Marianne Hauser was Anais Nin’s neighbor in New York. They lived at 2 Washington Square, a high rise apartment complex located south of Washington Square Park, and saw each other when Nin was in town, that is, when she wasn’t living in California with her west coast husband, actor Rupert Pole. Her east coast husband, Hugh Parker Guiler, also known as Ian Hugo, whom she lived with in Paris, was an artist, a film maker and print maker. Hauser got her apartment from her old friend Ruth Stephan. Stephan was publisher of the avant-garde art journal The Tiger’s Eye (1947-1949), a publication which featured Guiler’s prints and stories by Nin, Hauser and Marguerite Young, who was also the fiction editor.

It’s not really possible for me to say how Nin and Hauser met, when or where. It could have been in Paris in the 30s, New York in the 40s, 50s, or 60s. Material Michael Kirchberger scanned for me makes it possible to say it was long before the 1970s. Whenever it was they found time to go to the beach together. Nin and Hauser were not necessarily good personal friends, but they were certainly artistic allies, and shared many connections beyond Marguerite Young and Ruth Stephan. Nin never failed to mention Hauser when asked for the names of important writers. I have viewed this relationship through this lens, of a more prominent author (Nin) promoting the work of a less known, neglected one (Hauser). Nin is tirelessly generous. But there is evidence that earlier on Nin was asking Hauser for help placing a book of short stories (see the scanned, undated letter).
Their relationship in print begins with The New Novel (Macmillan, New York, 1968), a book published by Nin in 1968. The final chapters of this book were first published in the inaugural issue of the literary journal Studies in the 20th Century (Russel Sage College, Spring 1968, edited by Stephen H. Cooke). Nin begins by saying she never intended to write any literary criticism, and then goes on to detail the difficulty she had getting her work published in the early forties, which she attributed to a general American hostility towards avant-garde European writing, particularly surrealism. Americans divided literature into realist and anti-realist schools, preferring the latter, whereas Europeans accepted a broader range of aesthetic practices. In the book she lays out a case for writers like Kafka, Joyce, Artaud, Proust, Stein etc. Hauser is mentioned in connection with Djuna Barnes and Anna Kavan, as well as Marguerite Young, whose Miss Macintosh My Darling had appeared two years previously. The comparisons are apt, as both havemany things in common with Hauser, but there are major differences as well, especially with Anna Kavan. Another writer mentioned by Nin is Isabel Bolton, another neglected writer of New York in the 40s who (like dawn Powell) has enjoyed a major revival of interest, if not sales. Nin writes of Hauser:

“A writer of exceptional style and subtlety is Marianne Hauser. When people will tire of noise, crassness, and vulgarity, they will hear the truly contemporary complexities of Marianne Hauser’s superimpositions. A new generation trained to imagery by the film may appreciate her offbeat characters and skill in portraying the uncommon.”

She then quotes The Other Side of the River, her O’Henry Prize story of 1948 (The Other Side of the River. Mademoiselle, (April 1948). Reprinted in Brickell, Herschel. 1948. Prize stories of 1948: the O. Henry Awards. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. Collected in A Lesson In Music. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964. And The Collected Short Fiction of Marianne Hauser. Normal [Ill.]: FC2, 2004.), and mentions the 3 novels she had published in English at that point, Dark Dominion, The Choir Invisible, and Prince Ishmael.

Hauser returned the favor in Issue 2 of Studies in the 20th Century (Fall, 1968) with her piece, Anais Nin: Myth and Reality. The occasion is the publication of the first two volumes of Nin’s diary. When Hauser describes Nin she could be describing herself:

“…the very nature of her genius resists classification. She does not belong to a school. Strictly speaking, she does not even belong to one nationality. Born in France, of Spanish father, a Danish mother; long time resident of Paris; vagabond traveler; naturalized citizen of the United States: her roots grow from many cultures. Wherever she goes she creates her own international climate.”

Similarly with the style:

“Deterioration merges with glamor. The present flows into the past. Anais Nin’s concept of time is Bergson’s duree reelle—a phenomenon of the mind.”

Hauser mentions Otto Rank, the psychoanalyst Nin famously had an affair with, and whom Hauser also knew. In volume 7 of the diary Nin writes:

“Notes on Marianne Hauser [:] Sent to US in 1937 as a columnist by a Swiss newspaper. Has been here ever since. During this period she has been patiently refining the remarkable prose style of Dark Dominion….She knew Rank and was analyzed”

Hauser disputes this in About My Life So Far:
Hauser never mentions psychoanalysis without palpable contempt. Thomas Spine, the psychiatrist in Dark Dominion, engages the reader’s pity at times, but he is a shallow rationalist with no personal insight. His relationship with his wife is parasitic. He is a sexless, Lawrencian head. Forty years later her Mr. Ashley repeatedly and explosively derides psychoanalysis. What she is attacking is the culture of therapy and the cultic, totalizing tendency of Freud and Freudians. Psychoanalysis in Dark Dominion destroys souls and is opposed to the imagination. It is the ultimate illusion, imprisoning human beings in a normative, ego driven sexuality and conformity. Nin and Hauser experience Rank as the opposite of this, a psychiatrist dedicated to the freeing of the creative imagination.

