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Nin, Anaïs (1903-1977)  

The bisexual novelist Anaïs Nin is best known for her sexually frank diaries and the erotica published after her death.

Nin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, on February 21, 1903, the only daughter and oldest child of Joaquin Nin, a Spanish composer and pianist who abandoned his family when she was ten years old, and Rosa Culmell, an operatic singer and daughter of a well-to-do Cuban family. Rosa took her three children to New York when Anaïs was eleven years old.

On board ship, she began a diary that would grow to 150 volumes in more than 50 years. Though the first volume would not be published until 1966, Nin began publishing poetic fiction based on her diary in 1936.

Nin's most prolific period of creativity was during the time that she lived with her husband, Hugh Guiler, in Paris from 1923 to 1939, especially after she met Henry Miller at the end of 1931. Her first book, just completed when she met Miller, was D.H. Lawrence: an Unprofessional Study (1932).

Out of the frenzied writing of her diary during this period of her sexual awakening--when she fell in love with first June and then Henry Miller--came a brief poetic novelette (The House of Incest, 1936) and a book of short fiction (The Winter of Artifice, 1939). These are still among her best fiction.

Though a severely censored and altered version of the diaries of this period became her Diary I (1966), the unexpurgated portions of this period appeared long after her death as Henry and June (1986) and Incest (1992).

The title of the latter volume, like the impetus for her diary writing, came from sexual violation and abandonment by her beloved, narcissistic father. She began her diary not only to win him back but to create the "good" girl whom he could love.

Though she saw him on various occasions when she first moved to France, she reconciled with him in 1932. Then they began a sexual affair propelled both by his continued exploitation of her need for love and by her recent sexual awakening. Eventually, after psychoanalysis, she abandoned her father, who died in Cuba in 1949.

In the 1940s in New York City, Nin felt rejected by the literary establishment, which valued the literature of political engagement above interior, poetic character studies such as hers. She set up her own printing press in Greenwich Village; here she republished her Paris books and a collection of short fiction, Under a Glass Bell (1944).

She also wrote erotica--admitted hack work--for a dollar a page, money she gave to the youthful and needy artists in her circle. Her first mainstream publisher, Dutton, was secured for her by Gore Vidal, one of her growing group of gay and bisexual male friends (several of whom became her lovers).

After mining her diary for six novels--Ladders to Fire (1946), Children of the Albatross (1947), The Four Chambered Heart (1950), A Spy in the House of Love (1954), Seduction of the Minotaur (1961), and Collages (1964)--Nin began publishing the diaries.

Six volumes of the diary appeared before her death and made her a cult figure of the feminist movement, with audiences in the thousands on college campuses. Though radical feminists criticized her for her lack of interest in political and economic issues, many lesbians sensed her commitment to openness and freedom of expression for women. She often stated her acceptance of any kind of love, saying that only the failure to love was wrong.

Before diary publication and fame, however, she had developed her own woman-identified consciousness. She loved emotionally and physically both men and women. Though she denies lesbianism in Seduction of the Minotaur, unpublished portions of her diary suggest otherwise. During the last nearly thirty years of her life, she divided her time alternately between two husbands, Hugh Guiler in New York City and Rupert Pole in Los Angeles.

Though her fame is based on the erotica published after her death and on her mysterious bisexual femininity, her enormous diary is her principal contribution to literature. The four volumes entitled The Early Diary of Anais Nin (1978-1985), only slightly edited, give us the best published portrait of the artist as a young girl.

If we ever see a reunification of the distorted--expurgated and unexpurgated--diaries of her adult years, we might better be able to judge the validity of Miller's prediction that her diary would "take its place beside the revelations of St. Augustine, Petronius, Abelard, Rousseau, [and] Proust."

Noel Riley Fitch


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Anaïs Nin in 1959.
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Blair, Deirdre. Anaïs Nin: A Biography. New York: Putnam, 1995.

Cutting, Rose Marie. Anaïs Nin: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1978.

Fitch, Noel Riley. Anaïs: The Erotic Lie of Anaïs Nin. Boston: Little Brown, 1993.

_____. "The Literary Passion of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller." Significant Others: Creativity & Intimate Partnership. Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds. London: Thames & Hudson, 1993. 155-171.

Franklin, Benjamin V. Anaïs Nin: A Bibliography. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1973.

Franklin, Benjamin V. and Duane Schneider. Anaïs Nin: An Introduction. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1979.

Hinz, Evelyn J. The Mirror and the Garden: Realism and Reality in the Writings of Anaïs Nin. Columbus: Ohio State University Libraries, 1971.

Jason, Philip K. Anaïs Nin and Her Critics. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993.

Nin, Anaïs and Henry Miller. A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, 1932-1953. Gunther Stuhlmann, ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Scholar, Nancy. Anaïs Nin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984.

Spencer, Sharon. Collage of Dreams: The Writings of Anaïs Nin. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

Stuhlmann, Gunther, ed. Anaïs: An International Journal. Vols. 1-11 (1983-1993).


    Citation Information
    Author: Fitch, Noel Riley  
    Entry Title: Nin, Anaïs  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 16, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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