his writing was indirect—effect on his being—but when I judged a fragment directly, Henry has never yielded. (Jan. 8, 1942)
She was fatigued by his dependence on her for monetary and emotional sustenance, which was compounded by the fact she had a legion of other “starving artists” demanding her resources when she had little left—money or otherwise—to give. Nin was also facing failure as a writer in America. No one would publish her, and she was forced to print and publish her own books. She noted:
[I]t seems to me that I am heavily burdened, and I see no way out of it. I cannot make money. I’m a worker, I’m clever, I’m dexterous, I’m talented, yet I cannot make money. I wept. I am a failure. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)
Those who clamored for what she did not have became demons in her eyes. She chastised Miller for what she called his “irresponsibility,” his habit of boasting about his ability to suck his hosts dry while living in relative comfort. She implored him to begin taking the initiative in making his own way in the world and became hostile at his flippant suggestion that she join him in Hollywood, where he was living with (and off) a married couple. In her unpublished diary, she mused:
What I should write to Henry is that I no longer love him except as a child, and that I will continue to take care of him as a mother and thus free him to live where and how he pleases. Can I do this? That is the truth. Can I say it? (Sept. 23, 1942)
But a few weeks later, she capitulated:
The day I asked myself: has the time come for me to tell Henry the truth, I received in the evening a voluminous letter in which he says he cannot fall in love with anyone else, that I am perfection and have immunized him! So again I kept my secret. It would be cruel to abandon him when he needs me, when I am the only one who takes care of him, the only one. Henry has written ten books which everybody reads, and can’t have security even for his barest needs. Ben Abramson of the Argus Book Shop printed The World of Sex, sells it for $7 and Henry gets nothing. Fraenkel sells the Hamlet Letters and gets $100 checks from the Gotham Book Shop and Henry gets nothing (he wrote half the book and it is selling because of his name). His books are reprinted sub rosa and he gets nothing. Poor Henry. (Unpublished diary, Oct. 7, 1942)
But in the end, Miller’s insensitive letters from Hollywood, in which he was unable to detect the true nature of her anger, led Anaïs to this outburst:
Your passivity increased in proportion to my creative and protective activity. Ironically—you never recognized that my struggle was at the basis of your magnificent renunciations, and independences. You mocked the people who struggled. You said: “Look, look how I do it.” And it was all utterly crazy and inhuman. I can’t bring myself to let you down and show you. You think your way of life is wisdom—but it isn’t. It’s the way of life permitted to those who are protected by someone else’s struggle. That’s all. There is no triumph and no conquest in it. It’s a crystallization of the ego—that’s all. I repeat it, Henry. I do not want you back. There is no need of it. I shall continue to help you. I have always wanted you fulfilled. I have my own plans and it won’t be Hollywood. This is not a surprise or a shock. You mustn’t be concerned. This separation has been going on since you went to Greece. I have been fully aware of it. Your letters have effectively detached me from you. They are more revealing than you know. Believe me when I say I feel completely detached and you are free—to live as you please. (Unpublished diary, Nov. 17, 1942)
After this “blast from the Arctic,” as Miller called it, there was a lingering exchange of letters between the two, but the relationship was effectively dead; in fact, for Nin it had been dead—characteristically, it took a long time before she could muster the courage to admit to Miller what she’d been admitting to herself in the diary. While they continued to publicly express respect and admiration for one another, never again would they be more than distant friends brought together by occasional business concerns, such as the publication of his Letters to Anaïs Nin in 1965 and their biographical films produced by Robert Snyder.
The complete series of edited (by Gunther Stuhlmann) “break-up” letters can be found in ANAIS: An International Journal, Vol. 15 (1997). Oddly, they do not appear in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller 1932-1953 (1987).
Anais Nin, Henry Miller, New York, Paris, breakup
Myth #6: Anaïs Nin had a life-long love affair with Paris
Fact: By the time Anaïs Nin and her family immigrated to New York at the age of 11, she had spent very little time in Paris, traveling across the European continent as her pianist/composer father did musical tours. Though she missed France while in New York and romanticized her homeland during World War I, she rarely mentioned the City of Light in her childhood diary. In America, she became enamored with the English language classics and began to consider herself Anglo, not Latin. So, when her banker husband Hugh Guiler was transferred to a Paris branch in the mid-1920s, Anaïs did not have the sense of coming home, but rather that of being uprooted. Her first impressions of Paris as a young adult were anything but glowing. On Jan. 2, 1925, only a few days after arriving, she said in her diary:
“Tonight I hate Paris. The wind is blowing heaving raindrops about; the streets are wet and muddy; the automobile horns, more discordant than ever.” (Early Diary 3 82)
The next day she wrote:
“My ridiculous attitude towards Paris shows that I love with my intellect, not with my instincts and my emotions. My intellect was bred in English letters, and no instinct of race or birth can influence me. This dullness of the heart, this lack of responsiveness, shock me and please me at the same time. The humorous side of it is that the French would be the first to understand and to approve of me. The English would, by contrast, urge me to love my native city without reasoning about it. Through recognition of the supremacy of the intelligence, I belong, then, to Paris. Yet I kneel here, humbly sentimentalizing about the English. What inconsistencies! I shall truly end by being spiritually repudiated by all nations.” (Early Diary 3 83-4)
On March 11, she said:
“Spiritually, I hate Paris for the importance of sensuality in its literary and human life.” (Early Diary 3 115)
She shunned the Montparnasse scene of expatriate writers and artists and locked herself within the four walls of her apartment, keeping her diary and trying to be an ideal wife in a basically sexless marriage—this went on for years before a slow awakening to her environment occurred. Just as she began to identify herself as an artist and sought to associate with other artists in Paris, she and Hugh were forced by their shrinking finances—caused by the onset of the Great Depression—to move to the suburbs, ending up in Louveciennes. Once again she felt imprisoned, until the fateful day in 1931 when she met Henry Miller, who liberated her and introduced her to the guts of the city she had essentially ignored for six years.
The 1930s Paris years with Miller were arguably the most essential to Nin’s life and work, setting up the release of the Diary of Anaïs Nin, the first two volumes of which cover that period. During this time, however, visits to New York created ambivalence in Nin—her infatuation with the frenetic energy of New York, perhaps best represented by her love of jazz, which she felt symbolized New York, contrasted heavily with the slower, more languorous pace of Paris. She found herself longing to be in New York again. After returning from an extended visit in 1935, she wrote:
“I miss the animal buoyancy of New York, the animal vitality… Where is the jazz rhythm, the nervous energy of New York? …Face to face with a gentle, diminutive Paris, all charm, all intelligence, the new Anaïs feels: But I know it already. It is familiar. I am in love with a new, as yet uncreated world, vivid colors and large scales, vastness and abundance, a synthetic vast city of the future.” (Diary 2 42, 43)
Her desire to return to New York was to ultimately be realized, but not in the fashion she’d wished—the threat of World War II thrust her once again back into America. Once trapped in New York with no possibility of returning to Paris, she rebelled and fell into a deep depression that not only affected her personal life, but also her writing. But she was never to return to Paris to live, even when she had the chance after the war. However, especially in her later years, Nin would write wistfully of her native city and recapture some of the joy whenever she returned for visits.
anais nin hugh guiler henry miller paris louveciennes montparnasse