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Cities of the Interior #4

A Spy in the House of Love

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Although Anais Nin found in her diaries a profound mode of self-creation and confession, she could not reveal this intimate record of her own experiences during her lifetime. Instead, she turned to fiction, where her stories and novels became artistic "distillations" of her secret diaries. A Spy in the House of Love, whose heroine Sabina is deeply divided between her drive for artistic and sexual expression, on the one hand, and social restrictions and self-created inhibitions, on the other, echoed Nin's personal struggle with sex, love, and emotional fragmentation. Written when Nin's own life was taut with conflicting loyalties, her protagonist Sabina repeatedly asks herself, can one indulge in one's sensual restlessness, the fantasies, the relentless need for adventure without devastating consequences?

166 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

Anaïs Nin

278 books7,202 followers
French-born novelist, passionate eroticist and short story writer, who gained international fame with her journals. Spanning the years from 1931 to 1974, they give an account of one woman's voyage of self-discovery. "It's all right for a woman to be, above all, human. I am a woman first of all." (from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. I, 1966)

Anaïs Nin was largely ignored until the 1960s. Today she is regarded as one of the leading female writers of the 20th century and a source of inspiration for women challenging conventionally defined gender roles.

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163 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 572 reviews
January 31, 2023
“It showed very early in my capacity for deluding myself”... “What I corrupted was what is called the truth in favour of a more marvellous world”.

In my quest to read books with themes I am less familiar with, and to better understand the characteristics in people that I don’t see very often, I went in search of a modern classic with the femme fatale at the centre of the story. A book that would allow me inside the mind and psyche of the seductress and the siren. The interest was clear but the outcome and my feelings at the end were very different from what I expected from this book. Nevertheless, it was the right message, the one I would have wanted to hear had I thought about it going in. A superb piece of writing.

A book where desire is outweighed by self-loathing, where the search for pleasure leads to discontentment, and the search for love in the wrong places is the greatest treachery, because our seductress was alone and the imposter - “The Spy in the House of Love”.

The Plot

In the opening pages of the book, we meet the ‘Lie Detector’, a person? Good question!!!… However, this Lie Detector receives a phone call from a woman who wants to unburden herself with her story. Intrigued our invisible person begins to follow Sabina in her endless game of desire, always adorned in a cloak marking her flag of adventure. A woman who seems to escape the monotony of her life by constructing one that gives her the power and freedom to seek ‘love’ and pleasure from the sexual gratification and intimate encounters with men.

Yet of course there is an irony to this freedom of love and sexual expression because there was no constant person to share her sense of adventure, no-one to applaud her boldness and achievements in obtaining the ‘swagger of freedom denied to women”. She was alone, and her illusion of strength was to vanish after each of her dalliances like the ecstasies of drink leaving her deflated, empty, and possessing nothing within herself that she admired. Very telling in the quote

“She had lost herself somewhere along the frontier between her inventions, her stories, her fantasies and her true self”. An incredibly deep and poignant story.

Review and Comments

Despite the story being described as the free sexual expression of women. Erotica it was not. Despite being married, romance it most certainly wasn’t. Although, daring and sensual in places, the act of seeking sexual gratification as a compromise and substitute for loving and being loved it most certainly was. To you and me, it was the imitation of love, and a woman seeking fulfilment wherever she could get it only to be cursed with lower self-esteem and self-loathing.

Characterisation – apart from the MC, the other four characters were symbolic of the men the author wanted to portray as selfish, egotistical, and too immature to understand love. So, the characters were not as developed as in a full novel which was fine for this novella.

Sex and sensuality – I wanted to address this part of the book because like many readers I did not want porn. So, to my GR friends who share my views, I can say this was so tastefully written, it is a book for many women. For example, this is a description of a sex scene “…this pleasure which transformed the body into a high tower of fireworks gradually exploding into fountains of delight through the senses.”. In other words, more sensual, elegantly worded without the vulgarity that you might find in a story of this nature. In other cases the sexual encounters were implied rather than descriptive.

The writing is absolutely stunning and of course sensuous, and the story had depth and purpose. This was the portrait of a lonely woman that questioned her self-worth, through the lie detector, which I had interpreted as her own mind – rightly or wrongly. Yet the underlying message is clear about seeking pleasure and love where it cannot be found. Simple, passionate, and poignant, through quotes like.

“The enemy of love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves.”,

and how well this book depicted that message. A literary gem that deserves to be considered a modern classic.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,861 reviews520 followers
March 13, 2023
"Sabina thought she must have strayed somewhere between her inventions, her stories, her quirks and her real being. She erased the borders; the paths had disappeared, she walked at random in a chaotic universe."

