Nin, Anais: Delta of Venus: Erotica
(researched by Christina Romano)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
There are two copyright dates listed for the novel, Delta of Venus. The first is by Anais Nin in 1969. The second is by The Anais Nin Trust in 1977. Perhaps there were two registrations because Nin released the text for publication before her death and because the text had not yet been published, the book was re-registered in 1977 after her death. The first edition of Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin, was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1977. The book was published in New York and London.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in cloth.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
[i]-[vii], viii-xvii, [1]-250, 134 leaves
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The book was neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book is not illustrated.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The dust cover o
f the book is of a rough brown paper material with the title, Delta of Venus, written in red and printed below the title in black is written Erotica and by Anais Nin. The cover is outlined with simple black lines. A black line is also drawn below Anais Nin's name partially separating this information from an old fashioned photograph of a girl posing provocatively in a chair. Her legs are arranged in such a fashion that her undergarments are clearly exposed. Her face is cast downward and she wears a hat that partly obscures her visage. Delta of Venus written again in red and the words, Erotica and by Anais Nin, in black are printed along the spine. The publisher's name is printed below. The spine is also outlined with simple black lines as is the cover. Overall, the effect is attractive and eye catching. The red letters seem to signify the erotic text and to draw attention to the otherwise drab cover details. The text itself is well printed, with words that are nicely spaced and easy to read.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The pages of the book are cream colored, thick, and have vertical edges that are slightly ridged and do not line up evenly. The pages are in pristine condition and when the book is opened they immediately fall back into their original position. It seems as if the book has never been read.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding of the book is a stitched, textured, red trade cloth. Stamped upon it in gold calligraphy are the author's initials, AN, and centered directly above that are 5 gold roses arranged in a simple V shape. Also stamped in gold along the spine are the title of the novel, the author's name, and the publisher's name, all in calligraphy as well. The spine is also adorned with a few of the gold stamped roses. The book binding is in impeccable condition showing no signs of decay.
12 Transcription of title page
Delta of Venus|Erotica by Anais Nin|Harcourt Brace Jovanovich|New York and London Arranged above this information are seven roses in the shape of a V, and a single rose is centered below the last line.
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Unknown
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The erotic stories compiled in Delta of Venus:Erotica were originally written by Anais Nin for a private collector in the 1940s. Later, she decided to release the compilation for publication. The works, however, were not published until after her death. At the beginning of Delta of Venus there is a preface that consists of pages from Anais Nin's diary that provide the reader with background information regarding the contents of the text and attest to her intentions for their publication.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Along with the first edition, there was also a Book Club edition published in 1977 by Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich. I was unable to locate this e
dition.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were 40,000 copies in print of Delta of Venus after the third printing as was noted in the July 1977 issue of Publisher's Weekly.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Penguin 1990 1st Harvest/HBJ 1986 Bantam 1978 Pocket Books 1990, c1977 Bantam Books 1987 Simon and Schuster 1977 Quality Paperback Book Club 1993 Gallery Books 1980 Star Books 1979, 1977
6 Last date in print?
The book is currently in print by Pocket Books.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
As of 1977 Delta of Venus had sold 137,416 copies as noted in Bowker Annual for 1977. I am contacting the publisher to get a current figure.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
I was unable to locate this information.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
I was unable to
locate any advertising copies. There were three promotional articles published, two of which were in the August and July 1977 issues of the New York Times Book Review and one found in a May 1977 issue of Booklist.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
I found no other promotions in my
research.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Cassette recording, Casette Book Company 1983 New Line Home Video:New Line Cinema: Sold exclusively by Turner Home Entertainment, Audiovisual, 1996 Cassette recording, Books on Tape 1984,1979
