Listed in: Fiction · Women Authors · Literary Fiction · American Literature · Anaïs Nin · Literary Studies
Written when Anaïs Nin was in her twenties and living in France, the stories collected in Waste of Timelessness contain many elements familiar to those who know her later work as well as revelatory, early clues to themes developed in those more mature stories and novels. Seeded with details remembered from childhood and from life in Paris, the wistful tales portray artists, writers, strangers who meet in the night, and above all, women and their desires.
Anaïs Nin’s Ladders to Fire interweaves the stories of several women, each emotionally inhibited in her own way: through self-doubt, fear, guilt, moral drift, and distrust. The novel follows their inner struggles to overcome these barriers to happiness and wholeness. The author’s own experiences, as recorded in her famous diaries, supplied the raw material for her fiction. It was her intuitive, experimental, and always original style that transformed one into the other.
“Anaïs Nin writes sensitively, with psychological training as well as insight…. She has a subcutaneous interest in her characters and Lawrence’s sixth sense.”
Times Literary Supplement
After struggling with her own press and printing her own works, Anaïs Nin succeeded in getting Ladders to Fire accepted and published in 1946. This recognition marked a milestone in her life and career. Admitted into the fellowship of American novelists, she maintained the individuality of her literary style.
“I have to begin where everything begins, in the blindness and in the shaddows. I have to begin the story of women's development where all things begin; in nature, at the roots. It is necessary to return to the origin of confusion which is woman's struggle to understand her own nature.”
from the prologue (first edition)
“The genesis of House of Incest was in the dream. The keeping of dreams was an important part of that exploration of the unconscious. But I discovered dreams in themselves, isolated, were not always interesting. Very few of them had the complete imagery and tension to arouse others’ interest. They were fragmented. The surrealists delighted in the image themselves. This was satisfying to the painters and to the film-makers.
"House of Incest is a strange and challenging work that demands the full attention of the reader. It is not so much a story of people (although it certainly is that) as it is a visit into the hellish nightmare of the narrator's experience from which she emerges satisfactorily. But, however one approaches the work, House of Incest is Nin's best work of fiction and one that contains most of her basic themes, images and patterns that she would use in her later work."
Benjamin Franklin V and Duane Schneider