The more I think about it, the more I tell myself that I liked this writing even more than the story, which is touching. But Anaïs Nin has a unique script, poetic words, and way of relating events. I wondered if the narrator had lost in a dream. And after these few pages, I think it is a desire to show that the different stages of her journey, related in such an overlapping manner, form a whole that constitutes a woman for Anaïs Nin. A woman we discover is full of facets and can only be herself when she is free to show all of her (her desires, her wounds) sides that are usually only visible to one or other of the men she meets. She only shows one side of her every time. I'm just wondering if a man would want to see all sides of Sabina. Is this a natural choice, or does she respond to what the other expects? But she is aware that men see only part of her and languishes in doubt and guilt vis-à-vis each of them as if she is hiding part of the truth from them, part of her. Her conscience constantly torments her. And then, fortunately, there are friends. And their good advice is to take homeopathic doses.

"But Sabina, excited by the moonbeams, soon felt the power to stretch out time, to branch out into myriads of lives and loves, to lengthen the path to infinity in numerous detours which were like the depositaries of innumerable desires. The moonbeams had fertilized in her the seeds of many women because they were children of that limitless night of which we are only aware in dreams. The night has roots plunging into the past's riches, bringing them to the present and projecting them into the future."
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,377 reviews2,253 followers
May 19, 2020
I thought this was going to read something like Delta of Venus. Basically pornographic. But I was wrong. It's nothing like Delta of Venus. The thing is, I'm not sure I can say I actually preferred it to Delta, which I also scored a three. That book really made you sit up and take notice! whereas this didn't so much. Maybe I just rushed it, reading in one go, when it would benefit from the patience and time it probably deserves. Spy in the House of Love is written beautifully, with a symbolic and dreamlike nature that does make for some exquisitely crafted sentences, but, I'm not sure there is really much of a story going on here. It all felt a little too artsy for me. The female protagonist, Sabina, loves her husband but can't stop, through addiction clearly, from having affairs with other men, and it hurts her soul. Sabina is deeply divided between social restrictions, her self-created inhibitions, and the drive for artistic and sexual expression, so I wouldn't be surprised if this work echoed Nin’s own personal problems in terms of sex, love, and emotional fragmentation. I think the overriding message than Nin is presenting to us here is that pleasure doesn't automatically result in happiness. I might try one of her diaries next, as I've only read her fiction up till now.
Profile Image for Emma Angeline.
53 reviews2,964 followers
April 18, 2023

how when you spend your time adapting yourself to your lovers you’ll never know who you are, and then you’re searching for yourself in other people, no wonder you always feel like you’re acting or pretending, and cause you don’t know who you are of course you never experience any deeper love either…if you don’t have it for yourself how could you ever expect to share it with anyone else

this gave me emotional whiplash and i might need a hot sec to recover

fucks sake sabina
Profile Image for Georgia Scott.
Author 3 books154 followers
September 28, 2022
Bill Murray and Anais Nin are not two names which go together. Or so I thought until now.

In the film Groundhog Day, Murray plays a shallow man forced to relive the same 24 hours until he faces up to what is lacking in his life. Nin's novel is about a woman who romps with one lover after another until days and nights blur into one. Free from death, Murray devours cakes with abandon. Free from shame (hers is effectively an open marriage), Sabina consumes men of different types. Murray arouses our laughter. Sabina draws on our desires. Freedom. Fantasy. Pleasure. The Spy in the House of Love is erotic for sure. Bedroom reading you might say. Or wherever you like it to happen.

My surprise was not how well Nin describes ecstasy or its lead up. A name synonymous with eroticism should do nothing less. No, my surprise was how rounded her male characters are. I don't mean their back story. Her pen is light. Small flecks are all she gives. But they are enough. These men quite simply come alive. They have bodies but also hearts that can be hurt. As they bare their souls, we wait for this adventuress to do the same and become more human.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
490 reviews657 followers
July 21, 2013
A taster: “Desire made a volcanic island, on which they lay in a trance, feeling the subterranean whirls lying beneath them……The trembling premonitions shaking the hands, the body, made dancing……..They fled from the eyes of the world……where there were no words by which to possess each other….. unbearable but only one ritual, a joyous, joyous impaling of woman on a man’s sensual mast.”

But “who is Sabina? What is she?”

I’ve read Anaïs Nin’s “Journal of a Wife” (The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1923-27), followed by her seven journals (magnificent insight into a woman’s mind and for which she is remembered today), and also the “Delta of Venus” (erotica at its best), but when I came to try and analyze what I felt and why I liked “A Spy in the House of Love”, I was at a loss where to begin. I think it was a sense of insecurity of being outside my comfort zone and yet, in a contradictory way; the realization that I could relate to quite a sizeable part of it. Not all of it, of course. I also quickly came to the conclusion that I had to reread the “Journal of a Wife” to see how the author coped as a married woman (as it is well known that many of her published works are autobiographical) in trying to understand her relationship with Alan (in real life her husband Hugh (Hugo) P. Guiler).

