Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reading. Nin. (Part 2).

The lie detector was asleep when he heard the telephone ringing, begins Anaïs Nin's novel A Spy in the House of Love, which I saw on the shelf at a used bookstore the other day and could not resist because of its title.

Reading Nin is rather like being in that dream-state you find yourself after being awoken from a deep sleep by the ringing telephone, a half-conscious fog, and yet you find that you see everything around you with perfect clarity, as soon as you are able to blink the sleep from your eyes. There is a softness to her words, which parts to expose a complexity like an intricate puzzle. The lie detector, woken by the phone, immediately falls into the habits of his profession. You have something to confess...he says, Guilt is the one burden human beings can't bear alone. As soon as a crime is committed, there is a telephone call, or a confession to strangers...There is only one relief: to confess, to be caught, tried, punished...half of the self surrenders, calling out "catch me," while the other half creates obstacles, difficulties; seeks to escape...If justice is nimble, it will follow the clue with the criminal's help. If not, the criminal will take care of his own atonement.

Sabina is the spy, who moves among the rooms of this house of Love, taking care to leave no trace behind, to leave no hairs on the borrowed comb, to gather up hair pins, to erase traces of lipstick...Her eyes like the eyes of a spy. Her habits like the habits of a spy...She knew all the trickeries in this war of love. She slips away from the safe haven, the home of her husband, Alan, to the rooms of other lovers. I think she is afraid, afraid of herself, afraid of love, afraid to bind herself truly to one person. She moves through these rooms, between these lovers, in a haze of guilt and doubt. I see her as a slender dark shadow flitting across the lighted windows of those hotel rooms and boardinghouse rooms and in the darkened movie theaters where she went with both husband and lover, afraid each time that one would see her with the other.

In the end she meets the lie detector, and fears that he has come to arrest her for crimes against love. He has been following her all this while, spying on her spy games, ever since the night she called him, dialling his number blindly and hearing on the other end this mysterious voice, whose profession it is, as he tells her, to ask questions. But in the end it is he who has the answers. The enemy of a love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves, says her friend Djuna. The lie detector is not there to arrest her, he is there to tell her how to set herself free of guilt and fear and distrust.

Nin is like a landscape of flickering shadows, a painting of soft, muted colors interrupted by brilliant splashes of fire. I think I will dream of her tonight.

Nin, Anaïs. A Spy in the House of Love. The Swallow Press, Inc, 1959. p 5-6, 51, 135.

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