Delta Of Venus
Adapted from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume III
A book collector offered Henry
Miller a hundred dollars a month
to write erotic stories. It seemed like
a Dantesque punishment to condemn Henry to write erotica at a dollar a
page. He rebelled because his mood of the moment was the opposite of
Rabelais-ian, because writing to order was a castrating
occupation, be-cause to be writing with a voyeur at the keyhole took all the
spontaneity and pleasure out of his fanciful adventures.
Henry told me about the collector. They
sometimes had lunch together. He bought a manuscript from Henry and then
suggested that he write something for one of his old and wealthy clients. He
could not tell much about his client except that he was interested in erotica.
Henry started out gaily, jokingly. He invented wild stories which we
laughed over. He entered into it as an experiment, and it seemed easy at first.
But after a while it palled on him. He did not want to touch upon any of the
material he planned to write about for his real work, so he was condemned to
force his inventions and his mood.
He never received a word of
acknowledgment from the strange patron. It could be natural that he would not
want to disclose his identity. But Henry began to tease the collector. Did this
patron really exist? Were these pages for the collector himself, to heighten his
own melancholy life? Were they one and the same person? Henry and I discussed
this at length, puzzled and amused.
At this point, the collector
announced that his client was coming to New York and that Henry would meet him.
But somehow this meeting never took place. The collector was lavish in his
descriptions of how he sent the manuscripts by airmail, how much it cost, small
details meant to add realism to the claims he made about his client's existence.
One day he wanted a copy of Black Spring with a dedi-cation.
Henry said: "But I thought you told me he had all my books already,
"He lost his copy of Black Spring."
"Who should I dedicate it to?" said Henry innocently.
'to a good friend,' and sign your name."
A few weeks later Henry needed
a copy of Black Spring and none could be found. He decided to borrow the
collector's copy. He went to the office. The secretary told him to wait. He
began to look over the books in the bookcase. He saw a copy of Black
Spring. He pulled it out. It was the one he had dedicated to the "Good
When the collector came in, Henry told him about this,
laughing. In equally good humor, the collector explained: "Oh, yes, the old man
got so impatient that I sent him my own copy while I was waiting to get this one
signed by you, intending to exchange them later when he comes to New York
Henry said to me when we met, "I'm more baffled than ever."
When Henry asked what the patron's reaction to his writ-ing was, the
collector said: "Oh, he likes everything. It is all wonderful. But he likes it
better when it is a narrative, just storytelling, no analysis, no philosophy."
When Henry needed money for his travel expenses he suggested that I do
some writing in the interim. I felt I did not want to give anything genuine, and
decided to create a mixture of stories I had heard and inventions, pretending
they were from the diary of a woman. I never met the collector. He was to read
my pages and to let me know what he thought. Today I received a telephone call.
A voice said, "It is fine. But leave out the poetry and descriptions of anything
but sex. Concentrate on sex."
So I began to write tongue-in-cheek, to
become outlandish, inventive, and so exaggerated that I thought he would realize
I was caricaturing sexuality. But there was no protest. I spent days in the
library studying the Kama Sutra, listened to friends' most extreme
"Less poetry," said the voice over the telephone. "Be
But did anyone ever experience pleasure from reading a
clinical description? Didn't the old man know how words carry colors and sounds
into the flesh?
Every morning after breakfast I sat down to write my
allotment of erotica. One morning I typed: "There was a Hun-garian
adventurer..." I gave him many advantages: beauty, elegance, grace, charm, the
talents of an actor, knowledge of many tongues, a genius for intrigue, a genius
for extricating himself from difficulties, and a genius for avoiding permanence
Another telephone call: "The old man is pleased.
Concen-trate on sex. Leave out the poetry."
This started an epidemic of
erotic "journals." Everyone was writing up their sexual experiences. Invented,
overheard, re-searched from Krafft-Ebing and medical books. We had comical
conversations. We told a story and the rest of us had to decide whether it was
true or false. Or plausible. Was this plausible? Robert Duncan would offer to
experiment, to test our inven-tions, to confirm or negate our fantasies. All of
us needed money, so we pooled our stories.
I was sure the old man knew
nothing about the beatitudes, ecstasies, dazzling reverberations of sexual
encounters. Cut out the poetry was his message. Clinical sex, deprived of all
the warmth of lovehe orchestration of all the senses, touch, hearing, sight,
palate; all the euphoric accompaniments, back-ground music, moods, atmosphere,
variations⭦orced him to resort to literary aphrodisiacs.
