ANAÏS NIN: LIFE AS CELEBRATION
After all you have said, I became aware how closely knit we are. When you were making a portrait of your relation to my work, you were really revealing yourselves. I said, ‘please introduce yourselves, please tell us about you.’ It means that in speaking sometimes of my creations you are also speaking of your diaries, your creations, your paintings. My writing and your sculpture are all one thing. We need the source of it and the inspiration of it and all that is the same too. It’s also taken from friendship and from love and from working together. I think that the isolated artist is always in greater danger of losing the very thing that he / she was creating because the whole purpose of creation was really mutual.
I had to answer the way you spoke about yourselves in relation to my work, how much I received of our oneness and your own personalities, but what I wanted was really to open the Weekend and explain the word ‘celebration’. You proved to me what we do have to celebrate, all of us having an expression of some kind, an articulateness, a language, whether in painting or sculpture or in writing so that we could reveal this wonderful moment that is taking place, especially for women. I think women were the least articulate of artists. Their self-confidence was not very great. They were very dependent on those around them. And I think for the first time this is the moment when women are beginning to discover their identity. So we are celebrating this moment for women.
We are celebrating that we have heroes in an anti-hero culture. We have Ellsberg and Nader and women heroines. We have people who are willing to live in houseboats with very little money, like the artist Varda whose film you will see later. We have people dedicated to their work and the liberation of women. We have marvelous things to celebrate in a world that seems sometimes to cause despair.
To me, everyone who writes, everyone who articulates the position of woman or her feelings, everyone who creates anything, a house, a child, is an artist. It’s not only in the art medium that we create. We create when we are working for someone or some cause, like the magazines that have been made with great effort and sometimes without much help. We are celebrating editors of magazines. We say we don’t care, but we do. We are celebrating women like Beatrice Harris who are going forward in psychology. As a woman I think it is important at this moment to give woman an equal place. Someone was saying, give woman an equal place, let’s eliminate man and woman and just say ‘artists’, but we are not ready yet. Museums don’t say artists. They say, woman artist, and there are fewer women artists in museums than there are men. There is a need of equalization in the work. And we have heard about women who worked bringing the coffee when they should have been doing something else. I have had friends who were reporters like the beautiful intelligent woman, Jill Krementz, who made the photograph of me in the poster. Jill always wanted to be a real reporter. She was on duty one night at “Time Magazine” when the Harlem riots broke out and instead of calling for help she went there. Her boss said, ‘Why didn’t you call a man?’ She said, ‘Well, I was here and here are the photographs.’ The man was in a state of shock. So we are celebrating here the strength of expression, the need of expression, the need of a language whatever this language is, whether it’s film, words, paint. We are celebrating film makers here.
We are celebrating people who know how to live with very little money, as Varda did, making a beautiful life for himself. When he couldn’t treat his friends to an enormous dinner, he made fried potatoes and red wine and that was it. (She laughs gaily) He did it so graciously that it seemed like a feast. We are celebrating Bebe Herring who went to Ireland and brought back a word called ‘furrawn’ which I stole and use in my lectures, because I love the significance of it. The kind of talk that leads strangers to intimacy-you can achieve this, and it doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or ten or one to one, provided you drop the persona, that terrible layer of false self which we adopt as a defense, and address the inner self, the vulnerable self. We also must take the risk of sharing.
Sharing the Diary was a risk. You may not believe that the dream I had was a nightmare but before publication I dreamed that I opened my front door and that I was struck by fatal radiation. That’s how afraid I was. So you see, fear is there. The fear is in all of us and it is this fear we have to dispel. In friendship we realize that as human beings we are afraid to share, we are afraid to be criticized, we are afraid to be misunderstood, we are afraid not to be loved. This comes from childhood, from the teacher, from way back-I don’t want to go as far back as we have to go to find out the origin of the fear. But women were very cowed with this fear. Their confidence was very much dependent on with whom they lived. I’ve seen women ask like children, ‘is this good?’ They take their reflection in others. It is this confidence that the Diary may have given you because it does show the weak moments, it shows the anxieties, the retrogressions, how often I was blocked in my work or fearful, how often I depended on the opinion of others.
In the first Diary I was accused of narcissism because I used to write in a notebook everything nice that people used to say to me. It wasn’t because I believed it: it was because I needed it to keep going. Critics misunderstood that. If I had thought those things of myself I wouldn’t have written down what everybody was saying. I needed the opinion of others to grow. So it’s in Diary I but gone from Diary II. But I think it shows a feminine lack of confidence, her pattern, who she is and her image. We are all working tremendously hard now to make distinctions, because I think there are feminine elements in men and there are masculine elements in women, and we have to achieve a chemical balance. Baudelaire said that in every one of us there is a man, a woman and a child, so we have to find in what proportion they are there and that makes the relationship to others very important.
We are celebrating everything that humans do to elevate themselves above the human condition. If we lived with only news and television and newspapers, we couldn’t bear it. The whole structure is false. Now we know the hypocrisies, all the faults and false values with which we have been living, and we are occupied now in peeling these off, politically, historically, psychologically, humanly because they are making distance between us. Racial differences, origin, class, sex-are what we are trying to dispel. The most wonderful way is to communicate from core to core, from center to center. Our culture made an effort at finding the core of the self, but we put a taboo on it. It asserted that the self was selfish. I was very touched by the women who have done visibly useful things, such as speech therapy for 17 years or social work. I used to say, those people are really doing useful things, what am I doing? And then I suddenly realized that it was important to speak and simply articulate the struggle of our own evolution, because after all it is the only thing we really know. In noting all of the journey’s steps, I was doing something useful, but I didn’t know how much. What I was doing was fighting our battle.
So we have to celebrate this unity which makes us very interdependent and necessary to each other. Let us say that from this certain moment we have this degree of strength, this degree of vision, this courage, but there are times we lack all of them and then someone else has to give it to us. Let’s celebrate what we bring to each other, what we share with each other, how much of the persona we can peel off. I notice two of you are artists in masks; the masks we have worn have always frightened people. I used to dress to frighten away my enemies. All this is useful and adolescent but it’s very significant to what we feel when unmasked and sharing feelings. Strangely enough, the radiation I dreamed of at the front door never took place. What took place was great intimacy and sense of interdependence.
In another room we watch Agnes Varda’s film about her late uncle, the famous artist, Jean Varda. It is called “Uncle Yanko” and is an ebullient narrative-collage of his life-style and work.
Afterwards, people talk or write in their private journals until late at night, tending to the circus going on in their heads.
Nadine: I don’t even remember what I said, the movie And much chatter came with cumulative effect to a crescendo. I watched the aura of each group, stood as in the eye of a hurricane the calm before the storm of new adventure, watching bits and pieces of my psyche scattered reconnaissance then quiet distillation to the quiet of my treefilled window.
Adele: I feel layers of defenses shed and drop to the ground. I am becoming transparent!
Joan: At this point the conventional structure of time fell away for me. I said to Sas, ‘This is like I died and went to Heaven. If there really is a Heaven I would like it to be like this, with people being real to each other!’
Trew: (It is) Saturday morning and my system responds to these new energies. I awake by 5:30 a.m., the sun already touching the nylon mist of the small bedroom window I go outside watching the gulls and ducks flop about on the surface of the water with plaintive cries. Across the Sound is a constant roar of motor nose, like the take-off of a jet plane which never takes off. It is New York traffic. Living here one must grow to integrate such things but I find the big city a monster I do not understand.