Archive for the 'The Winter of Artifice' Category

One Hundred Biographers: Why does a diarist need even one?

March 19, 2009

Anaïs Nin wrote, “There was once a woman who had one hundred faces. She showed one face to each person, and so it took one hundred men to write her biography.

 

During her lifetime, Anaïs Nin dodged questions that aimed to pin her down, to reveal the details of her life (or lives lived simultaneously). She was vehement about keeping things private, as strange as it sounds considering her life was the source of material for nearly all of her writing. But what was it that she actually presented in her books? She began chronicling her life with her fiction, which was, as she put it, a “distillation” of events that were recorded in her diary (and the diary was often a distillation in itself). Characters were largely based on herself and those in her circle, such as Henry Miller (Hans in “Djuna” from The Winter of Artifice and Jay in later fiction), June Miller (Johanna in “Djuna” and Sabina in The House of Incest and later fiction), Gonzalo More (Rango in “Hilda and Rango” from Little Birds). Yet she often denied her characters were based on real people, caught in a strange predicament: writing out her life but trying to keep it secret. She was often quoted as saying that her motivation for secrecy was to protect the innocent, those who would be hurt should the nature of her many relationships (especially sexual) be exposed.

 

The publication of Nin’s diaries was a discombobulated process from the very start. First, they had to be “cleaned” of any direct references to her love life, names had to be changed, and entire passages had to be removed if they referred to someone who did not wish to appear in the diary (her husband, Hugh Guiler, for example). The result, then, is not what is popularly perceived as a true “diary.” When one sees the term “diary,” one is conditioned to think “facts,” “dates,” “chronological events,” and “names.” Gunther Stuhlmann, in the introduction to Diary 1 (1931-1934), which was published in 1966 when Nin was 63 years old, expertly states what this “diary” actually is—a “psychological” truth. Apparently, too few people read the introduction and therefore tried to impose a literal truth on writing that was often not. After the 7 volumes of the Diary (which covered the years 1931 to 1974) came the problem of releasing what had been cut out, and what came before it. The childhood and young adult diaries (1914-1931) were released in a more complete form—the editing was not radical; in fact it was marginal. But beginning with the Miller years, Nin’s life had turned about face and became highly sensual, sexual, and consequently deceptive. Suddenly there were numerous affairs (including one with her estranged father), lies to her husband and her lovers, a late-term abortion, betrayals to those who loved her. So a new set of diaries, the so-called Journal of Love series, was released, beginning with Henry and June, after the death of Guiler in 1985.

 

These “unexpurgated” diaries, especially the second, Incest, caused open rebellion among many of those who’d befriended Nin, or who admired her, because they all felt betrayed—they thought they knew the woman with “one hundred faces.” In 1994, at the Nin conference at Long Island University, Joaquín Nin-Culmell famously walked up to the “friends” table and exclaimed: “You did not know my sister!” in rebuttal to what he considered their “delusion.” A few years later, I had lunch with a group of women who’d known Nin (albeit marginally), and none of them could bring themselves to believe that their beloved Anaïs, the kind and generous woman they knew, was capable of the deeds which appeared in Incest (the father relationship, the abortion). There were those who felt that these events were exploited (if not fabricated) by Rupert Pole (Nin’s California husband and executor) and Gunther Stuhlmann to make a quick buck. In short, after the first two volumes of the Journal of Love were released, there were many bitter and disillusioned people walking around, and the need for someone to sort out the actual facts of Anaïs Nin’s life was apparent. But was it possible? Since then, two biographies (Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin, by Noel Riley Fitch [1993], and Anaïs Nin: A Biography, by Dierdre Bair [1995]) have been published, but do either give us the whole picture?

 

Coming soon: an analysis of what has been written so far.

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Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day

February 18, 2009

Myth #4: Anaïs Nin was fluent in three languages: French, Spanish, and English.

Fact: When Anaïs Nin’s father, Joaquín Nin, abandoned his family in Arachon, France, in 1913, she, her mother and her two younger brothers went to Barcelona and stayed with Joaquín’s parents. During the year or so they spent in Spain, Anaïs learned her Spanish. When the fatherless family arrived in New York in 1914, French was the spoken language at home. Although Anaïs’s mother, Rosa, was fluent in English (as well as Spanish and French), she had determined the family’s “mother tongue” was French. Her philosophy was that since her children would learn English soon enough in school and in their social interactions, and that Spanish would be spoken with their Cuban relatives, the only way to keep the French alive was to speak it exclusively at home. When Anaïs began her diary on the trip to America, it was in French.

Although her English was improving over the next few years, Nin continued her diary writing in French, partly because she longed to retain her identity, and partly because she intended the diary as a long “letter” to her estranged father, who did not know English. As her English grew, her French withered. Her father chastised her for her misuse of words and accent marks, leading Anaïs to close one of her letters with all the accent marks at the end: “Put them where they belong,” she told him. Sometimes Anaïs would transcribe letters to English-speaking friends into her diary, and it was clear that she was better able to express herself with English. She began reading the English-language classics, and by 1920 had switched her diary to English. Her English was by far a better vehicle for her self-expression, but was still a work-in-progress, and would be for years to come.

