Anaïs Nin

Anais Nin

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.

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).

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.

Anais Nin with veilBy 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.”

And so forth, many times over; declarations of self-acceptance such as in this last comment must have been particularly gratifying to the author.

After achieving worldwide recognition after the first volume of the Diaries in 1966, Nin was a frequent speaker on college campuses and at feminist events. She died of cancer on January 14, 1977, in Los Angeles, CA.

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Anaïs Nin Quotes

Anais Nin

I am resolved to write, write, and write. Nothing can turn me away from a path I have definitely set myself to follow. (The Early Diaries, 1921)

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

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

“I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, of which I can only escape by writing.”

“Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.”

The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” (February, 1947)

“How quickly the minutes fly when you are writing to please your heart. I pity those who write for money or for fame. Money is debasing, and fame transitory and exacting. But for your own heart…Oh, what a difference!” (The Early Diaries , entry dated October, 1921)

“I believe I could never exhaust the supply of material lying within me. The deeper I plunge, the more I discover. There is no bottom to my heart and no limit to the acrobatic feats of my imagination.” (The Early Diaries, Entry dated 1921)

“… You don’t write for yourself or for others. You write out of a deep inner necessity. If you are a writer, you have to write, just as you have to breathe, or if you’re a singer you have to sing. (“The Artist as Magician,” interview, 1973)

Anais Nin

“I didn’t have any particular gift in my twenties. I didn’t have any exceptional qualities. It was the persistence and the great love of my craft which finally became a discipline, which finally made me a craftsman and a writer.”  (“The Personal Life Deeply Lived”)

“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…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.  (In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, 1976)


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