House of Incest

Last updated
House of Incest(Henri Vain)
First US edition (1947)
Author Anaïs Nin
Country France
Language French
Publisher Siana Editions (France self published), Gemor Press (US translation)
Publication date
1936 (US translation 1947)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages72 p. (reissue paperback edition)
ISBN 0-8040-0148-0 (reissue paperback edition)
OCLC 19921905
811/.54 20
LC Class PS3527.I865 H6 1989

House of Incest is a slim volume of 72 pages written by Anaïs Nin. Originally published in 1936, it is Anaïs Nin's first work of fiction. But unlike her diaries and erotica, House of Incest does not detail the author's relationships with famous lovers like Henry Miller, nor does it contain graphic depiction of sex. Rather, House of Incest is a surrealistic look within the narrator's subconscious mind as she attempts to escape from a dream in which she is trapped, or in Nin's words, as she attempts to escape from "the woman's season in hell."


Plot introduction

Nin's usage of the word incest in this case is metaphorical, not literal. In other words, in this book the word "incest" describes a selfish love where one can appreciate in another only that which is similar to oneself. One is then only loving oneself, shunning all differences. At first, such a self-love can seem ideal because it is without fear and without risk. But eventually it becomes a sterile nightmare. Toward the end of the book, the character called "the modern Christ" puts Nin's use of the word into context: “If only we could all escape from this house of incest, where we only love ourselves in the other."

Nin was under the analysis of Otto Rank during the period of writing House of Incest. Rank was an early disciple of Freud, serving as the secretary and youngest member of his Vienna group, but had long since dissented from Freudian orthodoxy and developed his own theoretical school. Incest: From a Journal of Love"—The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin (1932–1934) reveals that the two were also having an affair.

Rank helped Anaïs edit House of Incest. He had experience with this topic, as Otto Rank's most famous book is The Trauma of Birth. House of Incest is largely an attempt by the narrator to cope with the shock of the trauma of birth. Anaïs Nin describes the process as akin to being "[e]jected from a paradise of soundlessness.... thrown up on a rock, the skeleton of a ship choked in its own sails."

Literary significance & criticism

In Anaïs Nin: An Introduction, authors Duane Schneider and Benjamin Franklin V both argue that the basic theme of House of Incest is that ultimately life in the real world, which contains both pleasure and pain, is preferable to any self-created world that attempts to include only pleasure. [1] Franklin and Schneider argue that a world consisting only of pleasure is ultimately a sterile world where intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth is not possible, and what results is stunted people. In this, they offer the passage from House of Incest wherein Anaïs Nin writes, "Worlds self-made and self-nourished are so full of ghosts and monsters."

The prose of House of Incest

The prose of House of Incest is considered by many to be one of the major challenges of the work. The prose and tone of the work is not linear and does not utilize everyday language. Rather, the book is written in prose that is often described as either surrealist or symbolist.

"My first vision of earth was water veiled. I am of the race of men and women who see all things through this curtain of sea and my eyes are the color of water. I looked with chameleon eyes upon the changing face of the world, looked with anonymous vision upon my uncompleted self." (p. 15)

Duane Schneider and Benjamin Franklin V write that the prose of House of Incest is so challenging that it requires the total attention of the reader.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

Incest in the Nin family

As was eventually revealed in the 1990s when the unexpurgated versions of Anaïs Nin's diaries were published, Anaïs Nin claims to have had an incestuous relationship with her own father during her late 20s. It has been claimed [ by whom? ] that this incestuous relationship was encouraged by one of her therapists, who suggested that in retaliation for her father's abandonment of her during her childhood, Anaïs Nin should seduce her father in adulthood and then abandon him. In theory, this was supposed to leave Anaïs Nin feeling empowered.

