Return to New York

War broke out in Europe in 1939, but one would hardly know that from reading Anaïs’ diary. In fact, it were as though the wars and worldwide depression of that era never happened. Instead, we have repetitive testaments to her self-absorption: “I dream, I kiss, I have orgasms, I get exalted, I leave the world, I float, I cook, I sew, I have nightmares, I follow a gigantic creative plan…”

In the years immediately preceding the war, the peripatetic Anaïs along with Hugo and Henry spent time in Paris, New York, and London, though they were not often all together in the same place and at the same time. Gonzalo, lazy and more interested in sex with Anaïs and her money than his communist ideology, was still on the scene. As was her wont, Anaïs seemed oblivious to the onset of hostilities and thought she was somehow immune from danger because of her citizenship of a neutral country. This changed when she discovered that virtually all the people she knew had already fled France. In January 1940 she set sail for New York with Gonzalo and Helba, never again to live in Paris. Henry was on a different vessel and Hugo was already in New York, having been summoned there some time earlier by his bank.

Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947, published posthumously in 2013, gives a picture of Anaïs in her first years in America experiencing a bizarre, erotic mania as she continues her search for love. She seeks fulfillment through a multitude of dreamlike flights of fantasy—mirages—that she employs to avoid the reality of her life and lovers, and for a time in late 1943 there is a lapse into emotional instability and a consequent nervous breakdown. Mirages depicts Anaïs needing love so intensely that it seems natural to her to have multiple relationships at the same time. Literally dozens of new lovers appear in her life, including the influential writer and literary critic, Edmund Wilson.

The 1940’s was a time when the father figure lover was gradually being displaced by younger and less masculine men. Anaïs called them her “sons.” She had a passionate emotional relationship with Gore Vidal, who was 20 when he first met the much older Anaïs, but there was no sexual fulfillment because of his homosexuality. In 1992, Vidal wrote “How could she even have dreamed that I would have married her, a 42 year old woman…a henna-haired French adventuress, an adultress [sic] with black gums.” Later, there was a period when Anaïs entertained a virtual column of anonymous young Greenwich Village boys in her bed on a nightly basis.

Meanwhile, her writing career continued to flounder, as it mostly did throughout her life, and she was ultimately never able to reach the pinnacle of literary success she so desperately sought. Of the nine books of fiction she wrote, four were self-published and only Under a Glass Bell received a modicum of critical recognition. Even her lover, Edmund Wilson, penned a negative review of This Hunger after having given his approval earlier to Under a Glass Bell. Even worse, her published work was often ignored by critics because of its experimental nature and focus on surrealism. On one occasion, when she hosted a party for her novel Spy in the House of Love, not a single one of the invited critics came.

Henry Miller, Hugo, Otto Rank, and several other people in Anaïs’s circle admonished her repeatedly that her dependence on her diary—her “best friend and confidante”—undermined her creative urges and prevented her from fulfilling her potential to become a gifted writer. But it was a daily habit that gripped her like an addiction. She once checked into a hotel, bereft of any writing materials, for the sole purpose of breaking the habit. She failed. After just a few hours, panic set in and she was able to locate hotel stationery and writing instruments in her room to make that day’s diary entries.

Ironically, her highest recognition came from Delta of Venus and Little Birds, collections of pornography she wrote for an anonymous collector of erotica in the 1940s for a dollar a page and hardly, in her mind, the result of a creative process. In fact, Anaïs was ashamed and embarrassed by the pornographic works she produced. She only agreed to their publication near the end of her life to pay medical bills and have some money left over at the end for Hugo and others. She did not live to see them in print. Delta of Venus turned out to be a bestseller and has been praised by some critics for its depiction of female sexuality. Her erotica, at last count, has been translated into 26 languages.

Other notable writers during the 1940’s, including Henry Miller, also wrote pornography for income to tide them over in tough times. Miller wrote his trilogy, Rosy Crucifixion, which became a best seller after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted its ban in 1964.

The Bicoastal Trapeze

Anaïs finally ended her long affair with Henry Miller in 1943 in an otherwise inconsequential incident involving money, of course, and what she perceived as his duplicitous behavior with respect to the incident. Later on, the relationship between her and a fat, graying Gonzalo also came to an end while he was in Guatemala having a fling with a young lover.

