Paris is the city of light and love, but Paris is also the city of literature. At the beginning of the last century it was a melting pot of intellectual from everywhere, among them as well Anais Nin and Henry Miller.
So, how is it that a New York City native author/painter Henry Miller and a Cuban-American diarist Anais Nin became so synonymous with the City of Lights when, in reality, little of their long lives took place in Paris?
Paris is the city of writers, and was home to Anais Nin
Anais was born in France, but moved away at an early age. She and her mother relocated to New York City when she was 11 following the separation of her parents. Young Anais was emotionally torn: she missed her life in Europe, especially her father with whom she was very close, but quickly began to fall in love with New York and all things English. The frenetic energy of the bustling metropolis was cathartic for Anais who writes of being a very anxious and nervous young woman.
Eventually Anais married and was uprooted again when her husband Hugh accepted a job opportunity in Paris. Anais found herself back in Europe, but any fantasy she had about her once-home was forgotten. Hiding in their small studio on Rue Schoelcher, Anais would write of her dislike for Paris. She had attached herself emotionally to New York City and connecting with the intrinsically different city of Paris was a difficult adjustment. Not one to back down from a challenge, she decided that rather than isolate herself she would make detailed accounts of the artists and intellectuals that occupied southern Montparnasse café scene. Anais would frequent many of the legendary cafes, such as Café Dome where she would scribble away in her journal until late in the evenings.
Hugh’s job working at the bank was going well, and in 1929 Anais and he moved into a luxurious apartment at 47 Boulevard Suchet. This apartment became a creative outlet for Anais, and she designed many aspects of her opulent dwelling. Sadly Anais’ time at the Suchet apartment was not long lived. Life in the city center was proving to be too expensive for Hugh and Anais and in 1930 they moved the suburb of Louvciennes into what is regarded as her most famous place of residence. It would be here that she would meet Henry Miller and both of their lives would change forever.
The Paris of Henry Miller and the love strwith Anais
Henry Miller was living in room 40 at Hotel Central at No.1 bis rue du Maine while he worked for the Chicago Tribune as a ghostwriter. It was in this small studio that he would begin writing Tropic of Cancer, one of the most important pieces written on the subject of Paris in the history of literature. Upon invitation from a mutual friend, Henry made the short trip to Anais’ country home where the legendary authors were both fascinated with one another from first contact. It is during this time that Anais seemed to morph into a different person from the young woman she describes in her early journals. She embraced life with open, excited arms and her attention to detail is not just lost in her diaries as she began to express herself through short stories, essays and novels.
While at the same moment, Henry Miller was in the process of crafting one of literature’s most wild, groundbreaking and meaningful pieces ever written. One cannot help but wonder what would have become of these two writers if it hadn’t been for the city they met in? It affirms yet again how the magic of little Parisian cafés can have an effect that resonates much louder than we can imagine.