Anaïs Nin (February 1, 1903 – January 14, 1977), best known for her Diaries series, embodied the practice of writing as a grand passion and a path to delving deeply into the self. In this sense, Nin foreshadowed the immediacy of today’s world of self-revelatory memoir and blogging. Nin was born in France to Cuban parents (her full original name was Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell).
She spent her teens living in the U.S., becoming self-educated and working as a model and dancer before returning to Europe in the 1920s. When she decided that she wanted her work published and could not find anyone to accept her short stories she started Gemor Press with her then husband so that she could publish her work herself.
Writing shaped her life
From the earliest of her diaries, written while still in her teens, to one of her last essays, published just a year before her death in 1977, it’s clear that writing was what she believed shaped her life and gave it meaning. Best known for her multi-volume series, The Diary of Anaïs Nin (if not for her tumultuous love life, whose affect on her work will be detailed in later chapters), she wrote these journals over the span of more than thirty years (not including her Early Diaries series).
The Diaries and female erotica
Though it’s generally believed that she wrote her Diaries with an eye toward eventual publication, it wasn’t until the 1960s that they were published and acclaimed as feminist classics, portraying one woman’s lifelong voyage of self-discovery.
Nin also broke ground as a writer of female erotica —The Delta of Venus and Little Birds most notably, which were published posthumously. She was a splendid and prolific essayist as well. Her diaries make evident that for her, writing was what shaped her life and gave it meaning. Her own personal quest for self-knowledge ended up becoming an in-depth, honest look at the universal issues affecting women in all walks of life.
You might also like: Anaïs Nin’s Diaries: From the Personal to the Universal
By the standards of today’s confessional media, Nin’s frank writings may no longer seem as revolutionary as they did just a generation ago. In the final volume of the Diaries (Volume Seven, 1966-1974), she delights in sharing snippets from the countless letters of gratitude she received from women everywhere, in all walks of life:
“The Diaries wakened me, made me relive my life, enjoy it, find new aspects to dream about; you gave me a second life.” “My world is richer because you have given me yours.” “Your writings, your honesty, helped me accept myself as a person, a woman, an artist.”
A feminist icon
After achieving worldwide recognition after the first volume of the Diaries in 1966, Nin quickly became a feminist icon, was a frequent speaker on college campuses and at feminist events. She died of cancer on January 14, 1977, in Los Angeles, CA.
- The Young Anaïs Nin: Compelled to Write; So Unsure of Herself
- Nin on Why She Published the Delta of Venus
- Nin’s Diaries: From the Personal to the Universal
- Nin Quotes on Writing, Life, and Love
- Anaïs Nin on Writing to Give Depth and Meaning to Life
- The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin (four volumes)
- The Diary of Anaïs Nin (seven volumes)
- Henry and June
- Delta of Venus
- Little Birds
- In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays
- Incest: From a Journal of Love
Biographies about Anaïs Nin
- Anaïs Nin
- The Official Anaïs Nin Blog
- The Anaïs Nin Trust
- Reader discussion of Nin’s books on Goodreads
- Anaïs Nin page on Amazon.com
Articles, News, Etc.
- The Authors with the Juiciest Love Lives
- Erotica 101: Meet the First Woman of Erotica, Anaïs Nin
- 12 Must-Read Collections of Famous Authors’ Letters
- 8 Writers on Why You Should Live in Paris
- Anaïs Nin on Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary
Enhances Creativity:Wisdom from a Rare 1943 Chapbook
- Anaïs Nin on the Elusive Nature of Joy
- Anaïs Nin on Learning a New Language
- Finding Aid for the Anaïs Nin Papers, ca. 1930-1977 – Special Collections, UCLA
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