Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin

Portrait of Nin, c. 1920
Born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died January 14, 1977(1977-01-14) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Author
Nationality Cuban American
Genre Journals
Erotic literature
Short stories
Spouse Hugh Parker Guiler (1923–1955)
Rupert Pole (1955–1966)
Relatives Joaquín Nin (father), Joaquín Nin-Culmell (brother)

Anaïs Nin (Spanish: [anaˈis ˈnin]; born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell; February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977) was an essayist and memoirist born to Cuban parents in France, where she was also raised. She spent some time in Spain and Cuba but lived most of her life in the United States where she became an established author. She wrote journals (which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death), novels, critical studies, essays, short stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously.

Early life

Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly, France, to artistic parents. Her father, Joaquín Nin, was a Cuban pianist and composer of Catalonian Spanish descent when he met her mother, Rosa Culmell,[1] a classically trained Cuban singer of French and Danish descent.[2] Her father's grandfather had fled France during the Revolution, going first to Saint-Domingue, then New Orleans, and finally to Cuba where he helped build that country's first railway.[3]

Nin was raised a Roman Catholic[4] and spent her childhood and early life in Europe. After her parents separated, her mother moved Anaïs and her two brothers, Thorvald Nin and Joaquín Nin-Culmell, to Barcelona, and then to New York City. According to her diaries, Volume One, 1931–1934, Nin abandoned formal schooling at sixteen and later began working as an artist's model. After being in America for several years, Nin had forgotten how to speak Spanish, but retained her French and became fluent in English.[5]

On March 3, 1923, in Havana, Cuba, Nin married her first husband, Hugh Parker Guiler (1898–1985), a banker and artist, later known as "Ian Hugo" when he became a maker of experimental films in the late 1940s. The couple moved to Paris the following year, where Guiler pursued his banking career and Nin began to pursue her interest in writing; in her diaries she also mentions having trained as a flamenco dancer in Paris in the mid-to-late 1920s. Her first published work was a critical evaluation of D. H. Lawrence called D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, which she wrote in sixteen days.[1]

She was transformed by her therapy with Otto Rank, who eventually became her lover. On her second visit to Rank, Nin reflects on her desire to be "re-born" as a woman and artist. Rank, she observes, helped her move back and forth between what she could verbalize in her journals and what remained unarticulated. She discovered the quality and depth of her feelings in the wordless transitions between what she could say and what she could not say. "As he talked, I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless".[6]

In the late summer of 1939, when residents from overseas were urged to leave France due to the approaching war, Nin left Paris and returned to New York City with her husband. (Guiler was, according to his own wishes, all but edited out of the diaries published during Nin's lifetime; his role in her life is therefore difficult to gauge.)[7] During the war, Nin sent her books to Frances Steloff of the Gotham Book Mart in New York for safekeeping.[8]

Personal life

According to her diaries, Vol.1, 1931–1934, Nin shared a bohemian lifestyle with Henry Miller during her time in Paris. Her husband Guiler is not mentioned anywhere in the published edition of the 1930s parts of her diary (Vol. 1–2) although the opening of Vol. 1 makes it clear that she is married, and the introduction suggests her husband refused to be included in the published diaries. The diaries edited by her second husband, after her death, tell that her union with Henry Miller was very passionate and physical, and that she believed that it was a pregnancy by him that she aborted in 1934.

In 1947, at the age of 44, she met former actor Rupert Pole in a Manhattan elevator on her way to a party.[9][10] The two ended up dating and traveled to California together; Pole was sixteen years her junior. On March 17, 1955, while still married to Guiler, she married Pole at Quartzsite, Arizona, returning with him to live in California.[11] Guiler remained in New York City and was unaware of Nin's second marriage until after her death in 1977, though biographer Deirdre Bair alleges that Guiler knew what was happening while Nin was in California, but consciously "chose not to know".[10]

Nin referred to her simultaneous marriages as her "bicoastal trapeze".[10] According to Deidre Bair:

[Anaïs] would set up these elaborate façades in Los Angeles and in New York, but it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the lie box. She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. One said Anaïs Guiler for New York and another said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards. And she said, "I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight."[10]

In 1966, Nin had her marriage with Pole annulled, due to the legal issues arising from both Guiler and Pole trying to claim her as a dependent on their federal tax returns.[12] Though the marriage was annulled, Nin and Pole continued to live together as if they were married, up until her death in 1977. According to Barbara Kraft, prior to her death Anais had written to Hugh Guiler asking for his forgiveness. He responded writing how meaningful his life had been because of her.[13]

After Guiler's death in 1985, the unexpurgated versions of her journals were commissioned by Pole.[14] Five volumes have appeared (Henry and June, Fire, Incest, Nearer the Moon, and Mirages). Pole died in July 2006.

