On this day in 1990, Henry and June, the first NC-17 movie, premiered. The only reason I wanted to see it was because of the rating—I had to know what it meant. I knew it was the new X, so there had to be sex, and lots of it. I could tell from the trailer that it wasn’t the American formula of sex and violence, which I abhor (think Basic Instinct), and that it was set in Paris in the 1930s, which intrigued me, so off we went.
When the film began, I must have missed the part that said it was based on the diary of Anaïs Nin, so I thought that Nin and Henry Miller were fictional characters. The theatre was mostly empty—I was later to find out that the NC-17 rating killed any chance for a wide audience. I feel that the rating was uncalled for, that there was nothing in the film that didn’t cry out “R”—but I suppose it was because of the so-called “lesbian scene,” during which Nin asks two female prostitutes to make love while she watched (and most of that scene was left to the imagination). Henry and June would never be rated NC-17 today, and I imagine the rating still keeps many from seeing it, which is a shame, in my opinion.
The film, I thought, was a bit over-acted, and it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the sexiest of films—and yet it “got” me. I felt the same way I did when I saw the first Star Wars film—like a kid on an adventure. Only this adventure was of the mind, of sensuality, of freedom, of daring, risk-taking, creativity, and joy. It was a rebellion against the status quo.
And then, when the final credits rolled, I discovered that not only were Nin and Miller real people, they wrote about everything I’d just seen. On the way home, we stopped at the used book store and I bought Diary 1 and Tropic of Cancer.
Little did I know that my curiosity about a sexy movie would shape the rest of my life and career.
To order Henry and June, the movie, click here.
To see the full trailer of the movie, click here.
This blog post is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations and The Portable Anaïs Nin.
Erotic writer/blogger/podcaster Rose Caraway (found on Twitter as @RoseCaraway) recently had me as a guest on The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotic Podcast, and we discuss Anais Nin’s erotica (with an excerpt from a previously unknown erotic story), her use of language, sexuality, fiction, diary, and writing style. We take a sneak peek at the upcoming Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1947-1955, which chronicles Nin’s perilous double life with two husbands. We ponder Nin’s unpublished erotic story “Montparnasse,” which is unlike anything in Delta of Venus or Little Birds and try to reason why she wrote the story in the first place. Was it just an example of bad writing, or was it the result of something her anonymous collector had said? Find out here. Run time: just over an hour.
To listen to the podcast in iTunes, click here.
To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.
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.
The third Anais Nin podcast is here! In response to a question I sometimes get–“Who are you and how did you get this way?”–I share my journey that began with the movie Henry and June and has resulted in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947–and everything in between.
The podcast is 12 minutes long. Enjoy and feel free to comment.
Click here: Podcast 3
Anaïs Nin was born 110 years ago on Feb. 21, 1903 at Neuilly-sur-Seine in what was then a newly built luxurious building at 7 rue du Général Henrion Bertier, which still stands today. The house, and the one next door, an identical building, were both built in 1895.
The city of Neuilly was kind enough to send along some specs for the house.
The specs roughly state that the houses were built parallel to each other and perpendicular to the street, with basements and four floors and a courtyard. The building materials consist of limestone, stone and slate. The front of the house has covered gables, and the roofs are made of long sections. The rear of the house is broken into sections with uncovered gables. There is a spiral staircase which is suspended, and a décor which consists of sculpture.
This was no ordinary house, and this was no ordinary neighborhood. It would perhaps be the most luxurious place little Anaïs ever occupied. The street view is below:
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Alas, the family would not remain long in Neuilly, since Joaquin Nin was a composer and pianist who traveled much of Europe on concert tours. They would go to Havana, Cuba, where 2 year old Anaïs contracted typhoid fever. She became very ill, losing weight and her hair, drawing taunts from her father as an “ugly duckling,” something that would scar Anaïs for life.
After Havana, the Nins settled in a cheaper house in St-Cloud, near Paris, one of many places to which they would relocate, followed by Berlin and Brussels.
To learn more about the Neuilly house, click here.
To see more posts on Anaïs Nin’s birthday, including her family heritage, click here.
One of the reasons that Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell turned to Jack Kahane of Obelisk Press to publish their books in the 1930s was because Kahane wasn’t afraid to publish what no others would touch. Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, which debuted in 1934, was banned from all English-speaking countries for decades and was the centerpiece of the American “pornography” trials of the 1960s.
