Anaïs Nin Profile

I first started enjoying Anaïs Nin’s erotic stories when I was in my early twenties, and I was intrigued by the encounters with Henry Miller that she described in her diaries. (Henry Miller is another author that Carolyn and I both admire, and who will be the subject of a future profile.) When I first met Carolyn we discussed Nin’s writings, and I was most interested to learn that Carolyn had met and corresponded with Nin years earlier.

Born in France, Anaïs Nin lived from 1903 to 1977 in major European and American cities during culturally vibrant times, where she recorded her personal encounters with many brilliant and creative minds. Nin spent her early years growing up in Spain and Cuba and then lived in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Nin was known for her prolific and varied writings that included celebrated essays, novels, and short stories, as well as her seven published volumes of diaries, and revolutionary volumes of erotica.

When Nin was in her late twenties, she developed a strong interest in psychoanalysis and studied it in depth— with René Allendy and Otto Rank— both of whom also became lovers, as she recounts in her diaries. Nin famously kept detailed journals of her private thoughts and intimate relationships, from the age of eleven until the end of her life. Many of these diaries were published during her lifetime and remain in print to this day. The revealing diaries that she kept included descriptions of her personal relationships with many well-known literary figures and intellectuals, such as John Steinbeck and Gore Vidal, and have unique historical value.

Some of the quotes that Anaïs Nin is remembered for include:

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Nin has been lauded by critics for being one of the first and finest writers of women’s erotica, and much of her passionate, taboo-breaking work was published posthumously amid renewed critical interest in her life and work that continues to this day.

by David Jay Brown