Now I’m more than a little late with this tribute…I’ve recently started a new job and am shortly moving house (sadly not with Mr Minx – he has yet to materialise, but I’m working on it!) But late or not, I am not missing the chance to celebrate one of the best erotic writers the twentieth century ever saw.
Today we’ll be talking about Anais Nin.
There has been a lot of flap and fuss in the last 2 or 3 years because of 50 Shades of Grey. Mummy porn has become big business, and all of a sudden erotica is in, and is seen to be very cutting edge and daring.
I’m torn between the happy joy I feel about erotic and sex being more widely accepted, and my lack of ability to get past the first chapter of 50 Shades, as it’s so bloody awful. I can’t really comment until I’ve read the whole thing – I stuttered with Dickens on first reading, so I will persevere, but that’s for another blog.
But the point is, erotica is nothing new, and far from being modern and shocking, it was already a well established genre, when Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell was born on 21st February 1903. Born to Spanish-Cuban parents, she was raised in France, spent time in Cuba and Spain, but lived most of her life in America, where she became a well established author, although a great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus, was published posthumously.
Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in the modern West to write erotica. Before her, erotica written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin.
According to her diaries, she came across erotica when she returned to Paris in her late teens. “One by one, I read these books, which were completely new to me. I had never read erotic literature in America… They overwhelmed me. I was innocent before I read them, but by the time I had read them all, there was nothing I did not know about sexual exploits… I had my degree in erotic lore.”
Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, including Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, James Leo Herlihy, and Lawrence Durrell. Her passionate love affair and friendship with Miller strongly influenced her both as a woman and an author.
She started writing erotica when desperate for money for a private collector, for something like a dollar a page, and considered the characters to be an extreme, never intending the work to be published, but she changed her mind in the early 1970s.
She is perhaps best remembered as a diarist. Her journals, of which 15 have been published, which span several decades, provide a deeply personal insight into her personal life, and relationships.
I first came across her when skimming through some old books in a second hand shop – probably in Hay-on-Wye as that fair town of ink and ideas a large contributor to my erotica collection. I’ve already said how I was introduced to the genre through laughably cartoonish romances, that had poor, cookie cutter sex, plastic characters and no real class.
This just floored me.
Writing about sex had either been instructional, saucy, or vaguely titillating. This was creative, elegant and beautiful, not least because it was raw and real. I began this blog with a vague idea of representing sex from all angles, and it gives me great pleasure to leave you with a quote from Delta of Venus, that goes above and beyond anything I could want to say about my chosen topic. I only hope one day to reach such incredible heights of writing.
“Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.”