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Geleos:[Sovremennoe izd. ZAO"LG Informeishn Grup"] 1998 Russian translation Libri and Grandi Opere 1997 Italian Editorial Bruguera 1979, 1978 Spanish P'yongdan Munhwasa 1987 Korean Adam, motsi'im la-or 1982 Hebrew Tascabili Bompiani/Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri, Bompiani, Sonzogno, Etas 1990, 1978 Italian Bertrand Editora 1977 Portuguese Stock 1978 French Scherz 1982, 1977 Dutch
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Anais Nin was born in Neurilly near Paris on February 21, 1903. Her Spanish father, Joaquin Nin was a concert pianist and her mother, Rosa Culnell, was of French-Danish descent. Anais spent the first part of her
life traveling with her family wherever their father's career took them. In 1914, Anais's parents separated and her mother brought Anais and her two brothers from Barcelona to New York. At this point Anais began her later to be famed diaries. In 192
3, at the age of twenty, Anais married Hugo Guiler. In 1924, Hugo and Anais moved to Anais's birth country and resided there until World War II, when they returned to New York. The time Anais spent in Paris marked an important developing period for her
as a writer. While living there, she rejoined with her father and engaged in an incestual affair with him; she also met two other men who influenced her work, psychoanalyst Otto Rank and artist, Henry Miller, with whom Anais also had an affair. During
this time, Anais began writing various fiction piieces, but her first published work was D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study in 1932. In the early 1940s, Anais and Hugo returned to New York, and Anais spent the remainder of her life there and in Los
Angelos, where she had another lover. Much of her literary works were published at her own expense in New York. However, the majority of these works received mixed reviews and her most notable literary achievements were for her diaries published in the
1960s. In 1973 she received an honorary doctorate from Philadelphia College of Arts and she was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974. Anais's fiction works stemming from her diary confessions helped "define a feminine traditio
n in literature." Her writings were unconventional and startling, addressing themes such as incest, homosexual desire, and erotic experimentation from a distinctly feminine and compassionate viewpoint. It is obvious that her troubled relationship with h
er father led to a lifetime of sexual misadventures with men and these experiences are wholly evident in her works. Anais died in Los Angelos in 1977.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Anais Nin's Delta of Venus indicate an overall positive reception. Reviewers seemed fascinated by the sophisticated erotica written from a feminine perspective. As critic Sharon Spencer of The American Book Review noted, "It seems safe to claim that the range and intensity of sexual experience presented in Delta of Venus has never before been expresed by a woman writing in English." Reviews frequently note the distinctive poetic nature of her erotica. As one critic Harriet Zinnes of The New York Times Book Review noted, "Anais Nin became the inventor of a [woman's] language: the language in Delta of Venus is delicate, sinuous, precise and sensual; it is a language that is astonishing as much for its '"purity,"' its freedom from prurience and from the usual '"dirty"' language of erotica written by men as for its spirited, unsqueamish sexuality?[What] she emphasized in her best stories was not exploitative aggression (common to male erotica) but the pleasures of sexual surrender?Even as Nin, therefore, yielded to her collector's demand to leave out the poetry, she was still able to '"concentrate on sex,"' and write the poem!" Paul Brians, a professor at Washington State University, notes that "the qualities which make Nn's fiction in general absorbing are here: the stress on feelings, motivations, relationships; the intensity with which sense impressions are described; the use of symbolic gestures; the affection for individual people." "Nin," he says "uses her keen powers of observation to depict sex in fresh, original ways." Some negative criticism such as that from a Publisher's Weekly review claims that "the transitions and endings in these tales are abrupt, often clumsy, the characters pasteboard, the plotting weak. If there is a bit of poetry here, an attempt at a female language for sexuality, it still doesn't save the day. How sad she had to use her talents this way. Redemption comes in that she could never manage to separate sex from feeling." Paul Brians also notes that "Delta of Venus may pose a problem for some feminists who are currently engaged on a campaign against all pornography on the grounds that it degrades women and is a sort of propaganda for rape." The shocking erotica of Delta of Venus conveyed by a seemingly unabashed feminine voice accounts for the book's popularity among the public. Also, because Delta of Venus was published after Nin's death, and at the same time as Nin's diaries were released, the book was of special interest to those familiar with Nin's unconventional private life.
