When Anaïs Nin met Lawrence Durrell in Paris in 1937, she was instantly drawn to his young, ardent mind, as was Henry Miller, who’d been corresponding with him beforehand. Durrell, a young Englishman by way of India and Greece, was an aspiring writer who was heavily influenced by Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, the scandalous novel that Nin helped get published in 1934.
Shortly after meeting and realizing their affinities, they dubbed themselves the “three musketeers,” and out of Miller’s Villa Seurat apartment, they wrote and published three titles under the moniker “Villa Seurat Series”—Nin’s The Winter of Artifice, Miller’s Max and the White Phagocytes, and Durrell’s The Black Book, all published by Obelisk Press.
War separated the musketeers, each going in his/her own direction (Nin to New York, Durrell to Greece and eventually Egypt, Miller to Greece with Durrell and then New York). Each went on to have successful writing careers, although none of them happened overnight. While all three wrote in what might be loosely considered a post-modernist style, each had a significantly different approach to writing: Miller’s works were often carried by his use of explosive language, Nin’s were increasingly introspective and psychological in nature, and Durrell’s were multi-layered texts heavy in symbolism.
Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, consisting of four novels (the first of which, Justine, came out in 1957) about the same events occurring in wartime Alexandria, but told from different perspectives, was his tour de force. The Quartet is still the main topic of discussion among today’s Durrell scholars, three of whom contribute their vast knowledge to A Café in Space, Vol. 3 (2005), just released on Kindle:
Richard Pine, director of the Durrell School of Corfu, writes about the three musketeers in his “The End of Our Romantic Life: The psychic hinterland of Nin, Durrell, and Miller.” In a comparison of how each of their lives affected their literature, he states: “…all three recognized the inevitability not only of writing their lives, but of writing them as both fact and fiction. From this descends the concept of the dual self or of multiple selves, of the reader-as-writer and of the fictional character as a real self.” In correlation with these observations, Pine also examines the role Otto Rank, the psychologist who penned Art and Artist, had in influencing the writing of the three authors.
Nabila Marzouk, professor at Fayoum in Egypt, compares the approach to literary homosexuality in Durrell’s work and that of Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian novelist. After examining homosexuality in Durrell’s Quartet and Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley, she observes: “Durrell represents homosexuality as a positive, enriching experience,“ whereas “Mahfouz’s characters are flesh and blood who are not meant to be taken for more than they are… [Alley character] Kirsha is a mere pervert who delights in his pleasures of the flesh.” She also adds that there is no word in Arabic for “homosexual,” and the one that comes the closest means “sexual abnormality.”
James Clawson, a young American Durrell scholar, writes about the Mediterranean as it appears in Durrell’s work. He notes: “This ‘Sea in the Middle of Durrell’s World’ is more than canvas backdrop. Just as Alexandria uses its inhabitants as flora and precipitates among them various conflicts, so too does the Mediterranean provide an ‘invisible constant’ to influence the peoples around it. For this reason, Durrell’s Mediterranean has by likened to Poe’s Virginia and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.”
Also included in Volume 3 are reviews of Durrell scholar Michael Haag’s Alexandria: City of Memory, Pine’s Lawrence Durrell: The Mindscape, and Lawrence Durrell and the Greek World, edited by Anna Lillios.
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A brief history of The Winter of Artifice: After years of incubation, Anaïs Nin fictionalized three major events in her life: 1) her affair with Henry Miller and the subsequent infatuation with his wife, June; 2) the reunion with her father after a twenty year absence, which resulted in a series of incestuous encounters; 3) the analysis (and affairs) she experienced with pyschoanalytical pioneers René Allendy and Otto Rank. These events resulted in the following novellas, respectively: “Djuna,” “Lilith,” and “The Voice.”
Only weeks after Anaïs Nin held a copy of her new book in her hands, two events occurred that were to redirect its future—war broke out, and the editor of Obelisk Press, Jack Kahane, died. Because of the war, Nin fled Paris for New York with a few copies of her book, and once in America, she realized that The Winter of Artifice would never survive the censors because of its explicit nature, especially that of “Djuna.” A few copies of Paris edition ended up in the hands of Nin’s friends and associates, but it was largely absent from the market in Europe and impossible to distribute in America or England.
These novellas comprised Nin’s second work of fiction, The Winter of Artifice, which was published by Obelisk Press in the summer of 1939 as part of the Villa Seurat Series—Miller’s Max and the White Phagocytes and Lawrence Durrell’s The Black Book made up the other titles. The series name came from the three authors’ unofficial headquarters, Miller’s apartment on Villa Seurat in Montparnasse.