We could have
bottled better secrets to tell him, but such secrets he would be deaf to. But
one day when he reached saturation, I would tell him how he almost made us lose
interest in passion by his obsession with the gestures empty of their emotions,
and how we reviled him, because he almost caused us to take vows of chastity,
because what he wanted us to exclude was our own aphrodisiac⭰oetry.
received one hundred dollars for my erotica. Gonzalo needed cash for the
dentist, Helba needed a mirror for her dancing, and Henry money for his trip.
Gonzalo told me the story of the Basque and Bijou and I wrote it down for the
The telephone bill was unpaid. The
net of economic diffi-culties was closing in on me. Everyone around me
irresponsible, unconscious of the shipwreck. I did thirty pages of erotica.
I again awakened to the consciousness of being without a cent
and telephoned the collector. Had he heard from his rich client about the last
manuscript I sent? No, he had not, but he would take the one I had just finished
and pay me for it. Henry had to see a doctor. Gonzalo needed glasses. Robert
came with B. and asked me for money to go to the movies. The soot from the
transom window fell on my typing paper and on my work. Robert came and took away
my box of typing paper.
Wasn't the old man tired of pornography?
Wouldn't a miracle take place? I began to imagine him saying: "Give me
everything she writes, I want it all, I like all of it. I will send her a big
present, a big check for all the writing she has done."
was broken. With a hundred dollars in my pocket I recovered my optimism. I said
to Henry: "The collector says he likes simple, unintellectual women⭢ut he
invites me to dinner."
I had a feeling that Pandora's box contained the
mysteries of woman's sensuality, so different from man's and for which man's
language was inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The
language of the senses was yet to be explored. D. H. Lawrence began to give
instinct a language, he tried to escape the clinical, the scientific, which only
captures what the body feels.
When Henry came he
made sevetal contradictory state-ments. That he could live on nothing, that he
felt so good he could even take a job, that his integrity prevented him from
writing scenarios in Hollywood. At the last I said: "And what of the integrity
of doing erotica for money?"
Henry laughed, admitted the paradox, the
contradictions, laughed and dismissed the subject.
France has had a
tradition of literary erotic writing, in fine, elegant style. When I first began
to write for the collector I thought there was a similar tradition here, but
found none at all. All I had seen was shoddy, written by second-rate writers. No
fine writer seemed ever to have tried his hand at erotica.
I told George
Barker how Caresse Crosby, Robert, Virginia Admiral and others were writing. It
appealed to his sense of humor. The idea of my being the madam of this snobbish
literary house of prostitution, from which vulgarity was ex-cluded.
Laughing, I said: "I supply paper and carbon, I deliver the manuscript
anonymously, I protect everyone's anonymity."
George Barker felt this
was much more humorous and inspiring than begging, borrowing or cajoling meals
out of friends.
I gathered poets around me and we all wrote beautiful
erotica. As we were condemned to focus only on sensuality, we had violent
explosions of poetry. Writing erotica became a road to sainthood rather than to
Harvey Breit, Robert Duncan, George Barker, Caresse Crosby,
all of us concentrating our skills in a tour de force, supplying the old man
with such an abundance of perverse felicities, that now he begged for more.
The homosexuals wrote as if they were women. The timid ones wrote about
orgies. The frigid ones about frenzied fulfill-ments. The most poetic ones
indulged in pure bestiality and the purest ones in perversions. We were haunted
by the marvelous tales we could not tell. We sat around, imagined this old man,
talked of how much we hated him, because he would not allow us to make a fusion
of sexuality and feeling, sensuality and emotion.
George Barker was terribly poor. He wanted to write more erotica. He
wrote eighty-five pages. The collector thought they were too surrealistic. I
loved them. His scenes of lovemaking were disheveled and fantastic. Love between
He drank away the first money, and I could not lend him
anything but more paper and carbons. George Barker, the excel-lent English poet,
writing erotica to drink, just as Utrillo painted paintings in exchange for a
bottle of wine. I began to think about the old man we all hated. I decided to
write to him, address him directly, tell him about our feelings.
"Dear Collector: We hate you. Sex loses all its power and magic
when it becomes explicit, mechanical, overdone, when it becomes a mechanistic
obsession. It becomes a bore. You have taught us more than anyone I know how
wrong it is not to mix it with emotion, hunger, desire, lust, whims, caprices,
personal ties, deeper relationships that change its color, flavor, rhythms,
"You do not know what you are missing by your micro-scopic
examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are the fuel
that ignites it. Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what
gives sex its surprising tex-tures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac
elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it,
starving it, draining its blood.
