Tuesday, January 07, 2014

276. Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

The main reason why I did not succumb to E. L. James's hyped trilogy was just because of that: the hype. I also did not believe that beyond the raunchy sex unleashed upon readers there could be anything worth to glean. My mind was made up right from the beginning: sex has become the god of capitalism. Everything would sell if you add a dose of it. Car shows are full of models, as if the people who buy those cars also buy the models in addition. Formula 1 is filled with models and boxing too. Music videos are the worst. Today, talent does not count; sex does. The more skin you show, the more shows you get to play. Susan Boyle was looked down upon because she did not meet the industry's standards. At least until she opened her voice. Yet, had she been svelte and shown more skin, much respect would have been shown her. So these are my bit about sex in the Twenty-first Century. However, when a reader is running out of books, even the most despised book gets the nod. I did not know I had this book until searching for a book to read I discovered it hidden within an already read pile. I decided to give it a try. Truly I did not know what to expect and did not expect what hit me in the head.

Delta of Venus (Penguin Classics, 1977; 225) by Anaïs Nin is a collection of fifteen short stories that deal entirely with sex - anything (or most of the things) one could think about with respect to sex. From incestuous sex to bestiality; from orgies to drugged orgies; from exhibitionists to nymphomaniacs; from necrophilia to pedophilia, this book has it all. It is about sexual perversions and explorations and the incredulous; truly, there was one that was almost on the brink of child molestation, another almost on the borderline of mutilation. The stories are about people searching for ways to satisfy their sexual desires and sometimes finding it in obscure places and in strange individuals. There is even a story of a young girl who had orgasm before a priest during confession and a priest who allowed a young boy to be raped by the bigger boys.

According to the preface, which was taken from Nin's diary entries, she wrote these stories at a dollar a page for a collector, and was frustrated at having to create such high-octane sexual encounters devoid of poetry or literature. However, despite the collector's insistence on 'no poetry, no literature, just sex', Anais managed to carve a language that is not too vulgar, yet beautiful in spite of the requirements. She worried that she was being asked to strip sex to its bare essentials, thus making it a chore instead of something special: taking away the foreplay, the spirituality, the poetry.

However Elena was too long and winding and not all the stories had the same interest. Some were difficult to take and others were plain stupid. Some of the stories seeped into others, and some characters appear in others. There is no sense of shame attached to each of the sexual acts and no one was punished for it - be it rape or necrophilia. The characters were fitted into a moral vacuum, away from the judging and punishing eyes of society. A situation that had killed many a sexual life before it developed. That this book was written in the 1940s where sex was not completely open makes it 'revolutionary'. Anaïs Nin did not hide behind metaphors. She said it as it is. And yet not in an 'in your face' kind of way. She describes scenes and events as any novelists would have described a room, a park, with all the details. Anaïs employed different narrative styles. There were narratives within narratives; omniscient narrator, and first person. 

If you are worried by any of these themes, perhaps Anaïs Nin will not be for you. Apart from that this is nicely written which would have made a name for itself had it been written and published today.


  1. I will like to read this book. Above all, I think I will like the way it explores sexual complexity.


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