Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Four-Chambered Heart, by Anaïs Nin

(pb; 1959: third volume in Nin's five-book "continuous novel")


Djuna Barnes is crazy in love with Rango, a lazy, jealous, good-hearted Indian. They spend lusty nights together on Djuna's time- and Seine River-weathered boat, until Rango's drunken/café ranconteur ways and his sickly wife, Zora, intervene in a major way.

Rango's nightly café visits are made without Djuna: Rango is too uncomfortable -- insanely jealous of Djuna's city past, with her friends and ex-lovers -- to bring her along for that.

Zora is a mentally sick, manipulative woman who purposely keeps herself physically ill (via poison and weather-inappropriate clothing) to trap a guilt-ridden Rango in her rotting marital sphere. Their sexual relationship ended early on in their long marriage, as he's lusty, and she finds the act of sex repulsive -- always has, according to her.

Djuna, blinded by her love for Rango, gets drawn in further to Rango's and Zora's dysfunctional, emotionally-poisonous world; it's not long before Djuna is looking for a way out for her and Rango -- and it's clear she may have to make a solo exit, leaving Rango and Zora to their mutual and separate insanity.

My only nit with this novel is that on a few occasions, Nin breaks from her third-person perspective to rambling, first-person perspectives, to show Djuna's emotional mindset: this is unnecessary, stylistically jarring and superfluous writing that mars an otherwise solid, if sometimes maddening -- why doesn't Djuna abandon this toxic situation? -- novel.

Worth reading, if you don't mind the above nit, and the doomed-romance vibe of the work.

Followed by A Spy In The House Of Love.

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