Novelist, short story writer, diarist, bimbo, Henry Miller's lover. 1903-1977

Much influenced by the Surrealists and psychoanalysis.

The first woman to truly write erotica from a female perspective. Works include: Henry and June, Delta of Venus, A Spy in the House of Love, and The Journals of Anais Nin.

"To be lost in a woman's sexuality is to be truly lost"

My first exposure to Anais Nin was in the movie, Henry and June. My then-girlfriend and I were living in Santa Cruz, California, and going through a phase where we went to the local "artsy" theatre every week to see whatever the latest film was. I was enthralled, to say the least. Not only was the movie erotic and mysterious, but I was totally envious of Henry Miller's lifestyle and his relationship with Anais.

Ever since I saw that movie I have fantasized about living that hand-to-mouth, bohemian lifestyle that was Henry Miller's life, but I can never seem to summon up the nerve to take the chance. The closest I ever came was the time I got a free one-way ticket to San Francisco and I flew there from Detroit with only $10 in my pocket. But alas, I ended up staying with my ex-girlfriend for a couple of weeks, then with a friend of my sister in Orange County, and in the end I went back to Ann Arbor. So much for my plan to be a hippie living on the streets of San Fran. The thing is, once I got out there and really faced the prospect, it just didn't seem all that attractive anymore.

At any rate, I went on to read several other of Anais's books (erotica, such as Delta of Venus and Little Birds, as well as her journals) and I love them as much as I loved the personification of her in the film. Every time I pick up one of Anais's journals and read a few pages, I feel a flash of lust for life that comes rarely these days. I own a few of Henry Miller's books but I haven't found the will to indulge in more than a few snippets yet. His writing is powerful and dark, and reading it requires me to be in a fairly stable mood, which I rarely am.

Trew Bennett, a potter, said of Anaïs: she “has delicate, slim fingers and lovely, smiling natural shyness, a dedication to inner beauty and expression. Her soft French accent gives a sweet richness to her, and she appears like a little girl at times. Her strength is in her vulnerability, -she has the gift of great openness and this she also inspires. I sense though that she is equally private, and that she maintains this privacy in a most artful, elusive, and womanly way.”

May 20 1915

"I am Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell. I am twelve years old at present. I am rather tall for my age, everyone says. I am thin. I have large feet and large hands with fingers that often are clenched with nervousness. My face is very pale and I have big brown eyes that are vague and that I am afraid reveal my crazy thoughts. My mouth is big. I have a funny laugh, a passably nice smile. When I am angry, my mouth becomes an ugly pout. Usually I am serious and somewhat distracted. My nose is a bit the Culmell nose, by which I mean it is a little long, like Grandmother's. I have chestnut hair, not very light in color, which falls a little below the shoulder. Maman calls them locks of hair. I have always hidden them, either in a braid or tied back with a hair ribbon.
My disposition: I get angrily easily. I can't stand to be teased but I like a little to tease others. I like to work. I adore my mother and father and above all my aunts and all the rest of the family, not counting Maman, Papa, Thorvald, and Joaquinito. I love Grandmother. I am crazy about reading, and writing is a passion with me. I believe fervently in God and in everything God tells me through His holy Church. Prayer is something to which I have always had recourse. I don't love easily and become attached only to whom people I respect in my own way. I am a French girl who loves, admires, and respects her country, a real French girl. I admire Spain, although less, of course, and I especially admire Belgium.

My diary knows my thoughts as well as I know them myself."

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." *

Anaïs Nin is a diarist and writer, born in Paris on February 21st, 1903 to a Catalan father and Danish mother. She was largely self-educated, spending her youth reading in public libraries and keeping a journal. She initially wrote in French and did not begin to write in English until she was seventeen. She is best known for The Diaries of Anaïs Nin, Vols. I-VII and The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin Vols. I-IV. Anaïs has been called “a witch of words"; excelling at memoir and erotica but not so much at other forms of literature. She was simultaneously admired and dismissed as a writer. Anaïs the woman, the typical Piscean, was borne out of her journals just as much as the journals were borne from her. The journals sprung into existence after the unexpected departure of the father she adored. They started out simply as a sequence of letters to him outlining daily events. In this way we can see that the journal was initially a childlike ritual marking the attempt to uphold a contact with what is invisible. However, when her father’s sustained absence led to Anaïs’ disheartenment at the idea of a reunion, the journal became a confessional outlet whereby she became excessively introspective and rather narcissistic. This was due to her impression that she was the only person she could depend upon; her main goal became to protect herself against further hurt. And so, it became her only companion; “I am going to tell my diary a secret, I have made a resolution not to have any friends and not to be attached to anyone outside my family. One can’t be sure of staying anywhere and if one leaves, there is too much sadness.” She spent a considerable amount of time with the journal, causing relatives to fret over her solitude and compulsive escapism.

