Anaïs Nin (born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell) (February 21 1903 - January 14 1977) was a Cuban-French author who became famous for her published journals, which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death. Nin is also famous for her erotica.
Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly
, to two artistic parents. Her father, Joaquin Nin
, was a Cuban
pianist and composer, and her mother Rosa Culmell was also Cuban, but of French
ancestry and was a classically trained singer. Her paternal great-grandfather fled France during the Revolution, going first to Haiti
, then New Orleans
, and finally to Cuba where he helped build that country's first railroad. After her parents separated, her mother moved Anaïs and her two brothers, Thorvald Nin and Joaquin Nin-Culmell
from Barcelona to New York City
. According to her diaries, Volume One, 1931 - 1934
, Nin abandoned formal schooling at the age of 16 and began working as a model
On 3 March 1923, in Havana, Cuba, she married her first husband, Hugh Parker Guiler (1898-1985), a banker and artist, later known as "Ian Hugo" when he became a filmmaker of experimental films in the late 1940s. The couple moved to Paris the following year, where Guiler pursued his banking career and Nin began to pursue her interest in writing. Her first published work was a critical evaluation of D. H. Lawrence called D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. She also explored the field of psychotherapy, studying under the likes of Otto Rank, a disciple of Sigmund Freud.
According to her diaries,Volume One, 1931 - 1934
, Nin shared a bohemian
lifestyle with Henry Miller
during her time in Paris. There is no mention of her husband in that edited edition. In 1939, Nin and Hugh Parker Guiler moved back to New York City
. Nin appeared in the Kenneth Anger
film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
(1954) as Astarte
, the Maya Deren
film Ritual in Transfigured Time
(1946), and in Bells of Atlantis
(1952), a film directed by Guiler under the name "Ian Hugo" with a soundtrack of electronic music
by Louis and Bebe Barron
In 1947, at the age of 44, she met and began living with Rupert Pole (1919-2006), sixteen years her junior. On 17 March 1955, she married him at Quartzsite, Arizona, returning with Pole to live in California. Guiler remained in New York City and was unaware of Nin's second marriage until after her death in 1977.
After Guiler's death in 1985, the unexpurgated versions of her journals were commissioned by Pole.
Nin often cited authors Djuna Barnes and D. H. Lawrence as inspirations. She states in Volume One of her diaries that she and Henry Miller drew inspiration from Marcel Proust, André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Paul Valéry, and Arthur Rimbaud.
Anaïs Nin is perhaps best remembered as a diarist
. Her journals, which span several decades, provide a deeply explorative insight into her personal life and relationships. Nin was acquainted, often quite intimately, with a number of prominent authors, artists, psychoanalysts
, and other figures, and wrote of them often. Moreover, as a female author describing a primarily masculine constellation of celebrities, Nin's journals have acquired importance as a counterbalancing perspective.
Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to really explore the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in modern Europe
to write erotica. Before her, erotica written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin
According to Volume I of her diaries, 1931-1934, published in 1966 (Stuhlmann), Nin first came across erotica when her mother and two brothers returned to Paris in her late teens. They rented the apartment of an American man who was going away for the summer, and Nin came across a number of French paperbacks: "One by one, I read these books, which were completely new to me. I had never read erotic literature in America… They overwhelmed me. I was innocent before I read them, but by the time I had read them all, there was nothing I did not know about sexual exploits… I had my degree in erotic lore."
Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin and Miller began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous "collector" for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke. Nin considered the characters in her erotica to be extreme caricatures and never intended the work to be published, but changed her mind in the early 1970s and allowed them to be published as Delta of Venus and Little Birds.
Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, including Henry Miller, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, and Lawrence Durrell. Her passionate love affair and friendship with Miller strongly influenced her both as a woman and an author. An apocryphal rumor abounds that Nin was bisexual, promulgated by the Philip Kaufman film Henry & June. Although this rumor is widely believed to be false, Nin's journals leave many questions about her relationship with Henry Miller's wife, June. In her unexpurgated journals, she wrote that she had an incestuous relationship with her father, and refers to experiments with bisexuality, and sexual relationships and experiences with women.
Later life and legacy
In 1973 she received an honorary doctorate
from the Philadelphia College of Art
. She was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters
in 1974. She died in Los Angeles, California
on January 14 1977
; her body was cremated
, and her ashes were scattered over Santa Monica Bay
. Rupert Pole was named Nin's literary executor
, and he arranged to have new unexpurgated editions of Nin's books and diaries published between 1985 and his death in 2006.
In 1990 Philip Kaufman directed the film Henry & June based on Nin's novel Henry and June from The Journal of Love – The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1932. She was portrayed in the film by Maria de Medeiros.
- "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
- "This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice."
- "...for no one has ever loved an adventurous woman as they have loved adventurous men."
- "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
- "I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touchstone, the command, my pivot. I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding."
- "How wrong is it for women to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than set out to create it herself."
- "I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing."
- "Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
- "I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls."
- "Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."
- "Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing."
List of works