Then a great lady dressed in black velvet and wearing a belt of diamonds or some shiny material came into the room. First she went to the grand piano in the corner and played, a long melody that was so sad it seems to me I cried, or at least I felt sad. When she had finished, she went to a large easel, took a brush and began to paint on very dark wood. In the distance the sky was pale blue. She painted gently and in a moment had finished. Then she went to a big desk, took a pen and a big book with white pages, and first looking at me with her big blue eyes, then at the sky, she slowly began to write and she wrote pages and pages. I could see that they were long beautiful poems full of charm, tenderness and sweetness. Oh, I couldn’t read them, but they seemed to me to be very beautiful. Finally she shut the book gently, laid down her pen, and came silently toward me. Then I heard her say, Choose.
Oh, how I hesitated. First I remembered the beautiful melody she played on the piano, then suddenly I turned toward the easel, with the beautiful painting where I could describe all the lovely and charming landscapes, all the beauty of nature. But quickly I turned toward the big desk covered with books, an invisible force pulled me toward it, without even trying my hand took up the pen. Then the great lady smiled, came closer and gave me the big book, saying, Write, I shall guide you. Without any trouble I wrote some things that I think were very beautiful, for the lady pointed to a place where venerable bearded old men and also queens and beautiful ladies were seated in great armchairs, writing endlessly. If they raised their eyes, it was to question nature, the horizon, infinity. Your place is there, she said to me.
As soon as she left, I gently let go of my book and my pen and went to the piano. I wanted to try it and at first my fingers moved very well, I liked what I was playing, but suddenly I stopped, I couldn’t remember any more. So looking sadly at the piano, I said to myself, I can’t play. I tried to paint and was doing a beautiful landscape, but I stopped and instead of paint, there was a lot of heavy daubing on my canvas, so I said, Adieu, I don’t want you. Then I picked up my pen and began to write without stopping.” —
Anaïs Nin, Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1914-1920
ANAIS NIN BY R.S. BUTLER
Anais Nin was born February 21, 1903 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, France and died January 14,1977 in Los Angeles, California. She moved to the United States in 1914 with her mother, singer Rosa Culmell and two brothers, Thorvald and Joaquin. Her father was Joaquin Nin, a Spanish pianist and composer, who abandoned the family after leaving his family at various intervals in his career to tour Europe and Cuba, when Nin was eleven. Shortly afterward, on the boat Monserrat, Nin began her childhood diary, “Linotte”, written as an extended letter to her papa.
Anais wanted to be an artist from the very moment she could speak. She loved books, stories, artists, musicians, fine music, good food, and grew accustomed to being surrounded by the sounds of late night bohemian laughter from her parents dinner parties heard from the downstairs parlor before the two were separated. Anais was a model for her father’s early photographs at this time and used to steal into his study when he was away and read all his books voraciously. She was seriously ill as a child and nearly died twice from various internal organ afflictions. If not for a kind Belgian couple and the care of three Belgian nurses, Ana’s Nin might never have made the impact on literature and the feminist movement that she did later on in life, from her work spanning her Diaries written in the the tumultuous 30’s to her eventual critical success in the socially aware 60’s and 70’s.
In New York, Ana’s loved writing in her diary, dreaming, philosophizing, and recording her thoughts and reflections as she grew into a beautiful young woman with grand dreams and a host of insecurities. She wrote about her ideal “shadow”, a muse, her “prince that will come one day”, and about her many concieved shortcomings. She had an active imagination and preferred rainy days of reading curled up with a wonderful book or her diary at the little windowsill seat - and she loved to dance and had a connection to nature heavily influenced by poets like Byron, Blake and the New England Transcendentalists. Her Catholic faith wavered in and out due to philosophical doubts about the meaning of life and suffering, caused by her anguish over her beloved war torn France and the deep rift felt inside her since being uprooted. “I envy those who never leave their native land.” she wrote in Linotte, “No one but God knows my bitter sorrow. My dreams are always about Papa. He comes back, I kiss him, he presses me to his heart. That moment is sweet, but afterward sadness comes again with the truth and my heart weeps and weeps again.” Her father had let them all down, especially Anaos, and she felt abandoned and unloved in the most important of ways for a child. Gradually her idealized image of him began to fade, though she would have a lifelong fixation on him explored in her writing -and in her myriad of sexual and romantic unions. She was consumed by a tireless examination of her search for the ideal father figure in many of her lovers discussed in psychoanalysis.