February 2 1916

"I wanted to go over the last few pages that I wrote under the influence of a lot of sadness. The lines that follow will be the same, for if on the outside I seem fairly happy, rather rattle-brained, rather silly, inside I am very unhappy. I think and I forget to be silly. The last time, my last words were, I run away from Life. What did I mean? I think I can explain. For me, life is: noise, madness, amusement or pleasure, bitterness. Since I run away from Life, I run away from all that, I long for silence. When there is no sound to be heard, when night covers the great city with her dark cloak, hiding the shining mask, then I feel as though I hear a mysterious voice speaking to me. I suppose the voice comes from me, since it thinks as I do. I stay a long time, half asleep. I don't feel anything, I dream. I forget the earth, I forget everything, and I soar into an infinite without misery and without end. It seems to me I am looking for something, I don't know what, but when my free spirit escapes from the powerful claws of that mortal enemy, the World, it seems to me I find what I wanted. Is it forgetfulness? Silence? I don't know, but that same voice speaks to me, although I think I am alone. I can't understand what it says, but I say to myself that in this world, one can never be alone and forget. I call that voice "my genie." Good or Evil, I don't know which.

These are the thoughts of my heart, the deepest of my sombre feelings, of...I am looking for a strange name for myself. Ah, of a Philanthropist. Oh, no, I believe that means someone who wants to do good, and I admit I feel more like punishing, avenging, opening human eyes and hearts to the bayonet. What will my bayonet be? My pen. I am out of my mind! But if it's crazy, and I think it is, I promised myself to make a picture of my heart, and there it is."

She never outgrew this desire to run away from things which did not revolve around her or go the way she wanted, preferring instead to ignore it and concentrate on only that which pleased her. She was a typical Piscean in her love of poetry and illusions and it was around the time of her adolescence that a quest was born, a quest which would become central to her entire existence. This was the quest for the “ideal life”. When asked why she wrote and what her ultimate aim in writing was, she replied “I want to give the world one perfect life.” Consequently, Anaïs poised herself directly in the path of all that was fresh, exciting, and frequently controversial.

Deirdre Bair, author of Anaïs’ biography, was the first to delve into the nature of the relationship with her father. In an interview with, Deirdre says she had a feeling she was going to find suggestions of incest within the lines of the diaries. She is a member of something called the New York Institute for the Humanities, which is a sort of think tank. There has been a seminar going for years with eight or nine women panelists of various persuasions, from Freud to Jung to Melanie Klein, who each specialise in various kinds of abuses that women suffer. Deirdre asked them to read a particular passage from Nin's diaries, and as she watched them, they gasped, all underlining the same parts. When the discussion commenced, they said, God, this language is classic adult-onset incest. It was apparently typical separation of parent and child at a very early age coming together as adults and having incest as an affair, rather than as an abuse. The passage that she wrote, they said, could be in any textbook. Deirdre only had Anaïs’ record, but not her father’s. But she has letters that members of the Spanish family had written that say, "Anaïs is publishing a book with the dreadful title 'House of Incest' and her father is appalled," putting it down to Anaïs' bad manners and reversal of her upbringing. When in reality, her father was probably just terrified that she was writing about his affair with her.

Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.”

Anaïs weaved her life into a complex and colourful web of love affairs, owing to this desire to present to the world the “ideal life”. The affairs and their subsequent accounts were fused with myriad and intricate lies, necessary to keep her delicate balance (which always seemed just about ready to disintegrate). Throughout her life she always depended on her journal as her escape, when faced with the unravelling of her web of lies, when judged or criticised, when feeling guilty at the hurt her lies caused others. Within the pages of her journals, in her trademark burgundy ink pen, she offered explanations and justifications for her actions and lies. This purged her conscience and left her feeling validated in the correctness of her choices.

To achieve her ultimate goal of portraying the perfect life, she found it necessary to embellish certain factors which may not have seemed as exciting as she wished. She presented herself as the quintessential leading lady, admired and adored by all as a goddess of sorts. One essential aspect of her journals was her self-analysis and objectivism, which served to prevent the volatile Anaïs from having a mental breakdown at the strain of having to sustain such a grand objective.