What is little known is that Anaïs Nin’s original version of The Winter of Artifice (1939) was also, according to Nin herself, banned in the U.S. On more than one occasion she refers to the few copies that were smuggled into this country as having somehow eluded the censors. When Nin decided to publish an American version of the book, she omitted an entire novella (“Djuna,” her fictionalized version of the Anaïs-Henry-June love triangle) and several passages from the remaining two novellas (“Lilith” and “The Voice”) to avoid scrutiny.
In one of the passages in “Djuna,” the protagonist reveals her feelings for Hans, the character based on (or, more accurately, is) Miller:
While he lay over me with his unabatable attentiveness I knew he was watching the alterations of my face, listening to the cries I uttered, and the final deeper, savage tones. I closed my eyes before this watchfulness of his and sank into a blind, moist drunkenness. I felt myself caught in the immense jaws of his desire, felt myself dissolving, ripping open to his descent. I felt myself yielding up to his dark hunger. An immense jaw closing upon my feelings, my feelings smouldering, rising from me like smoke from a black mass. Take me, take me, take my gifts and my moods and my body, take all you want.
I am being fucked by a cannibal.
It is all that is human in me that he devours. He eats me as if my love for him were something he wanted to possess inside his body, at the very core of his body, like fuel. He eats me as if my faith in him were a food he needed for daily sustenance.
He is not concerned to know whether I can live or breathe within the dark cavern of his whale-like being, within the whale-belly of his ego.
Miller himself heavily edited “Djuna,” and much of his editing found its way into the final version of the story. (For more on this subject, click here.)
Another passage omitted from the same novella focuses on Djuna’s relationship with Johanna (June Miller):
Johanna’s eyes were like the forest. The darkness of the forest, the watchfulness behind an ambush. Fear. I journeyed into the darkness of it. I walked from the place where my dress had fallen, carrying my breasts like gifts in my half-opened hands; I carried them to her as if expecting to be thrust by her mortally.
Johanna loosened her hair and said: “You are so extraordinarily white.” With a strange weight, like a sadness, she spoke. It was not the white substance of me, but my significance, the whiteness of my newness to life, which Johanna seemed to sigh for. “You are so white, so white and smooth.” And there were deep shadows in her eyes, shadows of one old with life; shadows in her neck, in her arms, and on her knees, violet shadows.
While this passages may seem tame compared to today’s erotic literature, they were far ahead of their time, especially when we consider that the author was a woman.
In 2007, the only in-print edition of the original The Winter of Artifice was published as a facsimile of the original. It was a project that took two years to complete after careful restoration of the font and cover.
Click here order The Winter of Artifice 1939 edition for $9.99. Good till Oct. 6, 2012.
It wasn’t long after discovering Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller some 20 years ago that I developed a hunger to follow in their footsteps in Paris. I recall writing down some of the addresses of Nin’s and Miller’s haunts and homes, names of famous Montparnassian cafés, and in particular the fabled house in Louveciennes. Back then, I had only Michelin maps and travel guides (the names of which I patched together as “Fodommerbaum”) to help me piece together some sort of plan. Nothing, though, prepared me for the actual act of walking the streets to seek out the remnants and echoes of what once existed.
The very first site I wanted to see was the quai where Nin moored her houseboat, La Belle Aurore. I only had old photographs to help me figure out exactly where it was. I stood holding the photo on Pont Royal, straining to match the 60 year old image with the current scene, and I had to guess. I stood at my declared spot and tried to feel the magic of knowing that once upon a time, an old, leaky barge sat in these waters, that Nin and her lover Gonzalo walked down the same staircase I did to board it. Was I right? Was this the spot?
I was only able to discover this past week that I was indeed pretty close, and I was able to do so sitting in front of my computer screen, thanks to today’s GPS technology. While editing and formatting Britt Arenander’s Anaïs Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, I began to toy with the idea of making what was mainly a photo-book with a nice, concise synopsis of Nin’s and Miller’s Paris years into something more: an interactive travel guide using GPS technology, something than can not only be read, but used. Once I began seeking out the more than 40 specific locations listed in the book on Google Maps, I began to see that not only can one visit these locations virtually, but one can also navigate between them and create virtual walking tours. Had I had access to something like this twenty years ago, my first Paris visit would have been very different. For example, one of Henry Miller’s apartments was on Avenue Anatole France in Clichy, and it was the setting for the famous battle between Miller and his wife June over the fact that Miller and Nin were lovers, a final cataclysmic explosion that resulted in divorce. How could any self-described aficionado not visit this place and reconstruct that scene? The sad fact is that I spent half a precious day trying to find the place only to come up empty. How was I to know that there are two Avenues Anatole France, one in Paris and one in Clichy, to the north? It is only now that I can walk that street and look up at the art-deco building where emotions ran amok that day in 1932, thanks to Google’s “street view” option. In fact, I decided one day to do what Miller himself did on a regular basis: walk from his favorite restaurant at Place Clicy, the Wepler, to his apartment, simply by using the navigation tools. The same was true in Montparnasse and all the other locations.
