Sabina

By Nin, Anais | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Sabina


Nin, Anais, Chicago Review


After Irving Rosenthal and his cohort left the staff, Hyung Woong Pak and the remaining staff members directed the magazine toward a focus on European literature: they produced a special issue on "Existentialism and Literature" for Summer 1959 and a series of issues in 1962 devoted to "Modern European Literature." They also continued to present new fiction and poetry, including new work by Stanley Elkin and Paul Herr.

"Sabina" by Anais Nin appeared in the Winter-Spring 1962 issue. Nin would not become widely-known in the United States until the publication of her diaries commenced in 1966. She had recently combined several earlier works in what she described as a roman fleuve: Cities of the Interior was published in 1959. Editor HYUNG WOONG PAK recently described how he compiled "Sabina":

We revived Anais Nin in 1962 with the publication of her story, "Sabina." Actually, I didn't know Anais Nin was living in the Village in New York. Alan Swallow, whom I published in Chicago Review (1960), gave me her address. I wrote Nin and she promptly sent me a large box of manuscripts. Her letter to me was that I could publish whatever suitable I could find from her manuscripts. It took me a while to get through the box. The box contained her work in progress at various stages. Out of the fragments, I was able to piece together a coherent portion and edited it. I then named the work "Sabina" and published it in Chicago Review.

The story has subsequently appeared in the Anais Nin Reader.

The brain of man is filled with passageways like the contours and multiple crossroads of the labyrinth. In its curved folds lie the imprint of thousands of images, recordings of millions of words.

Certain cities of the orient were designed to baffle the enemy by a tangle of intricate streets. For those concealed within the labyrinth its detours were a measure of safety; for the invaders it presented an image of fearful mystery.

Sabina had chosen the labyrinth for safety.

There existed five or six versions of her birthplace, parents, racial origins. For Jay her first version was: my mother was a Hungarian gypsy. She sang in cafes and told fortunes. My father played the guitar. When they came to America they opened a night club, mostly for Hungarians. It was like a continuation of life in Hungary.

But when Jay asked her: "What did you do as a girl in that environment? Did you sing? Did you tell fortunes? Did you learn to dance? Did you wear long braids and a white blouse? How did you learn to speak such beautiful English?" Sabina did not answer. Jay had taken her to a Hungarian restaurant and waited for her response to the music, the dances, the songs, to the swarthy men whose glances were like a dagger thrust. But Sabina had forgotten this story by then and looked on the scene with detachment. When Jay pressed her she began another: "I was born on the road. My parents were show people. We travelled all the time. My father was a magician in a circus. My mother was a trapezist."

Had she learned there her skill in balancing in space, in time, avoiding all definitions and crystallizations? Had she learned from her father to deal in camouflage, in quick sleight of hand? (This story came before the one in which she asserted her father had been anonymous. Not knowing who he was, he might turn out to be any of the men she admired at the time.)

"But," said Jay. "You told me once your father was a Don Juan, that it was his faithlessness which had affected your childhood, giving you a feeling of impermanency."

"That was true, too," said Sabina, "one can be a faithless magician!"

"And you learned from him, no doubt, to juggle with facts."

From the very first day Jay who had always lived joyously and obviously outside, in daylight, had been drawn into this labyrinth unwittingly by his own curiosity and love of facts. He had believed only in what he saw, in one dimension, like a candid photographer, and he now found himself inside rows of mirrors with endless reflections and counter reflections. …

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