Gunther Stuhlmann: the man behind Anaïs Nin’s success

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.

Nin & Stuhlmann at booksigning, 1959

Nin & Stuhlmann at booksigning, 1959

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.

Volume 3  joins Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 6, and Volume 7 on Kindle.

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.

Anaïs Nin and the inauguration of Two Cities

twocitiesvol12

In the winter of 1958/9, Anaïs Nin wrote: “When Larry Durrell wrote to me in Paris to look up Jean Fanchette, and I did, I did not know that he was giving me a link with France. I sat waiting at the Deux Magots, and there came a young and beautiful Negro, slim, not tall, delicate features like those of the Haitians, small straight nose, soft, warm eyes and a sensuous mouth. He was a student of medicine. He published a small newspaper for medical students. He had just received a prize for his poetry. He was full of charm, with a balance between earth and poetry. He had written a critique of Durrell, and Durrell had spent much time with him in Paris” (Diary 6 190). Fanchette, a Mauritian, was in the process of creating the bilingual (French and English) literary journal Two Cities. He told Nin that he’d already garnered promises from Durrell, Henry Miller, George Sykes, Richard Aldington and others for contributions. The meeting would not only shape the future of the publication, but it also resulted in a roller-coaster friendship between Nin and Fanchette, punctuated by miscommunication and misunderstanding. Inspired by Fanchette’s praise of her work, Nin readily agreed to help Two Cities get off the ground. The inaugural issue came out only months later, April 15, 1959, and Nin was not only a contributor, but the “American Editor,” one of the dozen editors listed on the title page.

At the time, Henry Miller, according to his then wife Eve, was “dissolving,” cut off from his source of inspiration: Paris. In a letter to Nin, she wrote, “Henry needs France. This hunk of veritable Paradise [Big Sur, California] in which he’s put down taproots is insidious for him, and he refuses to recognize it… He is another person in Europe. How long can an artist feed on himself? The stimulus is there, not here” (Diary 6 178). Miller’s decision to write for Two Cities and to revisit France was vigorously encouraged by Eve, who confided that part of her insistence was based on her own growing annoyance with the “inertia” of life with him in Big Sur: “I doubt he has ever asked me once, in these entire seven years together, what my hopes and dreams might include!” (Diary 6 178) The trip and the article did come to fruition, but the marriage, like all of Miller’s marriages, was doomed. Some time after Eve and Henry Miller were divorced, Eve committed suicide. There is debate whether the years spent with Miller had contributed to this tragedy.

Nin said, “I helped the magazine. I was grateful for Fanchette’s understanding. I count him as my best friend in France. The magic link. It was strange that at the time I felt bad to be returning to the same old constellation, Miller-Durrell. It seemed like regression.
But then I realized it was not a return to Miller and Durrell, but to France and to Fanchette. The present asserted itself
” (Diary 6 180).

What also enticed Nin was Fanchette’s comments about her work: “The gift of Anaïs Nin is to name and define the alchemy of body and soul, to explore the roots of obscure instincts, define them” (Diary 6 180). Statements like this were sustenance to a writer who’d been denied for decades by the publishers and critics, and she, out of a mix of desperation and gratitude, gravitated to those who fed her including Fanchette. Her feelings are described in a letter from Nin to French agent Marguerite Rebois: “Jean feels something will happen [with my work] after Two Cities appears because he is writing an article on l’Art d’Anaïs Nin. This is to me a symbolic link with France. As you know, the reason I have been so obsessed with getting published in France is that I was afraid that my failure in America would influence all of Europe, and it has. I have been made to feel that I belong there, not here, and want to return there gradually” (Diary 6 175-6).

Fanchette went a few steps further in ingratiating Nin—he not only flattered her by asking her to help with Two Cities, but also offered to present her novel Spy in the House of Love to his publisher in Paris, and, if it were accepted, would translate it into French. In return, Nin began to dispatch letters to her literary friends, encouraging them to contribute to Two Cities. In a letter to Durrell, she said: “This month I gave my energy to Two Cities, which will be good for all of us. I want to thank you for introducing me to Jean Fanchette. His friendship is a delight” (Diary 6 182).