"If you nourished your sexual life with
all the excitements and adventures which love injects into sensuality, you would
be the most potent man in the world. The source of sexual power is curiosity,
passion. You are watching its little flame die of as-phyxiation. Sex does not
thrive on monotony. Without feeling, inventions, moods, no surprises in bed. Sex
must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all
the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams,
fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.
"How much do you lose by this
periscope at the tip of your sex, when you could enjoy a harem of distinct and
never-repeated wonders? No two hairs alike, but you will not let us waste words
on a description of hair; no two odors, but if we expand on this you cry Cut the
poetry. No two skins with the same texture, and never the same light,
temperature, shadows, never the same gesture; for a lover, when he is aroused by
true love, can run the gamut of centuries of love lore. What a range, what
changes of age, what variations of maturity and innocence, perversity and art...
"We have sat around for hours and wondered how you look. If you have
closed your senses upon silk, light, color, odor, character, temperament, you
must be by now completely shriv-eled up. There are so many minor senses, all
running like tribu-taries into the mainstream of sex, nourishing it. Only the
united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy."
At the time we were all writing erotica at a dollar a page, I realized
that for centuries we had had only one model for this literary genrehe writing
of men. I was already conscious of a difference between the masculine and
feminine treatment of sexual experience. I knew that there was a great disparity
be-tween Henry Miller's explicitness and my ambiguities⭢etween his humorous,
Rabelaisian view of sex and my poetic descrip-tions of sexual relationships in
the unpublished portions of the diary. As I wrote in Volume Three of the
Diary, I had a feeling that Pandora's box contained the mysteries of
woman's sensual-ity, so different from man's and for which man's language was
Women, I thought, were more apt to fuse sex with emotion,
with love, and to single out one man rather than be promiscu-ous. This became
apparent to me as I wrote the novels and the Diary, and I saw it even
more clearly when I began to teach. But although women's attitude towards sex
was quite distinct from that of men, we had not yet learned how to write about
Here in the erotica I was writing to entertain, under pres-sure from
a client who wanted me to "leave out the poetry." I believed that my style was
derived from a reading of men's works. For this reason I long felt that I had
compromised my feminine self. I put the erotica aside. Rereading it these many
years later, I see that my own voice was not completely sup-pressed. In numerous
passages I was intuitively using a woman's language, seeing sexual experience
from a woman's point of view. I finally decided to release the erotica for
publication be-cause it shows the beginning efforts of a woman in a world that
had been the domain of men.
If the unexpurgated version of the
Diary is ever published, this feminine point of view will be established
more clearly. It will show that women (and I, in the Diary) have never
separated sex from feeling, from love of the whole man.
The Hungarian Adventurer
was a Hungarian adventurer who had astonishing beauty, infallible charm, grace,
the powers of a trained actor, culture, knowledge of many tongues, aristocratic
manners. Beneath all this was a genius for intrigue, for slipping out of
difficulties, for moving smoothly in and out of countries.
in grandiose style, with fifteen trunks of the finest clothes, with two great
Danes. His air of authority had earned him the nickname the Baron. The Baron was
seen in the most luxurious hotels, at watering places and horse races, on world
tours, excursions to Egypt, trips through the desert, into Africa.
Everywhere he became the center of attraction for women. Like the most
versatile of actors, he passed from one role to an-other to please the taste of
each of them. He was the most elegant dancer, the most vivacious dinner partner,
the most decadent of entertainers in tête-à-têtes; he could sail a boat, ride,
drive. He knew each city as though he had lived there all his life. He knew
everyone in society. He was indispensable.
When he needed money he
married a rich woman, plun-dered her and left for another country. Most of the
time the women did not rebel or complain to the police. The few weeks or months
they had enjoyed him as a husband left a sensation that was stronger than the
shock of losing their money. For a mo-ment they had known what it was to live
with strong wings, to fly above the heads of mediocrity.
He took them so
high, whirled them so fast in his series of enchantments, that his departure
still had something of the flight. It seemed almost natural⭮o partner could
follow his great eagle sweeps.
The free, uncapturable adventurer,
jumping thus from one golden branch to another, almost fell into a trap, a trap
of human love, when one night he met the Brazilian dancer Anita at a Peruvian
theatre. Her elongated eyes did not close as other women's eyes did, but like
the eyes of tigers, pumas and leop-ards, the two lids meeting lazily and slowly;
and they seemed slightly sewn together towards the nose, making them narrow,
with a lascivious, oblique glance falling from them like the glance of a woman
who does not want to see what is being done to her body. All this gave her an
air of being made love to, which aroused the Baron as soon as he met her.
