Anaïs Nin  

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"What further indicates the prominence of animal profanity and the absence of an overtly conscious self in Nin's Delta of Venus and Little Birds is her diction, which is pointedly different from the diction we see in traditional pornography. Nin never uses words like "cunt," "cock," and "fuck." Instead, she expresses the profanity of the sexual organs by describing them in terms of natural and animal imagery." --The Critical Response to Anais Nin, p. 97, Philip K. Jason, 1996

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Anaïs Nin (1903 - 1977) was a French-born author who became famous for her posthumously published personal journals. Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to explore fully the realm of erotic writing. Before her, erotica written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin. Titles include Delta of Venus and Little Birds, which explores male and female sexuality from a female perspective.

Her affair with Henry Miller was the subject of the film Henry & June.


Early life

Anaïs Nin was born in Neuilly, France, to two artistic parents. Her father, Joaquin Nin, was a Catalan pianist and composer, and her mother Rosa Culmell was also Cuban, but of French and Danish ancestry and was a classically trained singer. Her paternal great-grandfather fled France during the Revolution, going first to Haiti, then New Orleans, and finally to Cuba where he helped build that country's first railroad. After her parents separated, her mother moved Anaïs and her two brothers, Thorvald Nin and Joaquin Nin-Culmell from Barcelona to New York City. According to her diaries, Volume One, 1931 - 1934, Nin abandoned formal schooling at the age of 16 and began working as a model.

On 3 March 1923, in Havana, Cuba, she married her first husband, Hugh Parker Guiler (1898-1985), a banker and artist, later known as "Ian Hugo" when he became a filmmaker 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. Her first published work was a critical evaluation of D. H. Lawrence called D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. She also explored the field of psychotherapy, studying under the likes of Otto Rank, a disciple of Sigmund Freud.

During the war, Nin sent her books to Frances Steloff of the Gotham Book Mart in New York for safekeeping.

Personal life

According to her diaries,Volume One, 1931 - 1934, Nin shared a bohemian lifestyle with Henry Miller during her time in Paris. There is no mention of her husband in that edited edition. In 1939, Nin and Hugh Parker Guiler moved back to New York City. Nin appeared in the Kenneth Anger film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) as Astarte, 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.

In 1947, at the age of 44, she met and began living with Rupert Pole (1919-2006), sixteen years her junior. On 17 March 1955, she married him at Quartzsite, Arizona, returning with Pole to live in California. Guiler remained in New York City and was unaware of Nin's second marriage until after her death in 1977.

After Guiler's death in 1985, the unexpurgated versions of her journals were commissioned by Pole.

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


Anaïs Nin is perhaps best remembered as a diarist. Her 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.

Erotic writings

Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in modern Europe to write erotica. Before her, erotica 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 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."

Faced with a desperate need for money, Nin and Miller began in the 1940s to write erotic and pornographic narratives for an anonymous "collector" for a dollar a page, somewhat as a joke. 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 and Little Birds.

Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many leading literary figures, including Henry Miller, Antonin Artaud, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, James Agee, and Lawrence Durrell. Her passionate love affair and friendship with Miller strongly influenced her both as a woman and an author. The rumor that Nin was bisexual was given added circulation by the Philip Kaufman film Henry & June. Although this rumor is widely believed to be false, Nin's journals leave many questions about her relationship with Henry Miller's wife, June. In her unexpurgated journals, she wrote that she had an incestuous relationship with her father, and refers to experiments with bestiality, and sexual relationships and experiences with women.

Later life and legacy

In 1973 she 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. She died in Los Angeles, California on January 14 1977; her body was cremated, and her ashes were scattered over Santa Monica Bay. 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.

In 1990 Philip Kaufman directed the film Henry & June based on Nin's novel Henry and June from The Journal of Love – The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1932. She was portrayed in the film by Maria de Medeiros.


  • "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
  • "This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice."
  • "...for no one has ever loved an adventurous woman as they have loved adventurous men."
  • "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
  • "I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touchstone, the command, my pivot. I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding."
  • "How wrong is it for women to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than set out to create it herself."
  • "I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing."
  • "Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
  • "I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls."
  • "Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them."
  • "Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing."
  • "Dreams are necessary to life."
  • "We dont see things as they are we see them as we are."
  • "People living deeply have no fear of death."