Lawrence Durrell and Jean Fanchette

Lawrence Durrell and Jean Fanchette (courtesy of Veronique Fanchette and www.jeanfanchette.com. All rights reserved.)

By the time Two Cities came out, it had morphed into a partial “hommage à Lawrence Durrell,” with Miller’s article, “The Durrell of the Black Book days” leading off, followed by Alfred Perlès’s “Enter Jupiter Jr,” Frederic J. Temple’s “Contstruire un mur de pierre sèche,” Richard Aldington’s “A note on Lawrence Durrell,” and Edwin Mullins’ “On Mountolive: Durrell answers a few questions.” The rest of the issue contained articles not associated with Durrell, including Nin’s “The writer and the symbols,” and Fanchette’s “Pour une préface,” the article Nin mentioned to Rebois, which lauded House of Incest (1936) and Solar Barque (1958, later incorporated into Seduction of the Minotaur), and much of what written in between. He proclaimed Spy in the House of Love her best novel. Undoubtedly, Fanchette won Nin’s allegiance with this article, but there was already trouble brewing.

Nin’s unconditional acceptance of Fanchette’s offer to promote not only Spy but her other titles to French publishers rankled her young agent, Gunther Stuhlmann, who was trying to organize Nin’s work into a cohesive package to be presented in a consistent manner. His approach ran counter to Nin’s, who had historically (and mostly unsuccessfully) used friends and contacts to get her work out. In a letter dated April 29, 1959, Stuhlmann, who’d usually handled Nin with kid gloves, blasted her: “At this point, we can’t just give [Fanchette] carte blanche with the other books—he was only involved with Spy as I recall… I firmly believe 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 go not get into [a] situation which would be embarrassing to all of us” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 110).

In an undated letter some weeks later, Nin wrote to Stuhlmann complaining of Fanchette’s refusal to publish some of Nin’s friends’ articles, which caused her great embarrassment: “It is so discouraging that I offered to resign. Then he threatens me with loss of his friendship!” (A Café in Space Vol. 3 112). In spite of this, Nin continued supporting Two Cities, even asking Stuhlmann to find an American distributor, which he reluctantly agreed to do (although was not successful). In the meantime, Fanchette’s failure to so much as return the articles Nin had solicited from her friends was causing rifts between them and her, and she was losing patience. In the fall of 1959, she wrote to Fanchette, telling him she could no longer continue as American Editor of Two Cities, but that she would send along good writing when it came along. She continued, “I begged him to send me the material he did not want to use. I explained I was losing friends and creating enemies for Two Cities. No answer” (Diary 6 205).

By the fall of 1961, more than two years after Fanchette’s agreement to translate Spy in the House of Love, the result was what she termed “rough,” which frustrated Nin since she was trying to market the novel in Europe as a source for a movie script. (Despite years of trying, Spy was never made into a film). Around the same time, she reported a drunken Fanchette shouting to her in Paris: “I met you too late. You could have been my first mistress, the mistress one never forgets!” (Diary 6 293).

Two Cities continued to be published until 1964, with Nin friends such as Daisy Aldan taking turns at editorship. Two Cities ETC (Paris) released a limited edition of Letters to Jean Fanchette1958-1963 by Lawrence Durrell. Subsequent Fanchette publications included his poetry volumes Identité provisoire in 1965, Je m’appelle sommeil and La visitation de l’oiseau pluvier in 1977, as well as essays and a novel. His poetry was anthologized by Stock shortly after his death in 1992, under the title L’Ile Equinoxe, a new edition of which has recently been released by Editions Philippe Rey, Paris, with a preface by J.M.G. Le Clézio, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2008.

While the relationship between Nin and Fanchette had ended on a sour note, she reminisced in her diary more than a decade later: “The Diary has one blessed function. When a friendship breaks, the good is erased. Only the disappointment is engraved in the memory. In the Diary, I found the friendship with Jean Fanchette intact, in its period of honeymoon” (Diary 7 312).