In 1971 Nin wrote a much more extended piece on Hauser for the book Rediscoveries (Crown Publishers, New York, 1971; some of the essays have been published online as people rediscover the authors rediscovered 45 years ago!), centered on A Lesson in Music, her short story collection of 1964:

“In the opening paragraph of Marianne Hauser’s book of short stories one becomes aware that a fine precision instrument has chiseled this prose, enabling to create physical and emotional portraits that have a crystalline transparency of image and meaning. The simplest of beginnings leads one into past, present and future, and a care for detail evokes the most variegated atmospheres. The interrelation between the outer and inner worlds of men and women, between dreaming and waking action is carefully balanced. The movements of love and hatred, espousal of and recoil from experience are faithfully delineated and made perceptible. Marianne Hauser achieves sensitivity without sentimentality, irony without loss of humanity.” (p. 116)

The essay discusses each of the stories and concludes with two paragraphs of description and praise. Nin, like everyone else who tries to describe Hauser’s work, has to somehow convey its anti-realist properties, which exist alongside an extremely precise prose of visual description and emotional nuance. Nin continues to champion Hauser in interviews, like this one for an oral history:
nin oral history quote
There is no evidence that Hauser sought in any way to exploit her friendship with her much more famous neighbor. When I asked Michael if Hauser was irritated either by Nin’s interest in women’s writing as a category, or by her fame he said his mother was very forgiving towards her friends. Nin and Hauser were both feminists of course, but neither were post-modern, and neither viewed sexuality or gender through the lenses of later generations, even though the only serious critical work on Hauser has been on The Talking Room and has been explicit in its association of her radical style with issues of gender and sexuality, a connection Hauser would have rejected out of hand. Not so Nin. Nin was very involved at the end of her life in women’s issues. She discusses gender and art extensively in a radio interview hosted by Charles Ruas, The Female Angst. One of Hauser’s colleagues at Queens College, poet Harriet Zinnes (a friend of both Nin and Hauser) wrote about this in an essay on Nin for the book Anais Nin: Literary Perspectives (Suzanne Nalbantian ed., St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1997):

“Adam Begley…defined rather crisply what he called ‘postmodernists’ notion of the self’ as a ‘fractured entity composed of socially constructed attitudes’. How unlike the conception of the self of Anais Nin. To Nin, the self is authentic only as it expresses that ‘city of the interior’, and in the real world of the diaries and the fleeting, wavering, shaped world of her fiction, the self, hardly postmodern, is not socially constructed, not fractured at all but a coherent home, a hearth, a womb of the senses. But this interiority is built on a trust in a reality and is essentially the consequence of an acceptance of outward experience that is transformed as it turns inward. That transformation is never made dull in Nin’s work by passivity. Nin builds architectonically from the dream outward. It is as if her fiction is built upon dialect, a tension between the outer and inner worlds. How unlike the Maoist psychoanalyst and semiotician of desire, the French Julia Kristeva, who, in her novel The Samurai, looks for ‘the calm safety of classical architecture and the rare equilibrium that transmutes geometry and happiness’….Of her own work, Nin declares in The Novel of the Future, ‘the external story is what I consider unreal’.”

Kristeva figures prominently in Andrea Harris’s analysis of The Talking Room (Other Sexes: Rewriting Difference from Woolf to Winterson, SUNY Press, 1999). Of Hauser and Nin, Zinnes quotes The New Novel and writes:
“The novelists of violence, Nin believes, of gutter language, use shock instead of feeling, dead language instead of the living rhythms of language, which is itself a form of magic and transformation. In her Novel of the Future, Nin quotes…Hauser to show that [she has] dwelled ‘on the pursuit of the hidden self’, [has] dramatized the conflict between the conscious and unconscious self to produce greater authenticity, an ‘emotional reality’….Marianne Hauser, a friend of Nin and author of Prince Ishmael and The Talking Room, in a brilliant story called ‘The Seersucker Suit’ illustrates what Nin means by ‘emotional reality’ in fiction. Hauser reveals the terror and loneliness of urban life through the symbolism of the magic birth of a dog-son from a mangy bit of old fur….Nin felt that Hauser’s writing acknowledged the truths of psychoanalysis, which, in the writing of fiction, required the novelist no longer to adhere to the old notions of a progressive plot, resolution, climax and development of character. Our desires are as much a reality as our throwing ourselves exhausted on the bed when we return from work. A scrap of fur becomes a child. This is not a literal transformation. It is the discovery of ‘reality by discarding realism’. It is the symbolic equation that the reader understands—because, as Nin makes clear in her critical writing and implicitly in her diaries, the self’s desires are nakedly the same for us all.”

Of course, The Talking Room and much of what she wrote afterwards is marked by verbal violence and shock. It is also difficult to reconcile what ‘psychoanalysis’ can possibly mean in this context. Like ‘communism’ or Christianity, psychoanalysis is not a monolith, and what artists like Nin and Hauser, deeply influenced by European thought and aesthetics, take from it has little to do with talk therapy and pat explanations of reality.

