ARROWS OF LONGING by Gregory H. Mason


The Correspondence Between Anaãs Nin and Felix Pollak, 1952-1976
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paper 0-8040-1007-2 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 frustrations’social, 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) of Nin’s Seduction of the Minotaur that revealed its roman-Ö-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.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8040-1006-4
Page count: 243pp
Publisher: Swallow Press/Ohio Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998