on August 14, 2010
It took me a long time, but I finally tracked down and read all the volumes of Nin's autobiography. The first time was in the days before Amazon, so it was not easy. At first I loved them. I had already read her novels and short stories. But gradually I got the sense of a person who rewrote her history to make herself look better. That was a disappointment. Then I discovered that she had omitted so much, lied about so much. If she had admitted that this was a reworking of her life I'd have accepted it. But her great claim was that, like Henry Miller, she wrote unadorned truth. I remember Miller and Durrell once describing her as a pathological liar. Then, later, even her sympathetic biographers discovered the same. We did not accept the hoax of J T Leroy (I saw through that one straight away) or James Frey. I now wonder why we should be any kinder to Nin. They are still an interesting read. But they require not a pinch, but a barrel of salt. Sometimes her fiction was more truthful than her journals.
Yes, I know this will be marked down as unhelpful. I do that to less than positive reviews too. But I am a disappointed fan.
on November 23, 2001
Anais Nin's diary was an underground literary sensation before it was ever published.
Volume 1 of Nin's diary, covering 1931-34, was published in the late 1960s when Henry Miller, her lover during the time period covered by this volume and Hugo Guiler, Anais's first husband (whom she never divorced) were both still alive. As a consequence, there are many omissions and edits for the sake of discretion. Those omissions were revealed when _Henry and June_, also taken from Nin's diaries, was published after the death of all protagonists.
Consequently, a volume that appears to be frank and honest upon a first reading looks somewhat less so when compared with the alternative version contained in _Henry and June_, which contains material expurgated from the first year of this volume. Confused yet?
The more Anais Nin slips away from us, the more we seek her. When reading this volume I come to believe that there is something to be said for Nin's position that she sought to portray a deeper psychological truth and the objective facts were less important.
on October 7, 2004
I recomend reading Anais Nin's diary. The book is such poetic prose. Some sentences really took my breath away, the way she can captivate something so beautiful and human in simple words. Since it is a diary, its main focus is her life, but its not selfish, infact she mentions herself very little. The main focus is Henry (Miller) and June, his wife. When Ananis Nin falls inlove with someone, so does the reader. Her descriptive skills gave me goosebumps, you really can see it in your minds eye, hear the music or feel the softness of skin. I highly recomend this to anyone thinking about reading this book, you will come away with a slice of life from 1930's France.
The first of seven volumes that have been produced so far, this is probably the best-known of Anais Nin's diaries. The first three-quarters of it centers largely on her relationship with writer Henry Miller and his wife June. I've never seen the movie "Henry and June", which was adapted from these diaries, but I mean to get to it someday.
Nin, the daughter of Cuban pianist Joaquin Nin and singer Rosa Culmell, started keeping a diary when, as a young girl, she traveled with her mother and brother to New York from Europe after her father abandoned the family for one of his mistresses. On the ship she began a letter to her father describing their experiences, which was never sent and instead marked the beginning of a lifelong project of meticulously documenting her life.
At the beginning of this diary, in 1931, Nin is back in France, where she was born, and has just finished her biography of D.H. Lawrence, whose writing she felt had so profoundly changed her life that she wanted to pay homage to him. She writes:
"You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip...and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death."
Soon after this she meets Henry Miller, and the beginning of a relationship that would last decades, long after each of their marriages had ended (and others still lay ahead). They inspired each other in part because their writing was so vastly different: his stark, brutal and crude, hers veiled and baroque, but both probing and sensual in their own fashions.
Towards the end of the diary, in 1933-34, Anais becomes fascinated with psychoanalysis, which as a practice and theory had steadily become more popular in the decades since Freud. It seems a natural progression for a woman who had spent so many years scrutinizing the lives and experiences of everyone around her to finally turn the mirror around on herself, and she does this in a way that is admirable without being punishing or overly neurotic. The way she examines herself is unflinching but not melodramatic:
"My greatest fear is that people will become aware that I am fragile, not a full-blown woman physically, that I am emotionally vulnerable, that I have small [...] like a girl. And so I cover all this up with understanding, wisdom, interest in others, with my mind's agility, with my writing, my reading: I cover the woman up, to reveal only the artist, the confessor, the friend, the mother, the sister."
