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                            BOOK REVIEW – ANAIS NIN – DELTA OF VENUS. 1940’s / 1978 Star Books

 

A collection of erotica written for a private collector in the 1940’s and released commercially in 1978 just before Nin’s death. Nin was a friend of Henry Miller, Gore Vidal and other male erotica authors, and took on the men at their own game. Her own work was criticised by the unknown ‘Collector’ for being too intelligent, but she kept writing her own brand of erotica, and he kept buying it. The tales in this collection are still as vibrant, and sometimes shocking, as when they were written. Though she thought she was writing a satire on the genre, her work proved to be more arousing than humorous.

 

THE HUNGARIAN ADVENTURER tells of the downfall of a notorious womaniser, known only as The Baron, a modern day Casanova. He meets a Brazilian stripper and decides to settle down to married life. They have two daughters and a son.  Feeling the urge to commit adultery, the Baron takes his sexual frustration out by turning into an incestuous paedophile, trying to seduce first the daughters and then the son. When they reject and leave him, he is abandoned to die alone.

 

MATHILDA was an early sexual conquest of the Baron’s but her own story tells of her despair when men find her sexy and an inspiration to lust instead of just falling in romantic love with her. She finds men’s advances more of an insult than a compliment. She finally meets a man she trusts, but he gets her addicted to heroin induced sexual release, and then turns out to be a serial killer. Mathilda is just saved from becoming his last victim by the police.

 

THE BOARDING SCHOOL is a harrowing tale of voyeuristic priests and a young boy being gang-bang sodomised by his classmates.

 

In THE RING an Indian masochist restricts his sexual erections by use of a tight fitting cock ring and gets drive to the brink of killing his latest lover in a fit of pain induced madness, but he comes to his senses, and makes tender love to her instead. A Nin story with a happy ending for once.  

 

In MALLORCA a woman invites another girl to a lesbian skinny-dipping swim in the sea, but it is a trick to lure her to the attention of a man who is also naked in the water. The ruse works, and the seduced girl are happy with her male lover.

 

LILITH is in a crumbling relationship with her husband. One night, he tells her that he has slipped a Spanish Fly aphrodisiac into her tea to make her more open to sex, but she is not due to stay in. She is going to a cinema with a girl friend, and once out, she imagines her uncontrollable passion turning her on to any man and even her lady friend, but the drug takes its time. Even back home with her husband, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Finally, he admits to a cruel joke. He gave her no such potion. Lilith now dreams of getting her hand on real sexual stimulants.

 

MARRIANE is the most autobiographical of the stories given that Nin wrote her stories for a mysterious figure called only The Collector. Here, The Collector sends her to a girl who can edit the work for her, and the narrator finds out that the girl has written her own story, inspired by what she has read. The girl is virginal, and also an artist. She is involved with a man who pays her to paint him naked, but never lets her touch him, causing her intense sexual anxiety.

 

MANUEL is a flasher who is danger of being arrested. He gets work for one woman who pays him by looking at his genitalia when he drops his trousers.  He eventually meets a female equivalent to himself, and they go away happy to flash their private parts at each other.

 

LINDA tells of a woman in a very open marriage, who told by her hair-dresser that she ought to meet men who treat her badly in order to more appreciate the men who treat her well, meets up with a man who refuses to have sex with her, but who is willing to make love to a handkerchief she has wiped her genitalia with. He does this right under her nose.

 

MARCEL tells of an insecure man, who lacks self-confidence, gaining sexual education from the narrator and visiting can-can clubs, but the decadent beautiful free-love world is soon to be shattered by the impending Nazi occupation, and everyone senses it.

 

THE VEILED WOMAN – A man is offered a chance to earn money making love to a beautiful rich stranger, though he will never be allowed to know her identity. He accepts the offer and gets taken blindfolded to a fantastic and profitable sexual encounter. Months later, by chance he learns that she also invited men to watch him in action. He is left paranoid that all of his sexual encounters may have been secretly watched.

 

ELANA – Elana has read D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and feels as if her own love life is bland by comparison. A gay man, who will make love to her only up to a point, as he harbours a phobia about women’s vaginas, then seduces her. She also has an affair with Pierre, a fugitive anarchist, who is on the run for crimes against the state. Elana also experiments with lesbianism. She has so much sex without love that she feels hardened and immune, comparing herself to someone walking on hot coals without burning her feet. She knows that Pierre will move on out of her life, but she is content to make love to him before that day comes.

 

PIERRE – The anarchist who appears in Elana has aback story of his own, in which his sexual awakening involved the necrophiling of a woman’s body rescued from a quayside. Chased and almost captured, Pierre receives a slow sexual education from other women but he remains haunted by his crime.

 

Undoubtedly one of the best and most important works of erotica from the 20th century.

 

Arthur Chappell

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