An Introduction to the World of Anais Nin
Anais Nin was a 20th century diarist. She began what became her life-long work of art in 1914 at the age of eleven and kept writing until her death 63 years later in 1977.
Nin’s diary focused on her interior life and became the chronicle of her search for fulfillment in what was often for women a painfully restrictive culture.
Anais Nin was born in France in 1903. Her Cuban-born parents lived as genteel artists, mainly in Paris and Spain. In a blow that affected her all of her life, Nin’s composer father, Joaquin Nin, abandoned his wife and children, forcing them to set sail for a new life America. While on board the ship young Nin wrote a letter to lure her father back to the family. This letter was never sent, but it was the beginning of her famous diary.
Once settled in New York City, Nin learned English and became a voracious reader, but to help her mother support the family she chose to drop out of high school to become an artist’s model. Nin established a regular diary-writing habit, but she continued to struggle with sadness caused by her father’s absence.
At age twenty Nin married a young banker named Hugh Guiler. They moved to Paris where she attempted to play the role of a conventional wife. Nin continued to read contemporary literature and, though it was considered shocking for a woman to have done so, she wrote an analysis of D. H. Lawrence’s controversial novels.
In 1931 Nin met the nearly-destitute writer Henry Miller, as well as his wife June. This began a creatively and personally fulfilling period in Nin’s life, during which she associated with artists and attempted to free herself from society’s confining rules. She was an early devotee of psychoanalysis and became a patient of Otto Rank, a colleague of Freud. Nin also began fictionalizing portions of her diary, which brought her some underground success. Her works included a novelette titled Winter of Artifice, which told the story of her dramatic reconciliation with her father.
Nin’s idyllic decade ended in 1939 when, with Europe on the brink of war, she and Guiler were forced to return to New York. There she struggled to publish her highly stylized fiction while also juggling numerous relationships, including a friendship with Gore Vidal. After many frustrations in the publishing world, Nin purchased a printing press to print her own books. Her husband contributed artwork to her books under the name Ian Hugo.
In 1947 Nin met a young man named Rupert Pole, with whom she fell in love. Unable to break with Guiler, Nin embarked on a secret relationship with Pole, all the while recording her experiences and feelings in her diary. Never a believer in laws, Nin married Pole in 1955 without divorcing Guiler. During these emotionally intense years, Nin wrote a series of “continuous novels” that fictionalized her experiences. They were ultimately published under the title Cities of the Interior.
While living a dual life in New York and Los Angeles during the 1960s, Nin made the risky decision to allow her diary to be published, though she chose to remove the most private details of her romantic relationships. The first installment, published in 1966, was titled The Diary of Anais Nin and it was an immediate success. Though it was a profoundly personal work, it hit a universal vein of experience -- especially with women. Nin found herself, then in her sixties and seventies, playing the part of an international feminist icon.
While Nin traveled the world speaking about her writing and meeting fans, subsequent volumes of her edited diary were published. They covered the period up through the end of her life and totaled seven volumes. Finally, in 1977, Nin died of cancer in Los Angeles with Rupert Pole by her side.
Before she died it was Nin’s decision to have her early diaries published, as well as erotica she’d written in the 1940s. As a result, Delta of Venus, Little Birds, and Nin’s childhood diary titled Linotte were released, as well as three volumes of The Early Diary of Anais Nin. Also, in a decision that generated much controversy, Nin asked Rupert Pole to publish the “secret” parts of her previously-released diaries. The first “unexpurgated” diary is titled Henry & June; it includes the material removed from Nin’s first published diary and was made into a feature film. Other unexpurgated diaries include Incest, Fire, Nearer the Moon, Mirages, and Trapeze.
During her 63 years of highly personal and yet ultimately public writing, Anais Nin forged a style of expression that befits the 21st century. She seemed to foresee our modern era of Internet communication, even wishing for what she called a “café in space” where she could keep in touch with others. Nin believed that consciousness is a stream of images and words that flow from us as long as we live, and something to be shared.