Authors: Anais Nin
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Literary
Book V of CITIES OF THE INERIOR
HAVE THEIR INCEPTION in the blueprint of a dream, some in the urgency of
contradicting a dream. Lillian’s recurrent dream of a ship that could not reach
the water, that sailed laboriously, pushed by her with great effort, through
city streets, had determined her course toward the sea, as if she would give
this ship, once and for all, its proper sea bed.
She had landed in the city of Golconda, where
the sun painted everything with gold, the lining of her thoughts, the worn
valises, the plain beetles, Golconda of the golden age, the golden aster, the
golden eagle, the golden goose, the golden fleece, the golden robin, the
goldenrod, the goldenseal, the golden warbler, the golden wattles, the golden
wedding, and the gold fish, and the gold of pleasure, the goldstone, the gold
thread, the fool’s gold.
With her first swallow of air she inhaled a
drug of forgetfulness well known to adventurers.
Tropic, from the Greek, signified change and
turning. So she changed and turned and was metamorphosed by the light and
caressing heat into a spool of silk. Every movement she made from that moment
on, even the carrying of her valise, was softened and pleasurable. Her nerves,
of which she had always been sharply aware, had become instead strands from a
spool of silk, spiraling through the muscles.
“How long do you intend to stay?” asked the
official. “How much money do you carry with you? In what currency? Do you have
a return ticket?”
You had to account for every move, arrival or
exit. In the world there was a conspiracy against improvisation. It was only
permitted in jazz.
The guitars and the singing opened fire. Her
skin blossomed and breathed. A heavy wave of perfume came down the jungle on
the right, and a fine spray of waves came from the left. On the beach the
natives swung in hammocks of reeds. The tender Mexican voices sang love songs
which cradled and rocked the body as did the hammocks.
Where she came from only jewels were placed in
satin-lined, cushioned boxes, but here it was thoughts and memories which the
air, the scents, and the music conspired to hypnotize by softness.
But the airport official who asked
cactus-pointed questions wore no shirt, nor did the porters, so that Lillian
decided to be polite to the smoothest torso and show respect only to the
The absence of uniforms restored the dignity
and importance of the body. They all looked untamed and free in their bare
feet, as if they had assumed the duties of receiving the travelers only
temporarily and would soon return to their hammocks, to swimming and singing.
Work was one of the absurdities of existence. Don’t you think so, Senorita?
said their laughing eyes while they appraised her from head to toe. They looked
at her openly, intently, as children and animals do, with a physical vision,
measuring only physical attributes, charm, aliveness, and not titles,
possessions, or occupations. Their full, complete smile was not always answered
by the foreigners, who blinked at such sudden warmth of smile as they did at
the dazzling sun. Against the sun they wore dark glasses, but against these
smiles and open naked glances they could only defend their privacy with a
half-smile. Not Lillian. Her very full, rounded lips had always given such a
smile. She could respond to this naked curiosity, naked interest, proximity.
Thus animals and children stare, with their whole, concentrated attentiveness.
The natives had not yet learned from the white man his inventions for traveling
away from the present, his scientific capacity for analyzing warmth into a
chemical substance, for abstracting human beings into symbols. The white man
had invented glasses which made objects too near or too far, cameras,
telescopes, spyglasses, objects which put glass between living and vision. It
was the image he sought to possess, not the texture, the living warmth, the
The natives saw only the present. This
communion of eyes and smiles was elating. Where Lillian came from people seemed
intent on not seeing each other. Only children looked at her with this
unashamed curiosity. Poor white man, wandering and lost in his proud possession
of a dimension in which bodies became invisible to the naked eye, as if staring
were an immodest act. Already she felt incarnated, in full possession of her
own body because the porter was in full possession of his, and this
concentration upon the present allowed no interruption or short circuits of the
physical contact. When she turned away from the porter it was to find a smiling
taxi driver who seemed to be saying: “I am not keen on going anywhere. It is
just as good right here, right now…”
He was scratching his luxuriant black hair, and
he carried his wet bathing suit around his neck.
The guitars kept up their musical fire. The
beggars squatted around the airport. Blind or crippled, they smiled. The
festivities of nature bathed them in gold and anesthetized their suffering.
Clothes seemed ponderous and superfluous in the
city of Golconda.
Golconda was Lillian’s private name for this
city which she wanted to rescue from the tourist-office posters and propaganda.
Each one of us possesses in himself a separate and distinct city, a unique
city, as we possess different aspects of the same person. She could not bear to
love a city which thousands believed they knew intimately. Golconda was hers.
True, it had been at first a pearl-fishing village. True, a Japanese ship had
been wrecked here, slave ships had brought Africans, other ships delivered
spices, and Spanish ships had brought the art of filigree, of lace making. A
shipwrecked Spanish galley had scattered on the beach baptism dresses which the
women of southern Mexico had adopted as headgear.
The legend was that when the Japanese pearl
divers had been driven away they had destroyed the pearl caches, and Golconda
became a simple fishing village. Then the artists had come on donkeys and
discovered the beauty of the place. They had been followed by the real-estate
men and hotelkeepers. But none could destroy Golconda. Golconda remained a city
where the wind was like velvet, where the sun was made of radium, and the sea
as warm as a mother’s womb.
