Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The best known of Anaïs Nin’s novels, A Spy in the House of Love is a surreal journey through one woman’s mind as she attempts to satisfy her sexual desire and to understand love. Like all Nin’s fiction, the narrative form of the text is experimental. Poetic impressions reflecting the complicated nature of Sabina’s personality are linked by semichronological events; supporting characters are minimally described, and only in reference to Sabina. Dialogue is restricted to the most relevant exchanges; setting and action are included only when their symbolic weight provides insight to Sabina’s frame of mind. The result is a novel that explores the various layers of a single personality, undermining the notion that a woman’s identity can be categorized or limited to a single facet.

A telephone awakens the lie detector at the beginning of the novel. Sabina has placed a call at random, seeking comfort from a strange voice in the middle of the night. The lie detector tells her that she needs to confess or she would not have called a stranger, since “Guilt is the one burden human beings can’t bear alone.” He has the call traced and finds Sabina in a bar, where he observes and analyzes her voyeuristically. At dawn, he follows her.

The point of view shifts to Sabina, where it remains for most of the rest of the work. She awakens anxiously, then hides her chaotic expression with makeup. She dresses in a black cape for its protectiveness, its masculinity, as though dressed for battle. Outside on the streets...

(The entire section is 631 words.)