The Story Behind A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal

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

From left: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Genevieve Casisle, Anne-Marie Thomas, at Louveciennes

From left: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Genevieve Casisle, Anne-Marie Thomas, at Louveciennes

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.

John Dudley, 1940

John Dudley, 1940

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.

Vol. 1 joins Vol. 6 (2009) and Vol. 7 (2010) on Kindle. More issues will be available in the coming months.

Remnants of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller at Shakespeare & Co.

In the summer of 2008, the Lawrence Durrell Society held its biannual conference at Université Paris X at Nanterre, France, at which I was scheduled to speak about the lost book of the Villa Seurat Series—Anaïs Nin’s The Winter of Artifice. We stayed in Vincennes, outside of Paris…you couldn’t visually tell it wasn’t Paris, except it was outside the périphérique, the freeway that encircles the city. But once you walked the streets and went into the first fruit stand or café, you realized you were in a place with a definite and unique identity. First, no one speaks English. Second, people don’t treat you as an inconvenience because they are not overrun by tourists—instead you are welcomed with a warmth that arises from curiosity. The first person I talked to was a drunk. I was buying ingredients for lunch (wine, cheese and fruit, basically) and he asked if he could cut in front of me with his two bottles of cheap liquor. When I let him go ahead, he thanked me profusely, and then struck up a hilarious conversation, including the clerk, whom he knew well for obvious reasons, in his banter. When I get into this sort of conversation, I feel warmth throughout my entire body. I get loose, relaxed, and the blood flows. I get emotional (not weepy, but exalted). On the way back to the apartment we’d rented, there was a man leaning on the rail from his first floor room smoking a cigarette. He hung out so far there was barely room to walk around him, in his white singlet, a long black page boy haircut, huge dark eyes and a well-worn face. I saw him there every day, and he would talk to the woman with a baby carriage, want to see the baby, talk to the postman, talk to anyone he recognized. The street was his café; he was a fixture that added character to the entire neighborhood.

I became cozy with the fruit stand people, the Turkish guy who served up the best lamb I’ve ever gotten on the street (that’s not fair, because how often do you get your lamb on the street?)…the proprietor at the bistro, etc., etc. We got familiar with the haunts there, and our apartment windows overlooked the streets, which were in the shadow of the ancient Chateau of Vincennes, where Marquis de Sade was held prisoner for a while.

Thus, going to Paris, as great as the city is, almost was a letdown. Suddenly you are surrounded by the tourists and all those who prey upon them. Accosted so many times by opportunists who want something from you, trying to trick you, make a fool of you if you let them. How many times can a woman pick up a gold-colored ring from the street, vainly try to fit it on her finger, then give it to you for good luck, and demand money from you if you’re gullible enough to take it, before you decide to cuss them all out? One woman I met in Louveciennes told me that she took such a ring, put it in her handbag and ran away, laughing. I suppose that is a better response. But I do love going to the bookstores and trying to sell my books, as well as finding a few rare treasures on the way, such as Christopher Isherwood’s diary  or a worn Henry Miller novel.

Shakespeare & Company

The last bookstore we visited was Shakespeare & Company. I’d given up years ago trying to sell them anything—it’s the sort of place where you feel honored if they sell a book you’ve given them. So, with this in mind, I asked to see George Whitman, who was 94 years old at the time and has owned the place for decades. He used to be omnipresent in the store (see the video, which runs about an hour), but he doesn’t see many people now. He no longer runs things—his daughter has taken over the daily operations. A very suspicious woman at the cash register told me his health is bad, that he sleeps most of the day, only comes down (he lives upstairs) on occasion, and, like a relic, sits in a special chair and reads while people come to pay their respects. But I told her I had a gift for George. She reluctantly referred me to George’s daughter, who agreed, after scrutinizing me carefully, that I would be allowed upstairs to his living quarters to visit. I was accompanied by a young woman who was my “chaperone”—in other words, to make sure I wasn’t some sort of opportunist or maniac. I was led to a room I’d seen many times previously, but I barely recognized it. It once was crammed with bookshelves and stacks of books so tall they looked as though they were defying the laws of physics. Now, it was cleaned out. There was a table and a bed. Beyond the door was George’s room.

