The backstory of this book is as much a part of this book as its characters. Anais Nin and a group of her fellow writers were offered 100 dollars a month, by an anonymous collector to write erotic stories. For various personal reasons, the writers accepted this commission. The collector never revealed his identity or offered response except to urge them to ‘concentrate on sex and leave out the poetry’. Anais Nin and the other writers were stifled by this condition but unable to let go of such a lucrative gig. In a twisted kind of revenge, Anais Nin began writing more and more outrageous things, making her stories as ugly and grotesque as she could make them. Still, the collector devoured them and demanded more. Delta of Venus is a collection of some of those stories.
Anais Nin has mentioned how at the time erotica was primarily written by men and her attempts to push through her influences to emerge with her own writing voice, that of a woman’s perspective to sex. This is within the framework of a client who demanded that the emotions be filtered out, all while she felt women tend to fuse emotions more with sex.
Delta of Venus is not as beautiful as some of Anais Nin’s other work but it is a lot less meandering, much more focused on the sex. This is not to say that the sexual depictions are necessarily fine. This is a woman attempting to push a male perspective while retaining a feminine voice, while writing about sex, which differs so much by individual, let alone gender. The effort shows. The stories feel abrupt and bizarre. Some stories wander about from one sexual encounter to another, switching protagonists too. On the other hand, the book offers a smorgasbord of sex writing, dealing as it does with bestiality, S&M, rape, pedophilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, orgies and incest.
The book in isolation is shocking rather than fine literature. But given the context of time and situation, this is probably a must-read for anybody interested in the erotica genre.