Nin set about altering the contents of The Winter of Artifice for an American audience. She completely eliminated “Djuna” and cut out or drastically altered several passages in the remaining two stories. Her gutted prototype, made from an Obelisk Press copy, still exists. When Nin could not interest any American publishers in the book, she decided to publish it herself, buying an old printing press and setting up shop with her collaborator and lover, Gonzalo Moré. In 1942, the handset Winter of Artifice was finished, under the imprint Gemore Press, containing the two novellas, one untitled (formerly “Lilith”) and “The Voice.”
The book underwent further incarnations: In 1947, the untitled novella was revised and titled “Winter of Artifice,” and, along with the revised “The Voice,” was included in the 1947 English edition of Under a Glass Bell (Editions Poetry London). In the 1948 Dutton edition of Under a Glass Bell, the two revised novellas were included, but “Winter of Artifice” was renamed “Djuna,” not to be confused with the “Djuna” of the original edition. In 1961, Swallow published Winter of Artifice, which included facsimiles of the text the now-renamed “Winter of Artifice, “The Voice,” and Stella, taken from the 1946 book Ladders to Fire, “Stella.” The current Swallow edition is much the same.
The original “Djuna” ended up being heavily revised and incorporated into Ladders to Fire, with very little remaining of its erotic spirit. Later in life, Nin claimed that “Djuna” contained “bad writing,” but there is good evidence that she wanted to avoid public scrutiny of her affair with Miller, not to mention her changed attitude towards him after their break-up in the early 1940s. Miller, after all, was instrumental in the development of the prose contained in the story—for a detailed look at this, click here. His heavy influence in her writing was something she didn’t want publicized.
Many scholars are unaware of the original edition of The Winter of Artifice and the explicit representation of the Henry-June-Anaïs triangle in “Djuna.” Benjamin Franklin V, an important Nin scholar, recognized this gap in Nin scholarship and was the momentum behind a facsimile of the Paris edition of The Winter of Artifice being released in 2007. With this edition, Nin readers can finally experience Nin’s early foray into realistic prose—a turnaround from the heavily veiled The House of Incest (1936)—which was lost by circumstances and life-forces beyond anyone’s control. And now, with the new Kindle edition, Nin’s writing has finally entered the world of digital text, with other titles to follow.
Fact: Beginning in 1914, when Anaïs Nin and her family departed Spain for New York, after having lived temporarily with her estranged father’s parents, she began recording daily events in a notebook given to her by her mother. Nin would later famously say that her intention was to write her father an extended “letter” that she hoped would entice him back.
The diary became the centerpiece of the young Anaïs’s life, and she continued the practice of recording her innermost thoughts and impressions in bound notebooks for a good portion of her adult life. Of course, the diaries she kept during her tumultuous years in Paris with Henry Miller became the basis for her fame as a writer when they were finally released in the mid-1960s. What most did not know then was that Nin had given up the daily practice of diary writing some twenty years previous.
After war forced Nin, her husband Hugh Guiler, and many of her circle, including Miller and Gonzalo Moré, to New York around 1940, she became desperately depressed for years, yearning for the “ideal” lover, success in her art of writing, and eventually descended into a downward spiral of failed love affairs and failed books. She began to express a desire to be free from the diary.
On September 25, 1943, she recorded in her unpublished diary: “I wish I could write the END to the Diary and turn to the outside story,” meaning that she felt her creativity was being sucked dry, which was a theme that had been pounded into her head by the likes of Miller, psychoanalyst Otto Rank, and Gore Vidal.
On September 25, 1943, she wrote: “What a potent awakener the Diary is. As I get ready to leave it, I pay it a slight tribute. This should be the last volume [it turned out she would write one more]. At forty I enter a new maturity, stripped of my mirages, dreams and miracles, of my delusions and illusions and my heavy romantic sorrows. What awaits me is the expression of this strength, in action. I am about to lay down my magician’s wand, my healer’s paraphernalia…and to confront the act, in writing as well as in living. Without the diary…the tortoise shell, houseboat and escargot cover. No red velvet panoply over my head, no red carpet under my feet, no Japanese umbrellas growing on the hair, no stage settings, tricks, enchantments…”
On March 13, 1946, she wrote: “This Diary will end when I find the [ideal] lover.”
On April 1, 1946: “I may perhaps attain freedom from the diary itself, from watching myself live, from having to make stories to make it more marvelous. Freedom from my idealized self, the idealization of others.”
Indeed, by the time Nin made her cross-country trip with her “ideal” lover, Rupert Pole, in 1947, she had abandoned the idea of bound diaries altogether, opting to write occasional descriptions of events on loose paper and keep them in folders along with correspondence and articles. After she became famous in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, her diary became what she called the “diary of others,” since she had no time to write new material. She essentially stopped writing in the 1970s, including fiction.
