“A handful of perfectly told fables, and prose which is so daringly elaborate, so accurately timed… using words as magnificently colorful, evocative and imagist as any plastic combination or canvas but as mysteriously idiosyncratic as any abstract.”
Times Literary Supplement
“Although it is called a novel, (Collages) is really a chain, a sequence of storyportraits of people taken from real life, revolving around the central threading character of a young woman painter named Renate. The background is Los Angeles and its environs. Various pieces and shapes of characters are gracefully arranged, almost as if without any conscious sense of shape or pattern…. They are immensely compelling characters.”
New York Times Book Review
“The book abounds in magical descriptions of a highly original and sensuous nature. The best of collages fall apart with time; these will not.’
A transplant from Vienna to Malibu who is driven by her urge to observe and depict those around her, Renate is, as one of her friends describes her, “the freest woman I know.” Living in Malibu, working at the Paradise Inn restaurant, she encounters a series of people whose stories make up a larger collage: Henri the chef; Count Laundromat; Varda the artist and his teenage daughter, Nobuko the actress; the French Consul in the Hollywood Hills; an aged lifeguard with a spiritual longing for the sea; and Bruce, the intimate with an unnerving secret.
First published in 1964 and now reissued with a new introduction by Anita Jarczok, Collages showcases Anaïs Nin’s dreamlike and introspective style and psychological acuity. Seen by some as linked vignettes and by others as a novel, the book is a mood piece that resists categorization. Based on a close friend of Nin’s, Renate is the glue that holds the pieces, by turn fragmentary and full, together. One character absorbs a lesson from the Koran: “Nothing is ever finished.” With each of Renate’s successive encounters, we take that message to be true.
Anaïs Nin (1903–1977) is an iconic literary figure and one of the most notable experimental writers of the twentieth century. As one of the first women to explore female erotica, Nin revealed the inner desires of her characters in a way that made her works a touchstone for later feminist writers. Swallow Press is the premier US publisher of books by and about Nin. More info →
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Mirages opens at the dawn of World War II, when Anaïs Nin fled Paris, where she lived for fifteen years with her husband, banker Hugh Guiler, and ends in 1947 when she meets the man who would be “the One,” the lover who would satisfy her insatiable hunger for connection. In the middle looms a period Nin describes as “hell,” during which she experiences a kind of erotic madness, a delirium that fuels her search for love.
Anaïs Nin made her reputation through publication of her edited diaries and the carefully constructed persona they presented. It was not until decades later, when the diaries were published in their unexpurgated form, that the world began to learn the full details of Nin’s fascinating life and the emotional and literary high-wire acts she committed both in documenting it and in defying the mores of 1950s America.
Although Anaïs Nin found in her diaries a profound mode of self-creation and confession, she could not reveal this intimate record of her own experiences during her lifetime. Instead, she turned to fiction, where her stories and novels became artistic “distillations” of her secret diaries.
Although Under a Glass Bell is now considered one of Anaïs Nin’s finest collections of stories, it was initially deemed unpublishable. Refusing to give up on her vision, in 1944 Nin founded her own press and brought out the first edition, illustrated with striking black-and-white engravings by her husband, Hugh Guiler. Shortly thereafter, it caught the attention of literary critic Edmund Wilson, who reviewed the collection in the New Yorker.