When he went backstage to see her, she was dressing among a profusion of
flowers; and for the delight of her ad-mirers who sat around her, she was
rouging her sex with her lipstick without permitting them to make a single
gesture to-wards her.
When the Baron came in she merely lifted her head
and smiled at him. She had one foot on a little table, her elaborate Brazilian
dress was lifted, and with her jeweled hands she took up rouging her sex again,
laughing at the excitement of the men around her.
Her sex was like a
giant hothouse flower, larger than any the Baron had seen, and the hair around
it abundant and curled, glossy black. It was these lips that she rouged as if
they were a mouth, very elaborately so that they became like blood-red
camellias, opened by force, showing the closed interior bud, a paler,
fine-skinned core of the flower.
The Baron could not persuade her to
have supper with him. Her appearance onstage was only the prelude to her work at
the theatre. Now followed the performance for which she was famed all through
South America, when the boxes in the theatre, deep, dark and half-curtained,
filled with society men from all over the world. Women were not brought to this
She had dressed herself all over again in the
full-petticoated costume she wore onstage for her Brazilian songs, but she wore
no shawl. Her dress was strapless, and her rich, abundant breasts, compressed by
the tight-waisted costume, bulged up-wards, offering themselves almost in their
entirety to the eye.
In this costume, while the rest of the show
continued, she made her round of the boxes. There, on request, she knelt before
a man, unbuttoned his pants, took his penis in her jeweled hands, and with a
neatness of touch, an expertness, a subtlety few women had ever developed,
sucked at it until he was satisfied. Her two hands were as active as her mouth.
The titillation almost deprived each man of his senses. The elasticity
of her hands; the variety of rhythms; the change from a hand grip of the entire
penis to the lightest touch of the tip of it, from firm kneading of all the
parts to the lightest teasing of the hair around it⭡ll this by an exceptionally
beautiful and voluptuous woman while the attention of the public was turned
towards the stage. Seeing the penis go into her magnificent mouth between her
flashing teeth, while her breasts heaved, gave men a pleasure for which they
Her presence on the stage prepared them for her
appear-ance in the boxes. She provoked them with her mouth, her eyes, her
breasts. And to have their satisfaction, along with music and lights and singing
in a dark, half-curtained box above the audi-ence, was an exceptionally piquant
form of amusement.
The Baron almost fell in love with Anita and stayed
with her for a longer time than with any woman. She fell in love with him and
bore him two children.
But after a few years he was off again. The habit
was too strong; the habit of freedom and change.
He traveled to Rome and
took a suite at the Grand Hotel. The suite happened to be next to that of the
Spanish Ambassa-dor, who was staying there with his wife and two small
daugh-ters. The Baron charmed them, too. The Ambassador's wife admired him. They
became so friendly and he was so delightful with the children, who did not know
how to amuse themselves in this hotel, that soon it became a habit of the two
little girls, upon getting up in the morning, to go and visit the Baron and
awaken him with laughter and teasing, which they were not permitted to lavish
upon their more solemn father and mother.
One little girl was about ten,
the other twelve. They were both beautiful, with huge velvet-black eyes, long
silky hair and golden skin. They wore short white dresses and short white socks.
Shrieking, the two little girls would run into the Baron's room and playfully
throw themselves over his big bed. He would tease them, fondle them.
the Baron, like many men, always awakened with a peculiarly sensitive condition
of the penis. In fact, he was in a most vulnerable state. He had no time to rise
and calm the condition by urinating. Before he could do this the two little
girls had run across the shining floor and thrown themselves over him, and over
his prominent penis, which the big pale blue quilt somewhat concealed.
The little girls did not mind how their skirts flew upward and
their slender dancer's legs got tangled and fell over his penis lying straight
in the quilt. Laughing, they turned over on him, sat on him, treated him like a
horse, sat astride him and pushed down on him, urging him to swing the bed by a
motion of his body. With all this, they would kiss him, pull at his hair, and
have childish conversations. The Baron's delight in being so treated would grow
into excruciating suspense.
One of the girls was lying on her stomach,
and all he had to do was to move a little against her to reach his pleasure. So
he did this playfully, as if he meant to finally push her off the bed. He said,
"I am sure you will fall off if I push this way."
