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Delta of Venus, Erotica


Delta of Venus, Erotica by Anais Nin

Anais Nin's collection of erotic stories was not published until 1977, nearly 40 years after it was written. She had published other novels and a seven volume diary, but had resisted publishing these stories. She had resisted releasing these stories for reasons she explained in the preface to Delta of Venus, which had been excerpted from the third volume of The Diary of Anais Nin:

[April, 1940] "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."(pg - ix)

Needing money, Nin and several other writers took up the offer: "The telephone bill was unpaid. The net of economic difficulties was closing in on me. Everyone around me irresponsible, unconscious of the shipwreck. I did thirty pages of erotica."(pg - xii)

Nin commented on the feedback she received for the stories:

[December, 1940] "Today I received a phone 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 adventures.

'Less poetry,' said the voice over the telephone. 'Be specific.'"
(pg - xi)

Against this backdrop, Nin wrote the collected stories that were published in Delta of Venus. The basis for most of her stories came from her adventures and acquaintances while living with a number of struggling artists and writers in Paris in the early 1940s. One of the longest stories in the collection "The Basque and Bijou" detail the twisted, on and off relationship between a successful artist and a prostitute he engaged as his model.

The Basque first sees Bijou after he pays to peek into the prostitute's room. Looking through a hole in the wall, the Basque sees Bijou involved in a lesbian encounter with another prostitute as a foreign couple watches them:

"The foreigners must have asked to see a man and a woman together and this was Maman's (the Madame) compromise. Bijou had tied on a rubber penis, which possessed the advantage of never wilting.... ...Crouching, Bijou was sliding this fake virility not inside, but beside Viviane's legs, as if she were churning milk, and Viviane was contracting her legs as if she were being tantalized by a real man." (pg – 158)

The Basque, fully aroused, later barges into the room, offering the couple a real man to watch. The action became so feverish the couple removed their clothing and joined in during a pages long orgy. As the action stills and the couple quickly depart, the Basque looks to Bijou and says, "We gave them a good spectacle. Now you get dressed and follow me. I'm going to take you home. I'm going to paint you. I'll pay Maman whatever she wants." (pg – 161)

Bijou goes with the Basque, but soon finds him to be a very cruel lover and boss. The Basque, who often entertains friends, will expose her to them in humiliating ways, once shaving her pubic hair for them and then exhibiting her to them. After the Basque teased her sexually in front of them she pleaded:

" 'Stop,' begged Bijou, 'stop.' The men could see the moisture oozing from her. Then the Basque stopped, not wanting to give her pleasure, reserving that for himself later." (pg-165)

Bijou later finds a temporary escape from the Basque and visited a clairvoyant, a large black man from West Africa. With his powers he senses her dissatisfaction, and in a delightfully, teasing way, he seduces her. The action is heated:

"Once again he turned her over, so he could watch himself taking her from the front. His hands sought her breasts under the dress and crushed them with violent caresses. His sex was large and filled her completely." (pg – 170)

Bijou later brings a female friend into the scene with the clairvoyant for an extended romp. The West African seems perfect for Bijou until he decides he want to pierce her labia to hang an earring from it. Bijou immediately flees:

"Now she was without a lover. The Basque continued to tease her, arousing great desires for revenge. She was only happy when she was deceiving him." (pg – 176)

She exacts revenge upon him, which Nin follows with the Basque recalling a similar circumstance from his youth and the pain is intensified through the recollection. The story fades in his pain.

The book contains another 14 stories, all equaling absorbing, sensual and erotic. The absolute art in Nin's stories lie within the characters, all so vividly portrayed with beauty and most importantly, flaws. The erotica, while explicit, is heightened as the characters conquer and fail, they sin and are redeemed again, erections are lost only to be re-invigorated, and plots are carried out and foiled. She makes the reader get involved in the situation as she teases, tantalizes and finally releases them.

With the stories included in Delta of Venus and later with more stories in Little Birds, both published after Nin's death in 1977, Anais Nin had opened the world to a new view of erotica. As she explains in her Postscript to the book's Preface written in 1976:

"At the time we were all writing erotica at a dollar a page, I realized that for centuries we had only one model for the literary genre – the 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 between Henry Miller's explicitness and my ambiguities – between his humorous Rabelaisian view of sex and my poetic descriptions of sexual relationships... As I wrote in Volume Three of the Diary, I had a feeling that Pandora's box contained the mysteries of woman's sensuality, so different from a man's and for which man's language was inadequate." (pg – xvi)

It was in Anais Nin's voice that an adequate language was spoken for women and men. Delta of Venus and Little Birds are available at Amazon. com and other booksellers. Nin's other books include Spy in the House of Love, House of Icest, Ladders to Fire, The Four-Chambered Heart, The Diaries of Anais Nin, Volumes 1-7 and many more. Delta of Venus was used as a rough basis for a very bad movie by the same name.

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