On reading my first novel by Anaïs Nin: A Spy in the House of Love

A friend had lent the book to me in a rather poor condition. I first looked at the cover, read the title and the author’s name. Then, I flipped the pages; there was a tear that ran across the middle of the page about half way down to the bindings. My friend wanted to tell me the story, but he stopped because, well, spoilers. I assured him spoilers won’t affect my reading of the book, but in fact, they will help me to understand it better. So he told me the story of the book; his eyes, facial expressions, mannerisms, all of which indicated his excitement.

I started reading the book some time after I had finished reading another book. It might have been a day or two before I could start reading House of Love, I can’t remember exactly. But I stopped when I was at page 5 or 7. What for? I asked myself.

I wanted to take notes. The language, the prose, her use of aesthetic devices, characterisation etc. all of which have made me want to imbibe not just the story but Nin’s themes, which is the Matter, of course, and the Form. I want to absorb the entire novel within myself. I want to annotate, as well, an essential method of active reading. But I can’t. The book belongs to my friend. I can’t deface somebody’s property. I know I would hate it if someone spoiled my precious books.

Nin’s prose is unlike any other writer’s prose. I have never read anything quite like it. Perhaps, this might be what has made me feel so strongly about the book. A writing style so crisp; paragraphs that do not have more than 5-7 lines, maybe 10 at most. A perfect balance between the long and short sentences; the long ones make sense and leave us a realisation that they are perfect and were meant to be that way, whereas the short ones are capable of expressing a whole lot of emotion in a few words. A single paragraph encapsulates, encompasses an entire world. I really have never read anything quite so beautiful, so accomplished.

Reading Nin’s House of Love feels like I hold a beautiful slippery, but tangible, object in my hands, overwhelmed with the feeling that I might lose this most important thing when I have finished the book. It might be this niggling ominous sensation that might be preventing me from racing through a novel that is only 124 pages long.

At least, I can get the whole book photocopied, and annotate it as much as I want to. 


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