Thinking of Anais Nin: Book Review: Cities of the Interior

Book Review: Cities of the Interior

For three years I have been pouring through Anaïs Nin’s published diaries. I am fascinated by Nin’s ability to communicate the intricacies and depths of the female psyche. At times I have lingered upon a single sentence, pausing almost in disbelief, at the way her words resonate within my own being. As Anaïs describes her personal journey through life as an artist, friend, lover, daughter and analysand, she invites her reader to explore intimate aspects of character and psyche: Her writing is fearless, bold and seductive. Through reading her memoir, I learned to understand the well-spring of Nin’s probing mind, and the mystery towards which she dedicates her words. Inspired primarily by her relationships with psychoanalyst Otto Rank and writer Henry Miller, Nin succeeds in the task of translating the depth of her personal experience into an artistic form: fiction. The result is magnificently dimensional.

In Cities of the Interior, Anaïs Nin traces the individual journeys of three unique women. Through the weaving of five separate novellas, Nin constructs an intricate architecture for her narrative which, like the characters themselves, can be viewed both separately and in relation to one another. Cities of the Interior works to explore the female psyche as characters participate in their worlds, and are transformed through the course of time. As readers travel through the novellas, they become deeply involved with characters Lillian, Sabina and Djuna. As one novella is closed to open the next, readers crawl further into the mystery of Nin’s work. Because each novella is told from the viewpoint of one woman in turn, characters are discovered (literally dis-covered) eventually, and learned through the mixing of subjective with objective perspectives. A dimensionality emerges from the pages of the book and the genius of Nin’s work is realized: In time, each character reveals the duality of her nature. Meanwhile, as she constructs the tense duality within her characters, Nin is able to (somehow magically) create a synthesis. By illuminating the significance of the relationships between the women characters, the author portrays wholeness in their unity. Through Cities of the Interior, Anaïs Nin seems to be working through a realization she once voiced to her psychotherapist Otto Rank, “There have always been in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” Nin’s art, then, becomes her vehicle towards wholeness.

I return now to the original question posed by this writing sample: What is it in the work that is powerful or meaningful to me? My answer is simple, Understanding. In Cities of the Interior Anaïs Nin does not pose an answer for the feminine struggle, nor does she provide a single heroine for us to emulate with our hopes of psychological health. Instead, she offers a dimensional landscape and asks us to see.

Thanks to – Jane Dobson (check out Team)


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