[Qualifying statement: One of the most consistent questions regarding diary content–especially Nin’s–is whether it should be considered fact. Nin said that her truth was “pyschological” and not literal. Her comments and portraits of characters appearing in her diary are, in part, her creations, something she readily admits. Therefore, when Nin describes a personage, it must be remembered that it is her version–she rarely wrote with the idea of pleasing those populating her diary. This blog is largely based on the diary and therefore anything that is repeated therefrom must be regarded through the lens of how the diary came to be–part of Nin’s intimate thought process, a tool for her survival in a world she often felt unfit for habitation.]

 

Anaïs Nin’s Artistic Associations: Daisy Aldan

During the 1950s, New Yorker Daisy Aldan (1918-2001), poet and renegade publisher, gained notice for her revolutionary translation of enigmatic French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s masterpiece, “Un Coup De Des” (“A Toss of the Dice”), and was the first to open the door to serious study of Mallarmé in the English-speaking world (the translation can be found in To Purify the Words of the Tribe). She founded Tiber Press in 1953, publishing her own work and that of Village poets such as John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, James Schuyler, Storm De Hirch, Charles Olson, and Harriet Zinnes, as well as the artwork of Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchel, Larry Rivers, Robert Motherwell, and Grace Hartigan.  Her Folder Magazine was for years a home to the work of then-unknown artists whose careers in many cases became stellar.

Although a recipient of many awards and Pulitzer Prize nominations, Aldan’s own career never achieved the heights of some who filled Folder Magazine’s pages. To support herself, she worked as a teacher at New York’s prestigious High School of Art and Design, where her presence became an institution; she retired in 1973 to devote herself to her writing. To this day, her former students’ blogs remember her glowingly.

In 1959, Aldan befriended Anaïs Nin, who at that time was a struggling novelist with a small but dedicated following. Aldan and Nin shared bold points of view, and both suffered the trials of self-publishing. Both women had to wage fierce battles to be heard and put into print. Nin noted in her diary, “Daisy is a magnificent poet, of the highest quality, yet she has to publish her poetry herself. Her teacher’s salary goes into that.”

Daisy Aldan and Anaïs Nin collaborated on many projects, including a 1960 reading of “Un Coup De Dés” at the Maison Française in New York, where Nin read the original French, and Aldan read her English translation. The reading was recorded and broadcast on radio. Aldan was also one of Nin’s New York friends who helped her keep her “trapeze life” (her bicoastal relationships with Rupert Pole and Hugh Guiler) from imploding. She often took calls from Rupert Pole (whom Nin told she was staying with Aldan) and explained that Anaïs “had just stepped out” and would have her return the call. She then referred to a card index upon which Nin’s schedule was written, call her with Rupert’s message, and she would then call him back, never missing a beat. According to Aldan, she was but one of many who partook in this very complicated process.

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

Daisy Aldan, 1970s

During the early 1960s, Aldan took over the editorship of poetry for the French/English literary magazine Two Cities which Anaïs Nin had co-edited. Contributors included Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, and Richard Wright. In the meantime, Aldan’s poetry was gaining recognition, and it was during this time (1963) she, through Two Cities Press in Paris, published her first acclaimed volume, The Destruction of Cathedrals and Other Poems (all of which is now included in her Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan), with several more to come. There was never an end to her experimentation in style, whether it was poetic or visual. She worked until her health began to decline in the mid-1990s, still managing to publish the translations Mallarme’s major verse poems in 1998, and her Collected Poems was published less than a year after her death in 2001.

The late Stanley Kunitz, when he was Poet Laureate of the United States, said of Aldan: “The world that engages her imagination lies beyond the ‘merely temporal and physical.’ Like Mallarmé, to whom she has devoted much of her primary and influential work as a translator, her poems evoke an interior landscape of dream and reverie, from which she ‘wakes to the miraculous.’”