In 1947, 44-year-old Anaïs met Rupert Pole, a mediocre supporting actor in the Broadway play The Duchess of Malfi, in an elevator on the way to the same party. Pole was 28, extraordinarily handsome, and the stepson of Lloyd Wright, son of noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Initially, his sensitivity led her unsuspectingly to believe he was probably homosexual. But that impression soon changed. They became lovers and Pole asked her to accompany him on his return road trip to the West Coast. Thus began a relationship that lasted three decades until her death in 1977. During that entire period, she remained married to Hugo while lying to Rupert that she was embroiled in a complicated divorce from her husband and lived apart from him in New York. Hugo, who was brighter and more perceptive than Rupert, almost certainly knew about the affair between Anaïs and Rupert, but chose not to acknowledge it. That had been his coping mechanism throughout his marriage to Anaïs as she rendezvoused with her many lovers.

After arriving in California, Rupert studied at University of California-Berkeley and received a degree in forestry. He then took a job assignment with the U.S. Forestry service in the San Gabriel Mountains. In marked contrast to her comfortable New York life, Anaïs lived with Rupert in a rustic cabin in Sierra Madre where she kept house, scrubbed floors, polished his shoes, sat for the neighbors’ children, and was assumed all along to be Mrs. Anaïs Pole. Eventually, in fact, she did become Mrs. Pole. In March 1955 she and Rupert were driving home through Arizona from a holiday in Mexico when he suddenly asked her to marry him. She had falsely told him her divorce from Hugo had finally gone through. They had a spur of the moment marriage before a justice of the peace in the little one-horse town of Quartzite, and her affair with Rupert was now bigamy.

Anaïs juggled her relationships between Rupert and Hugo by shuttling between the two coasts every 2-3 months. She called it her “bicoastal trapeze” and she concocted a web of lies and deceptions to conceal her split existence from the two men. She would tell Rupert she had to fly back to New York in connection with one writing assignment or another. Her stories to Hugo were that she needed rest cures in the clean California air and the solitude of a “spiritual” ranch—where there were no phones, of course, to disturb her seclusion. She had checking accounts and medical prescriptions under Mrs. Guiler in New York and Mrs. Pole in California. Her deceptions became so extensive and complex that she had to keep index cards in her “Lie Box” in order to keep her stories straight.

Rupert eventually left his forestry job to become a middle school science teacher. Then, in 1962, he moved into his one-bedroom “dream house” in Silver Lake designed by his half-brother, Eric Lloyd Wright. Everyday life for Anaïs became less austere and there were even some celebrity parties that she was invited to from time to time.

She remained “Mrs. Pole” for eleven years but then had her marriage to Rupert annulled in 1966. It turned out that both Hugo and Rupert were claiming her as a dependent on their tax returns so, fearing a tangle with the IRS, she felt her only course was to invalidate the marriage. She also feared her emerging reputation with feminists would be damaged if her bigamy was exposed. Anaïs finally confessed to Rupert at this point about still being married and told him she could not get a divorce because of Hugo’s many years of financial aid and his extraordinary tolerance of her affairs. Ever devoted, Rupert expressed his understanding and support of her, though later in life he admitted he felt jealousy throughout the years.

Ultimately, Anaïs decided to spend her remaining years with Rupert rather than Hugo and lived with him full-time in the Silver Lake home until her 1977 death at age 73 from metastatic cervical cancer. Rupert was amazingly supportive of her in her final years. He nursed her through chemotherapy and surgeries, bought her wigs, changed her colostomy bags, and daily raised her in and out of the swimming pool. He had sex with her to reassure her she was still desirable. He even dialed Hugo for her when that became too difficult and spoke directly to Hugo about her condition when she could no longer speak. He and Hugo actually developed a cordial relationship that persisted after she was gone.

Anaïs died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles January 14, 1977. Her cremated ashes were dropped from a small plane into Mermaid Cove in Santa Monica Bay, per her wishes to be buried at sea. In 1985, Hugo’s cremated remains joined hers in the selfsame spot.


Anaïs had finally found her brief period in the spotlight when she was well into her sixties. The 1966 publication of her bowdlerized diaries endeared her to feminists who believed, notwithstanding luminaries like Simone de Beauvoir and George Sand, that she was the first woman who showed she could thrive in the male-dominated world of literature. She toured the country giving readings and guest lectures at colleges and universities. Even then, however, there were cracks in her reputation among the more doctrinaire feminists who decried her unwillingness to embrace political action. They also abhorred her definition of womanhood as being dependent on stereotypical relationships to men: “…born mother, mistress, wife, sister…the connecting link between man and his human self.” Discontented feminists challenged her at her public engagements, going so far as jeers and catcalls to interrupt her speeches.