I needed this background and found: “And Hugo has above all the quality of constant variety. He evolves continually so that I can understand him without knowing all of him…..I foresee the exclusion of one generally accepted misfortune befalling the married ones – we shall escape monotony.”

“A Spy in the House of Love” is an appetizer of things to come, such as a meal, a voyage, a new lover, to changes in one’s life... and the word “excitement” immediately springs to mind. Also, it must not be forgotten that it’s due to Henry Miller that we have the erotic works of Anaïs Nin. A book collector had offered Henry Miller a hundred dollars a month to write erotic stories in the early forties. He soon became bored with this and his “friend” Anaïs took over and began to thoroughly enjoy writing them.

In addition, this is a journey into Sabina’s mind. She’s a lost soul trapped within herself; and even though there is protection and comfort in her married life (ten years) with Alan, there is also suffocation. This causes her “to break out” from time to time to regain strength and inner equilibrium, and replenish her erotic thoughts and sexual needs. Alan is “her rock” (quoted by the late Diana, Princess of Wales in talking of the stability that she found in Paul Burrell, who was her butler) and provided stability for her by always being there for her. Even when Sabina was away on her supposed “actress” jaunts (when in fact she sometimes stayed locally in New York), Alan was always the same upon her return, dependable, loving but just not exciting enough. And yet when she fears that he has come to search for her on one of her “excursions”, she is completely contrary in her thoughts:

For one evening she is convinced Alan is outside one of her lover’s homes:

“For her this was the end of the world. Alan was the core of her life….her existence in Alan’s eyes was her only true existence.”
Out of all the men mentioned: Philip, the opera singer; Mambo, the drummer in the night club; John the aviator; Donald, and Jay an old lover, it was the English aviator John who intrigued me. He and Sabina had a common interest, they were both grounded; he from the sky and Sabina on the ground as she felt that “Long Island is a tomb, and one more day in it would bring suffocation.”

I found Sabina a rather strange and yet complex individual; constantly worrying, fidgety, on the move – just constant motion, and lying. And her dress was so important to her, especially her cape because:

“Her cape which was more than a cape, which was a sail, which was the feelings she threw to the four winds to be swelled and swept by the wind in motion lay becalmed. Her dress was becalmed. It was as if now she were nothing that the wind could catch, swell and propel. For Sabina, to be becalmed meant to die.”

And when she wore her cape, it “held within its fold something of what she imagined was a quality possessed exclusively by man: some dash, some audacity, some swagger of freedom denied to woman…..The toreador’s provocative flings, the medieval horsemen’s floating flag of attack, a sail unfurled in full collision with the wind….”

The shame, however, of her adventures afterwards: “Alan never understood her eagerness to take a bath, her immediate need to change her clothes, to wash off the old makeup.” Lies…

I was confused with an individual referred to as the “lie detector” in the first chapter. Was there some hidden meaning here was my immediate thought? Also I knew that the author had studied psychoanalysis whilst in Paris and perhaps this was the alter ego?” The “lie detector” had received a call from Sabina in the middle of the night, had the call traced and found her in a bar. He had recognized her voice immediately. He “hovers” in the background throughout the book and then she finally challenges him and…well that’s for you the reader to find out. I would, however, be intrigued to have an interpretation on this individual from other readers.

I had to read this book slowly and even though it’s a novella, it still took me a while to finish it. I found that I kept on returning to statements that the author had made and the one shown in this heading is the one I remembered first. Now what does that say for me I ask myself? Nevertheless, one is aware of the author’s sensuality and writing style right from the beginning.

When I read the last words of this book, my immediate thought was that it was so thought-provoking, in that it caused me to examine my own sensuality and the memorable quotes studded throughout the book are excellent in their own right.