When the door opened, dozens of strange insects came flying out, hovering like tiny silent helicopters. George came out in his pajamas, unshaven, disheveled, but, in a way only he can master, hauntingly handsome, proud, with an air of noble defiance. He recognized me from my previous visits. We sat down at the table, and the chaperone, satisfied nothing terrible was about to occur, left us alone. George told me that ever since he ceased running things he has lost his sense of purpose. “I felt alive when I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors,” he told me, “but now all I want to do is to sleep. I never should have given up the store.” He still has a spring to his walk, his voice is still strong, and he was impressed with the book (The Winter of Artifice) I gave him. He told me he was going to put it into the reading room, where patrons can sit all day and read for nothing. This, to me, was even better than selling it. He asked me if I was a writer. I said yes, I’ve written things. He patted the bed and said if I ever need a place to stay, I could stay there for as long as I like, gratis. He told me people have written entire novels in his store. I’ve had this offer each time I’ve visited, and I regret not having taken him up on it—but a friend of mine told me that there were insects in the bed and in the breakfast, and if I didn’t mind that sort of thing, perhaps I’d enjoy the stay. He also added that Shakespeare and Company is perhaps the one place left in which you can experience the Paris Henry Miller describes in Tropic of Cancer, a place where, “In America…you wouldn’t dream of living in a joint like this. Even when I was on the bum I slept in better rooms than this. But here it seems natural—it’s like the books you read” (Tropic of Cancer  117).

To read more on Nin’s and Miller’s Paris, get Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which contains vintage photos, maps, and historical context of the many places they inhabited and frequented.

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.
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Adventures in Louveciennes: entry to Anaïs Nin’s house of incest

Two years after my last visit to Louveciennes in 1994, the Anaïs Nin house was finally sold to someone who not only restored the main building, where he lived, but also developed the grounds to include a few maisons particulaires, which were to serve as apartments. My friend Jacques, who kept tabs on developments there for me during my absence, told me the house had been repainted in a burnt orange color, which he termed affreux (hideous), but that it was finally, after decades of neglect, habitable once again. This was wonderful news, for I had spent an inordinate amount of time fearing the place would eventually be demolished. I was told, however, that the new owner had no interest in Anaïs Nin and did not particularly care that she once lived there—therefore, he had no inclination to entertain Nin fans who occasionally stopped by to take pictures or to sit at the gate with her Diaries in hand. During the several years away from Louveciennes, although I was still heavily involved with Nin’s work, I had lost hope of ever seeing the house from the inside.

But in 2002, Jacques wrote me an exuberant e-mail, telling me that it had been sold once again, this time to an academy award nominated French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade. Jacques, through the Director of Culture in Louveciennes, managed to secure a rendezvous at the Nin house on February 21, 2003, Anaïs’s 100th birthday. Not only would we finally gain entry to the house, but on Anaïs Nin’s centennial. This was too good to be true, I thought, but did not hesitate to book a flight to Paris. I kept waiting for something awful to happen, such as an airline or rail strike, but nothing did.

While in Paris, a woman who’d once romanced Lawrence Durrell, Claudine, took me on a wonderful tour of Durrell’s and Miller’s Montparnasse, walking the same routes they took, stopping at the same haunts, and the result was an article in the premier A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal (2003). I invited her to attend the rendezvous in Louveciennes, thinking it would have special meaning for her, since Nin, Miller, and Durrell were linked by their budding artistry in the Paris of the 1930s. I found out that a famous actress from the Comédie-Française would be in attendance, as well the Director of Culture, and other actors and actresses from the theater. Of course, Claudine couldn’t resist the idea of visiting the house of one of Durrell’s friends and collaborators.

On the train to Louveciennes, we reacquainted ourselves with Anaïs’s descriptions of her house:

My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house... (Diary 1 3)

We had lunch at Jacques’ house, devouring a meal that was traditionnelement français, washed down with wine, topped off with cheeses of every sort. Jacques then pointed to his watch: it was time to leave, first to the Director of Culture’s house, where we would meet the other guests before going on to the Nin house. After a light-hearted gathering, we set out for the ultimate: the laboratory of the soul, some seventy years after its most famous resident had lived there.

We parked on the narrow rue de Monbuisson, and Jean-Hugues Anglade met us at the pedestrian gate of the Nin house. Handsome, soft-spoken, and dressed casually, he shook everyone’s hand, and we entered into the courtyard where we all stood in awe. The grounds were well-kept, and the flowers were already beginning to bud. It was a fine day: sunny, warm, still. Jean showed us the outbuilding which once served as a garage for Hugh Guiler’s car—he been reading the Diary to discover the significance of each feature of the house and garden from Nin’s point of view. He expressed a desire to find the now-buried fountain and pool and to restore them. He’d located the same garden furniture Nin had used and displayed it prominently in the front of the house. There was a massive tree in the garden that looked as though it had been severely pruned at some point—Jean-Hugues told us that during World War II, much of it had been cut up for firewood.

All this was proving to be too much—the front door was ajar, beckoning us, and my mind was racing. Was this actually happening? “Entrez,” Jean-Hugues said musically… “Entrez, entrez…”

louveciennesfoyer

Interior 1st floor

I could not feel my feet touch the floor in the foyer. I looked to the left, ahead, and to the right. Everything looked clean and fresh, hardly like the photos Noel Riley Fitch had taken 13 years earlier. The room to the left of the entrance, which once contained the pool table Henry Miller referred to in his entry in Nin’s diary (Incest 80-85), now housed a mini-stage with rock band equipment. The chandelier was gone, and the fireplace was restored, but not as it was when Nin lived there. The old mosaic tile had been replaced. I kept thinking about how silent it must have been in this room during the years when the house was empty—and now it would be filled with music. Alive, I felt. The house was alive again. Someone lived here again, created here again. Voices, music, the sounds of life filled the void again.

