French-Cuban essayist and memoirist, Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell, better known as ‘Anais Nin’ in short, found her passion in writing when she was only eleven years old. With a career spanning several decades, she achieved what no other woman could at her time. Anais lived a rather controversial life, writing diaries, short stories, journals, essays and erotica. Born into a family of artistry, it is clear that her creativity was inherent. Bold and vehement in demeanour, she wrote without inhibitions, drawing most of the content from her own experiences. Her tangled love life almost always created new rumours and scandalised her past. Yet, unstirred by the gossip surrounding her life, she continued to contribute to literature. Her finest work, ‘Delta of Venus’ projects an unblemished skill of liberal and intense writing. True to her beliefs, she always allowed her instincts to direct her. She had several relationships with famous authors, whom she candidly wrote about in her diary and who evidently became characters of her erotic books, of which the most famous long-term affair was with the American surrealist, Henry Miller.
- Anais was born to Joaquin Nin, a composer by profession and Rosa Culmell, a Cuban classical singer, in France on 21 February 1903.After her parents separated,she moved with her mother and two brothers first toSpain and then to the United States.In the States she attended formal school until the age of sixteen; shortly afterward she dropped out of school, began modelling for artists and became a dancer too.However, as a student she was brilliant; she quickly began to correspond fluently in English, both written and orally, and at the same time she held onto her French roots.Early Career
- On 3 March 1923, at the age of 20, Anais fell in love and married the established banker and experimental film maker, Hugh Parker Guiler in Cuba.A year after their marriage they moved to Paris where she began writing towards the late 1920s. She wrote her first book in a meagre 16 days, it was called ‘D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study’.In the mid-1930s, she wrote several diaries, which contained dauntless statements of affection and intimate conversational verbatim between the famous American author, Henry miller and herself.This gave rise to speculations of an affair between the two that mainly was speculated to be physical. Her husband had declined any reference to his name in her diaries and thus, her diaries include hardly any mention of her husband.During this time she learned psychoanalysis under the guidance of Otto Rank, an assistant of Sigmund Freud with whom she shared an intriguing and intimate relation.The publishing of her books before the Second World War was a tedious task therefore she co-founded Siana Editions in 1935 in France.In 1939 she left Paris with Hugh as the French government wanted its residents to vacate France before the war and hence they moved to New York.In New York she immediately sent all written erotica and diaries to Mr. Frances Steloff, to keep her written matter safe at the Gotham Book Mart.It was in the 1940s that she began to write erotica for a collector in the district who paid a dollar a page. In her journal it is mentioned that Miller accompanied her in writing these books.Here, she continued to write journals and books and printed these at her own expense. But her books didn’t ride high in the market and received little critical and literary recognition.Gradual Recognition
- At 44, Anais Nin met the young and suave actor Rupert Pole in an elevator at Manhattan. She was on her way to a party and the two immediately fell in love and began living with each other.She was still married to Guiler, who did not know about her affair with Pole. Taking a step further with her new found love, she secretly married Pole in 1955.It is said that Guiler was uninformed of the matrimonial alliance between Anais and Pole. It is also debated that he chose to remain oblivious to the marriage, with remote knowledge of the affair his wife had with Pole.Thus, began her dual life that she describes as ‘filled with lies.’ In one of her diaries, she states that she was often so steeped in lies that she had to maintain two check books, one labelled ‘Anais Pole for Los Angeles’ and the other ‘Anais Guiler for New York.She had to tell so many lies and keep a track of where she said what, that most of it she noted down so as they wouldn’t turn against her.It was not until 1966 that two events changed the life of Anais Nin and brought her plenty of attention. The first was her marriage annulment with Pole as a result of legal issues and the other was the first appearance of her diary volumes.She gained huge admiration as a writer after 1966, and encouraged people to probe into the earlier works that she had published, bringing great success to her writing career.The ten volumes of her diary called ‘The Diary of Anais Nin’ contain some intimate letters she wrote to Miller, Edmund Wilson, James Leo Herlihy, Lawrence Durrell, Gore Vidal, and James Agee, all of whom were her lovers.Reel Appearances
- Guiler, her husband being an experimental film maker exposed her to the world of cinema as well. She appeared in several movies during her career.Some of the movies she appeared in are Maya Deren’s film ‘Ritual in Transfigured Time’ in 1946; ‘Bells of Atlantis’ in 1952; Kenneth Anger’s film ‘Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’ (1954) and in a couple of her husband’s films.Major Works
- Glorified as one of the boldest female writers of erotica, with the ability to project astutely both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characters, Anais Nin was one of the few who classified herself into the erotica category without any discomfort.The volumes of her diary were acknowledged as fine literary work and were received with much razzmatazz. However, it was not just her journals but also her novels that were later acclaimed.She wrote the scandalous ‘Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin’, that highlighted her as bi-sexual that she later refuted. In the book, accounts of her encounter with June, who was Henry’s wife, reflect unconsummated love.In the book, she explores her struggles in love with her husband Hugh and her lover Miller. Often her scripted characters seemed as if they were screaming the dilemma of the sentiments that she battled with.In 1936 she published ‘House of Incest’ a 72-page novel, where she vividly narrated incidents with her father that highlighted the inappropriate physical relationship she had with him. When the book was initially published, her father shuddered with the thought of the amount and mannerism of his physical abuse that would be out in the open.However, unlike her usual writings, she chose not to be exceedingly expressive in this book. She hid many traumatising incidents and masked her father’s true intentions.The book contemplates a dream that she calls ‘hell’, a hell that she wants to break loose from, a nightmare that she wants to wake up from, but seems to be trapped within.After her death, her ex-husband Pole published several of her novels that were welcomed with great appreciation by many authors. These include ‘Delta of Venus’ in 1977 and ‘Little Birds’ in 1979.Awards & Achievements
- Anais Nin was a part of several movements such as the surrealist movement of the 1930s, the Avant Garde movement of the 1940s and the feminist movement of the 1960s. As a result of her social and literary propaganda she was awarded a doctorate degree in 1973 from the ‘Philadelphia College of Art’ as a contribution to literature.Owing to her dauntless use of sentiment and her ability to compose vulnerable pieces of literature, she was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters 1974.Personal Life & Legacy
- Even after the annulment of her marriage with her second husband Pole in 1966, she continued to live with him until her death; he was given all the rights to her literary works and thus he published many of her novels that she herself hadn’t.She died in Los Angeles on January 14, 1977 after suffering with cancer for almost three years. She was 74 years old.Though she was raised a Roman-Catholic, she desired to cremate her body instead of burying it. Her ashes were sprinkled over the Santa Monica Bay in Mermaid Cove.In honour of her most contentious piece of literature, Philip Kaufman directed the film ‘Henry & June’ in the year 1990. Her character was enacted by the famous Maria de Medeiros.In reverence of her work, Steven Reigns organised an event called ‘Anais Nin @ 105’ at Hammer Museum in 2008.Trivia
- Anais chose to have no children. However she became pregnant several times and aborted the foetuses.
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