It has been written [ by whom? ] that at the time of the publication of House of Incest, which took place at around the same time that Anaïs Nin was having an incestuous relationship with her father, some members of the Nin family who knew about the incestuous relationship were "horrified" to know that Anaïs Nin was writing a book with this title.[ citation needed ] They assumed that the book was going to be an exposé on the father/daughter incestuous relationship.[ citation needed ]

As has been discussed above, the "incest" referred to in the book is largely a metaphor for a type of self-love or obsession with what is the same or similar to oneself. However, Nin's relationship with her father is present in some instances, such as:

"Stumbling from room to room I came into the room of paintings, and there sat Lot with his hand upon his daughter's breast while the city burned behind them, cracking open and falling into the sea." (p. 52)

The book itself, and its meanings as well as subtleties, are derived directly from the experiences shared between herself and her father.[ citation needed ] The sameness and feeling of love for each other were in actuality the facades of a love which reflected only themselves and their similarities.[ citation needed ] Her use of the word "incest" is not only metaphorical in the sense that it describes such an inter-relationship between states, but between psychological aspects as well as the obviously physical interactions they may contain.[ original research? ]

Love in Incest

Other sources claim Nin's writings in House of Incest are a symbolic representation of the passionate love affair between Nin and Henry Miller, a continuation of Henry and June :

"In her published fiction ... Anaïs Nin could disguise biographical facts, the truth told as a "fairy tale" as she clued in readers of her first book of poetic prose, House of Incest" [2]


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anaïs Nin</span> French-born American author (1903–1977)

Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell was a French-born American diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories and erotica. Born to Cuban parents in France, Nin was the daughter of the composer Joaquín Nin and the classically trained singer Rosa Culmell. Nin spent her early years in Spain and Cuba, about sixteen years in Paris (1924–1940), and the remaining half of her life in the United States, where she became an established author.

<i>A Spy in the House of Love</i> Book by Anaïs Nin

A Spy in the House of Love is a 1954 novel by Anaïs Nin. Alongside her other novels, Ladders to Fire, Children of the Albatross, The Four-Chambered Heart and Seduction of the Minotaur, it was gathered into a collection known as Cities of the Interior. The novel follows the character of Sabina, a woman who enjoys the sexual licence typically associated with men. Sabina wears extravagant outfits and deliberately avoids romantic commitments. She pursues sexual pleasure in isolation of any other romantic attachment.

<i>Delta of Venus</i> 1977 short story collection by Anaïs Nin

Delta of Venus is a book of fifteen short stories by Anaïs Nin published posthumously in 1977—though largely written in the 1940s as erotica for a private collector.

<i>The Diary of Anaïs Nin</i> Book by Anaïs Nin

The Diary of Anaïs Nin is the published version of Anaïs Nin's own private manuscript diary, which she began at age 11 in 1914 during a trip from Europe to New York with her mother and two brothers. Nin would later say she had begun the diary as a letter to her father, Cuban composer Joaquín Nin, who had abandoned the family a few years earlier.

<i>Henry and June</i> 1986 book excerpted from diaries of Anaïs Nin

Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin is a 1986 book that is based upon material excerpted from the unpublished diaries of Anaïs Nin. It corresponds temporally to the first volume of Nin's published diaries, written between October 1931 and October 1932, yet is radically different, in that that book begins with a description of the landscape of and around her home and never mentions her husband, whereas Henry and June begins with discussion of Nin's sex life and is full of her struggles and passionate relationship with husband Hugo, and then, as the novel/memoir progresses, other lovers.

Winter of Artifice, published in 1939, is Anaïs Nin's second published book, containing subsequently alternating novelettes.

<i>Under a Glass Bell</i> 1944 book by Anaïs Nin

Under a Glass Bell, originally published in 1944 and subsequently published with several more editions, was the first book by Anaïs Nin to gain attention from the literary establishment. It was published by Nin's own printing press, which she named Gemor Press.

<i>Incest: From a Journal of Love</i>

Incest: From a Journal of Love: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin (1932–1934) is a 1992 non-fiction book by Anaïs Nin. It is a continuation of the diary entries first published in Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin. It features Nin's relationships with writer Henry Miller, his wife June Miller, the psychoanalyst Otto Rank, her father Joaquín Nin, and her husband Hugh Parker Guiler. She also copied some of her correspondence with these people into her diary. Much of this book was written in English, although those of her letters which were originally written in French and Spanish were translated. Most of this diary takes place in France, particularly Clichy, Paris and Louveciennes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">June Miller</span>

June Miller was the second wife of writer Henry Miller. He wrote prolifically about her and their relationship in his books, usually using the pseudonyms Mona or Mara interchangeably. She also appears prominently in the early diaries of Anaïs Nin.