After living in New York for nine years, at twenty Anais married Hugh Guiler (later known as engravist and filmaker of “Bells of Atlantis” and “Jazz of lights” Ian Hugo), a banker in the twenties and thirties, and moved back to Paris with him. Nin began writing short stories (later published as Waste of Timelessness) with publication in mind, but felt torn between her duties as a conservative banker’s wife and her desire for artistic expression. Nevertheless, it was around this time that Nin published her first work, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study (1932), which was well-recieved.
Then she met self proclaimed gangster-poet Henry Miller, a struggling Brooklyn writer in Paris, through her lawyer. Miller and especially his wife, the mythic June Mansfield Miller, enchanted Anais by their ‘hard’ bohemian living and their associations with the creme de la creme of Paris’ underbelly (including actor and creator of theatre de cruelte, Antonin Artaud). “Henry came to Louveciennes with June.” she writes about her first meeting with June in the unexpurgated diary Henry and June, “As June walked towards me from the darkness of the garden into the light of the door, I saw for the first time the most beautiful woman on earth. A startlingly white face, burning dark eyes, a face so alive I felt it would consume itself before my eyes. Years ago I tried to imagine a true beauty; I created in my mind an image of just such a woman. I had never seen her until last night. Yet I knew long ago the phosphorescent color of her skin, her huntress profile, the evenness of her teeth. She is bizarre, fantastic, nervous, like someone in a high fever. Her beauty drowned me. As I sat before her, I felt I would do anything she asked of me. Henry suddenly faded. She was color and brilliance and strangeness.”
Anais felt that becoming aquainted with members of Montparnasse’s underworld of prostitutes, thieves and drug addicts was going to liberate not only her writing but her sexuality and her mind. Nin began examining her ‘suburban’ existence more closely and felt she had to reconcile her life as an artist with her bouts of depression and feelings of isolation tucked away in the beautiful prison house of Louveciennes. To resolve her inner turmoil between her married ‘proper’ life and her burgeoning bohemian tastes, her cousin Eduardo recommended she enter therapy with the prominent Parisian psychoanalyst Rene Allendy. This later led to analyzation and tutorship with former Freud disciple, Otto Rank (Art and Artist). Eventually, Nin studied under Rank, working in his practice in New York City in the mid to late 1930s.
She also became deeply influenced by writers like Lawrence, Proust, and in particular Djuna Barnes’ novel Nightwood. Nin channelled her evolving psycho-sexual impressions of the vicious circle/love triangle between her, Henry and June into the surrealistic prose-poem House of Incest and in her Diaries. She also worked along her compatriates on a dollar a page erotica, later the poetic, emotive bestselling Delta of Venus and Little Birds.
In the mid-to-late 1930s, Nin, Miller, Lawrence Durell and other writers in the Villa Seurat circle who experienced difficulty finding publishers founded Siana Editions (Anais spelled backwards!) to publish their own works. Nin in particular could find no one to publish House of Incest (1936) or Winter of Artifice. In 1939 these books were well-received in Europe. However, when Anais eventually moved back to New York City in 1939 with her husband, she found American publishers and the average reading public closed off to her work. Miller achieved critical and commercial success decades before Nin, despite her initial efforts to edit, support and publish him along with her own work. After several years of trying to place her works with American publishers, Nin bought a second-hand printing press with a loan from Bookseller and founder of New York’s famed Gotham Book Mart and with the help of Anais’ latest paramour, Peruvian political activist Gonzalo More, she began to typeset and print her own books. Nin’s work eventually caught the attention of critic Edmund Wilson, who praised her writing and helped her on the road to obtaining an American publisher.
It was Nin’s Diary, however, that brought her the greatest success and critical acceptance that she was to recieve. Nin never intended the two hundred manuscript volumes for publication, and many, including Miller, Rank, Alfred Perles, Durrel and Allendy, tried to convince Anais that her obsessive diary writing was destroying her chance at writing the great American novel. However Nin decided she had to “go her own way, the woman’s way” and continue her li felong odyssey of self exploration and reflection through the Diaries. To reconcile fiction and fact Nin eventually began rewriting diary entries into her fiction and vice versa, protecting those who wanted to maintain their privacy (usually lovers) while still writing in her preferred medium.
