Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anaïs Nin

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.

Anais Nin described herself as "a lover of the world, and of men."  She described her diaries as "the gift of one perfect life."  Yet once you read her diaries and novels you see not a perfect life, but a description of the life of a woman with many mood swings, an insatiable yearnings for attention, for a consuming love and sex that would last forever.  

In the 60's and 70's women flocked to her as a leader of sexual empowerment and liberation for women all over the world.  In truth Delta of Venus and Little Birds were best sellers when they were released after Nin's death.  These books were written by Nin for Henry Miller when he could not keep up with his 100-pages-a-month contract and were not considered serious work by Nin.  It was Nin's diaries that she considered her life's work.  

The diary begins around Nin's twelfth birthday in 1915 and continues throughout her life.  There are ten volumes that document forty some years of her life and were a sort of therapy to a women that probably was bipolar.  Her history included incest by her father that started when she was a child and continued into her early adulthood.  Nin's diaries do reflect life, but I don't believe she really considered her life perfect.  After reading the diaries I felt she was still searching for some sort of meaning in her life.  Her husband's love was built over the years on a basis of friendship that outlasted the physical side of love.  Nin's lovers could not fill her need to be cared for the way her husband did and she took care of him as well.  Yet her husband could not give her the excitement of adultery nor the experiences she craved as she experimented with lovers and sexual encounters.  I'm not so sure that she didn't confuse the need for literary experiences with the need for sexual experiences, but that is just my opinion.  It was the way of that era in history. 

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me  like a woman.

We are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them.

 The above quotes are about her lovers, but it could also include the type of writer and artist she was drawn to.  In my opinion the true talent of Nin's writings was her ability to use words to draw you into, and express, her deep emotional needs, her joys, her yearnings, her grief, and her darkest desires.

I always endowed madness with a sacred, poetic value, a mystical value.  It seemed to me to be a denial of ordinary life, an effort to transcend it, to expand, to go far beyond the limitations of La Condition Humaine.

Man can never know the kind of loneliness a woman knows.  Man lies in a woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art.  He is not lonely.  He is busy.  The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion.  The woman may be busy too, but she feels empty.  Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she has bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another.  When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love is a taking of man within her, and act of birth and rebirth, of child-bearing and man-bearing.  Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to BE.  But for woman, the climax is not the birth, but in the moment the man rests inside of her.

Today she is quoted by ministers to describe the love and yearning for God, which is really what Nin was craving and could never get from another person.  I read her diaries then read Henry and June then House of Incest.  I couldn't stand anymore after that.  It literally made me sick to read some of it and I am far from being a prude.  I trotted through the mundane and through filth to find those gems of passages that grab hold of your mind and pull you into her mind, her heart, and her yearning.  Powerful stuff.  So few writers of today can do that. 

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by loving.

Hell is a different place for each man, or each man has his own particular hell. My descent into the inferno is a descent into the irrational level of existence, where the instincts and blind emotions are loose, where one lives by pure impulse, pure fantasy and therefore pure madness.  No, that is not the inferno.  While I am there, I am as unconscious of misery as a man who is a drunk; or rather, my misery is a great joy.  It is when I became conscious again that I feel unutterable pain.

Anais Nin perfected the craft of keeping a diary, I think.  Though even she read and re-wrote her diaries before publication.  

My diary is the story of a dreamer who, a long long time ago went through life the way one reads a book.

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 - the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics.

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.  That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.

And that, I believe, is exactly what she did with her use of language.

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." — Anaïs Nin

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. — Anaïs Nin

"If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it."
— Anaïs Nin

"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 witherings, of tarnishings."
— Anaïs Nin

"Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together."
— Anaïs Nin

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
— Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
— Anaïs Nin

"From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life."
— Anaïs Nin

"I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don't know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. In reality those who satisfy me are those who simply allow me to live with my ''idea of them."
— Anaïs Nin

"I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don't know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. In reality those who satisfy me are those who simply allow me to live with my ''idea of them."
— Anaïs Nin

"People living deeply have no fear of death."
— Anaïs Nin

"The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say."
— Anaïs Nin

"The secret of joy is the mastery of pain."
— Anaïs Nin

"The only abnormality is the incapacity to love."
— Anaïs Nin

"Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it."
— Anaïs Nin

"Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."
— Anaïs Nin

"Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child's blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality....I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence."
— Anaïs Nin (Henry and June: From "A Journal of Love" - The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin)

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”-Anaïs Nin.

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