So, what I did was to mark each location and then to present some background of its significance, using facts from Arenander’s book and vintage photographs. (There are other options as well, such as including links that allows the viewer to delve further into its history, including sound and video clips, and this is something I aim on enhancing the map with often. To see an example, go to our intactive sample map and click on La Gare chemin de fer de petite ceinture.) I thought that if one were planning a trip to Paris and wanted to “practice” identifying historic locations beforehand, one could do so easily. Also, since many travelers bring smart devices along on their trips, one could use an iPad, say, or an iPhone to map out their walks as they were actually doing them. What a remarkable way to enhance a trip, especially when time is at a premium. And if one is unable to make such a trip, it is still possible to revisit the traces of the past at home. After all, I was finally able to use the street view navigation to scope out Nin’s houseboat location and finally pinpoint the spot by comparing it with the old photos. Not only that, but I discovered the old iron rings that once moored the houseboats are still affixed to the walls! (Go to the sample interactive map by clicking here and you can visit quai de Tuileries yourself.)
I have created a short walking tour which is based on an event that took place in March of 1932, chronicled in Anaïs Nin’s Lost World. Henry Miller had met Anaïs at Chez les Vikings and had a passionate conversation with her. After she left, he wrote his first love letter to her, saying, “I tell you what you already know—I love you.” After writing that letter, he walked home to Hôtel Central, where he and Nin had their first sexual encounter a few days later. Now, we can virtually walk that same path, just for the hell of it.
To take the walking tour, click here.
To order Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.
In 1995, Britt Arenander’s book Anaïs Nins Förlorade Värld (Anaïs Nin’s Lost World) was released in Sweden. Gunther Stuhlmann, Anaïs Nin’s literary agent, sent me a copy as a gift, and it was always a book, despite my inability to read Swedish, that I admired.
The author, who had recently moved to France, made the pilgrimage to Louveciennes to see Anaïs Nin’s legendary “laboratory of the soul,” the 200 year old house where she met Henry Miller in 1931. It then dawned on her to see if the apartment building where Miller and his friend Alfred Perlès lived still stood in Clichy, and it did. This series of events triggered her quest to research and rediscover each Paris address ever mentioned by Nin or Miller, and the result was a wonderful book filled with both vintage and recent photographs of these storied locations. In between was the synopsis of the life that Nin, Miller, and many of their cohorts lived in the 1930s, interlaced with the history of Paris, Montparnasse, and Louveciennes. I had always hoped that one day the book would be published in English.
Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when Britt Arenander contacted me recently with the idea of doing just that, and it was a project I was more than happy to undertake.
In her introduction, the author clearly states her inspiration: “A lost world, of which the outlines still remain, was what I wished to recreate, by help of photographic jigsaw puzzle pieces. But my hope is also that it might be an intimate guide to Paris outside the main tourist routes.”
We have taken this idea and enhanced the original book with updated information, a well-planned table of contents complete with links to not only each photograph, some of which, as the one to the left, are at least 100 years old, but also to street maps of several of the chief Nin/Miller haunts. The last new touch is an interactive map that one can view with their ebook device or computer that offers background information, vintage photos, and current street views of such places as Nin’s Louveciennes house, the location of her houseboats, the hotel where Nin and Miller began their affair, the brothel where Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler witnessed a “show,” and on and on.
All of this, I believe achieves Britt Arenander’s quest to offer an intimate guide to Paris that is definitely out of the ordinary. The reader will be able wander through Anaïs Nin’s lost world visually, literarily, virtually, and if in Paris, truly.
The book can be ordered with Kindle and with any Apple product (iPad, iPhone, etc.) after downloading the Kindle app.
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.
Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.
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.
The inaugural issue of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which celebrated Nin’s 100th birthday, is now available on Kindle. This is the story of how it came to be.
After Gunther Stuhlmann, who edited the amazing 19 annual issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, died in 2002, there was suddenly a severe vacuum in Nin studies. Stuhlmann had planned a special centennial issue of ANAIS for 2003, and even began gathering material for it when he became seriously ill and had to abandon the project. After encouragement from several Nin and Miller scholars, this editor decided to create a new Nin journal that would pick up where ANAIS left off. Because Nin described Richard Centing’s and Benjamin Franklin V’s Under the Sign of Pisces as “a café in space” in which the literary community could gather, we were inspired to so name the new journal.
