This essay was published in ANAIS, A BOOK OF MIRRORS edited by Paul Herron, SkyBlue Press.
WHO IS ANAIS NIN?
Anais Nin was a beautiful woman passionately in love with life in all its manifestations, human beings, writing, music, dance, painting, travel.
She has been called the best known diarist since Pepys and the writer who brought diary keeping to the level of an art. Her diary is one of the great confessions of literature.
Nin was a woman on a quest, a search with which others could easily identify. She looked for the connection between her dreams and her life experience.
Discovered by the Women's Liberation movement, she objected to slogans and dogma. She constantly sought her own identity and never accepted one imposed by a male dominated society. Her goal was to awaken her own unique potential and help those around her find their own path to enlightenment.
Her readers identified with her struggle for identity, creativity, freedom and love. They recognized their own thoughts and feelings as she wrote of the truth of her personal existence.
Royalty, movie stars, famous authors, musicians, painters all confided their intimate secrets to Anais who never publisheda word without their permission and approval.
When her house was on fire, she disappointed reporters by carrying out her diaries rather than any personal belongings.
Anais always identified with the young and "lived in the future." She spent her life trying to heal her self because she believed the only way to heal the world was to begin by healing the self. Her work will be of value to humanity when they get weary of trying to solve everything from the outside. Anais wrote, "If the whole world went through the same quest I did in search of reality and truth that would be the end of war."
She will always be alive because she was so alive when she was living.
In the 1940's when she needed money, Anais wrote erotica for a collector for $1 a page. She brought a feminine perception to erotic fiction. Shortly after her death, DELTA OF VENUS and LITTLE BIRDS became international best sellers.
She wrote to the collector telling him that she was against sex as a male prerogative and found pornography boring.
In her writings,she showed him the importance of love, romance, emotion, and tenderness in the sexual realm.
The Los Angeles Time Book Reveiwer says her work "emerges as one of the most candid and process-conscious records drawn by a writer in the 20th century." He feels she eclipses both Simone de Bouvoir and Mary McCarthy in their reflections on the emancipation of women.
Anais received honorary degrees, was invited to lecture all over the world, had her novels, nonfiction books, short stories,
articles as well as her diary translated into many many languages. Ohio State University Libraries devoted two newsletters to Anais and her friends. Graduate students all over America are doing their thesis on the work of Anais Nin.
A movie based on her letters to Henry Miller, HENRY AND JUNE, inspired Hollywood to create a new category for sexual films with artistic content.
She wrote the Preface and helped finance the publication of Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER.
Poet Diane Wakoski called her "a quiet elegant lady belovedfor her generosity, delicate style, fascinating because of the life she led and the people she knew, an embodiment of the feminine." Her diary is a how to book, a manual on how to be a woman and an artist. She is living proof that it is possible to live our dreams.
She teaches us intellectual knowledge is not enough. Music, dance, poetry, painting are channels for emotion. Through them experience penetrates our blood stream. Ideas do not. What matters then are feelings, relationships, mobility, aliveness.
Each generation must create its own reality, its own language and images. She helped this generation. She wrote so that the world around her characters was described as the character sees it, an emotional landscape. She created her own world for herself and her friends. Her readers all became her friends and began to live in her world. She was at home with the Marvelous, a mermaid with a mirror.
She said the secret of a full life was to live and to relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates procrastination and makes us more attentive to all encounters. Several Zen scholars described her philosophy as Zen.
Who is Anais? She was my friend. She would call me whenever she was in New York and give me her schedule. Her voice , like everything else about her, her smile, the way she dressed, the way she walked, the way she glowed, was unforgettable. She had that same breathless, little girl quality that Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy shared. And that strength combined with vulnerability.
"Is it all right if I interview the interviewer?" Anais asked the first time I met her. She asked me more questions than I asked her as I interviewed her for UNDER THE SIGN OF PISCES, the Anais Nin newsletter at Ohio State University.
She wrote a preface for my first book, RUNAWAYS, AMERICA'S LOST YOUTH. And she encouraged me with all my writing projects.
She answered all of her letters even after she was world famous receiving hundreds each week.
Her way of working resembled a composer of music. Truth and psychological reality are at the basis of what she wrote but she learned our reality is partly directed from former experiences casting their shadows on the present.
Eager to experience everything in its totality, she lived the life of the senses of feeling. She discovered that the personal, if it is deep enough becomes universal.
She was continuing the work of Freud which she believed was more important than the work of Marx. Freud knew what lay behind all the wars and concentration camps and crueltities and was attacking the very source of the evil. She wanted to change humanity at the source. In her own disciplined, arduous, organic way of integrating the dream with creativity in life, a quest for the development of the senses, the vision, the imagination, dynamic elements with which to create a new world, a new kind of human being.
She would not be just a tourist in the world of dreams, entertaining images that she could not live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy.
She reminded us at every moment we can choose what we want to see, observe or record. It is our choice. We have a right and obligation to select our vision of the world, and to create the world we wish to live in.
Nin loved foreign countries, uncommon characters and uncommon experiences. She was not tied down to any country. She was dragged from country to country. The artists of the world were her country. And she saw the artist in every one.
She said analysis is a primitive ritual where the secret self is evoked and revealed. She contacted her deep self and listened with all her being.
She had thought that age meant loss of sensibilities, but in her late 60's she said she felt more intensely alive than ever.
Her life was lived with extraordinary intensity and sensitivity and she recorded it with great empathy and understanding.
The young loved her quest for self-realization.
Each time she began a diary she was conceding that life would be bearable if you looked at it as an adventure. She told herself the story of her life and this turned it into an adventure giving her another viewpoint for the things that would have shattered her. It became the mystical voyage which we all are to undertake, the inner voyage, the journey into classical literature, through the labyrinth.
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"Who is Anais Nin"
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|Reviewed by Malcolm Watts (Reader)
|Anais sounds like a wonderful woman. What a pleasure you had in knowing her. Thanks so much for sharing this. Malcolm Watts|