I kept on asking myself, how could this novella, such a small book give me so many questions of which I required answers? But then that’s the beauty of being a human being, a thinking machine I guess… So if you want a sensual, magical mystery tour, this book will be a definite read for you and it should encourage you as a reader to follow on with Anaïs Nin’s captivating journals.
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,210 followers
March 20, 2013
Maybe because I expected a much simpler tale or maybe because I had higher expectations about what this book would be like, but somehow I couldn't help but feeling deceived by this story.
The short summary at the back cover seemed promising enough: a haunted woman, Sabina, who is unable to remain faithful to her husband Alan. She is helplessly attracted to total strangers and finally driven into fruitless affairs which leave her feeling restless, guilty and edgy. But at the same time, she can't live without these different kind of loves, she has multiple faces, she is specially transformed for each one of her lovers and she can't perform normally with her husband if she doesn't have the excitement of these other amorous adventures.
Don't know exactly why, but for me, it didn't work. The spell wasn't there. I thought the writer tried too hard, sometimes you got lost with her long descriptions of Sabina's red dresses or the feelings she shared with each of her lovers. She wandered too much, didn't focus enough and I felt like an outsider, a voyeur watching some kind of schizophrenic woman acting like a 17 year old. Then there was the repeating guilt and the references to Debussy and Mme Bovary all over the book. You got the point the first time, why did you have to read it all over and over again? I found it tiresome, thank God the book was only 120 pages long!
I will give it 2,5 stars though, because I sort of liked the last pages, where I could find a bit of what I had expected of the whole book. There were some good sentences which gave a glimpse of what the book could have been like, if only the writer had been more humble in her writing and had brought the novel to a more "earthly level".

Some quotations I liked from the book (well, the last pages):

"Let us say I had perverted tendencies: I believed everything I read"
"But if I told the truth, I would be not only lonely but also alone, and I would cause each one great harm"
"The enemy of love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves."
Profile Image for Angie.
11 reviews4 followers
April 15, 2008
Anaïs Nin crafts stunning (and self-destructive?) descriptions of the many insecurities and anxieties of being a woman. This book, although sometimes a bit trite, completely floored me. I'm resonating in her language, almost in disbelief at having familiar issues so beautifully and boldy presented. I actually found myself caught up in her adept confessions of the sometimes banal main character, and was often reading on for pages before realizing that I needed to slow down and let some of the minute details really sink in. Although some debatable content, overall a great read. I think I may have found what I've been looking for.
Profile Image for persephone ☾.
464 reviews2,052 followers
March 8, 2023
(4.25) identity shattered in the context of love, loneliness, the pursuit of love and its dangers, coming to terms with the changing nature of the self, parental issues and their repercussions on ones life, eroticism and sensuality.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,053 followers
July 6, 2013
He turned his eyes, now a glacial blue, fully upon her. They were impersonal and seemed to gaze beyond her at all women who had dissolved into one, but who might at any moment again become dissolved into all.
This was the gaze Sabina had always encountered in Don Juan, everywhere; it was the gaze she mistrusted.
It was the alchemy of desire fixing itself upon the incarnation of all women into Sabina for a moment but as easily by a second process able to alchemize Sabina into many others.

I remember a super old John Turturro interview (from the 1990s) about his film Illuminata. He said that love stories were always about couples getting together and almost never about their lives after, about people who have been in love. He said it better than I've written it just there. I remember another old thing about what happens when the you that is you around other people collides with the you that is you around different other people. It was from My So-Called Life (great show). Angela feared that she would cease to exist if this happened. Sabina is the films that are about people before they fall in love and never about the people who are already together. Sabina is the fear that she will implode if the edges of the seas intrude on the same beach. Which lie did I tell? She is a criminal who wants to be caught. She wants to be discovered for who she truly is. The young Sabina mistakes an unrestrained life for the story that is always beginning. She will meet a new lover and another lover. I was more moved by how tired she was of running eternally in the same place than I was in any of the before conquest eyed desire and after bedding need to disentangle and begin again. I would have felt nothing for the book if it didn't feel so life-like tired. If the weight on the shoulders didn't say that you must not give yourself away. Don't look the wrong way, don't say the wrong thing. I don't want to stay in the story sperm of an unnamed fantasy that must be protected. For who and for what my imagination starved for a better answer. This lover wants a woman who feels the fire only in her flesh and never in her heart. This man judges you for a bad man. Be all things to all men and you will never run out of roles to play. Life doesn't end if it never begins. A Spy in the House of Love opens with a confession to be caught. Let the mask fall and there is more to life than the promise of a story. That made it for me. I don't know what happens but I believed in the real reason people need other people. When she says that you judge yourself more harshly than another person ever could and it is a relief to see yourself not a fly in that glass. The you that isn't a different you depending on who you are with but knowing the you that breathes more because of what you see in someone else. That look, not the don't speak and don't ruin it no one was ever really hear love story beginning. I really like Nin for writing a book like this.