Book Reviews
1. New Yorker June 1978 by C. McGrath 2. Book Review Digest 1978 3. Atlantic Book Review 1977 4. Booklist May 1977 5. Bookweek July 1978 6. Books Weekly October 1977 7. Kirkus Review April 1977 8. Literary Journal May 1977 9. Newstatesman August 1978 10. New York Times Book Review July 1977 11. New Republic August 1977 12. Observer August 1978 13. Publisher's Weekly April 1977 14. Publisher's Weekly April 1978 15. Times Literary Supplement July 1978 16. Ms. April 1977 17. The Daily Texan July 1977
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Reviews of Anais Nin's Delta of Venus indicate an overall positive reception. Reviewers seemed fascinated by the sophisticated erotica written from a feminine perspective. As critic Sharon Spencer of The American Book Review noted, "It seems safe to claim that the range and intensity of sexual experience presented in Delta of Venus has never before been expresed by a woman writing in English." Reviews frequently note the distinctive poetic nature of her erotica. As one critic Harriet Zinnes of The New York Times Book Review noted, "Anais Nin became the inventor of a [woman's] language: the language in Delta of Venus is delicate, sinuous, precise and sensual; it is a language that is astonishing as much for its '"purity,"' its freedom from prurience and from the usual '"dirty"' language of erotica written by men as for its spirited, unsqueamish sexuality?[What] she emphasized in her best stories was not exploitative aggression (common to male erotica) but the pleasures of sexual surrender?Even as Nin, therefore, yielded to her collector's demand to leave out the poetry, she was still able to '"concentrate on sex,"' and write the poem!" Paul Brians, a professor at Washington State University, notes that "the qualities which make Nn's fiction in general absorbing are here: the stress on feelings, motivations, relationships; the intensity with which sense impressions are described; the use of symbolic gestures; the affection for individual people." "Nin," he says "uses her keen powers of observation to depict sex in fresh, original ways." Some negative criticism such as that from a Publisher's Weekly review claims that "the transitions and endings in these tales are abrupt, often clumsy, the characters pasteboard, the plotting weak. If there is a bit of poetry here, an attempt at a female language for sexuality, it still doesn't save the day. How sad she had to use her talents this way. Redemption comes in that she could never manage to separate sex from feeling." Paul Brians also notes that "Delta of Venus may pose a problem for some feminists who are currently engaged on a campaign against all pornography on the grounds that it degrades women and is a sort of propaganda for rape." The shocking erotica of Delta of Venus conveyed by a seemingly unabashed feminine voice accounts for the book's popularity among the public. Also, because Delta of Venus was published after Nin's death, and at the same time as Nin's diaries were released, the book was of special interest to those familiar with Nin's unconventional private life.
Book Reviews
1. New Yorker June 1978 by C. McGrath 2. Book Review Digest 1978 3. Atlantic Book Review 1977 4. Booklist May 1977 5. Bookweek July 1978 6. Books Weekly October 1977 7. Kirkus Review April 1977 8. Literary Journal May 1977 9. Newstatesman August 1978 10. New York Times Book Review July 1977 11. New Republic August 1977 12. Observer August 1978 13. Publisher's Weekly April 1977 14. Publisher's Weekly April 1978 15. Times Literary Supplement July 1978 16. Ms. April 1977 17. The Daily Texan July 1977
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Anais Nin's Delta of Venus, published in 1977, immediately became a best seller. Many factors contributed to the popularity of the compilation of erotic stories. The intriguing conception of the compilation, the already recognized name of Anais Nin because of her previously published diaries and short fiction works, the details and elements common to a society obsessed with liberated experimentation, a unique feminine approach to sex, as well as the exotic, fantasius imagery distinctive of Nin all account for some degree of the success of Anais Nin' s Delta of Venus. Anais Nin's Delta of Venus begins with an excerpt from her famous diaries explaining away somewhat abashedly the contents of Delta of Venus. Delta of Venus contains a collection of erotic short stories that were originally written for sale to a so-called private collector at the price of a dollar a page. (Nin's publisher, John Ferrone later discovered that he was actually a contributer to "an underground business...that commissioned erotica and then sold copies of the manuscripts privately." )(Ferrone, 40) Originally, the collector had solicited writer, Henry Miller to write the erotica, but Henry Miller turned to Anais Nin and suggested that she try her hand at the task. Nin, though she does not admit this in her diary, offered the collector "two volumes of her diary as erotic entertainment before she began to improvise." (Ferrone, 39) "She hoped, that the collector would be content with '"the one and only revelation made by a woman of her whole intimate life"' so she could get on with her work." (Ferrone, 39) But the collector rejected the personal sexual experiences presented to him by Nin, saying that the material was too poetic, personal, and imaginative. He instructed that she "leave out the poetry and any descriptions of anything but sex." "Concentrate on sex," he said. (Nin, ix) Anais Nin professes that she then "began to write tongue-in-cheek, to become out-landish, inventive, and so exaggerated that [she] thought he would realize [she] was caricaturing sexuality." However she says "there was no protest." (Nin, ix) Nin seemed unsettled that the collector would take pleasure from such "clinical description" of sex, saying that "one day [she] would tell him how he almost made [her and other contributers] lose interest in passion by his obsession with the gestures empty of their emotions, and how [they] reviled him, because he almost caused [them] to take vows of chastity, because what he wanted [them] to exclude was [their] own aphrodisiac and poetry." (Nin, x) Nin churned out the pages of erotica that now make up Delta of Venus during a lull in her career as a writer, when every cent she collected as a result of the erotica was desperately needed. She never dreamed that the erotica would be best selling literature years later. Nin had no intentions of ever releasing the works for publication.
