Friday, September 2, 2016

Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin in Montparnasse: A Walk

This season I will be introducing an entirely new walk that explores the intellectual and sensual connection between two writers in Paris through the places in Montparnasse where their relationship and writings blossomed. To tantalize your interest I am sharing two places and stories from this walk that illuminate facets of these authors’ lives in Paris.

To take this walk and learn the whole story, or explore other tours, please view my schedules page.

Nin on the Rue Schoelcher
From 1925 to 1928, Anaïs Nin lived in the complex of artists’ studios at No. 11 bis,rue Schoelcher along the eastern wall of the Montparnasse Cemetery, a studio complex where Simone de Beauvoir later lived.  Then in her mid-twenties, Nin had come from New York to Paris because her American husband Hugh had been posted to France by his New York bank.  The young couple occupied one studio, her Danish mother another. Nin was born in Neuilly, but her mother took her to New York at eleven and raised her there after her father, the Cuban-born musician Joachim Nin, abandoned the family. The sensuality of Paris repelled Nin at first, but in December 1926, she wrote in her diary, “I shall try to turn my hate of Paris into writing and make it harmless.” She started with close observation of the Lost Generation crowd at the Café Dôme. One year later she was able to write, “I faced and accepted Paris as a test of my courage.”

Miller and Nin at the Hôtel Central
Thanks to freelance work as a copy editor at the Chicago Tribune, lined up by his friend Alfred Perlès (Carl in Tropic of Cancer), Miller was able to stay at the Hôtel Central at No. 1 bis rue du Maine, just off from the saucy rue de la Gaité, several times during his crucial year of 1931–1932.  He began writing Tropic of Cancer in August 1931.  That fall his friend Richard Osborn (Fillmore in the book) introduced him to Anaïs Nin and her husband Hugh at their home in Louveciennes outside of Paris.  Miller’s intellectual exuberance electrified her, and a passionate literary friendship began, with both of them channeling their erotic attraction into delight in each other’s ideas and work.  For five months they avoided any mention of sex, afraid it could undermine their connection. To complicate matters further, Nin was attracted to Miller’s bisexual wife, June, who made a brief appearance in Paris that winter. But desire eventually got the better of them. On March 6, 1932, Nin joined Miller in Room 401. She did not regret having her “tight secrecy . . . broken for a moment by a man who calls himself ‘the last man on earth.’”

In The Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931–1934, she wrote:
After our first encounter I breathed some notes, accents of recognition, human admissions. Henry was stunned, and I was breathing off the unbearable, willing joy. But the second time, there were no words. My joy was impalpable and terrifying. It swelled within me as I walked the streets.
The sexual excitement brought into her life by Henry and June engendered a new fire in the writing of her diary.  For Miller, who wanted to marry her, she was the only woman he ever loved completely.

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