She understood why it angered her when people spoke of life as one life. She became certain of myriad lives within herself. Her sense of time altered. She felt acutely and with grief the shortness of life's physical span. Death was terrifyingly near, and the journey towards it, vertiginous; but only when she considered the lives around her, accepting their time tables, clocks, measurements. Everything they did constricted time. They spoke of one birth, one childhood, one adolescence, one romance, one marriage, one maturity, one aging, one death, and then transmitted the monotonous cycle to their children. But Sabina activated by the moon-rays, felt germinating in her the power to extend time in the ramifications of myriad lives and loves, to expand the journey to infinity, taking immense and luxurious detours as the courtesan depositor of multiple desires.
Profile Image for Katya.
233 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2021
Sofrendo pressões para não pousar esta obra que tanto começou por me confundir, estou contente de o não ter feito. Finalmente posso tirar Anaïs Nin da sombra de Miller, e faço-o já tarde, mas muito merecidamente.

Comecei com aquele que é o quarto livro de uma coletânea de cinco e aquele que, como tema central, nos leva (leva Sabina, sem dúvida) numa busca pela unidade completa. Unidade essa que não é compatível com o estatuto da mulher num mundo feito à imagem do homem, mas que Sabina procura para si aceitando a derradeira das consequências: a corrupção da sua feminilidade.

O que ela descobrirá é que, em vez dessa corrupção de feminilidade encontrará a união das suas várias facetas femininas - como no Nú a descer as escadas, de Duchamp (referência que roubo à própria escritora), Sabina é composta de muitas camadas, muitas sombras, da fusão de múltiplas Sabinas.

Outra prodigalidade do livro é esta união dos sentimentos, das sensações, da arte plástica, da música. Para Anaïs, a ternura e a sensualidade é Debussy; o desejo é o ritmo quente de África; o amor altruísta é o Pássaro de Fogo de Stravinsky...

O céu inteiro era uma manta de olhos e bocas a brilhar sobre ela, o ar estava cheio de vozes, ora gritos roucos vindos do espasmo sensual, ora vozes meigas de gratidão, ora duvidosas, e ela teve medo porque a Sabina não existia, não UMA, mas uma imensidade de Sabinas estendidas aos gritos e a serem desmembradas, constelando-se em todas as direcções e quebrando-se. Uma pequena Sabina que se sentia fraca no centro do universo, levada numa onda gigantesca de dispersão.

Sabina é como o soldado descido dos céus, abandonado em território desconhecido e inimigo, e por isso a sua necessidade de armas começa por lhe dar uma caracterização masculina - aquela que ela julga própria para o mundo que habita:

Escolheu a capa que parecia mais protectora, mais envolvente. Também a capa guardava nas suas dobras algo do que ela imaginava ser uma qualidade possuida exclusivamente pelo homem: alguma ostentação, alguma audácia, algum prazer de liberdade negado à mulher.
Os lances provocadores do toureiro, a bandeira de ataque flutuante dos cavaleiros medievais, uma vela desfraldada em colisão com o vento, o escudo do guerreiro para o seu rosto na batalha, tudo isso ela experimentou ao por uma capa em volta dos ombros. Uma capa estendida era o leito dos nómadas, uma capa desfraldada era a bandeira da aventura. Agora ela envergava um fato muito próprio para voos, batalhas e torneios.

Mas a pouco e pouco, reunindo pedaços de si, Sabina abandonará esses hábitos. Depois de se multiplicar, depois de se decompor em diferentes facetas, uma vez completa, será finalmente uma Mulher:

Os sentimentos que a percorrem e a sustêm são de amor, protecção e devoção. Esses sentimentos criam uma corrente poderosa onde ela flutua. Devido à sua força, eles fizeram desaparecer todas as suas dúvidas, como no caso de devoções fanáticas para com um país, uma ciência, uma arte, quando todos os crimes menores são absolvidos pelo valor incontestável do fim a atingir.

Anaïs Nin descrevia os seus romances como «a busca do eu através do intrincado labirinto da moderna confusão». Uma Espia Na Casa Do Amor é isso e é mais: é uma magnífica obra estética, uma enorme reflexão filosófica e poética, e Anaïs Nin é a tecelã destas magníficas correntes de um imenso rio de palavras que se encadeiam e se complementam e nos sabe bem degustar.

Não conseguia acompanhar o pulsar irado do mundo. Estava empenhada num ciclo mais pequeno, naquele que se opunha à guerra. Tinham sido dadas às mulheres verdades que elas deviam proteger enquanto os homens partiam para a guerra. Quando tudo estivesse destruído, uma sombrinha de papel levantar-se-ia no meio dos escombros e recordaria aos homens a paz e a ternura.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,681 followers
January 25, 2022
"She understood Duchamp's painting of a 'Nude Descending a Staircase.' Eight or ten outlines of the same woman, like many multiple exposures of a woman's personality, neatly divided into many layers, walking down the stairs in unison."
Profile Image for Gearóid.
303 reviews126 followers
July 13, 2013
My first Anais Nin book so i did'nt know what to expect really.
But what i discovered was a beautifully written book.Very descriptive
and an over powering sense of the anxiety Sabina was suffering in
the story.Such an edgy restless character.
I did'nt think it was so erotic....just a study of the guilt and
anxiety of Sabina who was trying to find love and didnt seem to really
know what she was looking for or could'nt find it all in one place.