"I have always been tormented by the image of multiplicity of selves. Some days I call it richness, and other days I see it as a disease, a proliferation as dangerous as cancer. My first concept about people around me was that all of them were coordinated into a WHOLE, whereas I was made up of a multitude of selves, of fragments. I know that I was upset as a child to discover that we had only one life."
Through analysis she also finally faces the deep trauma her father's abandonment had caused and its influence on her adult life. Although they had actually become quite close as adults, she realized that they had forever lost something irretrievable:
"My father comes when I no longer need a father. I am walking into a Coney Island trick house. The ground gives way under my feet. It is the ironies which swallow the ground and leave one dizzy and stranded. Irony of loves never properly timed, of tragedies that should not be tragedies, of passions which miss each other as if aimed by blind men, of blind cruelties and even blinder loves, of incongruities and deceptive fulfillments. Every realization is not a culmination but a delusion. The pattern seems to come to an end and it is only another knot. My father comes when I have gone beyond him; he is given to me when I no longer need him, when I am free of him. In every fulfillment there is a mockery which runs ahead of me like a gust of wind, always ahead."
As this volume ends she has begun her own brief career as an analyst, but soon realizes that she wants to concentrate full-time on her writing. Miller's `Tropic of Cancer', considered his magnus opus and something Nin was deeply involved with (she was Miller's primary muse and editor), has just been accepted for publication, and this inspires her further. She writes intensely and painfully about a pregnancy and stillbirth experience, and makes plans to return to New York to work with Otto Rank, the famed analyst under whom she'd first been a patient, then a student. Volume Two picks up at this point.
I'm not usually quite so verbose with my reviews. I was just very moved by Nin's writing and her way of expressing herself, which could so easily come across as neurotic but never does because she never exudes self-pity or obsesses narcissistically about herself. She just is who she is, and I love the way she doesn't want to miss anything, refuses to draw a box around herself, lives a life outside of conventional norms, and isn't afraid to face her own demons. Or rather, she might be afraid, but does it anyway.
on November 21, 2007
I read it some time ago... but I do remember the equanimity of Anaïs when she faced suffering, cancer, and death. In this diary, - as in most of her last diaries - the writer is hidden in a specific way. She does not speak to much directly about herself... her feelings. etc., She writes about art, the movies she liked, books, her correspondence with artists or writers (like the argentinian Julio Cortázar), or her trips to Japan, and Bali. She tried to think of death as a "joyous transformation", a release of the spirit, so it can visit all other lifes. A beautiful book.
on December 25, 2013
When I picked up this volume of her diary, it was my first, and I was floored. Never did I expect to open up a book and be submerged into a whole different world of writing, and life itself. Anais Nin changed my life. Her diaries changed my entire way of thinking and approaching the world, and within days of studying her line of work I was writing, journaling, and started producing a memoir.
The experience is so intense, I cannot stress enough to the world that reading Anais Nin is more than simply handling a book, and studying it. Her writing itself is so beautiful and harmonious, but it isn't just her knack for poetic prose with writing--she approaches her entire life poetically--making these books, these journals, almost addictive. They became a series of bibles of sorts, for me. Her writing and her philosophies will change your life and expand your mind to a remarkable degree. She was able to grasp the psyche of the female, and to unravel it, open it up and turn it upside down, and then put it back together. She also survived severe neurosis, and studied psychoanalysis with some of the most gifted people of this entire century!
The books make you feel thirsty for more knowledge, and you cannot simply just read one. Her affairs with those of remarkable genius--Henry Miller, Otto rank--and the ever-so-charismatic muse June Miller (Henry's wife) are just the icing on the cake.
This is an absolute must-read for writers, readers, and anybody who is interested in human relationships and psychology.