Anais Nin was a renowned writer who is famous for her journals written for a period spanning six decades. Nin was born French-Cuban but lived in the United States in her later years of life till she died. Nin’s works revolved around accounts of her relationships with authors, artists, psychoanalysts, and other figures. Her journals spoke of life and its balancing acts. Much of Nin’s written works have been published after her death. Nin is hailed as a great erotic literature writer and some of her notable and popular works are “Delta of Venus”, “Little Birds” and “Henry and June”. Nin was known to have a male mindset and had sexual relations with men and women whom she portrayed in her novels and journals which were works of fiction and reality. Some of her journals include “A Café in Space”, “the Anais Nin Literary Journal” which are being brought recently which also include “Anais Nin and Joaquín Nin y Castellanos: Prelude to a Symphony—Letters between a father and daughter”. Nin had been a visiting lecturer in several colleges and given a fine impetus to the feminist movement with her strong writings. Some of her writings were made into films and she was also portrayed in a feature length film made by Maria de Medeiros.
Anais Nin Childhood and Early Life
Anais Nin was born as Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell on 21 February 1903 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France to artistic parents. Nin’s father Joaquín Nin was a Spanish artist and a composer who lived in Cuba where he met Nin’s mother Rosa Culmell of French and Danish descent who was a well trained professional classical singer based in Cuba. As a child Nin was brought up in Spain. Her parents separated and Nina along with her two brothers, Thorvald Nin and Joaquin Nin-Culmell were moved to New York City from Barcelona by their mother.
Nin received her formal education till the age of 16 when she decided to give up studying and started to work as a dancer and model. After living in America for a long time Nin nearly forgot how to speak Spanish which is why she kept her French and English fluency.
Personal Life, Early Work and Marriage
Nin got married to her first husband, Hugh Parker Guiler on 3 March 1923 in Havana, Cuba. Her husband was a banker and an artist who made experimental films in the later years and was known as Ian Hugo in the late 1940s. In 1924 Nin and Hugh moved to Paris where Hugh continued with his banking career and Nin started writing and even trained as a flamenco dancer in Paris in the mid-to-late 1920s. Nin wrote her first book in print, “D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study” which was published by Edward W. Titus in Paris, 1932. Nin is believed to have taken just 16 days to complete her book on D. H. Lawrence. During this period Nin deeply immersed herself into exploration in the felid of psychotherapy, studying under the likes of Otto Rank who was a disciple of Sigmund Freud. Nin had briefly been a patient of Carl Jung. On the onset of 1939 Nin left Paris as it was a French government’s request to its residents to leave France because of the upcoming war. Nin returned to New York with Hugh during this time and sent her written books to Frances Steloff of the Gotham Book Mart in New York for safekeeping.
Nin had written diaries, Vol.1, 1931–1934 which suggest her close bonding with Henry Miller with whom she probably shared a bohemian life. Her diaries however do not have any mention of her husband in the published edition of the 1930s parts of her diary (Vol.1–2). However, the opening of Vol.1 makes it clear that she is married and the introduction also points to the fact that her husband Guiler had refused to be included or mentioned in the published diaries.
Nin met former actor Rupert Pole in a Manhattan elevator on her way to a party in 1947 when she was 44 years old. The duo soon started dating and started living in. On March 17, 1955, she married Pole at Quartzsite, Arizona and returned with him to live in California. Nin’s first husband Guiler stayed back in New York unaware of her marriage which he came to know only after Nin died in 1977. In 1966 Nin had to get into an annulment of her marriage with Pole because of legal problems arising out of the fact that both Guiler and Pole were claiming her as a dependent on their federal tax returns. In spite of Nin’s marriage with Pole being annulled she continued living with Pole until her death in 1977.
Nin is better known as a person who recorded everything in her diaries. She had written journals for decades which give all the insight into her life, relationships and times. Nin is popular as an author even today and she is regarded as one of finest erotic literature writers of all times. In an unpublished 1940 diary Nin confirms that she was not a bisexual, although she might have been attracted to women but thoughts on sexual acts with women made her uncomfortable.
Nin discussed many of her personal struggles and journeys and while doing so she revealed that many literary figures had been her friends and lovers. Some of them are Henry Miller, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, James Leo Herlihy, and Lawrence Durrell. Nin had a love affair with Miller who shaped Nin as a woman and an author.
It was in 1931-1932 that Nin had written her book “Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin” (full title - Henry and June: From A Journal of Love: the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin) which was published much later in 1986. The book was published with parts and sections taken from Nin’s unpublished diaries. The book revolves around first volume of Anaïs Nin's published diaries and discussion of Nin's sex life and is full of her struggles and passionate relationship with husband Hugo, and then, as the novel/memoir progresses, other lovers. Miller’s wife was June who was considered a femme fatale was gifted with money, jewelry and clothes by Nin which often left Nin with no money. All this aroused questions about Nin’s sexual preferences. But Nin cleared all doubts by stating that she did not have any kind of sexual relations with Miller’s wife. In the book Nin was moved by June’s powerful persona. Nin stated, “I have become June” but made it clear that she did not consummate her erotic feelings for her.
Nin wrote her second unexpurgated journal “Incest” which talked about her having an incestuous relationship with her father, which was also graphically described in pages 207–15. In 1936 Nin published “House of Incest” which was a 72 page novel that was her first work of fiction. In the book Nin did not deal with stories about her love life but she narrated a beautiful surrealistic look within the narrator's subconscious mind as she attempts to escape from a dream in which she is trapped, or according to Nin, as she attempts to escape from “the woman's season in hell.”
Nin had appeared and been a part of various films. She first appeared in the Kenneth Anger film “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” (1954) as Astarte, Maya Deren film “Ritual in Transfigured Time” (1946); and in “Bells of Atlantis” (1952) and in a film by her husband Guiler.
Later Life, Honours and Death
In the 1960s feminist movement had become prominent and Nin’s writings featured feminist perspectives during this time. Soon she became a popular lecturer at various universities and at the same time she detached herself from all political activities. In 1973 Anaïs Nin was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Philadelphia College of Art. In 1974 Nin was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Nin died on 14 January 1977 in her Los Angeles home after battling with cancer for three years.
Posthumous Publications of Nin’s Writings and Works on her
- Delta of Venus – 1978
- Little Birds - 1979
- Henry & June (film) directed by Philip Kaufman - 1990
- Incest: From a Journal of Love: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin - 1992
- Fire: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin – 1995