Friday, April 20, 2007

Anaïs Nin

We know Anaïs Nin mainly for her reputation as a passionate erotic writer Delta of Venus 1977 and Little Birds 1979. She wrote these pieces in de 40’s for a dollar a page, also her short stories Under a Glass Bell were written in 1944. Friend, muse and lover of many famous authors (also Gore Vidal, Henry Miller, James Agee, Lawrence Durrell and Edmund Wilson) she decided she would be an author in her own right. Her first published work was D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. Having had an interesting life her diaries spanned the years from 1931 to 1974 and probably gained her most international fame. Her masterpiece is considered to be Winter of Artifice 1939 a prose poem about the trials and tribulations of her relationship with June and Henry Miller.
She was born on the 21 of February 1903 in Neuilly, France and died the 14th of January in 1977 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents were artistic and she had a cosmopolitan upbringing. As a child she lived in the states and in Europe. She was influenced by the Surrealist movement and had studied psychoanalysis under Otto Rank (a disciple of Freud), working with him as a lay analyst and he was also her lover. Her diaries are an inspirational voyage of self-discovery, which will inspire all of us willing to take a risk for art, adventure and love.
In France she became involved with the villa Seurat group of which Henry Miller was part. She started out writing in French, switching to English when she was seventeen. In 1923 she married Hugh Parker Guiler who later illustrated her books. She enjoyed a secure married of 50 years with him ‘staying out of the way’ of her extramarital life, even during 25 years of a bigamous second marriage with Rupert Pole. Thanks to him the dairies were published in an unexpurgated and uncensored version… You hated her or loved her because of the feminist perspective of her work, her road to self-fulfillment and psychological insight. So she became a sought after lecturer in the Universities across the US. She later broke with the political activism of feminism. One of her mottoes I cannot but subscribe to: ”I only believe in fire. Life. Fire. Being myself on fire I set others on fire. Never death. Fire and life. Les Jeux.”
She self published her novels and short stories through Gemor Press. She was almost unremarked in the literary landscape, whereas now she is considered to be one of the leading writers of last century. Being candid and sharp, she gave a voice to feminine perception. She was wise and I particularly like a book of essays In favor of the Sensitive Man and other essays. The sections are titled: Women and Men, Writing Music and Film, Enchanted Places. The opening paragraph of the book: “From my personal observation, I would say that woman has not made the separation between love and sensuality which man has made. The two are usually combined in a woman; she needs either to love the man she gives herself to or to be loved by him. After lovemaking, she seems to need the assurance that it is love and that the act of sexual possession is part of an exchange, which is dictated by love. Men complain that women demand reassurance or expressions of love. The Japanese recognized this need, and in ancient times it was an absolute rule that after a night of love making, the man had to produce a poem and have it delivered to his love before she awakened. What was this but the linking of lovemaking to love?”
A quote about writing: “I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me – the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art….. We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others.”
From ‘The labyrinthine City of Fez: “Fez was created for the delight of our five senses. My first impression is a fragrant odor of cedarwood from the furniture of the Hotel Palais Jamai, a smell that reappears in the souk, or street, amidst the intense activity of eh carpenters. My room already bears the colors of Fez: blue tile, copper tray, copper colored draperies. When I open them, the whole city of Fez lies before my eyes… Blue is the symbolic color of Fez, a sky blue, a transparent blue, the only blue that evokes the word long-forgotten and loved by the poets: azure. Fez is azure. You rediscover the word “azure”…
To these are examples of sensuous writing and of writing on a deep linguistic level where through a certain perceived reality the words rediscover their true meaning. I know that giddy feeling when I am in my desert in Arizona: suddenly after a while, the words begin to mean what they actually mean. If a trip to the desert isn’t possible, reading some Anaïs Nin is an easily available cure.

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