Nin was involved in the some of the most interesting literary and artistic movements of the 20th century including the outskirts of Paris’ 1920’s Lost Generation, the psychoanalytic and surrealist movements of the 30s and 40s, the Beat movement of the 50’s in Greenwich Village, the avant garde crowd in 60’s California and the women’s movement of the 70’s. She maintained relationships (and kept two bi-coastal “husbands” in the later part of her life) with many vital artists and writers over her lifespan and was in great demand as a lecturer at universities across the United States until she died of cancer in 1977.
Submitted by: champagne
Anaïs, I don’t know how to tell you what I feel. I live in perpetual expectancy. You come and the time slips away in a dream. It is only when you go that I realize completely your presence. And then it is too late. You numb me. […] This is a little drunken, Anaïs. I am saying to myself “here is the first woman with whom I can be absolutely sincere.” I remember your saying -“you could fool me. I wouldn’t know it.” When I walk along the boulevards and think of that. I can’t fool you - and yet I would like to. I mean that I can never be absolutely loyal - it’s not in me. I love women, or life, too much - which it is, I don’t know. But laugh, Anaïs, I love to hear you laugh. You are the only woman who has a sense of gaiety, a wise tolerance - no more, you seem to urge me to betray you. I love you for that.
I don’t know what to expect of you, but it is something in the way of a miracle. I am going to demand everything of you - even the impossible, because you encourage it. You are really strong. I even like your deceit, your treachery. It seems aristocratic to me.” —Henry Miller, A Literate Passion (via sea-chelle)
I couldn’t leave the Midwest Antiquarian Book Fair empty handed… Here is a pic of my newly purchased copy of Anais Nin’s “Paris Revisited” hand-bound chapbook. Limited edition (no. 237 of 250 copies), signed by the author. 1st Edition, published 1972.
She is bizarre, fantastic, nervous, like someone in a high fever. Her beauty drowned me. As I sat before her, I felt I would do anything she asked of me. Henry suddenly faded. She was color and brilliance and strangeness. By the end of the evening I had extricated myself from her power. She killed my admiration by her talk. Her talk. The enormous ego, false, weak, posturing. She lacks the courage of her personality, which is sensual, heavy with experience. Her role alone preoccupies her. She invents dramas in which she always stars. I am sure she creates genuine dramas, genuine chaos and whirlpools of feelings, but I feel that her share in it is a pose. That night, in spite of my response to her, she sought to be whatever she felt I wanted her to be. She is an actress every moment. I cannot grasp the core of June. Everything Henry has said about her is true.
I wanted to run out and kiss her fantastic beauty and say: “June, you have killed my sincerity too. I will never know again who I am, what I am, what I love, what I want. Your beauty has drowned me, the core of me. You carry away with you a part of me reflected in you. When your beauty struck me, it dissolved me. Deep down, I am not different from you. I dreamed you, I wished for your existence. You are the woman I want to be. I see in you that part of me which is you. I feel compassion for your childlike pride, for your trembling unsureness, your dramatization of events, your enhancing of the loves given to you. I surrender my sincerity because if I love you it means we share the same fantasies, the same madnesses.”” —Anaïs Nin (via onceuponapoet)
Winter of Artifice: Three Novelettes
She was a child carrying a very old soul and burdened with it, and wishing to deposit it in some great and passionate role. In Joan of Arc, or Marie Bashkirtseff… or Rejane, or Eleonora Duse.
There are those who disguise themselves, like Stella’s father, who disguised himself and acted what he was not. But Stella only wanted to transform and enlarge herself and wanted to act only what she felt she was, or could be. And Hollywood would not let her. Hollywood had its sizes and standards of characters. One could not transgress certain limited standard sizes.” —
Winter of Artifice: Three Novelettes
Stella! he always cried out as he entered, enveloping her in the fervor of his voice.
Stella! he repeated, to express how she filled his being and overflowed within him, to fill the room with this name which filled him.
He had a way of saying it which was like crowning her the favorite.” —
Winter of Artifice: Three Novelettes