In February of 2003, I traveled to France with the intention of visiting famous Nin sites, especially her birthplace in Neuilly-sur-Seine and the house in Louveciennes, which Henry Miller called “the laboratory of the soul.” I was fortunate enough to find the Neuilly house newly refurbished, probably looking much as it did when Nin was born there. But the most amazing stroke of luck was being invited to the Nin house in Louveciennes by its new owner, actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, with a group of distinguished guests, one of them a famous actress from the Comédie-Française. After having spent more than a decade wishing for the chance to enter this fabled house, after watching it
decay to the point where it was being considered for demolition, to be inside the house on Nin’s 100th birthday, toasting her with a group of people Nin would have admired, was nothing short of miraculous. Of course, I took dozens of photos and recorded each moment of the day, and wrote it up for A Café in Space. (Click here to see a previous post on the Louveciennes visit.) On top of this, I met Claudine Brelet, who was a close friend of Lawrence Durrell, and she took us on a nostalgic tour of Montparnasse. She agreed to write an article about the special places that Durrell and Miller frequented, through which readers can experience the tour themselves.
I was able to contact some of the contributors to the never-to-be-finished issue of ANAIS, including veteran scholars such as Franklin, Lynette Felber, Phil Jason, and others, all of whom agreed to partake in the first issue of A Café in Space. Furthermore, after attending a centennial Nin conference in California early in 2003, and after hearing talks given by author Janet Fitch and Kazuko Sugisaki, Nin’s Japanese translator, I was able to collect article versions of the talks for the new journal. Fitch’s talk, titled “No Women Writers,” describes how she discovered Nin after her a junior high school substitute teacher declared that there were no important women writers. “He challenged the class to think of a single one… And then a girl in the front row raised her hand, I can still see her, her frizzy ash-blonde hair, her plump arm, waving, and she asked, What about Anaïs Nin? …And I ripped off a note which I passed up the row… WHO IS ANAÏS NIN?” The girl “corrected the spelling and sent it back, saying, ‘Read the Diaries, they’re incredible!’” The rest is history, and Fitch says that Nin’s influence is present in her famous novel White Oleander.
After the conference, we took a drive up to Oakland, CA to visit with Nin’s last surviving family member, her brother Joaquín Nin-Culmell, who, although he’d suffered a stroke shortly beforehand, was incredibly lucid, welcoming, and enthusiastic. He took us on a journey back to his childhood, explaining how cruel and selfish his father was, how Anaïs was protective of her brothers, how the family was instructed by the mother to speak only French in the household in order to keep alive their native language after coming to America. He showed us photographs and artifacts from the past, but the sight of his piano sitting silent in his living room was haunting—since his stroke, he neither played nor listened to music again. Less than a year later, he was gone. How fortunate it was to catch him on that day, a clear, warm, sunny day, the aura of which shined through Joaquín’s face. Not having originally planned to, I ended up writing up the occasion (“An Afternoon With Joaquín Nin-Culmell”) for A Café in Space.
But what about Anaïs Nin herself? What would she contribute to A Café in Space? Serendipity once again played a role in this: I was given a portion of Nin’s unpublished 1940s diaries, and in it I found passages that epitomized Nin’s first years in America after fleeing war in Europe. Disillusioned and disconnected to anything vital, she was drowning in depression and despair when she met a young and somewhat naïve young man from Iowa, who’d arrived in New York to seek artistic freedom. His youthful zeal and exuberance were exactly what Nin was lacking in her life, and thus began a torrid affair. The entire experience Nin summed up in one word: “Mirage,” a word which could be applied to her entire existence in New York.
After reading about Nin’s affair with the young John Dudley, I couldn’t help but wonder if a photo of him didn’t exist somewhere. Nin’s descriptions were vivid, but one likes to have a real image with which to compare them. Only weeks before the publication of Vol. 1, I was in Massachusetts gathering up boxes of back issues of ANAIS: An International Journal, which I’d volunteered to distribute. I opened a desk drawer (with permission) and discovered a pile of photographs that had, I imagined, been set aside for future issues of ANAIS. Among them was a young blond man standing, smiling, in front of what looked like a plantation house. Was the house Hampton Manor, where the affair occurred? Was the young, vivacious man John Dudley? I collected this and several other photos, and after some research, I discovered that yes, these were indeed of Dudley. I had barely enough time to submit them before publication.
Looking back on all this, I can say that nearly everything in the first issue of A Café in Space was the result of bonne chance.
To see further information and/or to order a print version of Vol. 1, click here.
A Café in Space, Vol. 1, 2003, the Kindle version, can be ordered here.