Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin

The Miracle of Blood and Joy

Anaïs Nin met Henry Miller just when she and her husband were starting to liberate themselves from the strict restraint of their religious childhoods. Miller’s wife was a gold-digger—a semi- prostitute who elicited gifts and attention from men—and she and Miller represented everything Nin had been looking for in life: sexual liberty, inspiration, imagination and reality. Soon after Miller and Nin exchanged their writings, they began an affair that was inspired by their writing as much as by the chaos of June’s lies and contradictions. They inspired each other to write, and they helped each other clarify their writing. Nin helped Miller channel his feelings for June into writing, and Miller encouraged Nin to seek sexual experience and self-knowledge in her affair with June and with him, as well as in her marriage and in her other affairs.

Miller could never imagine himself being monogamous, and Nin would never divorce her husband—and even though Nin would defend herself from her reliance on Miller by keeping other lovers—and even though she would eventually let Miller drift away from her—they proclaimed themselves married by their ‘literary fuck fests,’ and after their affair, their lives would always remain interwoven. Nin continued to send Miller money even after he married and married again after the war, and Miller returned the favor when his books finally began to sell, when Nin was still struggling to make a name for herself with her fiction.
Together, Miller and Nin leave us on the brink of the chaotic individualistic culture we’ve known since the 1960s, for Nin’s journals and Miller’s blasphemous meditations on modern culture both destroyed any lines that might have separated life from love from art. Objective truth and narrative structures were no longer relevant, but writing became a diabolical method of self- creation—which centered on their sexual and emotional relationships. Literature after Miller and Nin, art after Miller and Nin ceased to be the mere final product of an artists’ labors—it became what we know it as now: the chaotic process, incomplete and interminable, for coming into oneself, for coming into relationship with lovers, for starting to regain the human world swamped by industrial culture.

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