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Selections from The Seduction of the Minotaur

by Anaïs Nin, Alan Swallow, Denver, Colorado, 1961

The following is a complete scene from early in the novel. There is an additional separate paragraph at the end.

"The swimming pool was at the lowest level of the hotel and only about ten feet above the sea, so that it was dominated by the roar of the waves hurling themselves against the rocks. The quietness of its surface did not seem like the quietness of a pool but more like that of a miniature bay formed within rocks which miraculously escaped the boiling sea for a few moments. It did not seem an artificial pool dug into cement and fed by water pipes, but rather one of the sea's own moods, one of the sea's moments of response, an intermittent haven.

"It was surrounded by heavy, lacquered foliage, and flowers so tenuously held that they fell of their own weight into the pool and floated among the swimmers like children's boats.

"It was an island of warm, undangerous water in which one man at least had sought eternal repose by throwing himself out of one of the overhanging hotel windows. Ever since that night the pool had been locked at midnight. Those who knew that the watchman preferred to watch the dancers on the square and that the gate could easily be leaped over, came to sit there in the evenings before going to sleep. The place was barred to any loud frivolity but open for secret assignations afer dancing.

"It was also Lillian's favorite place before going to sleep. The gentleness of the water, its warmth, was the lulling atmosphere she had missed when she had passed from childhood to womanhood.

"She felt an unconfessed need of receiving from some gentle source the reassurance that the world was gentle and warm, and not, as it may have seemed during the day, cold and cruel. This reassurance was never granted to the mature, so that Lillian told no one of the role the pool played in her life today. It was the same role played by another watchman whom she had heard when she was ten years old and living in Mexico while her father built bridges and roads. The town watchman, a figure out of the Middle Ages, walked the streets at night chanting: 'All is well, all is calm and peaceful. All is well.'

"Lillian had always waited for this watchman to pass before going to sleep. No matter how tense she had been during the day, no matter what catastrophes had taken place in school, or in the street, or at home, she knew that this moment would come when the watchman would walk all alone in the darkened streets swinging his lantern and his keys, crying monotonously, 'All is well, all is well and calm and peaceful.' No sooner had he said this and no sooner had she heard the jangling keys and seen the flash of his lantern on the walls of her room, than she would fall instantly asleep.

"Others who came to the pool were of the fraternity who like to break laws, who like to steal their pleasures, who liked the feeling that at any time the hotel watchman might appear at the top of the long stairs; they knew his voice would not carry above the hissing sea, and that as he was too lazy to walk downstairs he would merely turn off the lights as if this were enough to disperse the transgressors. To be forced to swim in the darkness and slip away from the pool in darkness was not, as the watchman believed, a punishment, but an additional pleasure.

"In the darkness one became even more aware of the softness of the night, of pulsating life in the muscles, of the pleasure of motion. The silence that ensued was the silence of conspiracy and at this hour everyone dropped his disguises and spoke from some realm of innocence preserved from the corrosion of convention.

"The Doctor would come to the pool, leaving his valise at the hotel desk. He talked as if he wanted to forget that everyone needed him, and that he had little time for pleasure or leisure. But Lillian felt that he never rested from diagnosis. It was as if he did not believe anyone free of pain, and could not rest until he had placed his finger on the core of it.

"Lillian now sat in one of the white string chairs that looked like flattened harps, and played abstractedly with the white cords as if she were composing a song.

"The Doctor watched her and said: 'I can't decide which of the two drugs you need: the one for forgetting or the one for remembering.'

"Lillian abandoned the harp chair and slipped into the pool, floating on her back and seeking immobility.

"'Golconda is for forgetting, and that's what I need,' she said, laughing.

"'Some memories are imbedded in the flesh like splinters,' said the Doctor, 'and you have to operate to get them out.'

"She swam underwater, not wanting to hear him, and then came up nearer to where he sat on the steps and said: 'Do I really seem to you like someone with a splinter in her flesh?'

"'You act like a fugitive.'

"She did not want to be touched by the word. She plunged into the deep water again as if to wash her body of all memories, to wash herself of the past. She returned gleaming, smooth, but not free. The word had penetrated and caused an uneasiness in her breast like that caused by diminished oxygen. The search for truth was like an explorer's deep-sea diving, or his climb into impossible altitudes. In either case it was a problem of oxygen, whether you went too high or too low. Any world but the familiar neutral one caused such difficulty in breathing. It may have been for this reason that the mystics believed in a different kind of training in breathing for each different realm of experience.

"The pressure in her chest compelled her to leave the pool and sit beside the Doctor, who was looking out to sea.

"In the lightest voice she could find, and with the hope of discouraging the Doctor's seriousness, she said: 'I was a woman who was so ashamed of a run in my stocking that it would prevent me from dancing all evening . . . .'

"'It wasn't the run in your stocking . . . .'

"'You mean . . . . other things . . . ashamed . . . just vaguely ashamed . . .'

"'If you had not been ashamed of other things you would not have cared about the run in your stocking . . . .'

"'I've never been able to describe or understand what I felt. I've lived so long in an impulsive world, desiring without knowing why, destroying without knowing why, losing without knowing why, being defeated, hurting myself and others . . . . All this was painful, like a jungle in which I was constantly lost. A chaos.'

"'Chaos is a convenient hiding place for fugitives. You are a fugitive from truth.'

"'Why do you want to force me to remember? The beauty of Golconda is that one does not remember . . . .'

"'In Eastern religions there was a belief that human beings gathered the sum total of their experiences on earth, to be examined at the border. And according to the findings of the celestial customs officer one would be directed either to a new realm of experience, or back to re-experience the same drama over and over again. The condemnation to repetition would only cease when one had understood and transcended the old experience.'

"'So you think I am condemned to repetition? You think that I have not liquidated the past?'

"'Yes, unless you know what it is you ran away from . . .'

"'I don't believe this, Doctor, I know I can begin anew here.'

"'So you will plunge back into chaos, and this chaos is like the jungle we saw from the boat. It is also your smoke screen.'

"'But I do feel new . . . .'

"The Doctor's expression at the moment was perplexed, as if he were no longer certain of his diagnosis; or was it that what he had discovered about Lillian was so grave he did not want to alarm her? He very unexpectedly withdrew at the word 'new,' smiled with indulgence, raised his shoulders as if he had been persuaded by her eloquence, and finally said: 'Maybe only the backdrop has changed.'" p. 25-29, ellipses in original


"I can see, I can see that it is in this distorted vision of the world's proper proportions that lies the secret of our fears. We make the animals bigger with our fears. We make our creations and our loves smaller, we shrink by our vision, and enlarge and shrink according to the whims of our interchangeable vision, not according to an immutable law of growth. The size of each world we live in is individual and relative, and the objects and people vary in each EYE." p. 88