On this day: Author Anaïs Nin was born,
le 21 Février 1903
French-born author Anaïs Nin (pronounced "ana-EASE Neen") was born in Neuilly, a suburb east of Paris, on le 21 février 1903. She spent her childhood in various parts of Europe until, when she was eleven, her father, Spanish composer Joaquin Nin, abandoned his family. In the same year, her French-Danish mother, Rosa Culmell, took her two sons and Anaïs to New York. On the boat that brought Anaïs away from Europe and from her father she began to write her journals. She initially wrote in French and did not begin to write in English until she was seventeen.
While still a teenager, Nin abandoned formal schooling and began working as a model. In 1923 she married Hugo Guiler, who had studied literature and economics and had acquired a good position in an international bank, allowing them to live comfortably. The couple moved to Paris the following year, where Guiler pursued his banking career and Nin began to pursue her interest in writing, where 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 Otto Rank, a disciple of Sigmund Freud.
Including Henry Miller, Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, and Lawrence Durrell.
Anaïs moved back to New York just before the outbreak of World War II. After a turbulent time in New York she divided her life between New York and Los Angeles. From being a cult figure of the early feminist movement, Anaïs later rose to international prominence with her writing. She is best known for her diaries but also produced a number of novels and a prose poem in surrealistic style as well as erotic short stories, published posthumously. Characterized by the use of powerful and, at times, disquieting imagery, her work reveals great sensitivity and perception.
Her series "Cities of the Interior" included "Ladders to Fire" (1946), "Children of the Alabtross" (1947), "The Four-Chambered Heart" (1950), and "A Spy in the House of Love" (1954). The series focused on different female types and followed their lives through lovers, art, and analysis. All of Nin's writings have an erotic quality - "sensuality is a secret power in my body," she once wrote. In the early 1940s she wrote a series of specifically sexual pieces, which were edited and published posthumously as "Delta of Venus" (1977) and "Little Birds" (1979). Nin wrote the stories in "Delta of Venus" for a dollar a page in the 1940s.
With the understanding Hugh Guiler, Nin enjoyed a secure marriage for over 50 years. He stayed out of the way of her extramarital life during a series of affairs with Henry Miller, Otto Rank, Gore Vidal, and Edmund Wilson. Nin was able to have in California a second husband, Rupert Pole, a man much younger than her. The bicoastal bigamous marriage had her commuting between New York and California for at least twenty five years.
In the 1960s Nin gained fame with her diaries, which created interest in her earlier works. Nin's diaries cover the years from 1931 to 1977 and provide an insight into her development as a woman and artist. The first volume appeared when she was 63. More than a biographical document, the diary is a work of art. Each volume has an unifying theme. Individuals and scenes are vivid, conversations are presented in dialogue, lengthy observations are juxtaposed with cryptic comments.
In 1973 she received an honorary doctorate from Philadelphia College of Art. She was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974.
Although Nin was criticized as a narcissist, the feminist perspective of her works, psychological insight, and her search for self-knowledge made her a popular lecturer in the universities across the U.S. In 1975 "A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars, and Interviews of Anaïs Nin" was published, where Nin dissociated herself from the political activism of the feminist movement. She did not have faith in the feminist systems, "because systems are corruptible." She advocated journal keeping as a preliminary requirement for a liberated self. "So I feel the great changes in the world will come from a great change in our consciousness," she wrote. The last volumes of her diaries appeared posthumously in the 1980s. Nin died of cancer on le 14 janvier 1977 in Los Angeles.
In 1990 Philip Kaufman made the film based on her novel Henry & June from The Journal of Love — The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1932. It starred Maria de Medeiros as Nin, Fred Ward as Henry Miller, and Uma Thurman as June.
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman."
"There are only two kinds of freedom in the world; the freedom of the rich and powerful, and the freedom of the artist and the monk who renounces possessions."
"We are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always, in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them."
"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
"When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others."
"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
"Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic."
Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anas Nin