Felt a bit sorry for her husband who didnt have a clue what was going on.
But he seemed happy enough.

Really lovely writing and i will read more Anais Nin.

Profile Image for Maura.
4 reviews5 followers
July 21, 2015
There are those who view Sabina as a hero and those who view her as a villain. I can not change the mind of one who dismisses this book because they are not interested in her life and her experiences. A Spy In The House of Love is very much Sabina's mental anguish, her uncertainty and her conscience wrestling within itself and if you've no interest in her, you will not be interested in her story.
This is a book about a woman who, quite simply, has affairs. Plural. I find it quite easy to find tales of men who philander. I find stories about women who escape bad relationships in the arms of other men. I find accounts of individuals who meet their soul-mates and run off to be with them.
This is something I do not find. Its literary equal did not exist when Anais Nin penned it and I do not believe that in a popular sense it exists today.
Sabina is happily married. The men she is with are not the loves of her life. Each relationship is an escape, but the escape is not from the tragic, merely the mundane. Nin delves into her psyche, explores her discontent and does so beautifully and fully.
I do not recommend this book. If you need to read it, you will. And if you read it and understand it, it will have mattered.
It is not for everyone. But for those whom it touches, it will leave its mark.
Profile Image for Magdelanye.
1,649 reviews202 followers
September 5, 2012
What I remember most from my first reading of this book is the feeling of disappointment when I was done. That there was no resolution, no final report,and not even a character I could bond with.In fact, the characters rather repelled me.They seemed to lack substance. I felt like I had stumbled in to the wrong party,and instead of the crowd of witty friends I was expecting,I was confronted with an aimless group of earnest strangers.

From the perspective of years,I can see how I may have been vastly put off and unwilling to face the issues that AN raises,that I in fact was facing myself.

The first time I read this book,it took me a day,and I did not get much from it.
This time, I took almost 3 days,spending hours contemplating just a couple of pages.
AN has the genius to articulate what can't be put into words.
Here,she explores the underside of eroticism, the idea of erotic resonance,"the elevations which heightened the pulse...",the maintanance of innocence,the role of duplicity, the kindness of lies.
"The body usually betrays the soul"she is forced to conclude. In my 20's I did not want to hear that.

My initial problem with the book was exacerbated by the fact that I was at that juncture rather violently rejecting Romanticism,and this is such a romantic book in essence.