Nin often cited authors Djuna Barnes and D. H. Lawrence as inspirations. She states in Volume One of her diaries that she drew inspiration from Marcel Proust, André Gide, Jean Cocteau, Paul Valéry, and Arthur Rimbaud.

Nin once worked at Lawrence R. Maxwell Books, located at 45 Christopher Street in New York City.[15] In addition to her work as a writer, Nin appeared in the Kenneth Anger film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) as Astarte; in the Maya Deren film Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946); and in Bells of Atlantis (1952), a film directed by Guiler under the name "Ian Hugo" with a soundtrack of electronic music by Louis and Bebe Barron.

Literary career


Anaïs Nin's most important works, in the judgment of both herself and scholars, are her diaries or journals. The journals, which span several decades, provide a deeply explorative insight into her personal life and relationships. Nin was acquainted, often quite intimately, with a number of prominent authors, artists, psychoanalysts, and other figures, and wrote of them often, especially Otto Rank. Moreover, as a female author describing a primarily masculine constellation of celebrities, Nin's journals have acquired importance as a counterbalancing perspective.

Previously unpublished works are coming to light in A Café in Space, the Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which includes "Anaïs Nin and Joaquín Nin y Castellanos: Prelude to a Symphony—Letters between a father and daughter."

So far sixteen volumes of her journals have been published. All but the last five of her adult journals are in expurgated form.

Erotic writings

Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women known to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in the modern West known to write erotica. Before her, erotica acknowledged to be written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin.

According to Volume I of her diaries, 1931–1934, published in 1966 (Stuhlmann), Nin first came across erotica when she returned to Paris with her husband, mother and two brothers in her late teens. They rented the apartment of an American man who was away for the summer, and Nin came across a number of French paperbacks: "One by one, I read these books, which were completely new to me. I had never read erotic literature in America… They overwhelmed me. I was innocent before I read them, but by the time I had read them all, there was nothing I did not know about sexual exploits… I had my degree in erotic lore."

Portrait of Anaïs Nin in the 1970s by Elsa Dorfman

Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin, Henry Miller and some of their friends began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous "collector" for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke.[16] (It is not clear whether Miller actually wrote these stories or merely allowed his name to be used.[17]) Nin considered the characters in her erotica to be extreme caricatures and never intended the work to be published, but changed her mind in the early 1970s and allowed them to be published as Delta of Venus[18][19] and Little Birds.

Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, including Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, James Leo Herlihy, and Lawrence Durrell. Her passionate love affair and friendship with Miller strongly influenced her both sexually and as an author. Nin wrote about her infatuation with the Surrealist artist Bridget Bate Tichenor in her diaries.[20][21] Claims that Nin was bisexual were given added circulation by the Philip Kaufman film Henry & June about Henry Miller and his second wife June Miller. The first unexpurgated portion of Nin's journal to be published, Henry and June, makes it clear that Nin was stirred by June to the point of saying (paraphrasing), "I have become June," though it is unclear whether she consummated her feelings for her sexually. To both Anaïs and Henry, June was a femme fatale—irresistible, cunning, erotic. Nin gave June money, jewelry, clothes, often leaving herself broke.

In the third volume of her unexpurgated journal, Incest, she wrote about her father candidly and graphically (207–15). When Nin's father learned of the title of her first book of fiction, House of Incest, he feared that the nature of the abuse would be revealed, when, in fact, it was heavily veiled in Nin's text.

Later life and legacy

The explosion of the feminist movement in the 1960s gave feminist perspectives on Nin's writings of the past twenty years, which made Nin a popular lecturer at various universities; contrarily, Nin disassociated herself from the political activism of the movement.[1]

In 1973 Anaïs Nin received an honorary doctorate from the Philadelphia College of Art. She was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974. In 1976 she was presented with a Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year award.[22] She died in Los Angeles on January 14, 1977, three years after being diagnosed with cancer.[23] Her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered over Santa Monica Bay in Mermaid Cove. Her first husband, Hugh Guiler, died in 1985, and his ashes were scattered in the cove as well.[10] Rupert Pole was named Nin's literary executor, and he arranged to have new, unexpurgated editions of Nin's books and diaries published between 1985 and his death in 2006. Large portions of the diaries are still available only in the expurgated form. The originals are located in the UCLA library.

Philip Kaufman directed the 1990 film Henry & June based on Nin's novel Henry and June: From the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin. She was portrayed in the film by Maria de Medeiros.