"I won't fall off,"
said the little girl, holding on to him through the covers while he moved as if
he would force her to roll over the side of the bed. Laughing, he pushed her
body up, but she lay close to him, her little legs, her little panties,
every-thing, rubbing against him in her effort not to slide off, and he
continued his antics while they laughed. Then the second girl, wishing to even
the strength of the game, sat astride him in front of the other one, and now he
could move even more wildly with the weight of both on him. His penis, hidden in
the thick quilt, rose over and over again between the little legs, and it was
like this that he came, with a strength he had rarely known, surrendering the
battle, which the girls had won in a manner they never suspected.
Another time when they came to play with him he put his hands under the
quilt. Then he raised the quilt with his fore-finger and dared them to catch it.
So with great eagerness, they began to chase the finger, which disappeared and
reappeared in different parts of the bed, catching it firmly in their hands.
After a moment it was not the finger but the penis they caught over and over
again, and seeking to extricate it, he made them grasp it more strongly than
ever. He would disappear under the covers completely, and taking his penis in
his hand suddenly thrust it upward for them to catch.
He pretended to be
an animal, sought to catch and bite them, sometimes quite near where he wanted
to, and they took great delight in this. With the "animal" they also played
hide-and-seek. The "animal" was to spring at them from some hidden corner. He
hid in the closet on the floor and covered himself with clothes. One of the
little girls opened the closet. He could see under her dress; he caught her and
bit her playfully on the thighs.
So heated were the games, so great were
the confusion of the battle and the abandon of the little girls at play, that
very often his hand went everywhere he wanted it to go.
Baron moved on again, but his high trapeze leaps from fortune to fortune
deteriorated when his sexual quest became stronger than his quest for money and
power. It seemed as though the strength of his desire for women was no longer
under control. He was eager to rid himself of his wives, so as to pursue his
search for sensation throughout the world.
One day he heard that the
Brazilian dancer he had loved had died of an overdose of opium. Their two
daughters were grown to the ages of fifteen and sixteen and wanted their father
to take care of them. He sent for them. He was then living in New York with a
wife by whom he had had a son. The woman was not happy at the thought of his
daughters' arrival. She was jealous for her son, who was only fourteen. After
all his expedi-tions, the Baron now wanted a home and a rest from difficulties
and pretenses. He had a woman he rather liked and three chil-dren. The idea of
meeting his daughters again interested him. He received them with great
demonstrations of affection. One was beautiful, the other, less so but piquant.
They had been brought up to witness their mother's life and were not restrained
The beauty of their father impressed them. He, on the other
hand, was reminded of his games with the two little girls in Rome, only his
daughters were a little older, and it added a great attraction to the situation.
They were given a large bed for themselves, and later, when they were
still talking of their voyage and of meeting their father again, he came into
the room to bid them goodnight. He stretched out at their side and kissed them.
They returned his kisses. But as he kissed them, he slipped his hands along
their bodies, which he could feel through their nightgowns.
pleased them. He said, "How beautiful you are, both of you. I am so proud of
you. I cannot let you sleep alone. It is such a long time since I have seen
Holding them in a fatherly way, with their heads on his chest,
caressing them protectively, he let them fall asleep, one on each side of him.
Their young bodies, with their small breasts barely formed, affected him so that
he did not sleep. He fondled one and then the other, with catlike movements, so
as not to disturb them, but after a moment his desire was so violent that he
awakened one and began to force himself on her. The other did not escape either.
They resisted and wept a little, but they had seen so much of this during their
life with their mother that they did not rebel.
But this was not to be
an ordinary case of incest, for the Baron's sexual fury was increasing and had
become an obses-sion. Being satisfied did not free him, calm him. It was like an
irritant. From his daughters he would go to his wife and take her.
was afraid his daughters would abandon him, run away, so he spied on them and
practically imprisoned them.
His wife discovered this and made violent
scenes. But the Baron was like a madman now. He no longer cared about his
dressing, his elegance, his adventures, his fortune. He stayed at home and
thought only of the moment when he could take his daughters together. He had
taught them all the caresses imagin-able. They learned to kiss each other in his
presence until he was excited enough to possess them.
But his obsession,
his excesses, began to weigh on them.
His wife deserted him.
night when he had taken leave of his daughters, he wandered through the
apartment, still a prey to desire, to erotic fevers and fantasies. He had
exhausted the girls. They had fallen asleep. And now his desire was tormenting
him again. He was blinded by it. He opened the door to his son's room. His son
was calmly sleeping, lying on his back, with his mouth slightly open, The Baron
watched him, fascinated. His hard penis continued to torment him. He fetched a
stool and placed it near the bed. He kneeled on it and he put his penis to his
son's mouth. The son awakened choking and struck at him. The girls also
Their rebellion against their father's folly mounted, and they
abandoned the now frenzied, aging Baron.