Her real reputational decline started, innocently enough, with her obituaries. The New York Times listed Hugo Guiler as her surviving spouse. The Los Angeles Times listed Rupert Pole. Her bigamy was now out in the open. Then in 1986, the first of the six unexpurgated versions of her diaries was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich at the direction of Rupert, her designated literary executor. Public loathing followed. She was seen as a privileged adulteress who used her husband’s money to keep her lovers dependent; a bigamist who spent the last part of her life deceiving both Guiler and Pole; a failed writer whose only successful effort was the pornography she wrote for a dollar a page; a compulsive liar whose diaries are riddled with as much fiction as might be found in a novel; and a libertine who had a consensual affair with her own father. Rupert’s decision to publish Incest created enmity and a bitter divide between him and Joaquín Nin Culmell.

In 1995, Deidre Bair published Anaïs Nin: A Biography, and it was the final nail in the reputational coffin. It described Anaïs’s libertine life in almost tedious detail, including every metaphorical wart and defect she uncovered in her monumental research. Bair’s conclusion that she was no more than a “major minor writer” with a cult following would undoubtedly have been a devastating psychological blow to Anaïs. A year after Bair’s biography came out, Harcourt dropped Anaïs from its publications list.

Today, there remains a cadre of Anaïs Nin enthusiasts who not only continue to support her but, joined by a new generation of independent young feminists, also claim her reputation is back on the rise. To them, Bair’s biography was nothing more than a literary hit piece and they point out that the cultural landscape is critically different than it was in 1995. They argue that Anaïs’s writing about her sex life and other aspects of her personal experience is now not only commonplace but almost de rigueur; blurring of reality and fiction is typical fare in both literature and reality television; truth is relative, not absolute; self-absorption has become introspection; self-publication is accepted, not stigmatized. It is not that anything about Anaïs Nin has changed, they assert. It is simply that the world is catching up to her. When that happens, she will no longer be seen as a libertine and failed cult writer. Her life will be vindicated and she will assume her rightful place in the pantheon of great and influential women.

Perhaps they will be proven right, but it’s not likely, say the skeptics, who characterize her resurgence as a mere anomaly without sufficient traction and substance to continue.

Selected Sources

Bair, Deidre (1995). Anaïs Nin: a Biography. New York City. Putnam

Doyle, Sady (7 April 2015). Before Lena Durham, there was Anaïs Nin – now patron saint of social media.

Fitch, Noël Riley (1993). Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin. New York City. Little, Brown & Company

Herron, Paul. Editor. With Stuhlmann, Gunther (1996). A Book of Mirrors. Huntington. Sky Blue Press

Jarczok, Anita (2017). Writing an Icon: Celebrity Culture and the Invention of Anaïs Nin. Athens. Ohio University Press

Kraft, Barbara. (December 13, 2016). Anaïs Nin: the Last Days.

Krizan, Kim (November 8, 2019). The Wild Impassioned World of Anaïs Nin’s Diaries.

Nin, Anaïs. (1977). Delta of Venus. San Diego. Harcourt

Nin, Anaïs. Stuhlmann, Gunther, Editor. Expurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 1 (1931-34). (1966). San Diego. Harcourt.

Nin, Anaïs. Unexpurgated Diaries:

Henry and June: From “A Journal of Love” (1931-32). (1986). San Diego. Harcourt

Incest: From “A Journal of Love” (1932-34). (1993). San Diego. Harcourt

Nearer the Moon: From “A Journal of Love” (1937-39). (1996). San Diego. Harcourt

Mirages: From “A Journal of Love” (1939-47). (2013). Athens. Swallow Press

Trapeze: From “A Journal of Love” (1947-55). (2017). Athens. Swallow Press

Scholar, Nancy. (1984). Anais Nin. Boston. Twayne.

Spencer, Sharon. (1977). Collage of Dreams: the Writings of Anaïs Nin. Chicago. Swallow Press

Weill, Martin. (January 16, 1977). Anais Nin, Author, Diarist Dies at 73


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  1. Part 1