However, as death approached and she came to grips with it, she kept two hardbound diaries in which she handwrote her thoughts on life and death. One volume was the “Book of Music,” the other the “Book of Pain,” presenting both sides of her final years—the joy of living and the struggle with the cancer that would kill her.
Recently discovered letters between Joaquín Nin and his daughter Anaïs reveal what has been hidden for decades—his explicit use of the doppelganger theory (which Nin psychoanalyst Otto Rank made famous) to seduce his daughter after essentially twenty years of estrangement. One letter in particular, written on April 29, 1933 (a few months before their first sexual encounter), illustrates this maneuver. Anaïs, who’d shortly beforehand initiated contact with her father, had sent him a copy of part of her childhood diary, which was originally written for him as a sort of “letter” after he’d abandoned Anaïs and her family in 1913. In response, Joaquín says:
You are not only my daughter…you are two daughters, one by flesh and the other by spirit. There are coincidences—some of which are troubling and others which fill me with joy—between your “journal” and the one I wrote—yes—at your age. Like you, I sought the kind of solitude that liberates, and I wept over secret, indefinable disappointments. Like you, I found the ways of the world absurd. Like you, I hated school, because the dogma clipped the wings of my imagination. Like you, I loved flowers, books, music, worms, the sky and stars, the sea, the sun, trees, snow and the faithful claire de lune…benevolent confidants of my secret life.
Like you, I hated lies. Betrayals by my schoolmates made me literally sick with sorrow and despair…or furious to the point of wanting to beat them all senseless. For me, life seemed to be a farce, a sinister game impossible to play without leaving logic behind…and then I lost all my courage… Like you, I tried to raise my heart unto God himself, who, I believed by some miracle, could hear me. I was exactly thirteen years old when a sudden crisis of mysticism threw me into prayer, which I believed was the only possible consolation for my distressed heart and aimless soul. I spent, unbeknownst to my parents, hours and hours at night kneeling on the tiles of my tiny bedroom, reading and reciting prayers, in order to save myself and those I loved from the attacks of evil. The day before my first communion I almost fainted at the feet of the stern Priest to whom my Father had entrusted my religious initiation. Like you, I had a double life, a mysterious, burning and secret life; I spent hours of ecstasy in a world of dreams where all was just, beautiful and sweet. Alas! … “Life,” harsh, hard, ferocious, broke all that little by little. I learned how to work, to fight, to hit, to settle arguments with my fists, just like the others around me. I suffered the effects of the collective madness; I lashed out to defend myself, initially, and then in order to defend my ideas, my concept of the world (?), of life, of society. I fought against my companions, with the exaltations of illumination, so that they would no longer lie, so that they would no longer betray, so that they would be just, so that they would not behave like animals, so that they would not steal, so that they would not rip flowers from the neighbors’ gardens, so that they would not use vile words, so that they would not mock God and the poor, whom my father had taught us how to love and respect. But at the same time I sought, by all possible and conceivable means, to perfect myself because I felt—again like you—that I was filled with defects, ugly, weak and mal-conditioned, in the end, in every way.
…I will see you soon, dear Anaïs! Around your image and your memory I braid garlands of emotional tenderness, and I throw my trust to the heavens which separate us—the beautiful heavens of France—the soft murmer of my grateful heart, the clear message of the love of…
Your father (A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 11-12, 13)
The many parallels between their lives (though there is no evidence to verify his version of his life) create a spiritual link between the two of them, which is followed up with sentimentality. Joaquín’s motivation is up for speculation—he’d always sought a relationship with his daughter, especially during the time shortly after he’d left the family, for his own purposes—he was no doubt jealous of his wife Rosa’s control over Anaïs and her two younger brothers, Thorvald and Joaquín Jr., and often used Anaïs’s lingering affection for him to create a rift between the children and their mother, whom he loathed. Since he had not yet met Anaïs as a mature woman (except for a brief encounter some years previous, after she first arrived in Paris with her husband Hugh Guiler), there is no concrete evidence that he was plotting a physical relationship with her…but he was a seducer by nature, and if he saw himself in Anaïs’s writing, as he indicates in this letter, it is possible that his self-adoration led him to such a scheme even before meeting her some weeks later in Louveciennes.
For a more complete exchange of letters before and just after the incestuous encounter, see A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, Vol. 6 (“Prelude to a Symphony: Letters between a father and daughter” pp 5-26).
To read more about Joaquin Nin, 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 his house in Paris.
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.