Thinking of Anais Nin: Book Review: Henry and June – From “A Journal of Love”

Book Review: Henry and June – From “A Journal of Love”

Henry and June: From ‘A Journal of Love’: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931–1932

“I’ve met Henry Miller.”

So said Anaïs Nin in December 1931, and so began the love affair that was to jolt her psyche, and inspire some of the most poignant writing she ever produced. This book is the account of her relationship with Henry Miller and his wife, June. It is a self-contained novel, taken directly from Anaïs Nin’s 1930s diary, charting the tumultuous affairs she conducted with both, and the new emotions that overcame her throughout.

The sexual and spiritual awakening that Nin experienced after becoming acquainted with Henry and June is underscored at the start of the book when she writes: “The impetus to grow and live intensely is so powerful in me I cannot resist it.” Her greatest ambition was to fulfill herself, which she achieved through her involvement with the Millers, at the expense of  her marriage to Hugo Guiler.

The characters of Henry and June are expertly portrayed through Nin’s personal narrative; they are seen with her eyes, their descriptions tinged with deep feeling. Henry is “a man who makes life drunk”, June “the most beautiful woman on earth”.

In the course of the book, Anaïs Nin is forced to question her whole self–her writing, her marriage, her personality, and above all her sexuality and role as a woman. “I really believe,” she admits, “that if I were not a writer, a creator, not an experimenter, then I might have been a very faithful wife.”

She realises her ability to love more than one person at once, what Henry calls her ‘Protean versatility’, but has to deal with the network of lies and jealousy that ensues, presenting a different face to each.

The presence of Eduardo Sanchez, Anaïs Nin’s cousin provides a parallel to Henry and June. Her feeling are revealed in the conversations she shares with her cousin; it is Eduardo who encourages her to seek psychoanalysis,which introduces another character, René Allendy.

The style of Nin’s writing is delicate and spontaneous. She describes “hallucinations hanging like curtains of spider webs over my bed”, and fires the diary with questions: “Who is the demon? Who is the liar?” As always, her beloved journal is the receptacle for analysis of self and others. In it, she exposes her desire to satisfy Henry, and possess the nebulous June.

It is a book of discovery and awakening, which, written in Anaïs Nin’s sensitive style, becomes uniquely compelling. The reality and spirit of her writing, and the ingenious transformation of diary to novel, makes Henry and June one of Nin’s most remarkable works.

Thanks to – Susie Gordon


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