Nin said:

I chose the house for many reasons. Because it seemed to have sprouted out of the earth like a tree, so deeply grooved it was within the old garden. It had no cellar and the rooms rested right on the ground. Below the rug, I felt, was the earth. I could take root here… (Diary 1 4)

Jean-Hugues opened what appeared to be a closet door near the front entrance. Inside was a cool, dank room lined with solid stone, gravel on the floor—the earth. “In here,” he said, “you can see all the way back to the revolution.” Here were the guts of the house, a place no one, not even time, had touched since the beginning. The air smelled of antiquity. To the right of the entrance was a parlor, and behind it was a large kitchen. The kitchen was modern, clean, airy, well-lit. A door led out to the garden. The parlor was large with one window through which the afternoon sun poured, creating a silhouette of every person in the room. Suddenly they all became timeless…they could have been anyone, from any time. It could have been Anaïs leaning on the doorway and not the actress…they could’ve been Miller, Hugo, Anaïs’s father, June…

Once we were all seated and enjoying fruit punch and sweets, Jacques began to tell his stories about the history of Louveciennes, acquainting its newest resident with information he could have gotten nowhere else. We raised a toast to Anaïs and fell silent for a few moments. I noticed the actress had a copy of Incest with her, with a place marked in the book, as if she were going to read aloud some passages…but she didn’t. I wasn’t sure why not. We took the grand tour of the house. I had been dying to get upstairs. The narrow, winding staircase was not made for someone of my height—I’m certain Hugo must have had to duck just as I did to avoid crushing his skull on the ceiling. I then recalled reading on the train the passage from Diary 1:

There are eleven windows showing between the wooden trellis covered with ivy. One shutter in the middle was put there for symmetry only, but I often dream about this mysterious room which does not exist behind the closed shutter. (4)

In House of Incest, Nin evokes the imagery of one of her dreams:

In the house of incest there was a room which could not be found, a room without a window, the fortress of their love, a room without window where the mind and blood coalesced in a union without orgasm and rootless like those of fishes. (52)

louveciennes-room-that-doesnt-exist1

Space which is “room that doesn’t exist”

I sought this “room,” the place behind the shutter. Today, all the windows are open, but I came upon a narrow space in which the ceiling slanted severely, the ancient wooden beams making it impossible to pass by. On the wall was a window. Had I found the “room which could not be found”? It seemed to be in the right place, in the middle of the house.

We passed from room to room, as in a dream. The dimension of time seemed to be missing. All the modern trappings—a computer, a child’s toys, modern furniture—seemed to drop away, leaving only the essence of a dreamscape.

Nin said in her Diary:

Every room is painted a different color. As if there were one room for every separate mood: lacquer red for vehemence, pale turquoise for reveries, peach color for gentleness, green for repose, grey for work at the typewriter. (5)

We found reverie: a portion of the paint on one wall had been peeled back, layer by layer, and beneath was turquoise. In the bathroom was an antique bathtub, the porcelain worn off around the edges from the hands of all those who’d lifted themselves in and out. From one of the upstairs windows, we looked out at the massive green gate, which Nin had described as a prison gate, keeping her locked in and away from the artistic and bohemian Paris she was just beginning to discover.

louveciennespaint

The color of reverie

The shadows in the room began to lengthen and the day was growing old. The conversations in the parlor were scattering. It was time to leave. This dream of mine, to enter this house, had finally been realized. I still believe that I was incapable of understanding fully the significance of the moment, to feel it fully. My gratitude to Jacques is eternal.

Claudine, knowing French architecture well, felt the house was not built for aristocracy, citing the bare beams on the ceilings and inexpensive building materials. She noted that the many small rooms and their layout suggested that the house was perhaps built as lodging for workmen on a plantation or a vineyard (and history tells us that wine was once produced in the region). There is no documentation of the house from before 1803, which would make it seventy years newer than what Nin was led to believe. The house’s origins are still mysterious.

A in-depth article on the 2003 Louveciennes visit (as well as Neuilly) with more photos can be found in A Café In Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal Vol. 1.

Epilogue: Only a year or two after our visit, Jean-Hugues Anglade sold the house for reasons unknown to me. At the time of this posting, it is once again on the market for 1.65 million Euros.

To read more about Louveciennes, 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 on rue de Montbuisson.

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.
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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day #7

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.

henrymiller1940s

Henry Miller, 1940s

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).
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Anais Nin Myth of the Day #6

Myth #6: Anaïs Nin had a life-long love affair with Paris

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

La Coupole, Montparnasse, 1920s

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.
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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.

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