(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Just as it is difficult to categorize and summarize, House of Incest is not easily interpreted. Indeed, it is not clear that Anaïs Nin wished to reveal her intentions clearly. She openly resisted fellow author Henry Miller’s suggestion that she provide more clues for the reader. Perhaps she thought that analytic language could not capture poetic truths effectively, or that the absence of an authoritative interpretation would leave readers free to respond from the heart, just as her book was written from the heart. Perhaps Nin’s high regard for surrealism led her to believe that reality is too multifaceted and perspectives too diverse for a work of complexity and depth to yield itself to a single interpretation.

Nevertheless, House of Incest has been subjected to intense interpretation from a number of perspectives. One likely approach, in the light of Nin’s exhaustive diary, is to look at the work as autobiographical in nature. There is some basis for this approach. House of Incest was written at a time when Nin was engaged in a torrid and somewhat tortured love affair with both Henry Miller and his wife June, to whom Sabina bears a definite resemblance. Henry and June (1986), Nin’s account of this relationship, repeatedly comes back to the theme of incest, with Nin’s older lovers serving as father surrogates. More to the point, Nin had an incestuous relationship with her father just before House of Incest was published and is alleged to have been a childhood victim of incest at her father’s hands. The House of Incest itself bears some resemblance to the home that Nin shared with her husband in Louveciennes—it, too, seemed to have a missing room. Finally, the dreamlike qualities of the book as well as its deep psychological probing of...

(The entire section is 738 words.)