However volatile though, Anaïs was not controlled by her feelings. Instead, she controlled them. She was a conscious “player” in the theater of her life, choosing interesting individuals to be her fellow actors, for the sake of creating the perfect life in her journal. She consciously decided what to feel and when to feel it, whom to feel it towards. Her lies have become legendary, and she has been attacked viciously by critics who turned against her in an outrage that her memoirs did not contain the concrete and absolute “truth”. This was before the age of postmodernism, when everybody realised that there is no truth, there's no one “truth”. That there's your truth and there’s my truth. So they didn’t accept at that point in history that memoirs are indeed allowed to be written in the way the person wants their life to be known and perceived, rather than precisely how it was. But these days we have an acceptance of this type of embellishment, for literary value, and learn to perceive Anaïs in the way she wanted to be perceived, but with a little extra element, perhaps of fantasy (which is the way she lived her life anyway, fancy). No matter how much she embroidered the events which took place in her life, there was still truth at the core; she never created full blown fabrications. Anaïs herself admitted to compulsive lying though, explaining it away as her desire not to hurt. She lied foremost to her husband, keeping from him many affairs (one of which ended in another marriage). She also lied to those she was having affairs with, to keep them from knowing of one another’s existence. In the same manner as her lies, her love life became legendary as well. She expected a great deal from her lovers, a man who would write his own journals passionately, as well as reading and appreciating hers.

“I am hellishly lonely.
What I need is someone who could give me what I give Henry (Miller): this constant attentiveness.
I read every page he writes, I follow up his reading, I answer his letters. I listen to him, I remember all he says, I write about him, I make him gifts,
I protect him....he cannot do this....None of these men can do it for me.
I have to turn to my diary, to give myself the kind of response I need. I have to nourish myself. I get love, but love is not enough. People do not know how to love.”

She did not want an ordinary life, an ordinary love, “I want ecstasy!” Her narcissism and hedonism probably showed through in her demands in love, as she seemed particularly obsessed with recording every complimentary comment ever given her in her diary, and romanticising every encounter of love she had, mentioning time and time again the worship and adoration bestowed on her by her many lovers. Upon reading, one can sense a neurotic compulsion to be worshipped and to have the power to make others dependent on her and in love with her. Her self worth was measured by the number of men who desired both her body and mind.

* It is clear that the events in Anaïs’ life became existent to her only after she had recorded it, only after she had “lived it the second time”. The stillborn birth of her child was written up later in fantastic prose, and has been considered by some the most artistic few pages in all of her written work, yet, as Deirdre Bair says in her biography, “what makes this writing ultimately horrifying is the realization that Anaïs Nin is once again the observer of her own life, and that this experience, like any and every other, become real only when she wrote about it.” Anaïs said herself, when she was 14, "I am not natural outside the diary. The diary is my form. I can only write while things are warm and happening. When I write later I become artificial. I stylize."

Physically, Anaïs was always of weak health, often falling into deep depression for which she was under the care of a number of psychiatrists, including the reknowned Dr. Allendy, followed by a student of Freud, Dr. Otto Rank. This was never really enough though, as Anaïs refused to reveal herself to her analysts fully, preferring of course the salvation of her journal which could not judge her and which would accept her version of truth without question. This habit, this addiction, became a menace to her literary endeavours. All of her inspiration and emotion were used up in her daily journal writings which left next to nothing at the end of it for her novels. Dr. Allendy attempted to free Anaïs of her journals (as did several others throughout her life) but this meant relinquishing control of her life. Many times she attempted to wean herself slightly from the journal. Her technique was to begin as if she were sitting down to write an entry in the hope that her fictional thoughts would flow as smoothly as her diary writing. She even inserted the blank pages on which she planned to write fiction into the diary, in the hopes that some sort of “magic” would infuse her imagination. Still, she is best known for her journals, so it seems she could only find her emotions a home as a diarist. “If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

Anaïs herself wasn’t entirely so far from the fairytale goddess she portrayed herself to be. Although narcissistic, she was benevolent and lovely, even if it was only to create a perfect life in her journals. “If all of us acted in unison as I act individually there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.” Anaïs eventually died of ovarian canceron January 14, 1977. When Anaïs was in her dying process, she asked friends to send her energy every evening at eight. She said that her healer, Brugh Joy, had suggested this and that friends all over the world were committed to helping her in this way.

Information obtained from:
The quote server
The Early Diaries of Anaïs Nin & The Diaries of Anaïs Nin

Selected Works:

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