The porters were deserting before all the
baggage was distributed. They had earned enough, just enough for the day for
food, beer, a swim, and enough to take a girl dancing, and they did not want
any more. So the little boys of ten and twelve, who had been waiting for this
opening, were seeking to carry bags bigger than themselves.
The taxi driver, who was in no hurry to go
anywhere in his dilapidated car, saw his car filling up, and decided it was
time to put on his clean laundry-blue shirt.
The three men who were to share the taxi with
Lillian were already installed. Perhaps because they were in city clothes or
perhaps because they were not smiling, they seemed to be the only subjects the
sun could not illumine. The sea’s aluminum reflectors had even penetrated the
old taxi and found among the cracked leather some stuffing which had come out
of the seat and which the sun transformed into angel hair such as grows on
One of the men helped her into the car and
introduced himself with Spanish colonial courtesy: “I am Doctor Hernandez.”
He had the broad face she had seen in Mayan
sculpture, the round high cheekbones, the aquiline nose, the full mouth
slanting downward while the eyes slanted upward. His skin was a light olive
which came from the mixture of Indian and Spanish blood. His smile was like the
natives’, open and total, but it came less often and faded quickly, leaving a
shadow over his face.
She looked out the window to explore her new
territory of pleasure. Everything was novel. The green of the foliage was not
like any other greens: it was deeper, lacquered, and moist. The leaves were
heavier, fuller, the flowers bigger. They seemed surcharged with sap, and more
alive, as if they never had to close against the frost, or even a colder night.
As if they had no need of sleep.
The huts made of palm leaves recalled Africa.
Some were pointed on top and on stilts. Others had slanting roofs, and the palm
leaves extended far enough to create shadows all around the house.
The lagoon on the left of the road showed a
silver surface which sometimes turned to sepia. It was half filled with
floating lagoon flowers. Trees and bushes seemed like new vegetation, also on
into the water as the
reeds dipped their straight and flexible roots. Herons stood on one leg.
Iguanas slithered away, and parrots became hysterically gay.
Lillian’s eyes returned to the Doctor. His
thoughts were elsewhere, so she looked at the American who had introduced
himself as Hatcher. He was an engineer who had come to Mexico years before to
build roads and bridges, and had remained and married a Mexican woman. He spoke
perfect Spanish, and was a leathery-skinned man who had been
by the sun as dark as the natives. The tropics had
not relaxed his forward-
and shoulders. He
looked rigid, lean, hard-fleshed. His bare feet were in Mexican sandals, the
soles made of discarded rubber tires. His shirt was open at the neck. But on
him the negligent attire still seemed a uniform to conquer, rather than a way
of submitting to, the tropics.
“Golconda may seem beautiful to you, but it’s
spoiled by tourism. I found a more beautiful place farther on. I had to hack my
way to it. I have a beach where the sand
it hurts the eyes like a snow slope. I’m building a house. I come to Golconda
once a week to shop. I have a jeep. If you like you can drive out with me for a
visit. Unless, like most Americans, you have come here to drink and dance…”
“I’m not free to drink and dance. I have to
play every night with the jazz orchestra.”
“Then you must be Lillian
said the passenger who had not yet spoken. He was a tall blond Austrian who
spoke a harsh Spanish but with authority. “I’m the owner of the Black Pearl. I
He shook her hand without smiling. He was
The tropics had not been able to warm him or to
melt the icicle-blue eyes.
Lillian felt that these three men were somehow
interfering with her own tasting of Golconda. They seemed intent on giving her
an image of Golconda she did not want. The Doctor wanted her to notice only
that the children were in need of care, the American wanted her to recoil from
tourism, and the owner of the Black Pearl made the place seem like a night
The taxi stopped for gasoline. An enormously
fat American, unshaved for many days, rose from a hammock to wait on them.
“Hello, Sam,” said Doctor Hernandez. “How is
Maria? You didn’t bring her to me for her injection.”
Sam shouted to a woman dimly visible inside the
palm leaf shack. She came to the door. Her long black shawl was fastened to her
shoulders and her baby was cradled in the folds of it as if inside a hammock.
Sam repeated the Doctor’s question. She
shrugged her shoulders: “No time,” she said and called: “Maria!”
Maria came forward from a group of children,
carrying a boat made out of a coconut shell. She was small for her age,
delicately molded, like a miniature child, as Mexican children often are. In
the eyes of most Mexican painters, these finely chiseled beings with small
hands and feet and slender necks and waists become larger than nature, with the
sinews and muscles of giants. Lillian saw them tender and fragile and neat. The
Doctor saw them ill.
The engineer said to Lillian: “Sam was sent
here twenty years ago to build bridges and roads. He married a native. He does
nothing but sleep and drink.”
“It’s the tropics,” said Hansen.
“You’ve never been to the Bowery,” said
“But in the tropics all white men fall apart.”
“I’ve heard that but I never believed it. Any
more than I believe all adventurers are doomed. I think such beliefs are merely
an expression of fear, fear of expatriation, fear of adventure.”
“I agree with you,” said the Doctor. “The white
man who falls apart in the tropics is the same one who would fall apart
anywhere. But in foreign lands they stand out more because they are few, and we
notice them more.”