As far back as I care to remember, I have been wildly in love with the love between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.
Not only do I adore them both separately for the unique imprint of literature they have left on the world, I have also been passionately penetrated by the intimately powerful, sensual and erotic love that they shared between one another.
“You arouse in me such a mixture of feelings. I don’t know how to approach you. Only come to me – get closer and closer to me. It will be beautiful. I promise you.” ~ Henry Miller
When I read or remember anything of their love, I am at once compelled to tear my heart open a little further with a single blunt shard of glass, so that I too can feel the exquisite bitter sweet sensation of painful bliss that was both blessed and cursed upon them.
Of all the letters they wrote, these are the two I treasure most:
From Anaïs to Henry: 6 August 1932
I was so upset by your letter this morning. When it was given to me all the artificially pent-up feelings overwhelmed me. The very touch of the letter was as if you had taken me all into your arms. You know now what I felt when I read it. You said everything that would touch and win me and I was moist, and so impatient that I am doing everything to gain a day. This note I’m enclosing, which I wrote you last night two hours after mailing my letter, will help you to understand what is happening. Anyway, you must have received the telegram almost at the same time. I belong to you! We’re going to have a week such as we never dreamt yet. “The thermometer will burst.”
I want to feel again the violent thumping inside of me, the rushing, burning blood, the slow, caressing rhythm and the sudden violent pushing, the frenzy of pauses when I hear the raindrop sounds… how it leaps in my mouth, Henry. Oh, Henry, I can’t bear to be writing you—I want you desperately, I want to open my legs so wide, I’m melting and palpitating. I want to do things so wild with you that I don’t know how to say them.
From Henry to Anaïs: 14 August 1932
Don’t expect me to be sane anymore. Don’t let’s be sensible. It was a marriage at Louveciennes—you can’t dispute it. I came away with pieces of you sticking to me; I am walking about, swimming, in an ocean of blood, your Andalusian blood, distilled and poisonous. Everything I do and say and think relates back to the marriage. I saw you as the mistress of your home, a Moor with a heavy face, a negress with a white body, eyes all over your skin, woman, woman, woman. I can’t see how I can go on living away from you—these intermissions are death. How did it seem to you when Hugo came back? Was I still there? I can’t picture you moving about with him as you did with me. Legs closed. Frailty. Sweet, treacherous acquiescence. Bird docility. You became a woman with me. I was almost terrified by it. You are not just thirty years old—you are a thousand years old.
Here I am back and still smoldering with passion, like wine smoking. Not a passion any longer for flesh, but a complete hunger for you, a devouring hunger. I read the paper about suicides and murders and I understand it all thoroughly. I feel murderous, suicidal. I feel somehow that it is a disgrace to do nothing, to just bide one’s time, to take it philosophically, to be sensible. Where has gone the time when men fought, killed, died for a glove, a glance, etc? (A victrola is playing that terrible aria from Madama Butterfly—”Some day he’ll come!”)
I still hear you singing in the kitchen—a sort of inharmonic, monotonous Cuban wail. I know you’re happy in the kitchen and the meal you’re cooking is the best meal we ever ate together. I know you would scald yourself and not complain. I feel the greatest peace and joy sitting in the dining room listening to you rustling about, your dress like the goddess Indra studded with a thousand eyes.
Anaïs, I only thought I loved you before; it was nothing like this certainty that’s in me now. Was all this so wonderful only because it was brief and stolen? Were we acting for each other, to each other? Was I less I, or more I, and you less or more you? Is it madness to believe that this could go on? When and where would the drab moments begin? I study you so much to discover the possible flaws, the weak points, the danger zones. I don’t find them—not any. That means I am in love, blind, blind. To be blind forever! (Now they’re singing “Heaven and Ocean” from La Gioconda.)
I picture you playing the records over and over—Hugo’s records. “Parlez moi d amour.” The double life, double taste, double joy and misery. How you must be furrowed and ploughed by it. I know all that, but I can’t do anything to prevent it. I wish indeed it were me who had to endure it. I know now your eyes are wide open. Certain things you will never believe anymore, certain gestures you will never repeat, certain sorrows, misgivings, you will never again experience. A kind of white criminal fervor in your tenderness and cruelty. Neither remorse nor vengeance, neither sorrow nor guilt. A living it out, with nothing to save you from the abysm but a high hope, a faith, a joy that you tasted, that you can repeat when you will.
All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start, seeing not just another book before me but a life of books. But I don’t begin. The walls are completely bare—I had taken everything down before going to meet you. It is as though I had made ready to leave for good. The spots on the walls stand out—where our heads rested. While it thunders and lightnings I lie on the bed and go through wild dreams. We’re in Seville and then in Fez and then in Capri and then in Havana. We’re journeying constantly, but there is always a machine and books, and your body is always close to me and the look in your eyes never changes. People are saying we will be miserable, we will regret, but we are happy, we are laughing always, we are singing. We are talking Spanish and French and Arabic and Turkish. We are admitted everywhere and they strew our path with flowers.
I say this is a wild dream—but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon’s soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before—consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience.
Oh, if only the world’s words were still written in handwritten love notes like these.
A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953
An Open Letter to Anaïs Nin.
Fifty Shades of Anaïs Nin.
Author: Alex Sandra Myles
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
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