She feels the insanity produced by the inner tendencies pulling apart like roots tearing at each other to grow separately, and the constant straining to achieve unity. Sabina or Alraune I, if followed, leads the self into mad whoredom. Her way is degraded. She represents incest in that the women love themselves in each other. Jeanne or Alraune II leads the self into sterile, lifeless unreality. She represents incest in her self-defeated love for her brother, or love based on an ideal impossible to realize. She longs to find someone like herself but has enormous fears of doing so for then her realm of solitude, where she reigns supreme, would end.
The images of terror and desire swell in magnitude. The tone is feverish. The narrator (Alraune III) pursues and examines every gesture, word, feeling for meaning. She compares herself to fish, swimming in the labyrinthian waters. The fish swimming upstream and downstream is the Piscean symbol, Nin's astrological sign. She identifies with the light, facile, effortless movement of the fish, as well as the duality of its Piscean voyages between the world of miserable degradation and ideals, between painful crashes and soaring ascension. She writes of the duality, the swimming backward and forward, There is a fissure in my vision and madness will always rush through. It is this which she seeks to close.
In psychological terms the central character has not found the way to balance herself between these polarities. In addition, she feels a distance between the crowd, between the others and me. Distance creates solitude. I cannot be certain of any event or place, only of my solitude. She yearns for an honest relationship but she cannot tell the truth to people, because it destroys them. She is wrapped in lies which do not penetrate my soul. The moment I step into the cavern of my lies I drop into darkness. She yearns for a place where light had a sound and sunlight was an orchestra. Light in House of Incest is reality, compared to the darkness of insanity which is feared.
But first the narrator must go all the way into the House of Incest with Jeanne. It is the only house which was not included in the twelve houses of the zodiac. This grim house is the psyche of the depressed neurotic where self-love exists in many forms. The rooms of the house are chained together by steps; visitors talk to one another through dark windows without seeing each other's faces, just as the neurotic cannot see another, only himself. The rooms are filled with the rhythmic heaving of the sea. Here is the neurotic's longed for hidden womb, where the fish are immobile, glued to painted backgrounds. Everything stands still in the House of Incest because they feared that movement would cause love to flow away from them. Only the cold absence of pain exists in the frightening climate of neurosis. Fear of change locks the individual into this place of hibernation, solitude and distance from others.
She (Alraune III, I) sees examples of incestuous love. There is a painting of Lot with his hand upon his daughter's breast, showing joy and fear racking her body. The same feelings are seen between brother and sister, mother and son. She leaves Jeanne and walks into my own book, seeking peace...As I move within my book I am cut by pointed glass and broken bottles in which there is still the odor of sperm and perfume...More pages added to the book but pages like a prisoner's walking back and forth over the space allotted to him. Tortured by fear of madness and immobility she tries to unify the fragments of her self through writing, the art of forging a whole in creation. Still, there are no signs of rebirth, despite her efforts. As artist I imagine that I created myself, and that it was I who tore myself out of earth and water, broke all shells, and looked with chameleon eyes upon the changing face of the world, looked with anonymous vision upon my completed self. As artist, with the ability to create herself, she hoped to find the key to salvation.
But then she walked out of my book into the paralytic's room. The paralytic sits before a notebook of blank pages, saying I want to tell the whole truth, but I cannot tell the whole truth because then I would have to write four pages at once, like four long columns simultaneously, four pages to the present one, and so I do not write at all. He represents the indecisiveness of the intellectual analyzing world issues. Next, Sabina, Jeanne and I meet the modern Christ, who is crucified by his own nerves, for all our neurotic sins! He is based on the figure of Artaud as Nin perceived and identified with him. He possesses the language of nerves. The modern Christ, like Artaud, says he was born without a skin. He personifies the person aware of everything so acutely that the agony is unbearable and others isolate him from society, as for example in a mental institution. The modern Christ wants to help the three women. But, Nin writes, none of us could bear to pass through the tunnel which led from the house into the world on the other side of the walls...where there was daylight and joy. They feared to approach reality, the light of day; they could not believe freedom was there.
In the earlier drafts of House of Incest the role of astrologer took the place of the paralytic and the modern Christ. The astrologer, familiar as he is with the houses of the zodiac, ancient metaphor for the potentialities of people, is a kind of god-the-father figure. He created the three women, and it is as if the women are confronting their maker. He also is endowed by Nin with the characteristics of the alchemist and the psyche-analyst who presumes to understand everything. (Dr. Allendy, Nin's psychoanalyst, incidentally as the Diary shows, was an astrologer and wrote about alchemy.) In Nin's early draft this doctor is beseeched to close the fissure in her vision. He dispenses compassion and clairvoyance. She writes: He leaned over my madness and I stood up without crutches. He cures her of lies, the need for them. The three Alraunes seduce him. The astrologer's coat of armor breaks and falls. He is revealed to have no sexual powers. And the narrator is left feeling that in man - man as father, lover, doctor, teacher-she has no guide. She has only guilt for having smashed his armor (broken his mask of theories and ideologies) and exposed the absence of his presumed potency. It is a powerful scene and in some ways stronger than the later version .
In the Diary Anais Nin showed how men had failed her. In the portrait of Dr. Otto Rank, she wrote: This is my fourth attempt at a truthful relationship; it failed with Henry because there is so much he did not understand; it failed with my father because he wants a world of illusion; it failed with Allendy because he lost his objectivity. Furthermore, she was convinced that man-made knowledge and religious theories created guilts and distanced people from true awareness. In the final version of House of Incest the central character sees the uselessness of the paralytic, representing the controlled intellectual man, and the modern Christ, who in his extreme hypersensitivity is unable to communicate with most people. Somehow she will have to find her own way, not dependent on man. By now the reader recognizes the centrality of this issue in Nin's work. The conclusion of House of Incest resolves this in a large vision.