Profile Image for Heleen.
167 reviews
January 7, 2015
I know no one who evokes the extremes of emotion and physical sensation as convincingly as Anaïs Nin. Exactly that might be the problem. There is no pause in the intensity of her prose. It's arresting, yes, breathless, certainly - restless, desperate, at times despairingly hopeful, and it's all of these things at once. Her sentences never stutter before gaining momentum again. They gallop along, endlessly, with sweat on their tongues, urged on by a writer who doesn't believe in taking a breath when that breath is not one of infinite arousal. Her writing style therefore can be quite baroque at best, flowery at worst. And yet, and YET... Perhaps this is exactly Nin's charm; exactly the thing that makes me return to her. I feel like you cannot read her books without being prepared to succumb to her energetic pace and the density of her writing style. It is exactly that density that reveals a fragile intimacy - a gate if you will - able to reveal parts of life you're only hesitant to admit existed, let alone aspire to.
Profile Image for Marisa Fernandes.
Author 6 books41 followers
October 23, 2016
"Uma Espia na Casa do Amor" deixou-me indecisa entre as 2 e as 3 estrelas... A verdade é que quando me questiono se gostei do livro não consigo dizer que não gostei, mas também não consigo dizer que gostei.
A meu ver a obra tem um argumento com tudo para dar um livro interessante, no mínimo "agitante": uma mulher que apesar de viver com um homem que a ama decide ausentar-se, de vez em quando, alegando razões profissionais, mas tudo o que faz nesses períodos é experimentar o amor de outros homens, sem qualquer espécie de relação de qualquer tipo...
No entanto, o interesse do argumento perde-se na sua concretização. A autora tem tiradas inteligentes, dotadas de grande profundidade e reflexão (que admirei bastante e tomei nota porque são dignas de leituras e releituras), mas ao mesmo tempo a forma como começa o livro é confusa, deixando o leitor cheio de dúvidas, e a forma como também apresenta os encontros ocasionais, se volta a referir aos sentimentos de Sabina e ao modo como o marido a trata é feita atabalhoada, caótica e desorganizadamente. Nem sempre é fácil compreender que se passou de uma coisa à outra e, às vezes, essa transição é abrupta. Por outro lado, a obra não dispõe de capítulos, o que faz com que o leitor tenha de andar à procura do “tempo certo” para fazer uma pausa e isso acaba por cansar um pouco e constituir motivo de algum stress …!
No essencial, a obra concentra-se no desejo de liberdade e independência da personagem principal, que parece não querer amar ninguém, e que sendo infiel, por "necessidade", não sabe como lidar com a culpa (?) e a eventual e hipotética possibilidade de descoberta dessa vida paralela pelo marido. Ainda que a escrita de Anaïs Nin se foque no estado de alma de Sabina, com pouca ou nenhuma relevância dos cenários e a quase ausência de descrições, e seja nessa perspectiva riquissima, a verdade é que no geral o meu maior desejo foi sempre conseguir terminar o livro o mais rapidamente possível... Como se não conseguisse aguentar aquela leitura por mais tempo do que o apenas necessário!
E é isto.
"Como ela aprendera a fazer desaparecer cartas de amor pelo lavabo, a não deixar cabelos no pente emprestado, a reunir os ganchos do cabelo, a apagar vestígios de baton em toda a parte, a sacudir nuvens de pó de arroz.
Os seus olhos eram como os olhos de uma espia.
Os seus hábitos eram como os hábitos de uma espia. Como ela punha todas as suas roupas numa cadeira, como se pudesse ser chamada de repente e não devesse deixar quaisquer vestígios da sua presença. (...)"[p. 58]
Profile Image for Joshie.
338 reviews63 followers
April 17, 2019
"The enemy of love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves." (p118)

The muddled line between love and lust, desire and detachment, infidelity and independence. This was a 30-year old woman's personal "definition" of sexual liberation, of sleeping in different beds, underneath different bodies all the whilst with a husband at home. A contradictory, an ambiguousness, it's the hand of marriage pressed hard on the base of her throat. A Spy in the House of Love was a never ending whirlwind of guilt, persistent daddy issues, and transient passion amongst different problematic men. At times Anaïs Nin's writing was compelling and her nice prose glossed over the mediocre narrative; on (p26), ** "Sabina seemed to be listening to the echo of this song, and of his description of a place where there was a memory, where the past itself was like a vast echo retaining experience; whereas here there was this great determination to dispose of memories and to live only in the present, as if memory were but a cumbersome baggage.", (p92) ** "Once a role was established in a relationship it was almost impossible to alter." and others which I included below:

** "Guilt is the one burden human beings cannot bear alone." (p112)
** "I want to trespass boundaries, erase all identifications, anything which fixes one permanently into one mould, one place without hope of change." (p116)
** "I feel safest of all when no one knows where I am." (p117)

I did not necessarily agree with the novella's sentiment. It all seemed a farce; a negative representation of what women’s sexual liberation should be (which I personally think I should read more about). Sabina just didn't know what she wanted in the first place. Although society is absolutely more lenient and I'd go as far as saying more expectant and accepting of adulterous men this does not cancel out being more open to, and "accepting", when it's women who commit them. I always believed both sexes should be scorned in the same degree. I hate treachery and adultery due to personal reasons and it disgusts me. But then maybe I was simplifying this all too much. By the end, A Spy in the House of Love cowardly hid itself behind 'love' to elevate itself for the sake of it.
331 reviews213 followers
February 6, 2010
All I am going to say is this is an amazing piece of work, readng it is a sensuous experience,one to be savoured and thought about. Anais Nin has captured perfectly the feelings of many women who are torn between being wife,lover,mother,child,friend and mentor and how all those facets of our personality come together to create the person we are. If words acould be turned into something tangible this read would be (for me) Calvados, Shalimar perfume and cigar smoke, Exotic and mysterious, with just a touch of melancholy.

Note:- this piece revolves around adultery so not for those who are averse to this activity.
Profile Image for Debbie Robson.
Author 11 books130 followers
January 2, 2012
Having already read one of Nin's erotic short story collections, I (wrongly) presumed that this novel was a similar type of work. How wrong could I be! This is (for me anyway) a brilliant evocation of a lost soul. Sabina moves between her sheltered, relatively happy life with Alan to her restless wanderings of nightclubs, the beach and Mambo's club. During the course of this short novel we meet three of her men. My favourite is the flyer from the war who has seen death and like Sabina can't live a normal life.
My one complaint is that the back cover says Sabina is a firebrand of New York's 1950s but within the text it appears the war is still ongoing. As she moves between two worlds, the lies involved often suffocate her. The details of this torn life are so artfully recreated that I began to wonder about the author. Sure enough she was actually married to two men at the same time and actually had two sets of checkbooks, one said Anaïs Guiler for New York and the other said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. What a fascinating women! I'm now hoping to read a lot more of her work.
Profile Image for Mersini.
692 reviews23 followers
August 30, 2014
Oh god, this book is incredible. Thank you Anais Nin!