Zinnes met Nin in 1961, when she wrote a good review of Seductions of the Minotaur. Later, Nin suggested Zinnes review Prince Ishmael (1963) which led to their friendship. (Zinnes, in Recollections of Anais Nin, Benjamin Franklin ed., Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 1996). This might when Nin sent this postcard to Hauser, with a photograph of Nin taken by Maya Deren:


On the flip side is a note written to Hauser by Nin asking her help in placing a collection of short stories with ‘Harper’s’. Hauser had been publishing Harper’s Bazaar for years. The card is undated. She asks Hauser to visit when she next passes through New York. Hauser lived in New York City from 1937-1947, 1957-1959, and from 1966 until her death in 2006.





Recently I spent 3 days in San Francisco and had an opportunity to visit with Marianne Hauser’s son, Michael. Most of Hauser’s papers are housed in the archive at the University of Florida, but Michael has boxes of photographs and some letters. He was kind enough to share them with me, and has been scanning material for me to post. Without Michael this whole crazy thing would have been much more difficult, even impossible. Most everyone who knew Hauser has died, and those living have scattered, imperfect memories, as do I. So it is great to be able to open a letter and confirm that so and so was her agent for such and such book, that editors who rejected Prince Ishmael were brokenhearted. Letters are going to be the backbone of this story, and most of them are sitting in Florida. But these were not. San Francisco is the only city outside of New York I can truly say I love. So visiting Michael is no hardship at all. My publisher Miette joined us for lunch. We hiked up an arid hill and watched F-14 fighter jets wack off in the stratosphere. And Michael and I talked.


One thing that came up, as it often does, is Marianne’s hostility to any kind of identity politics. She was Alsatian, certainly, but she was an author first and foremost and not a hyphenated one. Because I was in town to give a reading, I also saw an old friend who has run an alternative press for 30 years. She told me she participated in a LGBT panel to discuss LGBT issues in publishing. For years she has been a remarkably supportive publisher for that community. It has not been her exclusive work but work she is passionate about. At the conference it was discovered by other participants that she was a heterosexual. She never claimed otherwise, of course. She felt it was irrelevant. But some conference organizers and participants did not feel that way and ostracized her, despite decades of publishing gay, bi and trans authors, that is, putting her money where her mouth is. A friend later informed her that probably they felt like she had occupied a seat that could be occupied by a homosexual. I guess some chairs would rather be smothered by gay butt. She said that in the course of this conference it came up that many gay men don’t like it when straight women write from the point of view of a gay man. I said that straight women have more insight into the experiences of gay men than straight men do, and the women laughed. Most women have sucked a lot of dick, after all, and had boyfriends who were assholes. Seriously though, our emotional lives converge even where our experiences differ. Hauser spoke very forcefully against this kind of stupidity, as the previous post shows.
Hauser knew many artists, many of them gay, and spent summers on Monhegan Island, Maine. One of these artists was William Kienbusch. Her last novel, Shoot Out with Father, was inspired by the relationship between Bill and his father. There are many letters written by Bill to Marianne.
Hauser did not believe it was right to use the artist’s life to explain her creations. But she did draw extensively on her life, as all novelists do. Once it becomes writing, art, it ceases to be about the life. The life is a starting point, and imagination takes over. Michael and I discussed how to honor this. I guess a corollary is, if an artist does significant work, and has an interesting life, and is no longer alive and able to control that situation, then in a sense it becomes fair game. Life may not explain the work, but it can contextualize it, while the work might fill in details of the life where the record of letters and memories do not. It is not that life happened in the way the plot of the novel does, but rather, the novel dramatizes the emotional situations of life. Life and work are really inseparable, and each can illuminate the other.

Hauser on Literary Cross Dressing

mh.crosdress.1940This piece, remarks delivered by Hauser at some public forum I can’t yet identify, convey (according to her son) what she was like in life, quick witted, funny, and impatient with moralizing idiots. This persona definitely comes through in her interviews but here she is engaged with an audience, and explains a fundamental part of her aesthetic: the imagination is capable of inhabiting, and expressing, the experience of others, not just the author. Fiction was her way of knowing things. Without this belief her entire body of work goes away, as she chose only twice to write novels (at least in English) from the point of view of a woman. These are The Talking Room (1976), whose narrator is a 13 year old American girl, pregnant, and being raised by lesbians, and Me and My Mom (1993), a story told by a woman in her 30s (I’m guessing, her age isn’t specified) who puts her old, and increasingly demented mother in a nursing home. Hauser dedicated the book to her old friend and mentor, Coby Gilman, who died in his seventies, alcoholic, and alone. Me and My Mom was published 26 years after his death and burial in a numbered mass grave in Potters Field. She gave this talk in 1984, and refers to the novel she was writing at the time, The Memoirs of the Late Mr. Ashley (1986), which, like Shoot Out With Father (2002) is narrated by a gay man. She discusses both Prince Ishmael (1963) and Dark Dominion (1947) and refers to a book review she wrote for the Times in the early 40s. I am trying find which of the dozens of Times reviews she wrote she is talking about. When I do I’ll post it.