Nin's career as a fiction writer began after her marriage to Hugo Guiler in 1923. He encouraged her to write and after a move from New York to Paris, her birthplace, in 1924, Anais became known for her poetry and short stories, although her first notable literary achievement was a literary review of D.H. Lawrence. Her later writings did bring her recognition as a writer, but her lyrical, abstract, sensual fiction often received mixed reviews and it was the publishing of her diaries (which she had begun writing during her adolescence) that eventually brought her literary fame. This is not surprising, as Nin herself admitted that "she could not convincingly enter into the mind of another and that writing in the third person was unnatural for her." (DLB, 130) After all, her fiction works all seemed to be fictional adaptations of personal events of her life. The diaries of Nin were enormously popular and "once the publication of Nin's diary was initiated, critical attention turned increasingly to this life project and away from her accomplishment as an inventive writer of fiction. The seven volume Diary of Anais Nin, the four volume Early Diary of Anais Nin and the several volumes of "unexpurgated" reeditings have dwarfed...her achievement as an innovator in fiction." (DLB, 138) The fame of her Diaries which were published prior to Delta of Venus undoubtedly spurred the popularity and success of Delta of Venus. After reading the life of Anais Nin, which was hardly conventional as she had numerous love affairs, including an incestuous one with her father, strange obsessions, as the one with Henry and June Miller, and an interesting perspective on life, the readers of the journals were surely intrigued and eager to read the erotica of Delta of Venus as a chance to have an even more intimate look at Anais Nin's life. Also, the story of the collector is mentioned in volume three of Nin's Diaries further serving to induce readers' interest in the mysterious collection of erotica. Nin originally was firmly opposed to the publication of the erotic fiction by her current publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. She was certain that the erotica was not "literary enough" (Ferrone, 37) for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and further she feared its sale "would adversely affect not only future sales of the diaries, but also her reputation as a feminist icon." (Bair, 515) She "stipulated that if they were published, it must be with a firm other than Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich in order to keep them from corrupting the reputation of the diaries." (Bair, 515) However, in 1977, Nin was suffering from cancer, and the knowledge of her impending death, prompted her to sell the erotica in order to "sustain Rupert [her lover] and Hugo [her husband]" financially after her death. (Bair, 515) With the encouragement of her publisher, who was deeply impressed by the erotic fiction, Nin finally agreed to their publication by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
However, Nin certainly would not have anticipated the great success of Delta of Venus that immediately following publication "appeared on The New York Times list for 36 weeks" (Ferrone, 41) and would eventually be read in 26 different languages. A look at some of the titles that also enjoyed time on the Bestseller Lists during the decade of the seventies indicates another reason for the tremendous popularity of Delta of Venus. A wave of non-fiction focused on sexuality arose in the seventies including such titles as Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, The Sensuous Woman, "J", Body Language, The Sensuous Man, "M", Any Woman Can!, Open Marriage, The Joy of Sex, More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to the Joy of Sex, and 1976's The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality. The books popular during the seventies indicate the overwhelming interest in literature focused on sexual liberation and sexual gratification. Delta of Venus obviously benefited from the success of the plethora of sexually preoccupied literature of the decade. After all The Joy of Sex probably instructed readers to read erotica with their partners, making Delta of Venus the perfect bedside table companion. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich released Delta of Venus at precisely the right moment to insure positive reception. Delta of Venus fell right into step with the genre of literature being published at the time. It is probable that had Nin released Delta of Venus during earlier years, as her husband often encouraged her to do, it would not have enjoyed the popularity that it did during the seventies. The pages of erotica were, at their conception, undoubtedly before their time.
