Author: Anaïs Nin
Publisher: Mariner Books
First Published: 1977
Genres: Classics, Erotica, Feminist Fiction
In Delta of Venus, Anais Nin pens a lush, magical world where the characters of her imagination possess the most universal of desires and exceptional of talents. Among these provocative stories, a Hungarian adventurer seduces wealthy women then vanishes with their money; a veiled woman selects strangers from a chic restaurant for private trysts; and a Parisian hatmaker named Mathilde leaves her husband for the opium dens of Peru.
I’m going to say right off the bat that this book is definitely not for everyone. Many of the stories feature some very specific kinks that to most will no doubt be gut-wrenching. As a fair warning for those that haven’t read the book, that means things like necrophilia, pedophilia, incest, etc. There are a good number of stories in this collection that are pretty disturbing and violent, many of them made me really uncomfortable reading. I could never recommend this book to the average reader looking for your run of the mill pornography.
“I had a feeling that Pandora’s box contained the mysteries of woman’s sensuality, so different from a man’s and for which man’s language was so inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The language of the senses was yet to be explored.”
I will however say that I understand why this book is hailed as a literary masterpiece and has become a pioneer of feminist fiction. The stories written for this compilation were all commissioned by a private collector that had instructed Nin to exclude romance and poetry in favor of graphic and sexually explicit stories, the latter she definitely delivered in great detail. Despite this, Nin was still able to add her personal touch that gave many of the short stories several layers that went beyond sex and explored themes of love, sensuality, and female eroticism as compared to men. She places a great distinction between male and female sexuality that is presented elegantly even against the most graphic and sordid scenes.
The biggest issue I had with this collection, besides the distressing nature of many of the stories, was the focus on a set of recurring characters over the course of multiple stories. Most of them started out alright at first, but as I got further along I started to dislike all of these characters and had to slog through the second half of the book. I found them to be dreadfully boring and almost put the book down entirely.
I had to give this book some extra points for talented writing alone, it truly is a work of art. However, I can’t say that I really enjoyed the book despite how beautifully it was written. It’s memorable, but it isn’t exactly one that I’d say that I remember fondly. This is a difficult collection to swallow due to the graphic nature of the content but an excellent study of human eroticism.
Warnings: graphic sex, graphic rape, abuse, child abuse, drugs, incest, pedophilia, necrophilia