House of Incest

by Anaïs Nin

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

So much of Nin's text seems to revolve around isolation: the isolation that is caused by forever being separated from some aspects of ourselves, the isolation created by the lies that we and others tell, the isolation created by having to deny ourselves from feeling emotions and impulses that are not considered to be acceptable. The narrator begins by explaining that she remembers her own birth, and she remembers life in the womb as well, describing it as a paradise where everything was dark and easy, where water carried her along and there was no pain or discomfort. While in utero, the narrator was fed, in all ways, by an external other with whom she experienced the most complete kind of physical union possible.

Once she is born, however, she begins to accrue experiences which are alienating and isolating. She talks about Sabina, about how seeing Sabina compelled her to choose all these different parts of herself from the cosmos and put them into her own body, to match Sabina's. The speaker feels that she "IS THE OTHER FACE OF [SABINA]." They are twin halves, but forever separated, compelling the speaker to ask, "DOES ANYONE KNOW WHO I AM?" Her isolation prevents her from understanding, and she says that she and Sabina are "always separated by space and the evolutions of time," their faces shining separately like the sun and moon: never at the same time.

The speaker describes the "too clear pain of love divided, love divided," how there is a "FISSURE IN REALITY" that results from the pain of living in this way. "LIES CREATE SOLITUDE" and yet we all tell them: Jeanne loves her brother but knows that she must conceal it, dividing her from herself. Sabina tells lies in order to create a more bearable reality, and when the narrator realizes this, she commits to lie-telling, too. The modern Christ says that we love others because they seem to contain parts of ourselves; we seek constantly to reunite ourselves, despite the lies we tell and the unacceptable impulses we feel, by loving others. But this can never work, and so we long for the painlessness of oblivion where we might, once again, feel whole in darkness.

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