As Anaïs began to attempt to write fiction in English after returning to Paris in 1925, her young husband, Hugh Guiler, in the name of helping her, criticized her incorrect (as he saw it) use of words, or the use of words that were considered archaic or odd. Later on, Henry Miller would do much the same (see Myth #2).

Consider this passage Miller corrects from “Djuna” in The Winter of Artifice (sometime in the mid-1930s):

“Are you afriad to forget your name and who you are, and where you live? Have you not played with the idea of amnesia, which only meens a somanabulistic condition of the ideal self. The conscince goes to sleep and then the critical self too, and you can walk the streets and act as you please without calms.”

Miller blasts her misspellings, and when he criticizes her use of “calms” for “qualms” he says: “Look it up!!!” He adds: “Bad sentence structure” and “Watch all your ‘ands,’ ‘buts,’ etc. Weakly used!” (See Benjamin Franklin V’s introduction to The Winter of Artifice: a facsimile of the original 1939 Paris edition.)

At times, Nin felt hopeless—she had Guiler and Miller criticizing her English, and she admitted to Miller that writing in French to her father was “like trying to create a river with twigs” (see “Prelude to a Symphony: letters between a father and daughter,” A Café in Space, Vol. 6). Her Spanish at this time was almost non-existent…her father occasionally wrote to her in Spanish, but Anaïs did not respond in kind.

As Nin developed artistically through these trials by fire, her writing became stronger, more economic, and possessed an exotically distinct quality. It is often described as “English written in the French style.” There is no question that Anaïs Nin became one of the most eloquent writers in the English language, and to this day one of the most oft-quoted…but during the transitions between her three languages, arguably caused by her constant resettling, she was fluent in none of them.

Anaïs Nin Myth of the Day

February 10, 2009

Thanks to Kim for the following:

 
Myth #2: “Anaïs Nin was a success because of Henry Miller. He taught her to write and she used him. If it wasn’t for him she would’ve been completely unknown.”

Fact:

Miller's notes in Nin's "Djuna"

Miller's notes in Nin's "Djuna"

pg523

From The Winter of Artifice

Henry Miller did indeed have a positive effect on Nin’s early fiction writing. The example above is a page from one of the working drafts of the story “Djuna” from The Winter of Artifice (1939) and the final product. Miller’s handwritten suggestions and deletions make it into the published version of the story. The paragraph beginning with “Here are my dreams for the month…” is verbatim from Miller’s notes. Examples like this are found throughout this and other versions of the manuscript. So there is little question that Miller not only gave Nin advice on her writing, she willingly accepted and incorporated it.

However, to indicate that Miller was responsible for Nin’s success is as flawed as saying she was responsible for his. They influenced each other. Miller’s Scenario, for example, is what many consider a poor rendering of Nin’s House of Incest, which was evidently, according to most critics and Nin herself, misunderstood by Miller. While Miller criticized Nin’s use of the English language (it was her third language, after French and Spanish, respectively), and sometimes rightfully so, Nin criticized Miller’s uni-dimensionality in his writing, most notably his tunnel-view, and therefore miscomprehension, of his own wife, June. While Nin was able to use Miller’s criticisms to her advantage, Miller was not as willing to use hers, which is most likely to his detriment (consider the flatness of the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy compared to the Paris books, for example). He certainly, however, was willing to use Nin’s resources to make it possible for him to write while in relative comfort.

Throughout the Nin-Miller relationship, the diary swelled with accounts of her tumultuous life, written freely and beautifully, without the restraints of what she called “literature.” History has shown us that the diary is her masterpiece, not the fiction, not the “literature.”

 

A side note: it was serendipitous that Miller’s Tropic of Cancer came out in the early 60s, followed by his Letters to Anaïs Nin in 1965. Nin’s Diary came out the following year, and there is little doubt that Nin’s agent Gunther Stuhlmann envisioned the letters, which he edited, as a segue to the Diary. So does that mean that Nin used Miller to gain success? No, it meant that while Stuhlmann was intelligent and crafty enough to let momentum build towards the release of the Diary—Miller, after all, was inherently linked to Nin whether or not anyone planned it—the time was right, the popular culture was right, the level of openness was right for both Nin and Miller’s books to be released, read, and lauded for the magnificent works they were.

Anais Nin’s doctored copy of The Winter of Artifice

January 12, 2009
Image of the rediscovered The Winter of Artifice
This copy of the original Obelisk Press (Paris, 1939) edition of ‘The Winter of Artifice‘ was literally cut up by Anais Nin in New York after fleeing Paris at the onset of war. Because the Obelisk Press version was banned in America, Nin had no choice but to cut out the parts of the book the censors found intolerable. That meant the story “Djuna,” which was the fictionalized version of Henry and June, was totally cut out, and good portions of the other 2 stories (“Lillith,” which became the story “Winter of Artifice,” and “The Voice”) were heavily edited of all offensive passages. The result was the Gemor Press version of Winter of Artifice (1942), which was privately published in America. Not until 2007, when Sky Blue Press brought out a facsimile of the Obelisk Press edition, has the original version been in print.