Anais Nin is a pretty fascinating lady, and as you all know MrMary has a weakness for the fascinating ladies. Mde Nin was an American author born to Spanish-Cuban parents in France, where she was also raised. She spent some time in Spain and Cuba but lived most of her life in the United States where she became an established author. She published journals (which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death), novels, critical studies, essays, short stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously.
Why I find her interesting is her background and how it is expressed in her writings. MrMary as a reader agrees with Proust in his Contre St Beuve essays but it is still nice tomake connections between an authors life and her writings. [One of Sainte-Beuve’s critical contentions was that, in order to understand an artist and his work, it was necessary to understand that artist’s biography. Marcel Proust took issue with this notion and refuted it in a set of essays, Contre Sainte-Beuve (“Against Sainte-Beuve”)]
She (Nin) was transformed by her therapy with Otto Rank, who broke with Freud over Freud’s failure to appreciate the power of women’s sexuality, the value of art, and the meaning of the mother-child relationship. On her second visit to Rank, Nin reflects on her desire to be “re-born,” feelingly, as a woman and artist. Rank, she observes, helped her move back and forth between what she could verbalize in her journals and what remained unarticulated. She discovered the quality and depth of her feelings in the wordless transitions between what she could say and what she could not say. “As he talked, I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless”.
I thought I would give you a sample of the Preface to her book. I have read a lot of books on human relationships: from Emile Zola and his naturalisme down to Marquis de Sade, von Masoch, Stendhal, Freud, Jung. I could get into it and the technical and stylistic devices employed to touch seemingly taboo subjects other things but I should save that. Suffice it to sat I am not reading this to pound a couple out that’s why private browsing is for on Mozilla 🙂 lol
It is an interesting fact that very few writers have of their own accord sat down to write erotic tales or confessions. Even in France, where it is believed that the erotic has such an important role in life, the writers who did so were driven by necessity, the need of money.
It is one thing to include eroticism in a novel or a story and quite another to focus one’s whole attention on it. The first is like life itself. It is, I might say, natural, sincere, as in the sensual pages of Zola or of Lawrence. But focusing wholly on the sexual life is not natural. It becomes something like the life of the prostitute, an abnormal activity that ends by turning the prostitute away from the sexual. Writers perhaps know this. That is why they have written only one confession or a few stories, on the side, to satisfy their honesty about life, as Mark Twain did.
But what happens to a group of writers who need money so badly that they devote themselves entirely to the erotic? How does this affect their lives, their feelings towards the world, their writing? What effect has it on their sexual life?
Let me explain that I was the mother confessor for such a group. In New York everything becomes harder, more cruel. I had many people to take care of, many problems, and since I was in character very much like George Sand, who wrote all night to take care of her children, lovers, friends, I had to find work. I became what I shall call the Madame of an unusual house of literary prostitution. It was a very artistic ‘maison’, I must say, a one-room studio with skylights, which I painted to look like pagan cathedral windows.
Before I took up my new profession I was known as a poet, as a woman who was independent and wrote only for her own pleasure. Many young writers, poets, came to me. We often collaborated, discussed and shared the work in progress. Varied as they were in character, inclinations, habits and vices, all the writers had one trait in common: they were poor. Desperately poor. Very often my ‘maison’ was turned into a cafeteria where they dropped in, hungry, saying nothing, and we ate Quaker Oats because that was the cheapest thing to make, and it was said to give strength. Most of the erotica was written on empty stomachs. Now, hunger is very good for stimulating the imagination; it does not produce sexual power, and sexual power does not produce unusual adventures. The more hunger, the greater the desires, like those of men in prison, wild and haunting. So we had here a perfect world in which to grow the flower of eroticism.
Of course, if you get too hungry, too continuously, you become a bum, a tramp. Those men who sleep along the East River, in doorways, on the Bowery, they have no sexual life at all, it is said. My writers some of them lived in the Bowery — had not reached that stage yet.
As for me, my real writing was put aside when I set out in search of the erotic…The sexual life is usually enveloped in many layers, for all of us — poets, writers, artists. It is a veiled woman, half-dreamed.