Many critics praised Delta of Venus for its distinctly feminine perspective regarding sex. In The American Book Review, critic Sharon Spencer notes that "the range and intensity of sexual experience presented in Delta of Venus has never before been expressed by a woman writing in English."(Centing, 20) Ann Crutcher of The New Republic calls Nin "the latter-day saint of the feminist pantheon." (Centing, 12) Although Nin claims that she struggled to portray sex with out feeling, emotions, and poetry, it is clear that she was unable to do so completely. In effect, she gave the erotica a sensual woman's touch lacking in other forms of pornography. As her publisher Ferrone said Delta of Venus displays "elegance of style and feminine sensibility applied to a literary form that was often gross, dehumanizing, and superficial." (Jason, 52)
Although Nin's erotic literature could have been and was occasionally viewed negatively by other women who may have seen the erotica as degrading and shameful to women, it seems that with the influence of other literature that crusaded to assert women's independence, Nin's Delta of Venus could be viewed as a triumph for women, in that a woman freely expressed erotic literature in an explicitcy never before attempted by a woman. Also, in most of the stories, the woman is the dominant, aggressive character, while the men are often portrayed as submissive and supplicating. Her portrayal of woman as a dominatrix, undoubtedly appealed to most female readers who were also advocates of women's rights. Nin's erotic literature is possibly more groundbreaking not in its themes but in the unique feminine perspective Nin demonstrates. Nin addressed themes of lesbian sex, incestual relations, bisexuality, and the like, and the behaviors were often initiated and desired by women characters. The power position in which Nin places the female protagonists of her fiction surely elicited the praises of women for the works. As one critc, Paul Brian said "there is so much here that might be called feminist erotica." "Her women are often assertive, her men sometimes strikingly passive." He says "several times the women reject men who want them or refuse to perform certain acts which they find repugnant." (Centing, 3) These observations seem to account for the praise of some feminists for Nin's works.
In virtually every aspect, Delta of Venus fit the social atmosphere of the seventies. The counter culture of the sixties encouraged people to explore their own identities. There was a continuing focus, thus, on self awareness. Along with that came an uninhibited exploration of sexual activity as well as drug experimentation. The unconventional sexual acts and relationships, the pleasure heightening opiates and cocaine that color the pages of Anais Nin's Delta of Venus were typical points of interest. The themes addressed in Delta of Venus of still especial interest during the decade of the seventies further accounts for the popularity of the book.
Personally, I can see both sides of analyses of Delta of Venus. The stories I found most appealing were those that left more to the reader's imagination by describing feelings, emotions, and sensations, rather than the actual sexual acts. "Mallorca" is one such story in which the sexual encounter is more innocently described with lots of sensations evoked. A body is described as "languid", an embrace "lulling, warming, and caressing." The telling of the sexual act is milder than others Nin depicts. The male character is said simply to "mount" the girl and when the two characters finally consummate the act Nin says vaguely that he "took the girl." (Nin, 36-37) I found that Nin's own assessment was right, in that when she did describe the actual sexual motions the reader is left reading a somewhat clinical seeming detailing of what should be passionate, sensuous experiences. One example is in the story Elena, in which Nin describes "the contraction of the vulva" and "the inrush of dense blood stretching [the penis], the sudden tautness of the muscles". (Nin, 129, 136) The pointed, frank descriptions made me feel detached from the experiences shared by the characters rather than draw me in as I feel fulfilling fiction stories should. Also, I tended to enjoy the stories where Nin chooses to give a bit more background and personal feel to the characters because it allowed me to become more emotionally involved with the characters. Another feature I found alluring was the fantasy like touches that Nin infused in the stories through foreign characters and foreign settings such as the Peruvian woman of "The Ring" and the Parisian setting of "The Basque and the Bijou." Although stories which involved incestuous sexual activity were a bit disturbing to me, I found them of particular interest after learning of Nin's sordid affair with her father as I am sure other readers also did after reading Nin's diaries. It was likely those experiences that compelled Nin to write a story such as "The Hungarian Adventurer" in which a father has an unnatural sexual preoccupation with his two young daughters.
In conclusion, several factors led to the success of Anais Nin's Delta of Venus. It benefited firstly from the intrigue excited by the diaries of Anais Nin previously published. Secondly, the popular theme of sexual liberation and exploration matched other literature of the decade, and lastly the novelty of erotica written from a feminine perspective interested a large audience, in particular liberated women. Other factors that probably contributed to its success were the exotic, otherworldliness quality of characters and setting and the synchronous socialistic preoccupations common through out Delta of Venus.
Works Cited
Bair, Deborah. Anais Nin, A Biography, Penguin Group, 1995, 515.
Centing, Richard. Under the Siege of Pisces: Anais Nin and Her Circle, vol. 7-11, 1976-80.
Ferrone, John. The Making of Delta of Venus, 1986.
Jason, Phillip. Anais Nin and Her Critics
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