Arrows of Longing: The Correspondence Between Anais Nin and Felix Pollak, 1952-1976

Overview

"What moving poems you fashion out of your sadness. Beautiful, wistful poems of deep feeling. You have not lost your gift. What a pair we are. I have been fighting cancer for six months. May be well in August. I will read your poems to my students." -- Anaïs Nin to Felix Pollak

In the winter of 1951-52, Anaïs Nin was a writer in despair. More than a dozen publishing houses had rejected her new novel, A Spy in the House of Love, and Nin became desperate for literary acceptance. Encouragement came from an ...

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Overview

"What moving poems you fashion out of your sadness. Beautiful, wistful poems of deep feeling. You have not lost your gift. What a pair we are. I have been fighting cancer for six months. May be well in August. I will read your poems to my students." -- Anaïs Nin to Felix Pollak

In the winter of 1951-52, Anaïs Nin was a writer in despair. More than a dozen publishing houses had rejected her new novel, A Spy in the House of Love, and Nin became desperate for literary acceptance. Encouragement came from an unexpected source. Felix Pollak, an Austrian emigré and Rare Book Librarian at Northwestern University, had been entrusted with the task of acquiring some of Nin's manuscripts for the library. A longtime admirer of her work and himself an emerging poet, Pollak wrote Nin a letter of appreciation, and this quickly blossomed into an animated and devoted correspondence.

Through this correspondence of over 200 letters, both writers present nuanced self-portraits that shed fresh light on their complex personalities. Their frank and open exchange of views on life and art spanned twenty-five years. Editor Gregory H. Mason provides us with a unique insight into the development of these two writers as they grow in their friendship and as artists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book is both useful and entertaining, because it offers a discussion of the writers’ aesthetic beliefs while revealing the intimate thoughts of two romantic, creative individuals. Recommended."

-- Library Journal

Library Journal
This title (taken from Nietzsche's Pfeile der Sehnsucht) might well describe the emotional frustrations of the two correspondents whose letters appear in this book. Nin struggled with publishers 20 years before her books achieved recognition. Pollak, an aspiring author and rare-books librarian, deplored what he considered to be his lackluster career choice. Editor Mason (English, Gustavus Adolphus Coll.) successfully organizes the letters in chronological segments beginning each with an explanatory introduction. Nin and Pollak ceased correspondence in 1962 because of some disagreements over artistic principles. However, they resumed correspondence in 1972 until Nin's death from cancer in 1977. Appendixes include a Pollak bibliography and a selection of Pollak's poetry. This book is both useful and entertaining, because it offers a discussion of the writers' aesthetic beliefs while revealing the intimate thoughts of two romantic, creative individuals. Recommended.Robert T. Ivey, Univ. of Memphis
Kirkus Reviews
Although Nin confided in her diary, "These are the letters which have kept my writing alive," the often banal correspondence is of less significance for her readers. The embellished multi-volume self-portrait of Nin's diary, with its numerous entangled love affairs and wide-ranging travels, hardly suggested the more or less mundane correspondence she conducted with Felix Pollak, a librarian at Northwestern University. Pollak, who initially contacted the then-obscure Nin about the purchase of her manuscripts, was also a fellow European exile, who had fled his beloved Austria with the Anschluss, and a struggling poet with a taste for the mordant social observations of his hero, the Viennese critic Karl Kraus. Pollak's denunciations of the philistinism in American publishing, which had persistently rejected Nin's novel A Spy in the House of Love, combined with his fanlike admiration for Nin's work to win over the author. Mason (English/Gustavus Adolphus Coll.) has collected and thoroughly annotated their letters, adding examples of Pollak's poetry and aphorisms he sent to Nin, but his scholarly efforts cannot gloss over Nin's fairly trivial letters, with their complaints about her lack of recognition, or Pollak's sub-Krausian imprecations upon 1950s America. Their slim literary links apart, their unfurling relationship is based on egotistic symbiosis, she receiving his critical appreciation, he an ear to her pent-up frustrationsþsocial, professional, literary, and marital. Their friendship teetered at first on their one face-to-face meeting, for which Pollak later apologized for his "adolescent" behavior, and it broke off for a decade after Pollak wrote a review (never published) ofNin's Seduction of the Minotaur that revealed its roman-…-clef descriptions of her then-secret affair with Henry Miller. After the epistolary dynamo of Nin's correspondence with Henry Miller (A Literary Passion, 1987), this friendship on paper has all the power of an electric train set.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804010061
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 5.87 (w) x 9.37 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Anais Nin—the celebrated novelst, diarist, and short story writer—was born in France and spent her childhood in various parts of Europe and in New York. Nin returned to New York just before the outbreak of World War II, and she spent the rest of her life living there and in Paris and Los Angeles. Her work is characterized by a interest in the subconscious. Her five novels in the Cities of the Interior series focus on different female types and follow their lives through lovers, art, and analysis. In 1973 Nin received an honorary doctorate from Philadelphia College of Art. She was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974.
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