“Real and unmistakable genius”
“A prose/poetry dream, a lyrical celebration of the inner life and the images it evokes.”
Although Anaïs Nin found in her diaries a profound mode of self-creation and confession, she could not reveal this intimate record of her own experiences during her lifetime. Instead, she turned to fiction, where her stories and novels became artistic “distillations” of her secret diaries. A Spy in the House of Love, whose heroine Sabina is deeply divided between her drive for artistic and sexual expression and social restrictions and self-created inhibitions, echoes Nin’s personal struggle with sex, love, and emotional fragmentation. Written when Nin’s own life was taut with conflicting loyalties, her protagonist Sabina repeatedly asks herself, can one idulge one’s sensual restlessness, the fantasies, the relentless need for adventure without devastating consequences?
Anaïs Nin (1903–1977) is an iconic literary figure and one of the most notable experimental writers of the twentieth century. As one of the first women to explore female erotica, Nin revealed the inner desires of her characters in a way that made her works a touchstone for later feminist writers. Swallow Press is the premier US publisher of books by and about Nin.
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Mirages opens at the dawn of World War II, when Anaïs Nin fled Paris, where she lived for fifteen years with her husband, banker Hugh Guiler, and ends in 1947 when she meets the man who would be “the One,” the lover who would satisfy her insatiable hunger for connection. In the middle looms a period Nin describes as “hell,” during which she experiences a kind of erotic madness, a delirium that fuels her search for love.
Anaïs Nin made her reputation through publication of her edited diaries and the carefully constructed persona they presented. It was not until decades later, when the diaries were published in their unexpurgated form, that the world began to learn the full details of Nin’s fascinating life and the emotional and literary high-wire acts she committed both in documenting it and in defying the mores of 1950s America.
Although Under a Glass Bell is now considered one of Anaïs Nin’s finest collections of stories, it was initially deemed unpublishable. Refusing to give up on her vision, in 1944 Nin founded her own press and brought out the first edition, illustrated with striking black-and-white engravings by her husband, Hugh Guiler. Shortly thereafter, it caught the attention of literary critic Edmund Wilson, who reviewed the collection in the New Yorker.
“The genesis of House of Incest was in the dream. The keeping of dreams was an important part of that exploration of the unconscious. But I discovered dreams in themselves, isolated, were not always interesting. Very few of them had the complete imagery and tension to arouse others’ interest. They were fragmented. The surrealists delighted in the image themselves. This was satisfying to the painters and to the film-makers.