Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas 1934

Christmas Day, 1934. Henry Miller is at the Villa Seurat. He is sick with emotion: "I'm sad, I'm homesick, I'm lonesome." Since Christmas Eve, people have been stopping by the Villa Seurat to socialize. Alfred Perles brings a woman named Etienette to the house, and a few other guests, including writer Roger Klein. But Henry does not feel festive. He's been waiting desperately for a response to a letter he'd mailed Anais Nin. The letter had set sail for America on the S.S. Europa on December 16th. In it, Henry had laid everything on the line: "When you get this letter, and after you have thought it over carefully, I want you to send me a cable, and a letter too, if you will. I want to know if you will give up everything and live your life with me--not part time, not furtively, but twenty-four hours of the day and for good." Just five days earlier, Henry's divorce from June had become official. Although Anais is still married to Hugh Guiler, Henry is anxious to get the word from Anais to get on a boat and be with her in New York. "[W]hat I want is an immediately is a definite answer. That ought to be before Christmas. Make it my Christmas present!" [Dec 14, 1934].

At very least, Henry is expecting a Christmas greeting from Anais, but no telegram arrives on Christmas Eve or Day. The impatience is making him hysterical. "Je m'en fous de vous," shouts Henry at his house guests, "Je suis triste, je suis triste!" ["I don't give a fuck about you, I'm sad, I'm sad!"] Henry asks an American lieutenant and his wife to come up to his room because he needs to "talk to an American." "I can't stand the sound of French voices." When everyone finally clears out, Henry lies in bed, weeping. Midnight arrives, and Christmas gives way to Henry's birthday: he's now 43 years old. "It was the weakest moment of my life since I have been in Paris."

For Christmas, Henry is giving Anais a creative re-working of her own story, Alraune (which will be evetually be published as House Of Incest. Henry's version will eventually be called Scenario (A Film With Sound).) On December 23rd, he'd sent a cable to Anais, which she receives on the 25th:

This image is not the real telegram sent by Henry on Dec 23, 1934--I made it up myself. But the text is his. Source: A Literate Passion. Editor: Gunther Stuhlman. Harvest: 1987, p. 271.

Anais has wired $20 to Henry for Christmas, "thinking you might be short." But her reply to his letter of December 14th has not come. He fears she is ill, perhaps dead. Her response will arrive only after Chritsmas, and will be somewhat reassuring, but complicated. A few weeks later, Henry will return to New York City.

All quotes from letters published in A Literate Passion, edited by Gunther Stuhlmann. Harvest Books, 1987.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas and New Year, RC!

Always merry and bright!

6:36 pm  
Blogger J-Lo said...

Thank you for this page. I have read Miller´s work just in my natvive Czech trnaslations but I love him... I used parts from your articles on my blog, don´t you mind? Where have you found his correspondence? I am interested in Anais´ reply.
Nice Christmas!

5:14 am  
Blogger RC said...

Thanks Eric. I hope you're enjoying the holidays.

J-Lo, the letters are published in a book called A Literate Passion. The response from Anais was long and complicated, so I won't summarize it here. Good luck finding it (it seems widely available on the internet).

Happy New Year!

2:52 pm  
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Anonymous Sue Patt said...

Change always comes bearing gifts. ~Price Pritchett Thanks for this nice blog Keep it up!

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