From Book 3: The Sins of Nin, Part Two

Again, I use the diary of Anais Nin as a resource because I think it accurate about events, but not interpretations.

            Franz, for his part, came to the supper table at night irritated at the French attitude toward money. “I’m sick of their peasant thrift,” he grumbled. “All these hard-headed villagers are flocking to Paris and bringing their assumptions with them. No one wants to invest. Nobody trusts banks. Guiler is practically pulling out his hair.”

            I couldn’t help provoking him. “Would you prefer that they follow the example of my ‘spendthrift’ friends?”

            “But that’s what people are doing!” he lashed out. “On a national level, that is. France borrows from Britain and the U.S. like there’s no next year. And everyone thinks that’s just fine because they’re counting on Germany to pay its war indemnities. And of course they’re going to pay it, right? After all, it’s only an astronomical sum, and the German people are only starving to death! The working classes, anyway,” he added.

            “But people are investing. The French economy is booming.”

            “American-style companies are investing, yes,” Franz replied. “The average Frenchman isn’t. And when Germany reneges on its debt—and believe me, sooner or later she’s going to—there’ll be trouble. It’ll have repercussions not only here, but all over Europe.”

            “I want Germany to default,” I argued.

            Franz sighed. “So do I, Geoff. That’s the problem. Deep down, so do I.”

            Without Justine, my rudder swung erratically. I was lonely, though not necessarily for her; I was lonely for others without her, for now I saw how much of my social life revolved around her. And now that she was gone, I found myself alone. Not that I didn’t have friends, but the friends that Justine and I had joined as a couple—Desnos and Youki, Morise and Simone, Artaud before this dalliance with Nin—were less available to me now that I was single. Desnos, of course, remained my friend, but it was harder for him to get away and just hang out with me, and marriage led him to other interests. And Louis, who was alone, was often busy. Sometimes I met Sonia Mossé at a café, but then she was visiting England for a few weeks. I had no one to talk to.

Finally I could stand it no longer, and tapped at Louis’s door. He wasn’t home. Back at my place, I checked the mailbox—no letter from Justine. Desnos, I knew, had his radio spot in two hours; he wouldn’t be home. I walked to Artaud’s flat.

            Even before I knocked, I could hear sounds through the door: whispering, heavy breaths, a woman’s voice, the rustle of sheets. I stood rooted on the spot, straining to hear what was going on, hating myself, and especially hating her. Then there was a protest of springs, and I heard him say with deep pain: “Go away!”

            There was absolute silence from inside for a moment. “Go away,” Artaud said again, but softly, sorrowfully. And then I heard the voice of Anaïs Nin: “No, I won’t go away. Why should I?” Her answer was very gentle.

            “Go away now or later, it doesn’t matter. You’ll come to hate me sometime. I take too many drugs.”

            I ducked down the hall into the shadows and waited, but she didn’t come out. After about five minutes I approached the door again and pressed my ear to it. I heard a creak of springs. When Artaud grunted out loud, I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against the door. Why did he keep making the same mistake again and again? She was married. Married! But it wasn’t just for him that I felt outrage; it was for myself.

            “It isn’t you,” Artaud said finally in a sad voice, “it isn’t you at all. It’s the opium. It makes me unable, at times, to—”

            “I am absolutely satisfied, Artaud,” said Nin. She called him Artaud. “This isn’t important. Gestures mean nothing. I know your feelings for me.”

            “But sex is so important to everyone, especially women.”

            “Not to me.”

            Oh, not important! I wanted to laugh. Sex was not important to her—that was why she initiated it with everyone or almost everyone, with her psychoanalyst, with her cousin, even with me when she mistook me for someone else. This meeting of minds, this mingling of essences—my friend wanted that but she thought Artaud’s pain beautiful, poetic, a drug in itself, the stuff of literature. She was so full of literature she fucked it. She fucked herself via other people, and she fucked other people to feed her journal.

            “You don’t have the same reactions as other women,” I heard Artaud say.

            In disgust I turned away and headed down the stairs. Of course every woman that he loved or thought he loved had to be brilliant, absolutely unique. Every one of them had to soar above all the others in order to be worthy of him. He turned this self-obsessed trollop who masturbated with a pen and paper into a goddess, because he could never be another deceived fool who tumbled into bed with sluts like Desnos!

            From the street I looked up at Artaud’s window and saw him push aside the curtain and look out. I hoped he would see me but he just stood there, lost in his unreal life and in this latest dalliance of his that I knew would end in disaster—for him, but not for her.

            I didn’t see Artaud again for two weeks. The summer was ending, September was close, and the evenings turned cooler. I felt cold and alone in my bed at night, missing the warm press of Justine’s skin against mine. It was getting late for a trip to Vienna. Early autumn was a good time to go, actually the optimum time because it was after the tourist season, but if Artaud didn’t send me word soon, we would miss what remained of the good weather and run into rain.

            When I learned Nin had left for Nice to visit her father, I knocked at Artaud’s door without knowing if he was home, and he let me in. I stood at the foot of his bed, knowing something was wrong. He looked angry. His clothes were neat and not one hair was out of place, but his eyes blazed and I felt he’d just had a terrible row. He gave me a searing stare, then stomped in a circle like a caged man. I felt frustrated again, thinking he was unhappy because Nin was gone. But, “When can we leave for Vienna?” he demanded when he finally sank into the chair.

            “Why—whenever you want.” I sat on his bed. “Tomorrow, if you like.”

            “Tomorrow. That I would like,” he shot back, glaring into the corner as if something there offended him.

            “What’s the matter?” I asked, foolishly. Artaud never spoke his mind until he was good and ready. Then, even more foolishly: “Isn’t Anaïs coming back?” I avoided using the proper “Madame” thinking it would hurt him. He remained silent. That’s it, I thought. She had found another lover and had broken off their relationship. Perhaps her father was not in Nice; perhaps it was a ruse to escape Artaud’s clutching. And he, full of ideals and archetypes and legends, the unicorn trotting through the forest to lay his head on the lap of princesses, had been jilted by the one character poetry couldn’t grasp: the nymphomaniac.

            “Yes, she’s returned,” he griped, one hand mangling his neat hair. “I’ve just come from that place. I don’t wish to see her, or speak to her, ever again. What should I pack?”

            It was all I could do to keep from smiling. Louveciennes, her home he had spoken of with such reverence as if it was that distant Aidenn in Poe’s great poem, as if it was Heaven and Mount Olympus and the Garden of Earthly Delights all at once, was now just “that place.” Certainly I could see his disillusionment and I did feel sorry for him, but I couldn’t help myself; I was elated. “That place.” He wouldn’t see her again!

“Don’t pack much,” I replied eagerly. “Gather what you think is necessary for a few days, and I’ll buy anything extra once there.”

            “Vienna is expensive,” he objected, calmer now.

            “Oh, and Paris is cheap?”

            He allowed me a smile then, a little one. I knew I should feel more pity, but all I really felt was my affection for him. We were going, finally; we were taking a trip together. Louis and I had promised each other this many times, but Artaud and I would do it.

The Sins of Nin, Part One.

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