Talk given on 2.12.08 by Steven Reigns, organizer of Anaïs Nin @ 105. Poet, artist and educator, Reigns starts graduate school at Antioch in April.
This talk was given with a power presentation which the site is trying to figure out how to share with viewers. So picture Reigns words with wonderful images of Nin, her friends, her books!
We have photos of the speakers which we will post as soon as summaries of their biographies are available to post with their picture speaking at this sold out event in honor of Anaïs at 105.
I’m Steven Reigns and it’s been a pleasure to organize Anaïs @ 105 and bring together people who knew Nin intimately. I didn’t know her personally but when I discovered her writings as a young reader, I felt as if I did know her personally—and even intimately. Many people feel the same way. Nin was interested in personal connection and creativity. There are endless stories of how diary passages, her lectures, or a personal conversation with her altered peoples lives. Her name has inspired the name of a perfume and her affairs the first NC-17 movie, Henry & June. Who was she, really?
Anaïs Nin was born in a suburb of Paris on February 21, 1903. Her parents separated due to her father’s affairs. Nin’s mother decided to take the children to America to start a new life. On the trip to the US, at age eleven, Nin started keeping a diary as a letter to her father. The diary was a way for the young girl to document life in a new place. She was self educated after grammar school and worked as a model to help bring money into her single parent household. Her first published writing was at the age of 15 imploring the importance of owning a liberty bond. She wrote in the diary daily for the remainder of her life. There are 69 volumes of diaries. During the last thirty years of her life Nin kept writing but used file folders instead of bound notebooks. The original writings comprise of more than 35,000 pages. The diary was a confident, record keeper, secret keeper, and a lifelong artistic endeavor. In 1966, at the age of 63, Nin had the diaries commercially published. They documented her emotional journey as an intellectual woman, artist, and of those around her. The diaries were a commercial success, being published in the midst of a sexual revolution, Nin soon became in demand to speak at colleges and universities. She was the darling of the lecture circuit and received hundreds of letters from fans, all of which she answered personally.
Nin married banker Hugo Guiler at the age of 20. Hugo’s job relocated the young couple to France. Before publishing the diaries was even a consideration, Nin published, at the age of 28, the non-fiction book, DH Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. The book’s reception disappointed Anaïs and she divided her attention briefly between writing and pursuing a career as a dancer. During this time she met Henry Miller, wrote fiction, and sought out analysis. In 1934, Nin returned to the US and briefly started a psychoanalysis practice.
Nin was a well-read writer with an incredible work ethic. Nin’s writings progressed as she published 15 books during her lifetime, not including the 7 published diaries, and a book of interviews. Most of her books were avant-garde novels of the French surrealistic style. In the 30’s, when there was little interest in her writings, Nin purchased a printing press and printed her own books, sometimes spending 12 to 14 hour days standing at the foot operated press. At one point, needing money, Nin wrote erotica for $1.00 a page to an unknown collector—these writings were to be published posthumously as the best sellers Delta of Venus and Little Birds. These erotic stories brought more attention and acclaim than even the Diaries.
Nin’s artistic achievements were great but her sensational private life has seemed to eclipse it in the public eye. Many details of her complicated life were omitted from the published diaries, only to be revealed after the death of her husband Hugo in 1985. Details of Anaïs Nin’s full life have been published in the unexpurgated diary series A Journal of Love. One of the biggest details omitted was the presence of a husband, giving readers the impression that Anaïs was self sufficient and self-sustaining. Then there were the affairs: she had a long affair with Henry Miller—even financially supporting him at times, had an affair with the political revolutionary Gonzalo More, book reviewer Edmund Wilson—which was actually after he reviewed her book, had relations with two of her therapists: Rene Allendy and Otto Rank—a highly unethical practice due for men in their situation. Aside from her affairs, there was also casual sex with many men, and sometimes women. There was drug experimentation and an abortion. In 1947, Nin met Rupert Pole in New York and proceeded to have a lifelong, intimate relationship with him. She even marred Rupert while still married to Hugo. Neither man knew about the other and Nin divided her time for over twenty years in 6-week increments between NYC with Hugo and in LA with Rupert. Her bi-coastal life, love affairs, and lies to cover them up were kept in a recipe box she labeled the “Lie Box.”
In this unconventional life, one situation is highly debated—a paternal incestual affair when Nin was 33 and her father 55. Nin’s writings of this time, in diary books numbered 37 through 46, have been scrutinized. We’re left wondering if she was trying through sex to recapture the attention of a father absent for 20 years, or if she used sex a means for revenge, or if the writings were simply a psychological exercise as she worked through her childhood abandonment.
This month Nin would have been 105. She spent the later part of her life living in Silverlake. During this time she befriended many young women who saw her as a mentor and friend. I’m pleased two of them are here with us. We will also hear recollections from someone who knew Nin for over 40 years, and hear from a family member and now the executor of the estate.
Nin was a pioneer, believing her emotional experience was worthy of daily documentation, that love affairs were to be recorded and examined, she believed in her writings enough to purchase a printing press and print books herself. Even though there were glaring omissions in the diaries published during her lifetime, it was still a bold act to reveal oneself so intimate on the page.
Tonight’s program does not seek out to unify a profile of Anaïs Nin, its aim is to give a clearer picture of the complex woman and writer.
Thank you for attending tonight’s event. The Hammer is a perfect venue for an event honoring Nin. Her original diaries are kept at UCLA a few blocks away. I want to give an extended thanks to Moira Collins of Anaïsnin.org, Paul Herron, Ian McKinnon, Darin Klein and all of the Hammer staff and especially tonight’s speakers.
Some of the speakers will be signing their books in the lobby; Sky Blue press is also selling the original, uncensored version of The Winter of Artifice, as well as A Café in Space: the Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, which is filled with information about Anaïs and her writings. Be sure to investigate those before leaving tonight.