Anaïs Nin •
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One •
Anaïs Nin packed a remarkable amount into her 73 years. She trained as a flamenco dancer. She practiced psychotherapy. She seduced her father. She bought a printing press and used it to publish her own work after it was rejected by traditional publishers. She lived on a houseboat on the Seine. She appeared in avant-garde and experimental films. She carried on a famous, decades-long love affair and friendship with Henry Miller. She supported herself by writing pornography at a dollar a page. She was married to two men simultaneously.
Makes you tired just to think about it.
But the main thing Nin did, the one she is remembered for today, was to keep a diary. Not your average “weather rainy—lunch with M.” diary, but a vastly detailed, nearly moment-to-moment account of her inner and outer life, from age 11 up until her death in 1977.
She wrote incessantly, with astonishing fluidity and perception. Her diaries, which run to 69 handwritten volumes, constitute a journey into the heart of the mid-20th-century literary world. She produced candid portraits by the hundred of the writers and artists who made up her social circle: Antonin Artaud, Djuna Barnes, Lawrence Durrell, James Leo Herlihy, Jean Varda, Gore Vidal, Edmund Wilson, and countless others.
Nin remarks more than once on her friends’ jealousy of the diary. “All of them would slay the journal if they could.” Probably because they realized that in the long run, the diary was her most abiding love.