I'm sure it's not the only book out there that covers this topic, but it's the only one I've read, where a woman who sleeps around is neither a slut nor a whore, but simply a lost being who is in search of love and who thinks that sex can be transformed into it. She is not judged by anyone but herself. She is not shamed for her actions, except by herself. She is driven by need and held back by guilt, and lives a half life in which she is throwing herself into the world physically as an adult, but conducts herself emotionally as a child.

Basically, it's the kind of book everyone needs to read to understand that woman who sleeps around isn't just in need of attention, but might be missing something profound in herself that she seeks to find. It's the kind of book that shows you that it's not only the male heroes who feel discontent.
Profile Image for David.
638 reviews117 followers
December 11, 2011
I wouldn't advise reading this if you are working the nightshift in a Siberian coalmine: these are strictly poor-little-rich-girl problems.

But that's not to say that Sabina isn't very unhappy and deserving of our sympathy, and that Nin doesn't write very well.

I just think Mary McCarthy probably did it better: a sense of humour, and characters taking themselves a bit less seriously.

There's no escaping that Sabina's problems could have been solved by either:
a) A job. An early Peggy at Sterling Cooper? Thinking of taglines between the blowjobs would be more healthy than wringing her hands about who she is.
b) A sassy (gay) friend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJLvl9...
Profile Image for Juan Luis.
32 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2022
I have read some Anaïs Nin in the past so I already knew this would be amazing. What a great read, Nin's writing is both unmatched and unfortunately underrated.
Profile Image for Roxana Chirilă.
1,009 reviews127 followers
June 13, 2018
Sabina is a compulsive liar and she sleeps around, lying to her husband all the time and living in a world of anxiety and fractured personality - but I'm already making this sound like a very different book than it actually is.

"A Spy in the House of Love" contains so much purple prose that emperors could wear it as a toga. Here's a sample:

"The caresses of the night before were acutely marvellous, like all the multicolored flames from an artful fireworks, bursts of exploded suns and neons within the body, flying comets aimed at all the centres of delight, shooting stars of piercing joys"


"Inner chaos, like those secret volcanoes which suddenly lift the neat furrows of a peacefully ploughed field, awaited behind all disorders of face, hair, and costume, for a fissure through which to explode."


"A jungle of dragon tails thrashing in erotic derisions, a brazier of flesh-smoking prayers, the multiple debris of the stained glass fountains of desire." - I can't remember what this was even about.

At the beginning of the book, a "lie detector" gets a call from a mysterious woman (Sabina) and he assumes she's guilty of something, so he follows her around, discovering she's nothing, or she's too many people at once to understand. He's promptly forgotten as the narration follows Sabina through... four affairs? Five? One with a German who can sing, one with a black man (I forget his nationality) who can play the drums, one with an aviator of some sort, and one with a guy I instantly forgot because I realized the story wasn't going anywhere and I started skipping paragraphs. There may have been a fifth, but it was in the past or something of the sort (I really stopped giving a damn and skipped pages towards the end).

Sabina mostly waxes poetic about her anxiety that she might be caught and thinks about how amazingly wonderful her husband is, and how she loves going back to him because he's so kind - but he's kind of like a father to her, and she's kind of like her own scoundrel of a father who kept sleeping around, and blablabla-look-at-me-jumping-out-of-the-tower-of-loneliness-into-the-abyss-of-love-to-be-shattered-into-pieces-and-suffer.

Oh, and the lie detector? The lie detector tells her the moralizing truth about herself, which is that she sleeps around and doesn't really love anyone. Which, yeah, is kind of freaking obvious.

I don't know. I'm just bored. I prefer immoral characters who spew venom or even nihilism, not purple angst.
Profile Image for Katherine.
52 reviews3 followers
September 10, 2020
I don’t feel like I can rate this lol did I understand any of it? Many sentences resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect but then all of a sudden we’d be in a different country and I didn’t remember the transition. It makes me want to write in detail about all my trysts. This wasn’t very erotic (which is fine, I’ll read her actual erotica soon) and I think I’m maybe not good at reading surrealism if that’s even what this is

Update: 5 stars!!
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