List of works

Pages linking in in 2023

20th-century French literature, 45 Christopher Street, A Spy in the House of Love (album), A Spy in the House of Love, Aberjhani, Adma d'Heurle, Agnès Desarthe, Agneta Klingspor, Alan Swallow, Alfred A. Knopf Sr., Alfred Perles, Alice Rahon, Aller Retour New York, Allerseelen (band), Alysia Reiner, Anacristina Rossi, Anaïs Mitchell, Anaïs Nin: A Biography, Angela Christian, Anh Duong, Anna Balakian, Anna Kavan, Aphrodite, Aroused (film), Arsinée Khanjian, Audie England, Audrey Beecham, Auletris, Aux Belles Poules, Awkwafina, Barthold Fles, Béatrice Commengé, Beatrice Wood, Bebe and Louis Barron, Bell jar, Bernard Wolfe, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, Black Spring (short story collection), Bob Baldock, Bokförlaget Forum, Book series, Books: Feed Your Head, Brenda Venus, Bridget Bate Tichenor, Britt Arenander, Capra Press, Caresse Crosby, Carolyn Banks, Charles Ruas, Chicago Review, Christopher Street, Cinema of Obsession, Circle Magazine, Cities of the Interior, Claude Fredericks, Claudia Roth Pierpont, Coffee House Positano, Crosswordese, D. H. Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, Daliel's Gallery, Daniel Odier, Daniel Stern (writer), Darwin Porter, Defamiliarization, Deià, Deirdre Bair, Delta of Venus (film), Delta of Venus, Diary, Djuna Barnes, Dominance and submission, Douglas Kent Hall, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, DYN (magazine), Edgard Varèse, Edmund Teske, Edmund Wilson, Elsa Dorfman, Eric Lloyd Wright, Erotic literature, Eugene Walter, Eva Kotchever, Exiled in Paris, February House, Ferdinand Cheval, Fire: From a Journal of Love, Flore (photographer), Frances Kroll Ring, Francisco Miralles Arnau, Frede (cabaret manager), Fumage, George Davis (editor), George Whitman, Gore Vidal, Gotham Book Mart, Greenwich Village, Gregory Corso, Groupe d'études philosophiques et scientifiques pour l'examen des idées nouvelles, Half-Decent Proposal, Harold Norse, Harriet Zinnes, Harry Smith (poet), Helba Huara, Helena Eriksson, Henry & June, Henry and June, Henry Miller, Hilaire Hiler, History of France (1900–present), Hoshang Merchant, House of Incest, Hugh Fox, Ian Hugo, In Favor of the Sensitive Man, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Incest: From a Journal of Love, Inside the Whale, International College, Los Angeles, International Honor Quilt, Ivana Hadži-Popović, James Leo Herlihy, James Merrill, Jaya Misra, Jean Varda, Jenny Boully, Jim Richard Wilson, Joaquín Nin, Joaquín Nin-Culmell, John Ferrone, John J. Slocum, Jovette Marchessault, Judy Chicago, June Miller, June of 44, Kazim Ali, Kenneth Patchen, Kensington Ladies' Erotica Society, Kermit Sheets, Kew Gardens, Queens, Kim Krizan, King of the Gypsies, Lawrence Durrell, Le Dôme Café, Le Monocle (lesbian bar), Lili Bita, Lisa Congdon, Little Birds (short story collection), Little Birds (TV series), Lloyd Wright, Los Angeles Times Women of the Year Silver Cup, Lou B. ("Bink") Noll, Louveciennes, Lucy Cohu, Luis Buñuel, Ma Prem Hasya, Main Street (novel), Marc Atkins, Marcel Moreau, Marguerite Young, Maria de Medeiros, Maria Espinosa, Marianne Greenwood, Marianne Hauser, Marie Bashkirtseff, Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, Martin Firrell, Maurice Girodias, Maya Deren, Mentors (TV series), Merle Hoffman, Meryle Secrest, Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1939-1947, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, Mitsouko, Moloch: or, This Gentile World, Morrison Hotel, Ms. (magazine), Mykki Blanco, Myra Breckinridge, Nancy Spanier, Natacha Merritt, National Book Award for Nonfiction, Nearer the Moon, Ned O'Gorman, Nepenthe (restaurant), Nery Santos Gómez, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Nocturnal (Varèse), Noël Riley Fitch, Nona Balakian, Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, Notable American Women, 1607–1950, Novel, Obelisk Press, Ole' (magazine), Olive Leonhardt, Opium den, Otto Rank, Pablo Runyan, Paradox Press, Paris, Penguin 60s, Penguin Great Loves, Penguin Red Classics, Peter Owen Publishers, Philip Kaufman, Pocket Penguins, Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly, Pride and Prejudice (1995 TV series), Publishers Weekly list of bestselling novels in the United States in the 1970s, Pushcart Prize, Quartzsite, Arizona, Quiet Days in Clichy (1970 film), Quiet Days in Clichy (1990 film), Quiet Days in Clichy (novel), Reality tunnel, René Allendy, Richmond Hill, Queens, Rita Christiani, Ritual in Transfigured Time, Rive Gauche, Robert De Niro Sr., Robert Duncan (poet), Robert Fletcher (costume designer), Rue Bonaparte, Rupert Pole, Ruth Witt-Diamant, Samson De Brier, Sartre's Sink, Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Seduction of the Minotaur, Shakespeare and Company (bookstore), Sheri Martinelli, Shosha Pearl, Sial Pigmalión Publishing Group, Silver Lake Film Festival, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, Simoom, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas, Soichi Sunami, Spy (Carly Simon album), Steven Reigns, Susan Hurley (composer), T. K. Doraiswamy, Tales of Joujouka, Tessie Santiago, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, The Big Book Of, The Black Book (Durrell novel), The Bookstore Mural, The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography, The Colossus of Maroussi, The Diary of a Young Girl, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, The Four-Chambered Heart, The Graphic Canon, The Hill of Dreams, The House of Love, The Island of Eternal Love, The Massachusetts Review, The Neuromancer (album), The Novel of the Future, The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Phoenix (pacifist journal), The Pure Weight of the Heart, The Rosy Crucifixion, The Sound of Fishsteps, Thomas Mallon, Trapeze: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1947–1955, Tropic of Cancer (film), Tropic of Cancer (novel), Tropic of Capricorn (novel), UCLA Library, Under a Glass Bell, University of California, Santa Cruz, Virginia Admiral, Wallace Fowlie, Wallis Giunta, Waste of Timelessness, WBAI, Webcam model, William Poel, Winter of Artifice, Zalman King

See also

The Diary of Anaïs Nin

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