Anaïs Nin wrote Children of the Albatross in 1959. It is the story of Djuna, a young dancer, who goes to Paris after winning a scholarship to ballet school. Joining the colourful café life of Montmartre, she makes friends and meets lovers among the artists.
Among her acquaintances, two are of particular importance. Firstly Michael, who was “not like any other man she knew”, then Paul. Children of the Albatross is, essentially, a study of Djuna’s steps into adulthood through her “cities of the interior” (one of Nin’s favourite concepts). “The cities of the interior were like the city of Fez, intricate, endless, secret and unchartable.”
The exterior, as well as the interior, plays a large part in the novel. Houses reflect the people who inhabit them; appearances are revealing, but deceptive.
The world of children is portrayed through the character of Paul, who dyes his pet mouse blue, and decorates a room with luminescent paint. The theme of music is prevalent. At the start of the first chapter, Nin describes the sounds of the merry-go-round; Djuna’s dreams of dancing are “a monologue set to music” and “a miniature opera”.
Journeys, both physical and spiritual, are charted in Children of the Albatrosss. It is Djuna’s instinct to travel; her collection of foreign shoes symbolises her internal journeys: “The shoes carried her everywhere, tireless shoes walking forever all over the world.”
Anaïs Nin presents her themes and characters using beautiful images and language, typical of her style. Altogether, Children of the Albatross is a poignant work, grounded in fantasy and imagination, made strong by Nin’s finely constructed narrative.
Thanks to – Susie Gordon
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