<i>The Four-Chambered Heart</i>

The Four-Chambered Heart is a 1950 autobiographical novel by French-born writer Anaïs Nin, part of her Cities of the Interior sequence. It is about a woman named Djuna, her love, her thoughts, her emotions, her doubts, her decisions, and her sacrifices. It is not considered one of Nin's most noteworthy novels, yet it continues to be referenced in various studies and discussions regarding Nin and her body of work.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joaquín Nin</span>

Joaquín Nin y Castellanos was a Cuban pianist and composer. Nin was the father of Anaïs Nin.

Incest is a popular topic in English erotic fiction; there are entire collections and websites devoted solely to incest, and there exists an entire genre of pornographic pulp fiction known as "incest novels". Incest is sometimes mentioned or described in mainstream, non-erotic fiction. Connotations can be negative, positive, or neutral.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kim Krizan</span> American writer and actress (born 1961)

Kim Krizan is an American writer and actress best known for originating the story and characters in the "Before Sunrise" trilogy with her writing on Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and a Writers Guild Award. The trilogy is based on characters she created with Richard Linklater. Krizan currently resides in Los Angeles, where she writes and teaches writing courses, most notably at UCLA. In the fall of 2021, she launched a video based writing class on Patreon.

<i>Fire: From a Journal of Love</i>

Fire: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin is a 1995 book that is based on material excerpted from the unpublished diaries of Anais Nin. It corresponds temporally to part of Anaïs Nin's published diaries, but consists mostly of material about her love life that was too sensitive or secret to publish in her lifetime or in that of others involved.

<i>Nearer the Moon</i>

Nearer the Moon: From a Journal of Love is a 1996 book based upon material excerpted from the unpublished diaries of Anaïs Nin. It corresponds temporally to part of Nin's published diaries. It consists mainly of material that was left out of the published version because it would have hurt people involved or their relationships with Anaïs Nin had it been published at the time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seduction of the Minotaur</span> A book by Anaïs Nin originally titled "The Solar Barque"

Seduction of the Minotaur is an autobiographical novel by Anaïs Nin, the last part of her Cities of the Interior sequence. It is about a woman named Lillian, and her self-psychoanalysis. The setting is taken from Anaïs' diary account of her first trip to Acapulco in 1947, and the novel repeats much of the first part of The Diary of Anaïs Nin volume V. Since the author was concerned with psychology rather than physical adventure, there is actually less violence in the novel than in the diary account. The exception is that the doctor allows himself to be shot because he is loved only as a doctor and never as a man, perhaps patterned after her understanding of Otto Rank's death.

<i>Quiet Days in Clichy</i> (novel)

Quiet Days in Clichy is a novella written by Henry Miller. It is based on his experience as a Parisian expatriate in the early 1930s, when he and Alfred Perlès shared a small apartment in suburban Clichy as struggling writers. It takes place around the time Miller was writing Black Spring. According to his photographer friend George Brassaï, Miller admitted the title is “completely misleading.”

Incest can be found in many varieties of literature, from popular forms to serious fiction, either as an important thematic element or as an incidental element of the plot. Incest is human sexual activity between family members or close relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in consanguinity, and sometimes those related by affinity, adoption, clan, or lineage.

Incest as either a thematic element or an incidental element of the plot, can be found in numerous films and television programs.

<i>The Incest Diary</i>

The Incest Diary is a 2017 memoir by an anonymous author detailing her incestuous and abusive relationship with her father.


  1. Franklin, Benjamin; Schneider, Duane (1979). Anaïs Nin: an introduction. Ohio University Press. ISBN   978-0821404324.
  2. Nin, Anaïs (1989). A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller: 1932–1953. HMH. p. vi. ISBN   978-0547541501.