In February 2008, Los Angeles poet Steven Reigns organized Anaïs Nin @ 105 at the Hammer Museum. Reigns said: "Nin bonded and formed very deep friendships with women and men decades younger than her. Some of them are still living in Los Angeles and I thought it'd be wonderful to have them share their experiences with [Nin]."[24] Bebe Barron, electronic music pioneer and longtime friend of Nin, made her last public appearance at Anaïs Nin @ 105. Reigns also published an essay refuting Bern Porter’s claims of a sexual relationship with Nin in the 1930s.[25]

The Cuban poet and novelist Wendy Guerra, long fascinated with Nin's life and works, published a fictional diary in Nin's voice, Posar desnuda en la Habana (Posing Nude in Havana) in 2012. She explained that "[Nin's] Cuban Diary has very few pages and my delirium was always to write an apocryphal novel; literary conjecture about what might have happened".[26]

On September 27, 2013, screenwriter and author Kim Krizan published an article in The Huffington Post[27] revealing she had found a previously unpublished love letter written by Gore Vidal to Nin. This letter contradicts Gore Vidal's previous characterization of his relationship with Nin, showing that Vidal did have feelings for Nin that he later heavily disavowed in his autobiography, Palimpsest. Krizan did this research in the run up to the release of the latest volume of Anaïs Nin's uncensored diary, Mirages,[28] for which Krizan provided the foreword.[29]

List of works

See also



  1. 1 2 3 Liukkonen, Petri. "Anaïs Nin". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on January 23, 2012.
  2. The Unique Anaïs Nin"
  3. Diaries, Volume 1, 1931–1934
  4. Stuhlmann, Gunther. A Spy In The House Of Love (Foreword). Swallow Press. p. 3.
  5. Nin, Anaïs (1966). The diary of Anaïs Nin: 1931–1934, Volume 1. Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt. p. 183.
  6. Nin, Anaïs (1966). The diary of Anaïs Nin: 1931–1934, Volume 1. Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt. p. 276.
  7. "Several persons, when faced with the question of whether they wanted to remain in the diary 'as is'... chose to be deleted altogether from the manuscript (including her husband and some members of her family)." The Diary of Anaïs Nin, ed. by Gunther Stuhlmann. Harcourt, 1966, p. xi.
  8. "Frances Steloff". 1920-01-01. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
  9. Corbett, Sara (2006-12-31). "The Lover Who Always Stays". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Anais Nin Husband, Rupert Pole, Dies in L.A.". National Public Radio (NPR). 2006-07-29. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  11. Bair biography, 1995 and IMDB.
  12. Woo, Elaine (2006-07-27). "Rupert Pole, executor of exotic works by Anaïs Nin". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  13. Kraft, Barbara. Anaïs Nin: The Last Days Pegasus Books, ISBN 978-0-9889687-5-2, 2013, P. 200
  14. Woo, Elaine (July 26, 2006). "The Ranger Who Told All About Anais Nin's Wild Life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  15. Recollections of Anaïs Nin, Ohio University Press, 1996, p. 6.
  16. "DELTA OF VENUS, by Anaïs Nin". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25.
  17. Noël Riley Fitch, Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993) ISBN 0-316-28428-9
  18. Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace, Encyclopedia of feminist literary theory, Taylor & Francis, 1997, ISBN 0-8153-0824-8, p.190
  19. Andrew Gibson, Postmodernity, ethics and the novel: from Leavis to Levinas, Routledge, 1999, ISBN 0-415-19895-X, p.177
  20. Diaries, Volume 3, 1939–1944
  21. "Bridget Bate Tichenor Website". Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  22. "Times Woman of the Year – Anais Nin". Los Angeles Times. June 6, 2011. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  23. Nin, Anaïs. Rauner Library Letters (September 1975): "I suppose you know I have been fighting cancer for 9 months – just recovering very slowly."
  25. Reigns, Steven (February 2014). "Bern Porter's Wild Sexual Life with Anais Nin or Wild Imaginings?". A Cafe in Space: The Anais Nin Literary Journal. republished: Reigns, Steven. "Bern Porter's Wild Sexual Life with Anais Nin or Wild Imaginings?". Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  26. Sanchez, Yoani (9 February 2015). "Cuban Author Wendy Guerra: 'I'm a Demon Who Writes What She Feels'". HuffPost Latino Voices. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  27. The Huffington Post
  28. Mirages
  29. "Gore Vidal's Secret, Unpublished Love Letter To Anaïs Nin". The Huffington Post. September 27, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-20.


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